Tag : astrophotography

It’s Been a While

While I sync my twitter stream to this blog weekly, I haven’t actually posted here for a while, so I thought I’d just give an update on why my creative writing has seemed to staunch. A year ago, in October 2012, I was re-introduced to the local astronomy club, the Twin City Amateur Astronomers. I’d been a member as a young man, leaving the club for college in the mid-70’s. Computer programming, music, marriage, family, career, kids in college, and a whole host of other things kept my attention in the intervening years. In those years, the club continued and grew in its capabilities. I ran into a member I knew from those days, and he told me about the incredible equipment now available to club members and so I decided to check it out. When I saw the facility they had, with a very large telescope dedicated to astrophotography, I was instantly hooked. I rejoined the club and began to learn the art and science of making images of the heavens. I’ve loved every minute of it in the past year.

As a result of the time I’ve spent and the coaching I’ve received, I’ve become a decent astrophotographer. I certainly wouldn’t assert that I’m anywhere near proficient, but I’m moving in that direction. Astrophotography is an extremely technical discipline coupled with the creative art of making beautiful imagery. I love the juxtaposition of those two aspects. It challenges me intellectually, creatively, and gives me plenty of time to think. My average image requires several nights of imaging to acquire the data for the image, and most of that time is spent in solitude, looking at the sky and considering what it means to me. On one of those nights, I tried to write that down. The Comfort of the Astronomer is the short piece that resulted. I think it captures it all perfectly for me.

Here is one of my most recent images. It is of a galaxy, very close to us, 2.5 million light years distant. There is so much to discuss about the astrophysics present in the image, but to me, it’s simply beautiful. I hope you enjoy it. You can see all my images on my Astrobin page.

The Comfort of the Astronomer

In the tumult of human woes, personal and global, the universe presents itself as our ultimate context. Our pale blue dot defines our scope, and it is surrounded by beauty we are only beginning to imagine, serenity of the greatest magnitude, timeless and ancient, the matter from which all our matters have come. One glimpse into its vastness reduces the significance of our present troubles, not to nothingness, but to reasonableness. This same universe has illuminated every human crisis of any and all proportion, almost all of which have simply been forgotten by now. Who is to say tomorrow’s weepings will endure for any longer than those of the countless wars, catastrophes, disasters, and dramas of humanity’s last few millennia? The universe blinks. Our troubles have passed. Its beauty remains. This is the comfort of the astronomer.

The Center of the Rose
This image is one of my own, taken in early January, 2013.
At fifty-five, I am not old enough for light to have
traveled from one edge of this image to the other.

Observing Journal

Conditions

  • Location: Back yard
  • Transparency: excellent
  • Seeing: good
  • Visual Limiting Magnitude: ~2
  • Temperature: ~70F
  • Telescope: Meade LXD75 AR5

Sky was very bright with the Full+2 moon, transparency helped but faint objects were still very difficult to detect. Seeing was very good, which allowed me to get a good mosaic of the moon with the LPI.

Objects observed

  • M13
  • M57
  • M27
  • M71 – very faint and difficult to see in the moonlit sky
  • Jupiter – Three Trojan moons were tightly clustered, forth was farther out. Many belts visible.
  • Moon – Full+2, terminator halfway across Mare Crisium

Observing Journal

Conditions

  • Location: My driveway
  • Transparency: terrible
  • Seeing: terrible
  • Visual Limiting Magnitude: ~1 – First quarter moon

Objects observed

  • M31 – at 32mm, washed out smudge
  • Alberio – Beautiful blue and gold double, colors were quite visible
  • Moon – various magnifications, one day past first quarter

First Quarter Plus One Day

Moon, Southern Hemisphere

Moon, Northern Hemisphere

Observing Journal

Conditions

  • Location: My driveway
  • Transparency: terrible
  • Seeing: good
  • Visual Limiting Magnitude: ~3

Objects observed

  • M57 – at 9.7mm, with the nebula filter, the ring was discernible with averted vision.
  • M15 – at 9.7mm, stars were resolvable with averted vision
  • M45 – at 40mm, no nebulosity (I didn’t think there would be)
  • M31 – at 32mm, core clearly visible
  • M32 – at 32mm, same field with M31, clearly visible
  • M42 – at 40mm, beautiful as always

I tried a crude technique for taking an astrophoto tonight, where I put my camera on the tripod, put the lens up to a 40mm eyepiece, focused, and shot a 15 second exposure at ISO 1600 of the Andromeda Galaxy.  It’s nothing to win a prize with, but it’s the first time I’ve ever taken a bona-fide picture of a galaxy before.  Here are the results.

M31, Andromeda Galaxy.

This is very similar to what it looks like visually through the telescope. Incidentally, this is one of four galaxies that are visible to the naked eye.

M42, The Great Orion Nebula

Not bad for just sticking the camera up to the eyepiece and taking a 20 second exposure.  I was delighted to see the reds and blues of the nebulosity when I got the picture onto the computer.  M43 even showed up, albeit faintly.

All told, it was an enjoyable observing evening, even though the light pollution coupled with the lack of transparency rendered all but the brightest objects invisible.

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