The Big Dipper Over Pyramid Mountain


 

Pyramid Mountain is Jasper’s iconic peak dominating the skyline of the mountain town in Alberta. The mountain and its foreground lakes are ideally placed for nightscapes of the northern sky.

I took this shot Saturday night, July 28, from the shore of Patricia Lake, one of several that dot the benchlands south of Pyramid Mountain. Small lakes like Patricia have the benefit of often being calm and reflective. Here the stars of the Big Dipper and Ursa Major swing over top of Pyramid Mountain, in the blue moonlit sky. A few well-placed clouds add a welcome perspective. This is one frame of 150 or so in a time-lapse sequence, and that will eventually become a star trail composite as well. But this single frame stands well all on its own.

The last time I was here shooting this same scene I was using Ektachrome and Fujichrome film (each had its unique characteristics, though just what I can’t recall!). That was more than a decade ago. This digital shot with the Canon 7D looks far better than what I got back then.

— Alan, July 30, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer

 

Lunar Reflections at Lac Beauvert


After a day of cloud and rain, skies cleared to provide a stunning twilight scene of the Moon reflected in the calm waters of Lac Beauvert in Jasper National Park.

This is the view from the dock at the prestigious and posh Jasper Park Lodge, where the rich and famous stay when in Jasper. I was there just to shoot the sky. In the distance is the distinctive snow-covered peak of Mount Edith Cavell, a Jasper landmark. Above it shines the waxing gibbous Moon in the twilight colours.

— Alan, July 30, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer

 

Athabasca Falls by Night


Athabasca Falls is one of the most popular and photographed attractions in Jasper National Park – by day. But by night, the falls on the Athabasca River are deserted.

In the distance, the stars rise behind Mount Kerkeslin. In the foreground, the river plunges into a deep gorge. These waters, with headwaters at the Columbia Glacier in the Icefields to the south, eventually make their way north to the Arctic Ocean.

I was at the Falls last Friday night, to shoot them by moonlight and under the stars. But in this case, I provided added foreground illumination from a flashlight.

As I took this and other shots, flashes of lightning from nearby thunderstorms occasionally lit the night. I had a couple of hours of clear skies before clouds moved in for the night, enough time to get frames for a time-lapse movie and some still frames like this one.

— Alan, July 30, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer

Athabasca Moon


I’ve spent the last couple of night in Jasper National Park, home to the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserve, dedicated to maintaining the darkness of the natural night sky.

This is a scene from Friday night, taken well before darkness, as the waxing Moon shone in the twilight above the Athabasca River and the peaks of the continental divide. For many years in the early 19th century fur traders plied these waters. Now rafters do.

Jasper is far enough north of me that I don’t get there very often. I’ve been spending most of my mountain time in Banff. I realize it’s been a decade or more since I’ve driven all the way up the Icefields Parkway to visit Jasper. But I was happy to be back. It has some great sites for nightscape photography.

I got two clear nights this past weekend, so a few more shots will hit the blog in the next few days.

— Alan, July 29, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer

 

A River of Starlight and Dust


 

Look up on a dark summer night in the northern hemisphere and you see a river of stars flowing across the sky.

This is the Milky Way, a glowing mass of millions of distant stars populating the spiral arms of the Galaxy we live in. Lining the arms are lanes of dark interstellar dust, seen here splitting the Milky Way in two from the bright red North America Nebula at top, down to the core of the Galaxy in Sagittarius on the horizon. The dust is the soot created in stars and blown into space to form a new generation stars and planets.

This ultra-wide-angle scene takes in almost the entire summer Milky Way from the southern horizon to beyond the zenith overhead at top. I shot this a couple of nights ago from my rural backyard on a particularly transparent and dark night. It was heaven on Earth.

— Alan, July 26, 2012 / © @ 2012 Alan Dyer

 

Under the Milky Way


What a marvellous night for the Milky Way. The sky was clear and the night warm and bug free, making for a perfect evening for public stargazing.

People only had to travel 30 minutes out of the city, but what an exotic, wonderful sky they discovered. The Milky Way is the main attraction, familiar by name but little seen by most. But this night, at the Rothney Observatory’s public starnight, hundreds got to see the marvels of the Milky Way and the deep sky for themselves. Astronomers, including yours truly, provided laser-guided tours of the naked eye night sky. A dozen or more telescopes and their owners provided close up views of nebulas and star clusters. After a summer so far of too much rain and cloud, this was a welcome and well-attended chance to see the stars.

— Alan, July 22, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer

 

Waiting for the Sky Show


 

It was an ideal summer night for a public star party. Like it was a summer music festival, people set up lawn chairs and laid out blankets to sit and lie back and watch the show — the sky show.

This was the scene at Saturday’s Milky Way Night, July 21,  at the local university’s Rothney Astrophysical Observatory. Several hundred people attended under ideal clear skies to watch the summer stars appear and revel in the Milky Way away from city lights. Here, people gaze westward after sunset to see the triangular gathering of Saturn, Mars and Spica in the evening twilight. Lots of mobile phones were held skyward as people used their new astronomy apps to identify what they were seeing. These apps are probably the most effective means now for people to get into astronomy. Lots of people were using them this night.

— Alan, July 22, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer

 

Star Trail Reflections at Bow Lake, Banff


It’s rare to get such a clear night in the mountains, but last weekend, July 6-7, provided a couple of ideal nights.

This image combines about 180 exposures, each 45 seconds long, stacked to create a single image of long star trails setting into the west behind Bow Glacier in Banff. The result records the sky’s motion over nearly two and a half hours. Running at right angles across the descending stars are vertical streaks from a bright meteor (left) and a satellite (top, centre).

Light from the rising waning Moon provides the illumination.

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

Dawn’s Early Lights II


Here’s a wider shot of the Moon-Jupiter-Venus gathering at dawn on July 14.

The clouds parted nicely for a clear view of the sky where it needed to be clear (a rare occurrence!) while adding their colour to the pre-dawn scene. I like cooperative clouds. Let’s see if they behave for tomorrow morning’s closer conjunction.

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

 

Dawn’s Early Lights


Venus and Jupiter are reprising their mutual meetings of earlier this spring, but now in the pre-dawn summer sky.

This was the scene at 4 a.m. from home on July 14, with the waning crescent Moon, here overexposed, above Jupiter and Venus at dawn. Next to Venus is the star Aldebaran and the stars of the Hyades star cluster in Taurus. Above the Moon is the Pleiades star cluster.

On July 15, the Moon will appear between Venus and Jupiter for one of the best conjunctions of 2012.

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

 

Circling Star Trails in the Rockies


Let the camera shoot for a few hours and this is what you get: stars circling the sky, turning into concentric paths around the North Star.

For this image I stacked 230 short exposures, each 50 seconds long, taken over about 4 hours time on July 7/8. My previous blog entry is one of those individual frames. But in this composite, the stars become trails rotating about the pole of the sky, near Polaris, the North Star, here over Num-Ti-Jah Lodge at Bow Lake in Banff. Moonlight provides the illumination and turns the sky blue, just as in daytime, only much dimmer. But the long exposures bring out the colours and make the scene look like daylight, because the light of the Moon is daylight, just reflected first off the Moon’s neutral grey face.

The same frames used to make this still frame composite can also be used to make a time-lapse movie of the circumpolar stars turning.

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

Big Dipper over Num-Ti-Jah Lodge


“Around the fire tonight Jim Simpson said that for his money this campsite was the closest one could get to heaven on Earth. And I reckon he’s not far wrong.” — Bill Peyto at Bow Lake, July 11, 1902.

Peyto penned that description 110 years ago to the day. His friend always said he’d build a shack here one day. And he did. This is Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, a classic wood log building, hand-hewn and assembled by Jimmy Simpson and his family in the 1940s. They ran the lodge for many years.

I was there this past weekend, July 6 and 7, shooting nightscape photos under the waning Moon. This view looks due north, with the Big Dipper and Polaris over the lodge. To the right, in the northeast, glows a faint red aurora. To the northwest stands Mount Jimmy Simpson, named for the pioneer who built his dream lodge at his heaven-on-Earth campsite.

Heaven is not without its dangers however. Earlier in the evening a yearling grizzly bear was wandering around the lodge and had to be scared off by a Parks official. I’m glad he did! Meeting a bear in the dark is a hazard of shooting in the mountains I have yet to encounter, and don’t wish to.

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

Bow Lake by Moonlight (2012)


What a fabulous night this was — perfectly clear and the gibbous moon lighting up the mountains. It was a wonderland for nightscape photography.

I took this shot late on Friday, July 6 at Bow Lake in Banff, Alberta. The summer stars shine behind Bow Glacier, and the peaks are illuminated by the rising waning Moon. Saturn, setting behind the continental divide, is reflected in the still waters while Arcturus shines high in the sky.

This is one frame of 320 I took through the night for a time-lapse movie, and for stacking into a long star-trail composite. Those are still to come!

Compare this to the scene I took last summer under a dimmer quarter Moon and later in the season.

— Alan, July 8, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer