Moon again, getting a bit boring here

It was a public astronomy night on Mt. Tam, so I didn’t get to photography until quite late. And by then clouds and very unseasonably cold weather were making the proposition iffy, so I packed it in without any long exposures. Of course, as soon as I started tearing down my equipment, the sky cleared…

I also got some shots of Venus, but Venus is really boring—no details visible even on the best of professional scopes. I tried for Saturn, but my exposure settings must have been way too low, because I got zilch there. Not even a blob, just black.

But here is our old friend. I took it through my 2x Barlow, so it’s higher resolution than my previous shots of the moon. Click to embiggen (3.3 MB):

Shot 22 May 2010; Mt. Tamalpais State Park, California; ISO 800, Exp: 1/1000 sec, f/5.2, Canon EOS 5D & Televue NP127is w/ 2x Barlow. Post-processing with ImagesPlus 3.0 and Photoshop CS4. 

M101 Pinwheel Galaxy & Virgo Cluster

A night of mixed results. The seeing was okay and there were scattered clouds. My target was the M101 Pinwheel Galaxy and to do it justice, I needed to get a higher magnification. The galaxy is faint to begin with and with the higher magnification of the 4x Barlow making it even fainter and significantly reducing the field of view, I just couldn’t place it in the viewfinder. I finally got it with my regular wide field of view, but it’s not a very good image.

Just after sunset, however, I did get a nice shot of the three-day-old moon and Venus with my digital Elph. Not bad for just pulling the camera out of the bag and snapping away (right-click to embiggen for the full effect):

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Horsehead Nebula

Barnard 33 in IC 434, otherwise known as the Horsehead Nebula, is a dark nebula—basically a cloud of dust that blocks the light behind it—in Orion. The bright star in the image is Alnitak, the left-hand star in Orion’s belt. It’s about 1,500 light years from Earth.

Shot 13 March 2010; Mt. Tamalpais State Park, California; ISO 800, Exp: 25 x 2.5 minutes (62.5 minutes total), f/5.2, Canon EOS 5D & Televue NP127is. Post-processing with ImagesPlus 3.0 and Photoshop CS4. 

M42 Orion Nebula Redux

The Orion Nebula, the middle “star” in Orion’s sword, is a region of active star formation. It’s one of the brightest and probably the easiest Messier object to find. Observing this night was a bit sketchy—a fair amount of clouds. So the exposure isn’t all that long. I used a new (to me) technique in Photoshop for this one. Since the center of the nebula, the “Trapezium” cluster, is very bright compared with the diffuse outer clouds, I created a layer mask with the shorter, 15-second exposures to show the brightest portions of the nebula. This allows some detail in the center to be seen instead of just an white, overexposed core.

Shot 13 February 2010; Mt. Tamalpais State Park, California; ISO 800, Exp: 17 x 1.5 minutes + 5 x 15 seconds, f/5.2, Canon EOS 5D & Televue NP127is. Post-processing with ImagesPlus 3.0 and Photoshop CS4. 

M45, The Pleiades

The Pleiades, a.k.a., the Seven Sisters, is an open star cluster in Taurus. The stars are all young, less than 100 million years, and were once closer together. It’s no longer an active star-forming region. The nebulosity is not a remnant of its star-forming days, but is merely a dust cloud the cluster is passing through. These are hot and fast-burning stars, expected to last only another 250 million years or so. They’re about 450 light years away.

Shot 24 October 2009; Mt. Tamalpais State Park, California; ISO 800, Exp 60 min (24 x 2.5 minutes), f/5.2, Canon EOS 5D & Televue NP127is. Post-processing with ImagesPlus 3.0 and Photoshop CS4. 

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