An astrophotographer took a 107 hour long exposure of the planetary Helix nebula known as the Eye of God. Officially dubbed “NGC 7293,” the nebula is a nearby cloud of gas and dust in the constellation Aquarius.
“I work for an amateur and public observatory focused on astrophotography known as Deep Sky West, which gives me access to lots of equipment and lots of pristine skies,” Matherne said. PetaPixel. “This image came from years of filming the Helix Nebula and the Eye of God.”
Connor Matherne captured the nebula for years, steadily getting better and better images of the phenomenon as technology improved. It uses a Microline FLI ML16200 camera designed for astrophotography. The camera was attached to a TOA-150 telescope with an AP1600 mount, plus what Matherne calls “a bunch of other odds and ends.”
The ML16200 is a full frame camera with a 16MP ON Semi KAF-16200 CCD type image sensor capable of capturing 16-bit 4500 x 3600 resolution with 6 micron pixels. It works with a 43mm shutter and dual capture settings of 2 MHz and 12 MHz.
Matherne spent two years capturing the nebula for 50 years each year to create an eye-catching masterpiece. “In a way, this nebula is the one that sparked my passion for the stars,” Matherne continues, “so I had to make sure it was a real stunner, no ordinary photo could do that.”
The Eye of God is located approximately 650 light-years from Earth and is the closest representation of the phenomenon that astronomers can observe. In fact, it was the Eye of God that piqued Matherne’s interest in astronomy. “Ever since I saw the silly email chain all those years ago about the Eye of God, I’ve been in love with astronomy,” he wrote on Instagram.
Matherne said on Instagram that the Eye of God Nebula is a glimpse of what the future of our own sun will likely be billions of years from now. Planetary nebulae form from stars that die slowly, much less violently, and more so, a gentle outburst of gas rather than a big “ka-boom” from a more sudden supernova.
Matherne is known as “cosmic.speck” on Instagram, where he posts his stellar sightings for all to enjoy. He captured dozens of other interesting astronomical observations, but he keeps coming back to NGC 7293. “I never thought I would see the day when I would pass 100 in terms of exposure in a single astrophoto” , concluded Matherne. “What a step! It couldn’t have been done to a more favorite target.
Picture credits: All photos by Connor Matherne.