Canis Major and Orion rise into the desert sky from southwest New Mexico.
We had an excellent week of observing at the Painted Pony Resort. We had cloud on parts of most nights, and frost on the calm nights and wind on the frostless nights. So viewing conditions weren’t ideal but they were way better than back home where temperatures plunged to -35° C at night and snow piled waist high.
The shot above is of Sirius and Canis Major, the hunting dog, rising into the early evening sky after the Moon had set.
I took this image later in the week. It shows Orion rising above the main adobe house at the resort. His Belt points down to Sirius just coming up over the Peloncillo Mountains to the east. Moonlight provides the illumination and bands of airglow colour the sky.
All-Star Telescope is conducting another New Mexico Star Party next March, but most spaces are already filled. A couple of rooms may still be available in a newly renovated cottage off the main resort site. Check with Ken and Bev for details. I highly recommend the experience.
— Alan, December 10, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer
Jupiter and the stars of the winter sky rise in the east on a December night in New Mexico.
This was the scene last night, December 4, as clouds cleared away enough for great views of Orion and the winter sky rising above distant mountains in New Mexico. (All the clouds, that is, except for one annoying dark blob in Gemini above Jupiter!)
The bright object at lower left is Jupiter, in Gemini this winter, rising with Castor and Pollux to the left of Jupiter. To the right of frame Orion comes up on his side, with his Belt pointed down to where Sirius will come up shortly after I took this image. The red-sensitive camera picks up swirls of nebulosity around Orion.
Above Orion are the stars of Taurus and Auriga.
This image is a framing of the Milky Way from Perseus at top right down to Taurus and the top of Orion at bottom left. At centre is the blue Pleiades star cluster, and the red arc of the California Nebula. Also at centre you can see the long dusty tendrils of the Taurus Dark Clouds, interstellar clouds between us and the Perseus arm of the Milky Way.
I shot both from the Painted Pony Resort in southeast New Mexico using a little iOptron SkyTracker and 2.5- to 3-minute exposures with a filter-modified Canon 5D MkII.
— Alan, December 5, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer
Everyone knows the Belt of Orion, but only the camera reveals the wealth of colours that surround it.
I shot this Friday night, February 8, under very clear sky conditions.
While I used a telescope, it had a short enough focal length, about 480mm, that the field took in all three stars in the Belt: from left to right, Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka. All are hot blue stars embedded in colourful clouds. The most famous is the Horsehead Nebula, running down from Alnitak at left. Above the star is the salmon-coloured Flame Nebula. All manner of bits of blue and cyan nebulas dot the field, their colour coming from the blue starlight the dust reflects.
Dimmer dust clouds more removed from nearby stars glow with browns and yellows. At left, a large swath of sky is obscured by gas and dust simmering in dull red. The entire field is peppered with young blue stars.
It is certainly one of the most vibrant regions of sky, though only long exposures and image processing bring out the colours.
This is another test shot with a new Canon 6D that has had its sensor filter modified to transmit more of the deep red light of these types of nebulas. The camera works very well indeed!
– Alan, February 8, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer
He’s certainly the sky’s most photogenic mythological figure. Here’s my full-length portrait of Orion the hunter, captured from Alberta.
I’ve shot him many times before but this was a new combination of gear: the Canon 60Da camera and the Sigma 50mm lens, nicely framing the hunter in portrait format. This version of Orion isn’t as deep as the one I took last month from Australia. But skies were darker there, and I used my filter-modified Canon 5D MkII for his Oz portrait, a camera which picks up more faint red nebulosity than does the 60Da, Canon’s own specialized DSLR camera for astronomy. The 60Da does do a very good job though, much better than would a normal DSLR.
For this shot, as I do for many constellation images, I layered in exposures taken through a soft-focus filter, the Kenko Softon, to enlarge and “fuzzify” the stars! It really helps bring out their colours, contrasting cool, orange Betelgeuse with the hot blue-white stars in the rest of Orion.
I shot this January 4 on a fine clear winter night, the classic hunting ground for Orion.
– Alan, January 11, 2013 / © 2013 Alan Dyer
Swirls of pink, red and blue nebulas surround the Belt and Sword of Orion the Hunter.
For this closeup of Orion I used a 135mm telephoto lens under dark Australian skies to grab long exposures to reveal not only the bright Orion Nebula at bottom in Orion’s Sword, but also the Horsehead Nebula (below the left star of Orion’s Belt), Barnard’s Loop (at left) and the mass of red nebulosity between the Loop and the Belt & Sword. At right is a faint blue nebula reflecting the light of the hot blue stars in the area.
This is a gorgeous area of sky for the camera, but only the brightest nebulas, the tip of the cosmic iceberg, are visible to the eye even with the aid of a telescope.
– Alan, December 19, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer
The constellation Orion is a hotbed of star formation, from masses of colourful clouds.
I shot this portrait of Orion the Hunter a few nights ago in Australia where Orion stands upside down compared to our view from up north. But I’ve turned around the photo here to put him right side up with head at the top and feet at the bottom.
The three stars in a row in the middle are his famous Belt stars. Below shines the nebulas that outline his Sword, among them the Orion Nebula, the subject of an earlier post last week.
The giant arc is Barnard’s Loop, a bubble blown in space by the winds from hot new stars. The bubble around Orion’s head at top is a similar interstellar bubble. Most stars here are blue-white and hot, but the distinctively orange star is the red giant Betelgeuse, a good candidate for a supernova explosion.
Orion stands high in the sky at midnight these nights, summer here in Australia, but winter at home in Canada.
– Alan, December 19, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer
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
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