Orion Nebula

OrionNebula 20191011

The Orion Nebula has long been one of my favorite night sky objects – it’s easy to find in the Orion constellation (it’s the middle “star” in Orion’s sword) and interesting to look at.  Because it’s a fuzzy object, it’s on Messier’s list of not-comets as M42.  It’s a large region of hot gas and dust that is a stellar nursery – new stars are being created there!

While we were enjoying the dark skies in Dell City last month, I took this picture of it.  I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out, and it’s inspired me to try to get images of more nebulas.  Stay tuned!

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/5.6, 30.0 second exposure, ISO 2000
  •             Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 300 mm, manual focus
  •             iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  •             Tripod

Dell City Astrophotography October 2019

BandBwithISS 20191010

Last month we took a break and returned to Dell City, Texas, where we stayed in a lovely B&B, enjoyed gorgeous sunsets and sunrises over the Guadalupe and Cornudas Mountains, and enjoyed seeing the stars, planets, and the Milky Way.

The picture above shows our B&B with the International Space Station starting an overhead pass (white line in center-right of picture).

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 30.0 second exposure, ISO 100
  •             Sigma 10-20 mm f/4-5.6 lens, set at 10 mm, manual focus
  •             iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  •             Tripod

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The picture above shows our B&B with the Milky Way, Jupiter, and Saturn.

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 30.0 second exposure, ISO 640
  •             Sigma 10-20 mm f/4-5.6 lens, set at 10 mm, manual focus
  •             iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  •             Tripod

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Jupiter and Saturn surround the constellation Sagittarius, home to many beautiful deep sky objects, including a number of Messier objects, the brightest of which are labeled here.

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 15.0 second exposure, ISO 1000
  •             Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 70 mm, manual focus
  •             iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  •             Tripod

MilkyWay 20191011

One of the great treats of going somewhere with dark skies is getting to see the Milky Way.  We could see it over our B&B, and we also saw it when we drove out to a darker spot to try to spot a comet at sunrise.  The comet was too close to the sun to see, but the Milky Way before dawn was beautiful.

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 30.0 second exposure, ISO 4000
  •             Sigma 10-20 mm f/4-5.6 lens, set at 10 mm, manual focus
  •             iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  •             Tripod

MoonriseWithBunny 20191012

Local wildlife joined me for some of my astrophotography.  One night a skunk walked right past me.  Another night, a bunny watched the moonrise with me.  I didn’t get a picture of the skunk, but the picture above includes the bunny (its tail is the white spot below and just to the right of the moon).

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/11, 1/40 second exposure, ISO 800
  •             Sigma 24-70 mm f/2.8 EX lens, set at 70 mm

Another of the great treats of visiting Dell City is getting to experience sunrises and sunsets that fill the sky.  Here are two of my favorite shots from this trip.

Camera geek info (mountains):

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/6.3, 1/30 second exposure, ISO 800
  •             Sigma 24-70 mm f/2.8 EX lens, set at 45 mm

Camera geek info (church):

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/6.3, 1/100 second exposure, ISO 800
  •             Sigma 24-70 mm f/2.8 EX lens, set at 24 mm

Trick or Telescope

HalloweenTelescopePumpkin 20191031

I was hoping we would get a clear night for Halloween, so I carved my pumpkin with an owl sitting on a telescope.

As predicted, the cold front blew through last night, and we got a cold but clear night for Halloween.  So I set up my telescope as an extra Halloween visitor treat!  Great views of the Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn.  Saturn’s rings looked especially great.

I tried taking some pictures through the telescope eyepiece with both my phone and my camera.  Neither turned out nearly as good as the view in person.  Oddly, the moon picture came out better on the phone, but the Saturn picture came out better with the camera.  On the other hand, I could get a much better Moon picture with the camera without the telescope, but haven’t managed to get nearly as good a picture of Saturn with the camera solo.

Camera geek info (Saturn):

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/2.8, 1/40 second exposure, ISO 4000
  •             Sigma 24-70 mm f/2.8 EX lens, set at 70 mm, manual focus
  •             Celestron 8″ Dobsonian Telescope
  •             Teleview 15mm Wide Field Eyepiece

Corkscrew Meteor – 5 September 2019

Corkscrew Meteor 20190905

Recently, when I’ve tried to photograph meteor showers, I’ve taken hundreds of (automated) shots and have been lucky to get one or two nice meteors.  Last night, I took 36 pictures, mostly trying to find a comet, and I ended up with three. I especially like this shot of a corkscrew meteor, which I think is the neatest I’ve ever taken.

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 5.0 second exposure, ISO 1000
  •             Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 100 mm, manual focus
  •             iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  •             Tripod

Meteor 1 20190905

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/5, 10.0 second exposure, ISO 1000
  •             Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 70 mm, manual focus
  •             iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  •             Tripod

Meteor 2 20190905

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 5.0 second exposure, ISO 500
  •             Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 70 mm, manual focus
  •             iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  •             Tripod

Jupiter and the Moon – 5 Sept 2019

 

Moon-Jupiter 20190905 v2

Moon-Jupiter 20190905 v1

 

The sky was clear last night, so I went out to get a lovely shot of the conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter.  I also searched for comet SOHO P/2008 Y12, but was unable to find it. It should be getting gradually brighter, though, so I’m going to try again!

Without resorting to neutral density filters, I could either pick up the detail in the Moon or Jupiter’s Moons.  Which do you like better?

Camera geek info (lunar detail):

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 1/20 second exposure, ISO 100
  •             Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 100 mm, manual focus
  •             iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  •             Tripod

Camera geek info (Jupiter with moons):

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/5, 0.5 second exposure, ISO 500
  •             Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 160 mm, manual focus
  •             iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  •             Tripod

Eta Aquariid Meteor May 5, 2019

While the web sites had various predictions of the peak of the Eta Aquariid meteor shower, the weather prediction was unambiguous: if I wanted to try to see them, before dawn Sunday May 5 was the time.  So even though we had some light clouds overhead, I got up at 4:30 AM to try to catch some meteors.  I saw one and maybe-saw four more.  Happily, the camera caught one as well.

Meteor20190505

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 1 second exposure, ISO 6400
  •             Sigma 10-20 mm f/4-5.6 lens, set at 10 mm, manual focus
  •             Tripod

Dell City Astrophotography April 2019

Last weekend we took a break and visited Dell City, Texas, where we stayed in a lovely B&B, enjoyed gorgeous sunsets and sunrises over the Guadalupe and Cornudas Mountains, and enjoyed seeing the stars and planets.

As the song goes (sing it with me, y’all):

The stars at night

Are big and bright

Deep in the heart of Texas!

It is true!

And I had great fun trying to get some good pictures of the beautiful sky full of stars.  But just like folks buying new telescopes need to be reminded that they won’t get the views that they see in the published pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope, I had to learn that the view from a telephoto lens isn’t the same as the view from an 8-inch telescope.  So the Messier objects, which are nice objects to find in my 8 inch telescope, are mostly fuzz balls with my telephoto lens, even with a sky-tracking camera mount and the ability to take a long picture.

The other thing I had to deal with was an embarrassment of riches – there were so many stars that it was hard to make out the constellations.

I started the evening of April 27 trying to find the two brightest available comets, but they were really too dim to be seen.  I did get familiar with the constellation Leo, and saw a beautiful meteor pass through it – it’s even in my picture, though it’s very faint and you have to zoom in.

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Camera geek info:

  • Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 30 second exposure, ISO 1000
  • Sigma 24-70 mm f/2.8 EX lens, set at 24 mm, manual focus
  • iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  • Tripod

I turned from there to finding Messier objects, and found M13 in Hercules, M4 in Scorpio, and M80 in Scorpio.  Fuzzballs all.

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Here’s a closeup of M4 with the blinking lights of an airplane.  (M4 is the fuzzy one.)

M4AndAirplane

Camera geek info:

  • Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 30 second exposure, ISO 1000
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 70 mm, manual focus
  • iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  • Tripod

Finally, I waited until Jupiter rose to get a picture of it with its line of moons.

JupiterAndMoons20190428

Camera geek info:

  • Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4.5, 30 second exposure, ISO 1000
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 150 mm, manual focus
  • iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  • Tripod

The next evening it was cloudy, so we got up early the following morning for a last view of the stars.  It was totally worth it – we got a lovely view of Sagittarius between Jupiter and Saturn and the Milky Way just before dawn.

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Camera geek info:

  • Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/5, 30 second exposure, ISO 1000
  • Sigma 10-20 mm f/4-5.6 lens, set at 13 mm, manual focus
  • iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  • Tripod

I also was able to zoom in on Jupiter and a couple more Messier objects.

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Camera geek info:

  • Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 30 second exposure, ISO 1000
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 70 mm, manual focus
  • iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  • Tripod

I’ll finish with Venus at sunrise on April 27.

VenusGuadalupeMtns20190427

Camera geek info:

  • Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/7.1, 1/8 second exposure, ISO 100
  • Sigma 24-70 mm f/2.8 EX lens, set at 24 mm, autofocus

I can’t wait to go back and try this again!