Orion the Hunter, A Full-Length Portrait


Orion is quickly disappearing from the dark night sky now, as spring begins and the winter constellations depart the sky. This is a shot from February, one I only just now processed.

The Belt of Orion really stands out as do the nebulas that wind all through and around Orion. This is a rich region of the sky for star formation.

I took this portrait of Orion using the 50mm Sigma lens, taking four 5-minute exposures and stacking them. In this case each exposure had varying amounts of haze in the sky as light clouds moved in. So the fuzzy glows around stars are from natural causes here, and are not produced by filters (as in the blog from last year called Fuzzy Constellations) or by post-processing. The glows bring out the star colours, particularly orangish Betelgeuse at upper left and blue Rigel at lower right.

This is the first image I’ve processed using the new Beta version of Photoshop CS6 and Adobe Camera Raw 7 software, just released this past week. Very nice indeed! You can download it for free from Adobe Labs. I like the new interface and functions. I’m not sure the final image quality is any better but some of the new features will be very nice for astrophotography and day to day use. Increased speed is promised but I haven’t seen much evidence for that. But this is a Beta version.

— Alan, March 24, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer

The Wow Sky of Winter


The winter sky contains a lot of bright stars but none so bright as Venus and Jupiter now in the west.

This wide-angle shot takes in the evening sky from the duo of planets in the west (right) to Sirius shining brightly in the south (left), with Orion in between. Above and to the right of Orion sit the two big naked eye star clusters of winter: the scattered Hyades and the compact Pleiades.

This was the picture-perfect scene last Tuesday night when I shot other frames of just the planets over the house in the foothills of the Rockies near Bragg Creek, Alberta. This is the wider scene, bathed in the deep blue of twilight.

— Alan, March 16, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer

 

Conjunction over Calgary


For my continuing series of Venus-Jupiter conjunction shots, on Wednesday night I stayed in Calgary and shot the planets over the city skyline.

Here Venus and Jupiter shine in the clear evening twilight over the downtown core of the city, now dominated by the new Bow tower. I  didn’t have to venture far for this shot, as the best vantage point and angle for framing the planets over the city was the top of Tom Campbell Hill, right beside the TELUS Spark science centre where I work.

We’ll see if the clear nights continue. But it’s been a good run all this week. The last few blogs show the results from each night’s shooting since Saturday.

— Alan, March 14, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer

 

Mountains, Clouds and Planets, Oh My!


In another in my series of Venus & Jupiter nightscapes, I present this scenic portrait of the planets over a picture-perfect house in the foothills.

This was Tuesday, March 13 with the two planets at closest conjunction. I drove out to a favourite spot of mine, just south of Bragg Creek southwest of Calgary. The clouds hanging over the Rockies parted well enough to reveal the planet pair in the deep twilight and add other colours to the sky.

It was a stunning scene, one I’m sure the residents of the house were completely unaware of. The lights give that away. Wonderful scenery can be appreciated by night and by day.

— Alan, March 13, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer

 

Tilting at the Sky (with Venus & Jupiter)


Venus and Jupiter are the planets that just keep on giving! What a photogenic pairing they are proving to be this month.

Here they are behind one of the icons of the prairies, an old water pump windmill, made it would seem by the Flint and Walling Mfg. Co of Kendallville, Indiana, USA, probably in the 1930s or 40s. My area of southern Alberta was once considered too dry for agriculture and it was only irrigation that made the land livable. Individual farm pumps of the dustbowl era were replaced by a mega-project system of canals and reservoirs to water what is effectively a desert. And a windswept one. A blustery Chinook wind was blowing this night.

The pair of planets is at right, tonight in about as close a conjunction as they will get, about 3° apart. The Pleiades and Hyades star clusters in Taurus poke through the clouds at top. The night was quite hazy but the clouds added the yellow colour from Calgary streetlights in the distance. Natural twilight added the blues and purples. Car headlights lit the foreground.

— Alan, March 12, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer

 

Bridging Earth and Sky (Off to Venus and Jupiter)


This was the scene Sunday night, March 11, as Venus edged up to Jupiter in the evening twilight.

To capture the nightscape I hunted around for a spot along the Bow River near home and settled for a site on the banks of the river at the point called Blackfoot Crossing, the traditional heart of the Siksika First Nation land. Here, the Bow River runs north-south for a stretch and the highway crosses the river heading west into the evening twilight, as if off into the sky to meet Venus and Jupiter in conjunction.

I waited until a passing car added the streak of tail lights, heading off into the sunset and starry sky. Nightscapes like this are often best taken when the sky is fairly dark but a longer exposure still brings out the remaining colours of twilight, as well as fainter stars, to make an image enhanced from what the eye might have seen.

— Alan, March 11, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer

 

The Marvellous Mid-March Sky


We have a marvellous sky above us these nights, with an array of brilliant beacons in the evening sky.

This wide-angle scene captures the western and southern sky. To the west at right shine Venus and Jupiter. To the south at centre stands Orion. His famous Belt points up to Taurus and the Pleiades star cluster. His Belt points down to the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius, the Dog Star in Canis Major. Above, at top left, is the other Dog Star, Procyon, in Canis Major.

The last vestige of twilight tints the sky deep blue. But some of the red nebulas in and around Orion are beginning to show up as the sky darkens on a late winter night.

I shot this Saturday night, March 10, on the last evening of Standard Time. Now, I and all astronomers have to wait up another hour to see and shoot the wonders of the night sky. Astronomers hate Daylight Saving Time.

— Alan, March 11, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer