Dumbbell Nebula (Messier 27) is a planetary nebula located in the constellation Vulpecula, and it's a popular Summer/Fall Astrophotography target due to its attractive visual look and high position on the night sky. In this article, you will find pure facts about the nebula, and useful beginner astrophotography tips to photograph it with a DSLR camera and a small APO refractor telescope. Let's get started! Full targets list.
Dumbbell Nebula Facts
|Object type||Planetary nebula|
|Other names||M27, Messier 27, NGC 6853, Apple Core Nebula|
|RA (right ascension)||19h 59m 36s|
|DEC (declination)||+22° 43′ 16″|
|Size||8 × 7 arcmin|
Dumbbell Nebula Astrophotography Tips
Use a telescope or a big telephoto lens (at least 400mm - my Rokinon 135mm f/2.0 was not zooming enough to capture details of this nebula; I used my Sky-Watcher Evostar 72ED) - no widefield, no standard, and no short telephoto lenses here. This target is small (apparent size 8 x 7 arcmins), so you want to really zoom it. An equatorial mount/star tracker is also required on targets this size.
If you are photographing from a light-polluted backyard located in a city center, make sure to use a light pollution filter. This nebula is not a very bright target (apparent magnitude 7.3), so every hack to improve SNR (signal-to-noise) ratio is important. I used my Orion SkyGlow Imaging Filter.
A standard OSC (DSLR/mirrorless) post-processing technique works well for this target. Make sure to stack a lot of subframes (single pictures) to reduce noise and improve the signal-to-noise ratio. This is even more important for this target, as it's not as bright as the Andromeda Galaxy, Pleiades, or North America Nebula. In my case, PixInsight's Background Extraction process was really useful to remove light-pollution gradients from the stacked image. Play with curves to improve contrast and saturation.
My Astrophotography Setup for the Dumbbell Nebula
To capture this photo, I used my standard, portable telescope setup:
|Telescope||Sky-Watcher Evostar 72ED|
|Star tracker||Fornax Lightrack II|
|Light pollution filter||Orion SkyGlow Astrophotography Filter|