M44 Beehive Cluster

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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 - with Skywatcher 80ED and Canon 80D

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.

Skywatcher 80ED
Canon 80D ISO 3200
Stacked 22 x 10sec

Eclipse viewing with a pasta strainer.

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Multiple projections of the eclipse.


Something is taking a bite out of the sun!

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What could it be?

November 13, Nearly Full Moon

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Making diner and notice that it’s getting dark outside and there’s not a cloud in the sky.  Wait! What time does the Moon rise? 4:54pm it should already be 5 degrees in the sky.  Run to the front of the house and look out the door, but no Moon.  Hmmm… maybe I’m too low and the houses across the street are blocking the view.  Head up one floor and look out the bedroom window!  Ah there it is.  OK kids, who wants to go see the SuperMoon!  I grab my camera as my kids run for their boots and jacket.  I figure that from the street corner I should have a good line of sight.  Once there I ask my son to hold his arms up in the air as if grabbing the moon.  I need to get down pretty low on my knees to get everything lined up.  After a few repeated instructions to open or close his hands, to which he responds with a “Are you done yet!”  I take a few long exposures under the street lamps. No tripod so 1/8sec and ISO 800 it is.  Then took a few more of just the Moon with shorter exposures to avoid causing the Moon to become saturated (1/200sec ISO200)

A bit of photo editing and the end result.

November 13th 2016 Full Moon - just ahead of the Super Moon.

November 13th 2016 Full Moon – just ahead of the Super Moon.

How Many Stars?

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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.

Stitching Together the Milky Way

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To get a nice view of the Milky Way I would need to get far away from the city lights and a short focal, wide-angle lens.   Also most new DSLR are quite impressive in low light conditions to suppress noise at ISO settings above 1600.  My old Canon XTi (450D) is best kept at 400… but when stacking many frames I can go up to 800 as the noise gets reduced in the process.  Hence when planning of astro-photo session, you need to balance the level of noise and the number of frames you’ll stack.  Also ensure that the light pollution or background brightness level never exceeds 3/4 of your intensity level else you are clipping and loosing information.

The image below is two processed images taken with a 50mm lens on two different days (30 seconds exposure at ISO 800) stitched together the old fashion way: manually in a photo editor.

Milky Way around constellation Vulpecula

Milky Way around constellation Vulpecula – Benoit Guertin

Click on the above image for a a larger version and try to find the planetary nebula Messier 27.  Hint: it’s blue.

Apollo 11 and 17 Landing Sites

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What is the smallest detail of the lunar surface can I get with a 80mm telescope (600mm focal length) and Canon 10.1Mpixel camera?  Matching some of the smaller craters in a Moon atlas gives me roughly 6-8km/pixel.  But with image processing anything below 10km doesn’t really show or will blur in the noise.

I tagged a few geological features and dimensioned two craters for reference.  At the same time identified the approximate Apollo 11 and 17 landing sites.  The Apollo Lunar module is only 9.4m wide, hence it is impossible for any Earth bound telescope can possibly pick them up (even Hubble).  However the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) did manage to pull it off by lowering its orbit as low as 50km above the lunar surface.

Apollo 11 and 17 landing sites and other features

Apollo 11 and 17 landing sites and other features. Moon (October 6th, 2016) – Benoit Guertin

My original photo of the Moon.