Campgrounds are offer good occasions to observe the night sky; away from the city lights or industrial parks. And with little more than a camera on a tripod, some fantastic pictures can be taken.
But there are two drawbacks:
1) Campers make campfires that create a haze near the ground.
2) Trailers and vehicles often have lights on that ruin the show.
Mars (left) and the Milky Way – Benoit Guertin
Nothing like leaving the city lights behind and heading to a rural camp ground to check up on our galaxy.
Every summer the galaxy presents itself across the sky in the norther hemisphere, an ideal time to enjoy the view and spot a few open cluster along the way.
Canon 80D 17mm F/4 ISO6400
Stack of 10 x 10 seconds
A few weeks ago after taking some photos of Jupiter, I changed my setup to do some long exposures on an easy target: a globular cluster. Unfortunately I forgot to note down the name of what I had photographed! So a few weeks later when I found the time to process the images I was at a loss to identify what Messier object it was. However, after an evening of matching up stars surrounding the cluster and I was able to correctly identify it as Messier 3.
Globular Cluster – Messier 3 (Benoit Guertin)
The above was taken with my Skywatcher 80ED and Canon 80D. It is a stack of 27 x 10sec exposures at ISO3200 on an unguided and roughly aligned mount.
Looking at my archives I found that I had imaged M3 about 10 years ago with the same telescope, so I decided to align both old and new image and see if anything would stand out. And to my surprise, spotted one star that appeared to have shifted. To help identify the star I colorized one of the photos and subtracted from the other (done in GIMP). All the stars within the field of view lined up except this one; the two colored spots are not aligned!
High PM Star BD+29 34256
To be sure this wasn’t on an error on my part I did a bit of research and found it to be a know high proper-motion star BD+29 34256.
It’s not everyday someone with amateur backyard astronomy gear can show how a star has moved in 10 years.
The last time Jupiter was in a favorable position for good photos was 2010, so while I have photographed the planet a few times since, the results weren’t really satisfactory. So on July 7th, finally took the equipment out and set my mind to image some planets (Venus was also in a good position).
As luck would have it, the Great Red Spot was pointing our way, and landed my best shot of it yet. We may be past the May 2018 sweet spot for opposition, but that doesn’t mean you should not attempt to observer or photograph the Jupiter. Still plenty of good days ahead.
Jupiter with moons Europa (left) and Io (right)
I took about 11 video sequences of the planet, and sure enough the last one yielded the best result. I guess as the evening progressed, the air cooled and provided for better viewing.
Televue 3X barlow
Vesta Webcam with IR/UV filter
Processing with Registax and GIMP.
Last Saturday evening, if you happened to look outside and had a clear view there is no way you could miss the Venus-Moon close encounter in the dark blue sky. But just in case it was cloudy, or you weren’t paying attention here it is.
Moon and Venus within 8 degrees on June 16, 2018
For those curious on the camera setting, the above is cropped from a single frame at 33mm f/4.5 1/30sec and ISO800 with Canon 80D.
Moving up to 85mm gives you the image below, also at 1/30sec and ISO800. Both images were hand-held from a bedroom window. Could a tripod have helped? Sure, but I figured I could do just fine , especially with image stabilization enabled on the lens.
Moon and Venus within 8 degrees on June 16, 2018
To put a bit of perspective on the distance of these two heavenly bodies and their apparent size in the sky I’ve added a bit of information on the above image. While Venus may be nearly 4 times larger in diameter, it looks quite small next to the Moon in the sky.
After yesterday’s photo with the smart phone, I decided to go for a more professional shot and grabbed the Canon 80D and capture once again the Moon and Jupiter through the clouds. However this time around took two exposures, and stitched the together.
Moon and Jupiter Through the Cloud – May 27, 2018
The wide-angle was 24mm F4.0 1/10s ISO-1600. This was to pick up the clouds against a night sky as well as Jupiter. Then a close-up of the Moon, with a shorter exposure and lowered ISO to pick up details of the lunar surface (85mm F5.6 1/250s ISO-200).
Opened them both in GIMP and played with layers, masks and curves to get the desired image. The close-up Moon photo was scaled down to match the 24mm wide-angle photo to avoid having gigantic moon.
Sometimes all it takes is a little cloud layer to hide the background stars to really reveal how bright Jupiter is right now. The photo below was taken with my smartphone on May 26th, with Jupiter clearly visible next to the Moon.
Jupiter and the Moon shining through the cloud – May 26, 2018
Jupiter and Earth were at their closest (opposition) on May 8th, but the entire month of May is a good time to spot Jupiter as it’s up high in the sky most of the night. Once Venus sets in the early evening, Jupiter is the brightest “star” in the sky, a good 20 times brighter than the next brightest stars.
Up until May 28th, Jupiter and the Moon will be near each other in the night sky, making for good photo opportunity.
Came home from my piano lesson (yes you can still learn a new instrument past 40) and the sight of a 2-day old Moon and Venus in the dusk sky was stunning. Unfortunately by the time I got home to grab the camera, the sky had darken quite a bit, so I lost my opportunity for some color in the photo.
Venus 6 degrees from the Moon (May 17, 2018) – Benoit Guertin
While I did take more close-up photos, I find adding the rooftop in the foreground helps establish scale.
Notice the Earthshine, it was easily picked up to naked eye.
We don’t often look “straight up”. Unless you are laying down, it’s not a comfortable viewing position. However there is lots to see and the Big Dipper (Ursa Major) is right overhead this time of year.
Setting up a camera with a 10 second exposure can capture quite a good deal of the sky, and you don’t have to worry too much about star trails. What stands out is the large variations in the colors of stars, from cooler deep reds, to hot bright blues.
Constellations right above in the May evening.
Canon 80D (ISO 3200)
12 x 10sec (2 minutes)
In one of my previous post I mentioned how Messier 44, the Beehive Cluster, would be an easy find the evening of April 22-23, so even if I took this photo on the 21st, the same evening that I took a photo of the Moon, all I needed was to moved a few degrees north after observing the Mooon to image this large open cluster.
Messier 44 – Beehive Cluster. Benoit Guertin – taken with Skywatcher 80ED and Canon 80D
Photos of open clusters with small refractors always lack the diffraction spikes that really make the stars stand out. So a little photo editing did the trick to spice up the image.
Canon 80D ISO 3200
Stacked 22 x 10sec