A deep-space photo by Lebanese astrophotographer Michel Makhlouta has been featured on the AstroBin Image of the Day (IOTD) webpage.
AstroBin is an image hosting platform and social network for astrophotographers that has a community of more than 50,000 members from around the world.
Every day, the platform selects a photograph in a rigorous process that involves several stages of review and consideration.
On August 13th, it was Michel Makhlouta’s astonishing photo of the Little Rosette nebula (Sh2-170) that made it to the IOTD page.
A telecommunications engineer, Makhlouta has been taking photos of the night sky as a hobby for several years.
“I started this hobby back in 2018 after having a lifelong fascination with space, both real and science fiction,” he told The961.
“I started with some locally procured gear which I quickly outgrew, and which was all replaced by importing more specialized gear for astrophotography. That is of course, before the currency fell apart.”
Since then, the Batroun-based astrophotographer has taken dozens of images of various celestial objects and nebulae, the latest of which earned him a spot in the IOTD archive.
The Little Rosette
What’s particularly special about Makhlouta’s Sh2-170 photo is not just that it’s very beautiful; it’s the fact that this distant nebula poses a unique challenge to astrophotographers.
“It’s a rarely imaged target, as its dim nature makes it a tough one to capture and process,” he said.
The finished image is the product of a long process of photography and elimination, which was additionally challenging due to Lebanon’s unfavorable situation.
“I took the image from my balcony, using every clear night we’ve had in July and August, and ended up with 72 hours worth of exposure time, after discarding hours due to passing clouds, unimpressive countless stroboscopes that unnecessarily pollute Batroun’s night sky in summer.”
“I sometimes leave the hard and faint targets to higher altitude and less light pollution locations, but given the pandemic and the lack of resources (fuel and whatnot), I am sticking to my balcony and the limited field of view, due to the walls and the roof above it,” he explained.
Although this is his first photo to be selected as AstroBin’s Image of the Day, it’s not the first that has received recognition from the platform.
To be chosen as the IOTD, an image needs to go through Submitters (Stage 1), Reviewers (Stage 2), and Judges (Stage 3) on the platform.
Michel Makhlouta had four photos make it past Reviewers and earn the Top Pick silver badge before he struck gold with his most recent photo.