Impressive early efforts of a beginning telescope user

M42 - The Orion Nebula - by John Burkett
M42 – The Orion Nebula: Two exposures, “…a minute at 400 ISO and a minute at 100 ISO. One each. I just erased the center from the ISO 400 on top of the ISO 100 layer.” – John Burkett

CAA member John Burkett writes about how he, a person who says he has used a telescope only six times in his life, created images that would be the envy of many a veteran amateur astronomer.

Wanting to do astrophotography for many years, I could never justify the expense if I rationally totaled the equipment costs; clearly, the only solution was to be irrational.  Feeling time-pressured in July ’17 to acquire a longer DSLR camera lens for the {total solar} eclipse, I bought a used Stellarvue 130 instead. 

The first time I used the goto mount, I didn’t know if it was polar-aligned or not, and gave up at 3 AM.

The second time, I had acquired a magical device called PoleMaster.  It says “click on Polaris”, but how do I know if I’m clicking on Polaris or not? 

The third weekend, I was more confident of the polar alignment but only then realized the need to know names of stars to align the mount. After an hour or so with an app, I found Altair and confidently  pressed “enter” on the hand controller. Wow, this was exciting, the mount started moving, the scope is spinning around and when it stopped, the telescope  was pointing below the horizon. I spent an hour or two, staring at the equipment wondering if I put something together backwards or selected the wrong hemisphere, or broke it. I released the clutch and pointed it at the moon so I could say I captured something.

The 4th time I set up the CGEM, I went through the motions of a three-star alignment, repeatedly. This took all night, since I didn’t know any star by name yet.

Photo: Horsehead Nebula (Barnard 33) in Orion. Photo by John Burkett
The Horsehead Nebula (Barnard 33) in the upper-right, is located just to the south of the star Alnitak in Orion’s Belt, and part of the much larger Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. The large glowing cloud to left of center is NGC 2024 – the Flame Nebula. Photo by John Burkett.

Finally, on the 5th CGEM weekend, being frustratingly entertained, I was able to align everything. I selected the Dumbbell, took a shot and captured it. I continued to do the tour of random DSOs (deep-sky objects). I noted the same length of trails in a six-minute exposure as in a two-minute exposure.  The camera body to mount had uncorrectable play, so I determined its natural sitting and wrapped the intervalometer cable around the camera so that it would dangle in the desired direction, using its weight to avoid the unintended motion of the less than ideal mounting.

Just in time for some use-it-or-lose-it vacation, I wanted to spend a week at this. To be honest, I’ve been a self-described night sky [amateur] photographer for many years, so once I had the mount figured out, exposing and {image editing} was second nature.  As in DSLR camera photography, I shot both over and under exposures, choose the best two and just erased the over-exposed center of one layered image, on top of the other image in Photoshop. And that is my beginner M42 with a DSLR on a goto telescope adventure. I think I’m going to enjoy contributing and learning astrophotography.

Burkett notes that his digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR) is a Nikon D810 not modified for astrophotography. He shot the images from Kissimmee, Florida in February 2018. And yes, we are among those awestruck at his first efforts. — ed

March 12: Monthly Membership Meeting

Photo: The Milky Way by Alan Studt
Milky Way Rising – Photo by Alan Studt

The monthly meeting of the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association will take place Monday, March 12, beginning at 7:30 PM. The evening’s program, “Astrophotography and other Cool Pictures,” will be presented by club members Alan and Gale Studt. The couple will present photos featuring starry night landscapes, panoramas, and star trails blended with earthly landscapes! For the technically-curious, Alan will go over his gear and basic procedures. Plus music and more!

Following the presentation and a brief social break, the club will conduct its membership business meeting.

Our monthly meetings are held on the second Monday of every month (except December) at 7:30 PM at the Rocky River Nature Center; 24000 Valley Parkway; North Olmsted, Ohio, in the Cleveland Metroparks.

Member Photos: Solar Eclipse 2017

This is a gallery of eclipse photographs made by members of the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA). Some members traveled to various places along the path of totality to experience the total solar eclipse. Some CAA members stayed behind, photographing the deep partial eclipse. We are fortunate to have a number of talented photographers and astrophotographers as members and pleased to be able to exhibit their amazing work here. We will add new images to this post as they are received so check back on occasion! Please note: these images are the property of their individual creators and may not be used without the photographer’s expressed permission.

Photo: Total Solar Eclipse by David J. Watkins
The solar corona visible at totality. Photographed from Lebanon, Tenn., Monday, August 21, 2017. Credit: David J. Watkins
Photo: Total solar eclipse. Photo by David J. Watkins.
The diamond ring effect prior to second contact. You can also see some of the chromosphere along with some prominences (orange-red color). Photographed from Lebanon, Tenn., Monday, August 21, 2017. Credit: David J. Watkins
Photo: Early eclipse with sunspots. Credit: Alan Studt
Early eclipse with sunspots. Credit: Alan Studt
Photo: Partial eclipse progression. Credit: Alan Studt
Partial eclipse progression. Credit: Alan Studt
Photo: Partial eclipse at maximum. Photo by James Guilford.
Maximum Eclipse – Hiram, Ohio. Northeastern Ohio witnessed an 80 percent coverage partial eclipse on August 21, 2017. Several sunspots were visible before the Moon covered them leaving only one in sight at the left end of the crescent seen here. Credit: James Guilford.
Photo: Edge of lunar disk against Sun. Photo by James Guilford.
Before Maximum Eclipse – Note the “bumps” on the edge of the Moon’s dark curve: silhouettes of lunar craters and mountains against the brilliant Sun. Canon EOS 50D: ISO 320, f/11, 1/1600 sec., 800mm telephoto. Credit: James Guilford
Photo: Partial Solar Eclipse. Credit: Bruce Lane.
Partial eclipse taken east of Glendo State Park, Wyoming on Highway 270, about .7 mile north of the center line for totality. Technical: Canon EOS 60Da, ISO 320, 1/160 sec., ETX-125 telescope with polar alignment. Credit: Bruce Lane
Photo: Partial Solar Eclipse. Credit: Bruce Lane
Nearing Totality: Partial eclipse taken east of Glendo State Park, Wyoming on Highway 270, about .7 mile north of the center line for totality. Technical: Canon EOS 60Da, ISO 320, 1/160 sec., ETX-125 telescope with polar alignment. Credit: Bruce Lane
Photo: Totality with Venus. Credit: Ted Sauppé
Totality with Venus: From southern Illinois, where he took a shot of the totality, Venus showing to the right. Taken with a Samsung Galaxy Note5. Credit: Ted Sauppé
Photo: Total Solar Eclipse by Steve Koryak.
Totality, Casper, Wyoming. Credit: Steve Koryak
Photo: Total Solar Eclipse. Credit: Steve Koryak
I took these two photos in Casper, Wyoming. These are the first and the eighth in the sequence made under thin clouds! I missed the diamond ring at first and second contact because of helping five other people seeing their first eclipse! Technical: Nikon D5100,ISO 800, 6-inch f/4 telescope on clock drive, starting at 1/4000 sec. down to a few seconds. Credit: Steve Korylak
Image: Temperature Plot, August 21, 2017; Medina, Ohio. Credit: James Guilford
Temperature Plot, August 21, 2017; Medina, Ohio. Credit: James Guilford
Photo: Colander as Eclipse Projector. Credit: Matt Franduto
Colander as Eclipse Projector. Credit: Matt Franduto
Photo: Totality with Earth Shine - Handheld. Credit: Matt Franduto
Totality with Earth Shine, Regulus to the Left – Handheld Photograph. Credit: Matt Franduto
Photo: Diamond Ring Effect. Credit: Chris Christe
Diamond Ring Effect. Credit: Chris Christe
Photo: Totality Composite showing Corona, Prominences, and Earthshine. Credit: Chris Christe
Totality Composite showing Corona, Prominences, and Earthshine. Credit: Chris Christe

Do your best with what you have and you may just make a masterpiece

Photo: IC 434 & B33, The Horsehead Nebula - by Joe Golias
IC 434 & B33, The Horsehead Nebula – by Joe Golias

The Cuyahoga Astronomical Association has a number of members interested in and skilled at astrophotography – an activity that is both similar to and different from traditional terrestrial photography. One of our skilled practitioners is Joe Golias, owner of Astrozap.com – local maker and seller of telescope accessories. Golias was in attendance at a winter star party in Florida when he made the remarkable image seen above.

“Conditions were pretty good throughout the week with the exception of one strong storm that hit mid week,” Golias wrote. “Otherwise is was clear, calm and warm most of the time. This was not my intended target but had some issues with a dead battery the first night in my mount which killed my go to capabilities. I had to pick an object that I could easily see through my spotting scope and just decided to concentrate on this object the rest of the week.”

Technical Information:

Object: IC 434 & B33 – The Horsehead Nebula
Acquisition Data: The Florida Keys, February 2017
Telescope: Takahashi FSQ-106EDX IV @ f/5.0
Mount: Losmandy G-11
Camera: SBIG STT8300 with self-guiding filter wheel.
Exposure time: 12 Hours using the following filters. HA, Red, Blue & Green.
Processing Software: Images Plus and Photoshop 7.0.

CAA member photographs Indonesian eclipse

Photo: March 9 Total Eclipse by Steve Korylak
March 9 Total Solar Eclipse by Steve Korylak
CAA member and eclipse chaser Steve Korylak followed the Sun to Indonesia for the March 9 total solar eclipse. He viewed and photographed the event from the deck of a ship positioned for an optimal view of totality. Here are his photographs and his story….

“Not bad for being on a moving ship! The eclipse lasted two minutes, forty seconds; I planned to photograph for one minute, look at the sun visually for one minute and take a movie for the last 40 seconds. I had rehearsed this the day before so I would be prepared. Timing the interval between shots so I did not overload the camera buffer. I had a solar filter on the lens to record the partial phases. Near totality, I looked for shadow bands on the side of the white ship and did not see them. When I took off the filter the focus changed, even though I had it taped so it would not move; this caused me to miss the diamond ring and bailey’s beads. I had to refocus — still slightly off — and started taking pictures. Then the eclipse was over; no visual, no movie. Learning experience!”

Photo Info: Inner corona – Nikon D1500 (APS-size sensor) 1/4000 sec., f/11, ISO 1000, 300mm lens with 2X teleconverter. Outer  corona – same hardware, 1/60 sec., f/11, ISO 1000. The lens was f/5.6 but with the teleconverter it is equivalent to f/11. shot in raw mode for maximum detail.

Photo: March 9 Total Solar Eclipse by Steve Korylak
March 9 Total Solar Eclipse by Steve Korylak – Note Red Prominences over the Sun’s Limb

There’s a big black spot on the Sun today

Photo: Sun with sunspot AR2529, April 13, 2016. Photo by James Guilford.
Sunspot AR2529

Changing a word from an old Police lyric, there’s a big black spot on the Sun today. Sunspot AR2529 is the dominant feature on an otherwise quiet star. Visible to the unaided eye through solar-safe filters, the sunspot is several Earth-diameters across and roughly “heart” shaped! This image was recorded Wednesday, April 13, at 2:19 PM. The bright orange color resulted from use of a solar filter covering the camera lens.

Here is what SpaceWeather.com says about the sunspot: “Since it appeared less than a week ago, AR2529 has been mostly, but not completely, quiet. On April 10th it hurled a minor CME into space. That CME, along with another that occurred a few hours later, could deliver a glancing blow to Earth’s magnetic field on April 13th.” A CME is a Coronal Mass Ejection wherein the Sun flings plasma from its atmosphere out and into space. CMEs reaching Earth can cause auroras.

Photo Info: Cropped from full frame, Canon EOS M3: ISO 250, 1/1600 sec., f/8, 400mm lens. Photo by James Guilford.

Starlit North Chagrin Nature Center

North Chagrin Nature Center, Willoughby, Ohio by Alan Studt
North Chagrin Nature Center, Willoughby, Ohio by Alan Studt. Click to enlarge!

The Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA) has several skilled photographers amongst its membership. Taking advantage of a clear, starry night February 6, CAA member Alan Studt spent some time with his camera making this wonderful image. Creating an image as beautiful as this nighttime landscape isn’t as simple as simply pressing the shutter release, even on an advanced DSLR. Here are Alan’s notes concerning this photograph:

The image is a combination of a few shots to get the various dynamic ranges involved.

Camera – Nikon D600 with 14mm Rokinon lens, producing three shots processed in Adobe Lightroom CC, and layer blended in Adobe Photoshop CC:

  • Sky – ISO 1250, 15 seconds, f/2.8
  • Land/Lights – ISO 6400, 15 seconds, f/22
  • Lake/Boardwalk – ISO 1000, 15 seconds, f/2.8

Constellations and objects seen in this image include: Canis Major & Minor, Orion, Lepus, Taurus, The Pleiades, and the lower part of Gemini in the upper left corner.