For me, December is not only the month for Christmas Season photos and portraits, on reasonably pleasant December nights with no wind it is the time of year to photograph the night sky. Winter has better night sky “seeing” than the other three seasons. Cold air holds less moisture to there is more visual clarity of the night sky. Unfortunately, where many of us live winter is also very cold so I do most of my winter night sky photography in December since it is usually more tolerable.
Two years ago I was at Lake LaShane which is one of my preferred night sky photography locations when I want to shoot the northern, western, and southern sky. It is over a mile west of small town Lamoni Iowa (population 2200) and at least 70 miles away from the big city lights in Des Moines. I had a camera and a 70-300mm telephoto lens mounted on a sky tracker, a device with a clock drive that follows the motion of the stars across the sky (see the last two links below). The shutter was open for 202 seconds.
There are 3 galaxies in this photo. The largest is the Andromeda Galaxy, M31, which is over 2 million light years away. Andromeda has two satellite galaxies. M110 is a dwarf elliptical galaxy that orbits M31. M32, “Le Gentil”, is also a dwarf galaxy and it is the other galaxy that orbits M31.
It boggles my mind that the light that hit my camera sensor left these three galaxies over 2 million years ago.
The Andromeda Galaxy is in the constellation Andromeda and is visible to the naked human eye on a dark, moonless nights and away from city lights. It is also a nice sight in binoculars. In December it is high overhead once it gets dark. To find Andromeda, see the first two links below.
How to Find Andromeda at Earth and Sky