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Posts from the ‘astrophotography’ Category

Peeping where Hera spurted her milk

Silvery river, Where the dog ran, A pool of cow’s milk, The pathway of the birds, Hera’s spurting milk, The road of the Warriors… every human culture developed its own explanation for the origin and presence of the Milky way in the night sky. I shot these pictures in one of the darkest places in Greece, accordingly to lightpollutionmap.info: 40°02’04.2″N 24°00’22.0″E are the coordinates for some of the most exciting nights I had traveling through stars and galaxies (from the Greek word Galaxias, Γαλαξίας, where Γαλα means milk).

The lights of Sikias are far behind the hills.  I stop the engine shortly before Klimataria. As I switch off the car lights, the Milky Way shows its silvery path on the West quadrant, between Altair and Vega, in this 14 mm shot.

The purple North America nebula shines like a gem in this 14 mm shot. On the top left the Andromeda Galaxy.

Here is a zoom (200 mm) on the purple North American nebula

Here is a zoom (200 mm) on Andromeda, notice the dense clouds above its center.

Watching South, Jupiter is going to bath in Hera’s Milk. The moon just set and its light is still strong. A cloud runs on the wires.

Finally, a watch towards North-East. A modern catamaran is at bay: it spreads blue light in the water. Above its pole light, a yellowish Venus shines above mount Athos and is reflected on the sea surface. Above Venus, the Pleiades. Top center, Andromeda again on the right of the Milky Way. What a catch: a whole Planetarium sliding anti-clock wise through the night.

 

Pictures shot with Nikon D800, Nikon 70-200 f/2.8, Sigma 14 mm f/1.4, mount iOptron Skyguider Pro. Click each picture to zoom in.

Previous episodes:

Destination: the Holy Mountain

Modern Greeks

Under Your Protection

Radial symmetries

Old and New Thessaloniki

Lines of horizon

 

 

 

Destination: the Holy Mountain

The easternmost leg of Chalkidiki peninsula (Central Macedonia, Greece) takes its name: Mount Athos, Agion Oros, the Holy Muntain is there waiting for us… already from the early sunrise hours.

And it will wait for long, as no woman is allowed, the documents necessary to cross its border must be requested six months in advance and an Orthodox travel companion is recommended (in the picture below, Saint Athanasios of Alexandria, XVth century).

This year I got all but the documents: my visit to this autonomous polity, home to more than 20 monasteries and cradle of the reborn Eastern Orthodox Church must be postponed.

Still,  I wake up every morning in Sikias, placed on the eastern shores of the middle leg (aka Sithonia) of Chalkidiki peninsula: the Holy Mountain and its treasures are always there in front of me.

I will see Mount Athos across the Singitic gulf for 14 days…

… and 14 nights, with an astonishing bright Milky Way passing just above its 2,033 meter peak.. but I will never reach it, or will I?

There is also a westernmost leg of Chalkidiki peninsula (if you were wondering why Sithonia is the middle leg) that is called Kassandra, but nothing will be written about Kassandra in this travel across the North Agean Sea.

Pictures shot with Nikon D800 and Huawei P40 Pro. Lens and mount for astrophotography: Sigma 14 mm f/1.8 and iOptron Skyguider Pro. Click each picture to zoom in.

 

The Milky Way above Zurich

The Milky Way is visible above Zurich with a 20 to 30 second long picture shot from a dark surrounding. Saturn chasing Jupiter in the middle quadrant

From Zurich downtown the light pollution is too high for the Milky Way, stars are still visible

The night sky above urban parks show stars like this Cassiopeia in the center.

Southwards on the lake shores, just out of Zurich, the Milky Way is visible again

From dark spots along the lake Zurich it is possible to shoot galaxies like this Andromeda with a mid range tele-objective, like the Nikon 70-200 mm f/2.8. Above it, the galaxy M110

A great spot for shooting night-scapes and the Milky Way is the public park at the lake shores Zurihorn, facing South-West.

Pictures shot on a tripod with Sigma 14 mm f/1.8 and Nikon D800. Click each picture to zoom in,

 

 

The sky above the Swiss National Park

16 mm, 130 ”, f/4 – A wide angle look in the Milky way – click here for the plate solving (star recognition)

200 mm, 130 ”, f/2.8 – A look into the Cygnus constellation, part of the Veil nebula (see plate solving)

16 mm, 130 ”, f/4 – The North America nebula (purple) in the inner arm of the Milky way, just aside Cygnus, some orange night clouds passing by – click here for the plate solving

200 mm, 130 ”, f/2.8 – The Crescent nebula (purple, upper left) in the Milky way, Cygnus constellation (click here for plate solving)

Plate solving via Astrometry.net

Deep Space Objects with Nikon 70-200mm

Which objects can you picture in a clear night sky with a Nikon 200 mm? What magnification can you obtain with this photographic zoom?
Picture shot with ISO 800-1600, 2-3 min long exposure, 3.2-5.6 aperture – Mount: Skyguider pro. Click each picture to zoom in

A plate solver like Astrometry.net helps mapping your night shots: with 70 mm, no DSO is recognized in this part of the sky

With 200 mm, small emission nebula like the Bow tie nebula are mere dots

With 200 mm galaxies like the Whirlpool galaxy turn visible

Still a 200 mm shot, the ring of the Ring nebula in the Lyra constellation is pixel visible

The Andromeda galaxy is likely the only galaxy you can resolve up to this definition with a 200 mm

Pictures shot in Zurich area (sky brightness 18.5)

 

Freeze! My first Deep Space Objects

Starry night skies are present in Zurich despite the light pollution . Still, is light pollution low enough for shooting deep space objects? Which exposures / f values,  ISO combinations are necessary to capture galaxies or star clusters?

With a fixed tripod, 30 sec exposures cause long star trails.

With a Skyguider Pro mount, 4 minute long exposures produce clear star pins: so many stars turn visible through photography!

With such long exposures, Deep Space Objects like M37, Spinwheel and Starfish star clusters got visible! Can you see them between Venus (bottom left) and Capella (the bright star on the right border)?

Here is a crop from above: the 3 clusters are vertically displaced across middle of the picture.

A continuous tracking of the Polar Star alignment is useful with 4 minute long exposures or longer. If the alignment get lost during the shooting, star trails will appear. I obtained continuous tracking by changing the optical scope for iPolar, an electronic scope which shows the alignment to the Polar Star on a laptop screen. The electronic scope does not need to detect the Polar Star. The detection of 3-4 stars is enough to localize the Zenith. A good alignment is very easily kept for 4 minutes and likely more.

 

Camera setup for stars: 240″, f/3.2, ISO 500

Around 20 pictures stacked with the free software DeepSkyStacker

Lenses: Nikon 70-200 mm or 35 mm

Cameras: Nikon D800 or D600

Mount: Skyguider Pro (iOPTRON) with iPolar

Urban astrophotography

To the Moon and beyond with Skyguider Pro (iOPTRON)! I was gifted with this star tracker (thanks Maria Francesca!) for long night exposures. Are Zurich nights dark enough for testing it? Click each picture to open full-size pictures.

My Skyguider Pro mount with 2 ball heads for two full frame cameras, my D800+50mm and a D600+35mm (thanks Oliver!). Ursa Major above. Picture shot with Huawei P30 Pro

The full big pink (???) Moon of April 2020 shot with D800 + Nikon 70-200 mm on Skyguider Pro.

The orange Arcturus shot with D800 + Nikon 70-200 mm on Skyguider Pro.

Ursa Major shot with D600 + Nikon 35 mm on Skyguider Pro.

The blue Vega shot with D800 + Nikon 70-200 mm on Skyguider Pro.

A 16 mm framed night sky over Zurich city. Can you spot the Ursa Major?

A 3/4 Moon of April 2020 shot with D800 + Nikon 70-200 mm on Skyguider Pro. Shades make craters visible.

An impressive payload for the Skyguider Pro: D800+70-200 and D600+16-35mm, around 7-8 Kg. Picture shot with Huawei P30 Pro

 

Camera setup for the Moon: 1/50, f/5.6, ISO L01

20 pictures stacked with the free software Autostakkert

Camera setup for stars: 25″, f/5.6, ISO 500

Around 80 pictures stacked with the free software DeepSkyStacker

Lenses: Nikon 70-200 mm, 35 mm

Cameras: Nikon D800 and D600

Mount: Skyguider Pro (iOPTRON)

 

5 shooting stars for 5 wishes

552 shots, 15 seconds each for around 2.5 h on Nikon D800 plus 16-35 mm f/2.8 on tripod. Enjoy this year Saint Lawrence’s night (10.08.2019) and its shooting stars in the time-lapse below. Pictures shot watching eastwards of Zurich, direction Perseus and Pleiades. Play the movie fullscreen in HD

If you don’t find the shooting stars in the time lapse, or if you cannot tell what is airplane, satellite or shooting star, wishes on cropped frames below are allowed 😀

03:08 AM

03:18 AM

03:27 AM

04:01 AM

05:05 AM, a few minutes after dawn

Click each picture to zoom in.

NASA, shooting stars and I

Tonight, at least in Italy, is Saint Lawrence’s night (notte di San Lorenzo).That means, eyes up to the starry sky looking for shooting stars. Although the Perseids’ peak is announced to be in the nights of 11th and 12th of August. As beautifully described in this video made in NASA, with one credited picture from Lorenzo Borghi (that’s me). Nomen omen?

Enjoy it and follow its suggestion to find your Perseids in the next few nights. Here you can see the original picture I shot to the night sky of August above the Gotthard pass (Switzerland). Thanks to Jane Houston (NASA) for choosing it.

Astronomical calculations with Nikon D800: Mercury over the Sun and Jupiter moons

Today Mercury slid over the sun and I shot it with an additional infrared 850 nm filter. Mercury is at the bottom, a sunspot is visible on the Sun upper hemisphere.

Mercury passage over the Sun May 2016

Mercury passage over the Sun May 2016

A 70-200 VRII mounted on the 36 Mpx D800 gave a resolution of 2 pixels for Mercury passing over the Sun and 370 pixel for the Sun. Knowing the Sun is 1.64 times more distant than Mercury from Earth, the size ratio Sun / Mercury is 370*1.64/2 = 303.4 . Known the Sun diameter is 1.3914 million km, Mercury measures 4,586 km in diameter (the real value is 4,800 km).

juipterand4moons

Jupiter and the four Galilean moons

The same camera setting gives a resolution of 12 pixels for Jupiter, which is 6.8 times more distant from Earth than Mercury. Therefore the size ratio Jupiter / Mercury is 12*6.8/2 = 40.8 . Calculated that Mercury is 4586 km in diameter, Jupiter is 187,108 km (its real size is 143,000 km). More or less …

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