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Deep-sky photos for December 2023: Editor’s picks

Deep-sky photos: Separate red and yellow areas of wispy clouds on black background, with faint scattered stars.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Jeremy Likness in Newport, Oregon, captured the Jellyfish Nebula in the constellation Gemini on December 14, 2023. Jeremy wrote: “I tried to image the Jellyfish Nebula (IC 443) in 2021 but could never get more than a faint glimpse of the ‘cap.’ In narrowband, it jumps right out. This is from just about 4 hours of data from one night of imaging. The red nebula at top (IC 444) is part of the same structure.” Thank you, Jeremy! See more of December’s best deep-sky photos below.

Best deep-sky photos from our community

The EarthSky community has many talented astrophotographers who capture stunning images of the deep sky. So enjoy this gallery of some of the best deep-sky photos we received in December 2023. Do you have some of your own deep-sky images to share? You can submit them to us here. We love to see them!

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Orion Nebula

Deep sky photos: Prolific swirls of glowing lavender and purple clouds with many bright stars.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Harshwardhan Pathak of India used a large remote telescope in Australia to image the Orion Nebula on December 19, 2023. Harshwardhan wrote: “Added more light to my previous Orion Nebula … used hydrogen-alpha light to get those reddish clouds. The nebula is only 1,500 light-years away, making it the closest large star-forming region to Earth and giving it a relatively bright apparent magnitude of 4.” Spectacular capture. Thank you, Harshwardhan!

Rosette Nebula

Tight swirls of bright pink and red clouds in a dense star field.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Tameem Altameemi in the Ras Al Khaimah Mountains, United Arab Emirates (UAE), captured the Rosette Nebula in the constellation Monoceros on December 16, 2023. Tameem wrote: “This is one of my best deep sky images; it took 3 days for me to complete, with almost 12 hours of data. The Rosette Nebula, known as NGC 2237, is a giant emission nebula in the constellation Monoceros at a distance of about 5,200 light-years. It is approximately 130 light-years in diameter, significantly larger than the famous Orion Nebula (M42), which is much closer to Earth. It is a region of intense star formation.” Thank you, Tameem!
Round formation of prolific swirls of orange, red and blue with scattered stars.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Jeremy Likness in Newport, Oregon, captured the Rosette Nebula on December 12, 2023. Jeremy wrote: “Lurking in the space between Orion the Hunter and his dog lies a stellar nursery. Much of it is only visible in X-ray. A faint outline is visible in ordinary light, but narrowband is what really makes it pop. I produced this image by combining the data from a broadband imaging session with data from narrowband filters that reveal hydrogen-alpha, oxygen III and sulfur II emissions. It shows the amazing detail of the interstellar gas and molecules that feed the birth of new stars at its center.” Amazing work. Thank you, Jeremy!
Rose-like swirls of bright red clouds, in a star field.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Harshwardhan Pathak used a remote telescope in Australia to capture the Rosette Nebula on December 21, 2023. Harshwardhan wrote: “The Rosette Nebula is an HII region near one end of a giant molecular cloud in the Monoceros region of the Milky Way Galaxy. The stars of open cluster NGC 2244 were formed from the nebula’s matter.” Thank you, Harshwardhan!

Deep-sky photos of open clusters

A large, sparse grouping of a few dozen bright stars with a multitude of background stars.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | David Hoskin in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, captured the star cluster Messier 44 in the constellation Cancer on December 9, 2023. David wrote: “The Beehive is an open star cluster in the constellation Cancer. It consists of about 1,000 stars and is one of the nearest open clusters to Earth.” Thank you, David!

The Pleiades star cluster

Large area of wispy glowing blue clouds with bright stars immersed within.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Paul Wilson in Paso Robles, California, captured the Pleiades star cluster on December 1, 2023. Paul wrote: “The Pleiades cluster – M45 – located in the constellation Taurus. Approximately 444 light-years from Earth.” Thank you, Paul!
Large area of glowing bluish clouds with a couple of dozen bright stars immersed within, in star field.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Catherine Hyde in Cambria, California, shared this image of the Pleiades with us on December 12, 2023. Catherine wrote: “This is M45, the Pleiades. About 7 1/2 hours of total exposure time in 300-second images. I took about 90 images and stacked them. Some are from last night, some from the night before, and some were a couple of weeks old.” Thank you, Catherine!

The Christmas Tree star cluster and surrounding nebulae

Dark protuberances into wispy blue and pink clouds, with scattered faint stars.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Karl Diefenderfer in Quakertown, Pennsylvania, captured this image on December 22, 2023. Karl wrote: “Seasons greetings from 2,300 light-years away in NGC 2264, the Christmas Tree Cluster. Wishing all at the EarthSky community the very happiest of holidays!” Thank you, Karl!
Large, reddish clouds with dark globs and streaks, in star field.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Robert Pettengill in Austin, Texas, also captured the Christmas Tree Cluster and surrounding nebulae on December 5, 2023. Robert wrote: “The Christmas Tree Cluster and Cone Nebula are a treat in autumn and winter skies as we prepare for the new year.” Thank you, Robert!

Deep-sky photos of galaxies

Large white oval with fainter spiral arms wrapping around it, and scattered foreground stars.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Martin Curran in Cheyenne, Wyoming, captured this view of a galaxy in the constellation Ursa Major on December 16, 2023. Martin wrote: “Messier 81 is a spiral galaxy in Ursa Major. It’s a particularly bright galaxy at 6.2 magnitude, and its core is easily resolved with even a small telescope. M81 is part of a much larger group that includes its most-often photographed partner, M82. The galaxies had a close interaction several million years ago, leaving M82 quite peculiar and making M81’s spiral pattern even more unique.” Thank you, Martin!
Large golden oval with spiral arms, small bright red knots, dark lanes and thousands of foreground stars.
View at EarthSky Community Photos. | Alaa El Bedewi in Egypt captured the Andromeda Galaxy on December 13, 2023. Alaa wrote: “The Andromeda Galaxy, our next-door neighbor, is a masterpiece in our sky. This is my third attempt imaging the galaxy … After reducing the size of my bank account and continued learning, I finally have an image of Andromeda worthy for sharing. Those little pink gems you see are nebulae in the Andromeda Galaxy itself. I like to imagine the inhabitants of Andromeda having the same hobby as mine, imaging their own set of nebulae and depleting their bank accounts, too.” Thank you, Alaa!

Bottom line: Enjoy this gallery of deep-sky photos for December 2023 from our EarthSky community. And if you have a great photo to share, send it in. We love to see them!

Share your recent Earth or sky photo at EarthSky Community Photos.

January 3, 2024
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