I’m three months late with this post, but I’ve started writing a monthly feature/blog for SkySafari that is available to their premium subscribers! Each month, I’ll be calling out an astrophotography target for that month and talking a little bit about the object itself and some general tips for astrophotographers. SkySafari is available for both iOS and Android and is one of the most popular (if not the most popular) mobile astronomy apps. You can use it to find or identify objects in the sky, get notifications about astronomical events, and configure your telescope/eyepieces/cameras to plan viewing or imaging sessions. It also controls a great number of telescopes and has a huge database of objects you can search.
This month I’m talking about my favorite target visually, which also makes a pretty nice astrophotography target, M13 (Messier 13), or the great globular cluster in Hercules. Past articles are also available. Last month was the large galaxy M101, and before that the Leo Triplet of Galaxies. It is “Galaxy Season” after all. Each month, I’ll focus on a target that is ready to go at evening astronomical twilight (when it’s dark enough to image deep sky targets). It’s going to be a very long time before I run out of targets to talk about, and I hope you will check it out and enjoy!
If you have SkySafari 7 Pro and already have a subscription to the premium features, just click “Tonight” on the bottom toolbar on your mobile phone or tablet.
The full Moon is so often ignored in astrophotography, but a full Moon does in fact yield a wealth of details about our nearest celestial neighbor. Taken just a few hours past full in January, this full Moon image was made from a three image mosaic taken with a 2750mm telescope connected to a DSLR camera (Canon EOS Ra and a Sky-Watcher Mak-Cass 180). This produced a large high resolution image that was then processed “gently” to tone down the overwhelming brightness so you could see the various features that the full Moon reveals so well. The rays and ejecta blankets, the different colors and materials of the Maria, and even the lunar highlands, especially along the southern limb show differences in brightness. Along the Eastern limb where the Sun is just grazing the lunar surface, the terrain stands out in stark relief. Along the south west you can just see the subtle elevation differences along the lunar limb as well, the Moon is not a smooth sphere. It is a beautiful, and “weathered” neighbor in space.
Star parties are a lot of work for the organizers and staff. The annual Winter Star Party in the Florida Keys is no exception. Days before the star party opens staff show up to start preparing the site, and the day before the gates open the vendors and manufacturing reps show up to setup their tents and booths. The night before opening, staff, vendors, and invited speakers all enjoy having the site to themselves and if the weather is clear will get in a little observing and imaging themselves. These two 32″ Dobsonians with Mike Lockwood mirrors were putting on a fine show Sunday night before the guests arrive. This is probably not what you imagine when you hear the word star party, but for amateur astronomers, this is how we roll.
My book is now available in print through Amazon print on demand! This is not a technical “how to” book on astrophotography, but rather this is a book I wrote for my family and friends who simply appreciate the images they see and are mildly curious about how much work goes into taking these photographs. It’s my love letter to the night sky and a tour of the kinds of targets we shoot, the gear we use, and the lengths we will go to to find dark skies suitable for this kind of imaging. I hope some of you will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
I just love globular clusters, both visually and photographically. Omega Centauri is the undisputed king of globulars and is only accessible from the Southern states. What’s really great about this image is that I took it at the 2011 Winter Star party in the Florida Keys. That’s 8 years ago! My original attempt at processing the data is a bit less than stellar<g>. However I kept the original calibrated and stacked data set and just spent a few minutes on it to bring out this beauty! You can read more about it over at The Accidental Astronomer.
I’m a little late with this post, but I am no less thrilled than I was the very day, on March 8, 2019 when one of my images was selected as NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD). This years Winter Star Party (2019) was one of the best I’ve seen in 15 years weather wise. We had clear skies a good portion of every night, and I managed to capture close to 7 hours of data on this target over the course of four evenings using my favorite imaging combination, my Sky-Watcher Esprit 150 refractor and an FLI MicroLine 16200. I have a MoonLite NiteCrawler focuser/rotator upgrade for the OTA as well, and it’s just a rock solid and reliable combination. I could set my software to autofocus every time I changed filters, and I’d let it run for a couple of hours while I looked through friends visual telescopes and enjoyed a brownie or two from Mickie’s Kitchen.