Astrophotographer Uses $500 Telescope to Photograph the Pillars of Creation

Andrew McCarthy Hubble Pillars of Creation Comparison

When the Hubble Space Telescope photographed the Eagle Nebula's Pillars of Creation in 1995, the image instantly became a classic. This fascinating look at a region that births many stars captured the world's imagination. Recently, backyard astrophotographer Andrew McCarthy took his own image of the Eagle Nebula, but rather than using NASA's $16 billion space telescope, he simply used a 12″ Newtonian telescope he picked up for $500, along with a tracking mount and a few other pieces of equipment. Looking at them side-by-side, McCarthy's result is quite astounding.

While his image has a wider view of the nebula, the “pillars” are quite visible in the center of the composition. To make them stand out even more, McCarthy made the creative choice to remove the stars in post-production. In doing so, he allows us to drink in the rich, smoky atmosphere of the nebula. It took about eight hours of exposure time over several evenings to achieve the image he was after. And by using narrowband filters, he cut through light pollution and got a color palette that is quite Hubble-like.

The Eagle Nebula is a subject that McCarthy turns to time and time again. Each time can look different depending on the filters used and the post-production choices made, but the results are always spectacular. By sharing these images with the world, McCarthy reminds us that you don't need a NASA-built telescope to photograph incredible scenes of outer space.

If you'd like to own this image, McCarthy has prints available for sale on his website.

One of the Hubble Space Telescope's most iconic photos is its look at the Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula.

New view of the Pillars of Creation

Photo: NASA, ESA/Hubble and the Hubble Heritage Team

Backyard astrophotographer Andrew McCarthy shot his own look at the Eagle Nebula using a $500 Newtonian telescope.

Eagle Nebula by Andrew McCarthy

In the center of the photo, the Pillars of Creation are clearly visible.

The Eagle Nebula is a favorite subject for McCarthy, who has photographed it many times.


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A post shared by Andrew McCarthy (@cosmic_background)

Andrew McCarthy: Website | Instagram | Patreon | YouTube 

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Andrew McCarthy.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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