Imaging Orion’s Nebula: Long Sault

March 16-19 was RASC’s Dark Sky Party window. On March 17, RASC called a NO GO for the party due to the heavy winds. It was clear, but the winds were HEAVY! I was hoping that March 18 would have a GO call, because my schedule was well placed, and I could go to that event.

 

March 18, 5 pm:

I got RASC’s call, and it was a GO. The Star Party will take place that night. When I got home, I packed my car with all my telescope equipment, and drove off to Long Sault Conservation park (Long Sault).

Driving to Long Sault or Glen Major forest feels like a road trip. One passes through many small hamlets on the road to your destination, and you see how people live beyond Toronto. Homes are more open, commercial services are scarcer, and speed limits are higher. To drive to Long Sault takes 45 minutes to 1 hour, and I arrive at Long Sault at 9 pm.

 

March 18, 9 pm:

When I get there, a lot of interested astronomers, guests, and astrophotographers were already there imaging and observing the night sky. Looking up, the sky is very different from home, and from Glen Major Forest. The sky is clearer, and constellations are more visible from here.

I meet some of the other guests and members there. Some were observing Jupiter, others were imaging various Deep Sky Objects (DSO’s), and some were observing other objects in the night sky. Soon after, I start to assemble my telescope, which didn’t take a lot of time.

I aligned my telescope to two stars. Usually, my selection of stars is limited at home due to location, and visibility of stars. Out in Long Sault, the limitations of my selection of stars are what’s in the telescope’s computer. After aligning my telescope to the stars, I pointed my telescope to Orion’s Nebula, and I set my telescope to image M42 for 75 frames. Some frames that I took looked like this:

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1 frame of M42; 14․7″ exposure, f/10, ISO-1600

 

While my telescope was doing its work. I was meeting other fellow amateur astronomers. I did meet a fellow amateur astrophotographer I was corresponding with on the Yahoo e-mail list. I saw his set-up, equipment, and images. They were spectacular.

Once the camera was finished imaging M42, I put the telescope cover on, and started taking dark frames, so I could subtract the noise from the image.

My feet beccame very cold, and I had to get into my car many times to warm up. I couldn’t turn on the car, because the exhaust would interfere with my telescope. At 11 pm, most of the astronomers packed up and have started their journey home. At that time, I also started packing up my equipment. I finished what I wanted to do, and I was ready to go home. It took me 10 minutes to pack and to make sure I didn’t forget anything. When I was ready, I started driving home.

I got home at 1:30 am, taking a break between my driving to rest and think about what I imaged that night. Unfortunately, I have not been able to process all the images yet, as I am having trouble with the Deep Sky Stacker, and Registax.

Thank You everyone for reading. Let me know if you have any questions or comments. Keep looking up, you never know what you will find up there.

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Attempts at Comet Lovejoy: Up on Cold Creek

On January 10, 2015, New Eyes Old Skies hosted an event at the Cold Creek Conservation Park. DDO Defenders astronomers and Ian Shelton and Tuba Koktay, in a heated building, presented to all the participants an overview of what to expect in the night sky during the month of January, and it was interesting. This month featured a visible Jupiter moving up the night sky; Venus, and Mercury coming close to each other; and a bright comet called Comet Lovejoy flying through the sky, getting better and better until the Moon comes back. The presentation successfully piqued the interest of many participants.

Before I arrived at Cold Creek Conservation Park, I drove up a hill in Markham where all of Markham was visible. There, I was able to image Venus and Mercury, although not in the same frame.

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Venus after Sunset. 1/125″ exp, f/10, ISO 1600

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Mercury after sunset. 1/15″ exp, f/10, ISO 1600

Coming into the park, it was completely overcast. By the end of Ian’s presentation, the sky cleared up enough to reveal the night sky. There were a few scattered clouds in the sky, but they quickly moved out of our way. Since the temperature was -9 C, I had to set up and image very quickly lest the telescope freezes again. Taking what I learned from my previous astronomy session in Glen Major Forest, I aligned my telescope to Betelgeuse and Polaris using the Two Star Alignment method. When it was ready, I let everyone know inside, and many came out to see me image the night sky.

That night, I got lucky with good images of Comet Lovejoy.

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Comet Lovejoy: 75mm focal length: 10″ exp, f/4, ISO 1600

I had taken 10 x 30 second exposure images to stack, but when I checked them, only one was good enough to share. The rest suffered from camera shake. Here it is below:

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Comet Lovejoy: 255mm focal length: 30″ exposure, f/5.6, and ISO 1600.

I wanted to find the comet using my telescope, but my battery was low on energy and finally died. Disappointed, but satisfied with my work, I packed up my scope and made my way home. It was a successful night. I got the chance to image the comet again, and get better pictures. I didn’t get the tail like I wanted, but I guess there is always next time.

Thank You for reading everyone. I hope you are all enjoying these stories. I wanted to mention that the presenters, Ian and Tuba offer a number of classes for the general public, most notably their “Introduction to Astrophotography” class. The courses are full of useful information, and are very well presented. I have taken these courses, and I learned a lot from them. I recommended them to everyone interested in astrophotography. The link is here.  They also have a lecture series called, ‘Search for Extraterrestrials: Life Originating Elsewhere in the Universe.’ The link is here. Keep looking up! You never know what you will find up there.

 

Light Pollution

Four days ago, after a series of cloudy and rainy nights, the sky finally cleared for a rare view of the night sky. Taking advantage of that, I decided to take my telescope out for the night and use my piggyback mount.

A piggyback mount is an attachment for telescopes that allows a camera to be attached on top of it. Using the tracking feature of the telescope, one could take long exposure images of the sky for a long time and avoid sky trails, which occurs when a camera takes a long-exposure image of the stars without compensating for the Earth’s rotation. Below is an example of star trails:

IMG_0161During that night, my goal for the night was to take a long exposure shot of the sky using my piggyback mount. However, I failed to realize that the light pollution in my backyard and the moonlight in the sky would obstruct the view of the stars in the sky, and that seeing conditions for the stars would not be optimal.

When I was taking the pictures of the sky, I was expecting to see crisp black images with stars shining brightly. Instead I got an image with dim stars and a bright background blocking the stars. This is due to the light in the sky blocking the stars. The light is coming from the Moon and from the light pollution.

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An image of Jupiter on a brightly illuminated sky

Light pollution is when artificial light shines at the sky and obstructs the view of the stars. It can come from the car lights, lights from buildings, and especially from streetlights to name a few. Light pollution is most prevalent in urban areas, such as Downtown Toronto, New York, Yerevan, and many other major cities. However, light pollution declines as you move away from the urban centres.

For example, if one was in an urban centre like Downtown Toronto, or Yerevan, and you looked up into the sky, you would likely only see the Moon, the planets, and the odd star. Far out of the city, like in Algonquin park, there is very little artificial light, which will give you an excellent view of the sky, and maybe even the Milky Way.

Light Pollution is a major problem in many cities. However, there are organizations who are committed to reducing the amount of light pollution in our cities. One such cause is: Light-Pollution Abatement Committee operated by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. This committee was formed to work with the municipal, provincial, and federal governments as well as with concerned citizens to reduce light pollution and create darker skies for all to enjoy. They encourage people, organizations and governments, to advise each group of the situation at hand and talk to each other and find solutions.

If you want to help as well, iOS users can download two apps that can help one find clearer skies, and help identify light polluted areas. The first one is “Dark Sky Finder”, which is a map of North America, Europe and Australasia that charts out the level of light pollution in certain areas, like Toronto, New York, Sydney, and other cities. The other app is the “Dark Sky Meter”. It allows one to measure the night sky and see how dark it is compared to total darkness. In addition, users can submit the data that they find to the Save Our Stars (SOS) program, which will assist the SOS program in their efforts to chart light pollution in our skies. The links are:

http://www.jshine.net/astronomy/dark_sky/

http://www.darkskymeter.com/

After some time, I decided to call it a night, and brought my telescope into my house.

A few days later, I was thinking about what my priorities should be during this period of the Full Moon. Knowing that the moon and the surrounding light will obstruct my view of the stars, I decided to recommit myself to observing the Moon when it is visible in the sky. When the next clear night comes, I will be there to see the Moon.

Today, I processed a number of images that I took and I achieved this result:

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The night sky post-processed.

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Jupiter through a DSLR Camera. Post-processed

WORKS CONSULTED

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_pollution

http://www.rasc.ca/lpa