Tag Archives: photography

Astrophotography with a Fisheye, take two… and Observation of the Summer Triangle

Folks, I will post an entry re my time at Stellafane, I promise. However, the editor of our astronomical club newsletter forced me at gunpoint (really, he did! Really!) to write an article for the newsletter, so I will share something after that is published.

One thing that happened when I went there is that I tried to do astrophotography using a fisheye lens but screwed up with using too low an ISO (a measure of film sensitivity, leading to photos that were too dark (you’ll see them later.

After the debacle that was my failed attempt at astrophotography at Stellafane, I decided to try again.

This time, I originally planned to go to StarFest 2014 at Hopewell Furnace tonight, which is another amateur astronomy conference. However, I managed to get a light fever, and did not feel like going everybody else sick instead. I decided to do astrophotography work at home, and to also break out my telescope. There was not much that I could see in my sky, because there’s so much light pollution in Havertown, and the summer haze makes it worse. However, I was able to see the Big Dipper, four stars of the Little Dipper, and various other stars. I’d rate the transparency at a 4 and the seeing around 6. For here, It was a good night. I did manage to see Cygnus and the Summer Triangle, which was unusual for this time of year.

So, these are some pictures of my slightly better attempt at stack astrophotography. In the last two final photos, there are some slight diagonal lines. That’s due to the fact that I’m trying out a demo of Nebulosity 3–it’s a Mac program that does photo stacking. I was using my Canon 60D using my Rokinon 8mm Fisheye, set at infinity with an ISO of 1250 for a 10 sec exposure after a 10 second delay. I didn’t use bias or flat images, just dark images.

Notes about the individual photos are below.

First step of stacking is taking pics with the lens caps on to help the stacking program (Nebulosity 3) figure out what sensor errors are present.
First step of stacking is taking pics with the lens caps on to help the stacking program (Nebulosity 3) figure out what sensor errors are present.
Since so many pictures are very dark when I do this, it helps to use my red flashlight to mark the beginning of sets.
Since so many pictures are very dark when I do this, it helps to use my red flashlight to mark the beginning of sets.
This is the sky taken without stacking. Unfortunately, all of the ambient light against the dark led to many pictures of the lens' apeture being open (the reddish spots). I hate light pollution.
This is the sky taken without stacking. Unfortunately, all of the ambient light against the dark led to many pictures of the lens’ apeture being open (the reddish spots). I hate light pollution.
The final stacked image. I used high contrast, lower exposure, more blue, increased clarity, and vignetting in Adobe Lightroom to cut down on the light pollution effect.
The final stacked image. I used high contrast, lower exposure, more blue, increased clarity, and vignetting in Adobe Lightroom to cut down on the light pollution effect.
Some of the things that were visible. Of course, the Northern Cross was visible as well, but I didn't want to confuse the Summer Triangle picture with it, which overlaps.
Some of the things that were visible. Of course, the Northern Cross was visible as well, but I didn’t want to confuse the Summer Triangle picture with it, which overlaps.

New Book! Vehrenberg’s Atlas of Deep-Sky Splendors, 4th ed.

My friend, Pyracantha Shapero, who knows of my latest astronomy addiction, has graciously gifted me with a copy of Hans Vehrenberg’s Atlas of Deep-Sky Splendors (4th ed.), a fascinating work.

Deep Space Objects...it's what's for dinner.
Deep Space Objects…it’s what’s for dinner.

It is available at Amazon:  Atlas of Deep-Sky Splendors.

It’s pretty cool.  It has black and white photos on the inside (perfect for an amateur astronomer, who will pretty much be seeing black and white anyway through a scope for the most part.  It is pretty easy to use the book as long as you know your way around the heavens.

Let’s find the Orion Nebula (M42), which we looked at briefly before.   The Orion Nebula, surprisingly enough, is in Orion.

Sky map on inside cover of Vehrenberg (1983).  Did I mention that this book is HUUUGE?
Sky map on inside cover of Vehrenberg (1983). Did I mention that this book is HUUUGE?

Now we’ll find the object.  Knowing that it is underneath Orion’s belt, we see its listing and the page number in italics.  On the right of the inside cover pages is a listing of Messier objects.

42/43 refer to Messier numbers (the Orion Nebula is 42).  The page number is 63.
42/43 refer to Messier numbers (the Orion Nebula is 42). The page number is 65.

Moving to page 65, we see some color photos (the O Nebula is that awesome that it rates color photos, but don’t get excited–the photos are time exposures, and you will likely see its awesomeness in black and white).  On the left page we see information about it within the context of the constellation, and some writing about the object itself.  On the right page is a finder diagram at the top (that explains which object is which is in position in the photo, and to the right of that are the R.A. and Dec. coordinates, which are also around the larger featured picture.

Left page
Left page
Right page.
Right page.

Other than an author’s bio and an index in the back, that’s it.  Simple, straightforward, and fun.

Lots of thanks go out to my friend, Pyracantha Hannah Shapero, who was thinking of me and sent this to me.  Pyra is a Brandeis and Harvard-educated artist who makes beautiful work related to the stars, landscapes, science fiction and fantasy, and iconography.  She also produces fascinating ambient and experimental electronic music.  Please feel to explore her work and to pass it on to others who may enjoy it as well. Her website is: http://www.pyracantha.com.

Good stuff.

The citation for Vehrenberg’s work is:

Vehrenberg, H.  (1983).  Atlas of deep-sky splendors (4th ed.).  Cambridge, MA:  Sky Publishing Corp.

14-2-11 7:45-8:20PM OBSERVATION (Constellation of Andromeda/Andromeda Galaxy [M31]) [OBS #5]

Today I braved the elements again and got in another observation. This time I went a little west of Cassiopeia and looked at Andromeda and the Andromeda Galaxy/M31.

Again, I had focus issues with my camera.  I think what happened was a combination of star drift and too wide an aperture.  I was using my 50mm lens, and I noticed that I had stuff out of focus at 1.8, but when I moved my aperture to 3.5, it improved.  I was able to get a picture that wasn’t too incredibly horrible out of about 20 shots.  In this one, the Andromeda Galaxy is somewhat present.

Canon 60D with 50mm lens.  32.0 sec @ f/3.5, ISO 100.  Unannotated.
Canon 60D with 50mm lens. 32.0 sec @ f/3.5, ISO 100. Unannotated.

Here is the image with a little more of a guide to what you kinda sorta are seeing:

Canon 60D with 50mm lens.  32.0 sec @ f/3.5, ISO 100.  Annotated.
Canon 60D with 50mm lens. 32.0 sec @ f/3.5, ISO 100. Annotated.

That smudgy thing in the circle is the Andromeda Galaxy.  It is around the size of the moon, about 2° in size.  It is noteworthy that Mirach (β Andromeda) is a red giant.  By naked eye this could not be seen, but it could be seen in the above photo.

Here are some clearer views in Stellarium.

Andromeda Constellation in Stellarium
Andromeda Constellation in Stellarium
Detail of Andromeda featuring the Andromeda Galaxy.
Detail of Andromeda featuring the Andromeda Galaxy over on the right.

I also spent some time fiddling with a multi reticle red dot finder that I purchased which goes on top of the 25x100s.  Got it to work by zeroing in on the moon.  It does make finding things easier, assuming I can star hop to where they are.  With binoculars, though, compared to telescopes which are inverted and/or upside down, it is far easier.  the Finder can also double as a rifle sight (yet another hobby of mine).

Red Dot Finderscope
Red Dot Finder
140211 14-02-11 Observation (Andromeda Constellation and Andromeda Galaxy) 7-45p to 8-20p - 35
Red Dot Finder

While what’s below isn’t my actual red dot finder in action (it was a bugger trying to take a picture of it due to depth of field issues), this is essentially what it would look like looking through it.

Here is my observation report for tonight:

Sadly, due to shifting transparency conditions, I was not able to see the Andromeda Galaxy using the 25x100s tonight, although I was able to see it with my 8x30s earlier in the evening.

Observation report for Andromeda (Constellation) and the Andromeda Galaxy.
Observation report for Andromeda (Constellation) and the Andromeda Galaxy.

Per Wikipedia:

Here is info on Andromeda, the constellation.

Andromeda is named after the daughter of Cassiopeia.  Andromeda was apparently chained to a rock to be eaten by the monster Cetus, which is behind Pisces.  It is bordered above by Perseus, below by Pegasus, to the right by Andromeda’s mother, Cassiopeia, and the Pleiades are to the left.  Pisces and the Triangulum are to the left, but closer.  Only one or two stars in Pisces were visible tonight, and Pegasus was behind trees.

Perseus figures as the savior of Andromeda from Cetus (See this part of the Perseus myth).

Here is info on the Andromeda Galaxy/M31.

The Andromeda Galaxy/Messier 31 is one of the largest deep space objects of the Messier group.  It is a spiral galaxy about 2.5 million light years away from Earth.  It will collide with the Milky Way galaxy in the future!  In 3.75 billion years.  Not high on my list of anxieties this week.

Here is an interesting video on the Andromeda Galaxy:  Video on Andromeda Galaxy from NASA (public domain)

I hope to do another observation of the Andromeda Galaxy in the future, when transparency conditions are better.

Other Ways of Looking at Astronomy

To be sure, astronomy is the study of the heavens.  Most people think of it as what you do when you look at stars, planets, asteroids, comets, asterisms, etc.

However, you can broaden the practice of astronomy, in my personal opinion, to just respecting and observing what happens in the sky in general.  I think of it is as primarily the study of things listed before, but I like to also think of it as just LOOKING UP, like I stated in one of my earlier posts.  The chief joy for me of doing astronomy is just seeing what is up in nature, and marveling at the beautiful work or art that is God’s creation.

I’m including here a gallery of (mostly) sunsets, dawns and other atmospheric phenomena that happens around sunsets/dawns.  What’s beautiful about this time of day is the fact that it falls within the “Golden Hours,” times when the angle of the sun brings out shadows and deeper colors that are great for art and photography. They represent other aspects of appreciating the heavens.

Note that many of these were taken before I got serious about photography.  Still, enjoy.