Astronomy & Astrophotography

This has nothing to do with word origins or language, but I am also an amateur astronomer and just getting started with serious astrophotography.

Several friends have asked that I post some of my astrophotographs to the web, so I’ve added a section to the website to do just that. I’ll also probably add occasional blog posts on what works and doesn’t work about my photography of the night skies.

Bear in mind that I’m still pretty new at this and am refining my techniques, so most of these images are flawed in one way or another. But I’m learning.

Cederblad 214 Photoshopped

This isn’t a new image—I haven’t had my telescope out since moving to Canada. But I’ve been playing with Photoshop and found I could bring out some of the fainter features. It’s at the expense of the picture’s dynamic range, but for really faint objects like this it’s worth it.

Cederblad 214 is a nebula in Cepheus, not far from Polaris, the North Star. It’s about 6,000 light years from Earth.

Shot 10-11 July 2010; Mt. Tamalpais State Park, California; ISO 800, Exp 122.5 min (49 x 2.5 minutes), f/5.2, Canon EOS 5D & Televue NP127is. Post-processing with ImagesPlus 3.0 and Photoshop CS4.

NGC 7822 & Cederblad 214, plus Venus

NGC 7822 and Cederblad 214 are two nebulae in Cepheus, not far from Polaris, the North Star. NGC 7822 is the northernmost nebula. They’re about 6,000 light years from Earth.

This one didn’t turn out quite as well as I’d hoped. On the plus side, the seeing was pretty good, and I nailed the polar alignment and focus dead on. But the framing is off—the objects are toward the bottom of the frame. Ced 214 is in the lower center; NGC 7822 is a long, thin nebula in the lower left. Also, I needed about twice as much exposure time as I gave them to get a good image—this is two hours total exposure; I needed twice that. Ced 214 is faint and NGC 7822 is almost invisible in this image. Maybe I’ll shoot some more images next weekend to see if I can up the exposure time.

Shot 10-11 July 2010; Mt. Tamalpais State Park, California; ISO 800, Exp 122.5 min (49 x 2.5 minutes), f/5.2, Canon EOS 5D & Televue NP127is. Post-processing with ImagesPlus 3.0 and Photoshop CS4.

Here is a shot of Venus I took earlier in the evening. You never can see any surface detail of Venus, but this one does show the gibbous phase it’s in.

Shot 10 July 2010; Mt. Tamalpais State Park, California; ISO 800, Exp 1/8000 sec, f/5.2, Canon EOS 5D & Televue NP127is. Post-processing with ImagesPlus 3.0 and Photoshop CS4.

Finally, here’s a snapshot from Mt. Tam before it got dark. It shows why it is such a great site for astronomy. Not only is it easy to get to, but it’s above the fog that often covers San Francisco, making it much darker than any place this close to a major city has any right to be. (I’m not sure what causes the parallel lines you see in the sky. I think it’s the crappy jpeg compression inside my DigitalElph.)

Yours Truly on the “Are We Alone?” Podcast

I was recently interviewed by Seth Shostak for the Are We Alone? radio show and podcast. It’s at about the 28-minute mark. I’m the unnamed guy talking about binoculars.

M57 Ring Nebula Redux

My second attempt at getting a good image of M57. The earlier one is here.

M57, the Ring Nebula, a planetary nebula in the constellation Lyra. The ring is an expanding cloud of gas blown off a central red giant star, which cannot be seen in this image. It’s about 5,000 light years distant.

Shot 19-20 June 2010; Mt. Tamalpais State Park, California; ISO 800, Exp 90 min (60 x 1.5 minutes), f/5.2, Canon EOS 5D & Televue NP127is, 2x Barlow. Post-processing with ImagesPlus 3.0 and Photoshop CS4.

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