Leaving the city lights behind

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
No tracking

How Many Stars?


Looking at the sky at night from your backyard you’ll probably be able to see about 50 stars, more if you are away from the city.  So how many do you think is in the frame below?

Portion of the Milky Way near Vulpecula.

Portion of the Milky Way near Vulpecula.

Taking a 200 x 200 pixel sample in the middle I counted 155 stars.  Hence extrapolated to the entire picture comes to 38,000 stars for this 18 x 10 degree portion of the sky.  OK I cheated in taking a picture of a portion of the Milky Way… Nevertheless that is a rather small fraction of the 300 billion stars estimated within our own Milky Way.

Bonus if you can spot the meteor!  Showed up in a single 30sec frame, which I added separately in post processing, else it would have been eliminated from the final image as it’s a random event and I always use a sigma distribution for my stacking.   Hint: it’s located just above open cluster CR399, also known as Brocchi’s Cluster.

Wide Field Around Vulpecula


Continuing my wide field photography of the Milky Way I centered on the constellation Vulpecula (little fox) located in the middle of the Summer Triangle.

In the same frame, three Messier objects are identified:  globular cluster M56 and M71; planetary nebula M27.  Interesting fact is star HD189733 (second bright star above M27 in the framed portion) is the nearest extra-solar planet (63 light years) where the presence of water was detected.  But at 700degC, chances for life are pretty slim.


Left to Right: Globular Cluster M71 in Sagitta; Planetary Nebular M27 in Vulpecula; Globular Cluster M56 in Cygnus

The three constellations from left to right are: Sagitta, Vulpecula and Cygnus (also know as Northern Cross).

As a footnote, this was captured with nearly a full moon in a heavily light polluted suburb.  At 30 seconds of exposure time, the luminosity peak was around 75%.

Canon XTi (450D)
50mm F3.2 (ISO 800)
46 x 30sec (23 minutes)

Dark Nebula – Barnard 142 and 143


In my previous post I captured a hint dark nebula Barnard 142 and 143.  But as the lens drifted out of focus, I could only use a few frames (14 out of 60).  At the next clear sky I aimed Altair in the constellation Aquila with the goal to capture a good 60 frames in-focus to once again capture Barnard 142 and 143.

Dark Nebula Barnard 142 and 143 near Altair (Aquila)

Dark Nebula Barnard 142 and 143 near Altair (Aquila)

The entire image scaled 40% (the above is a crop) is available here.

Canon XTi
50mm F3.2 ISO800
59 x 30sec (29.5 minutes of integration)

Wide Angle on Constellation Sagitta (Messier 71 and Messier 27)


The fall is a great time for wide-angle photography of the night sky.  The Milky Way passes overhead which provides a chance to capture some dark nebula.  Unfortunately after I had everything setup the 50mm Canon lens drifted out of focus; I only got about 2-3 frames with decent focus.  By frame 14 of 60, it was too out of focus to even register (align) with software.  When set to manual focus that lens is way too loose.

But I managed to capture a hint of my first dark nebula at the bottom half of the image.  Those immense molecular clouds that block out the background stars.  In the following millions of years, these clouds will collapse to create start nurseries and new solar systems.

Messier 71 (Globular Cluster) and Messier 27 (Planetary Nebula) near constellation Sagitta

Messier 71 (Globular Cluster) and Messier 27 (Planetary Nebula) near constellation Sagitta

Globular cluster Messier 71 and planetary nebula Messier 27 are identified in my image around the constellation Sagitta. I’m surprised at how “bright” and blue that nebula turned out.

Photo Details:
Canon XTi (ISO 800)
Canon 50mm F3.2
14 x 30 sec