The Beautiful “Gulf of Mexico”

Photo: four panel mosaic of an area called the "Gulf of Mexico" which is part of a much larger area of nebulosity called The North American Nebula or NGC7000. Image by Joe Golias
“Gulf of Mexico” Region of NGC7000

CAA member and local astronomy business owner Joe Golias has shared a new image with us that, well, all we can say about it is that it’s astounding! Here’s Joe’s description of how he produced his photograph of a region of NGC7000…

This was by far the most challenging imaging project I have attempted to date. It represents a four-panel mosaic of an area called the “Gulf of Mexico” which is part of a much larger area of nebulosity called The North American Nebula or NGC7000. This object is located in the constellation of Cygnus. This four-panel mosaic was acquired over a period of three weeks. Total exposure time was 56 hours. We’ve had a long stretch of clear skies here in Ohio which made this image possible.

Object: Gulf of Mexico | Telescope: Takahashi TOA 150 refractor | Telescope Mount: Losmandy G-11 | Camera: SBIG STT8300 with self-guiding filter wheel | Exposure: 56 hours of combined narrowband HA, OIII & SII filters | Location: “Astrozap Ridge,” Medina, Ohio. | Image processing: MaxIm DL, Images Plus, PixInsight, Photoshop CS6

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Now Showing: CAA’s 2015 astrophoto exhibit

by William Murmann, CAA President
Photo: Gallery wall at the Rocky River Nature Center. Photo by James Guilford.
CAA’s 2015 Astrophoto Show
CAA’s astrophoto display is now up and running on the Gallery Wall at the Rocky River Nature Center!  Come and see the excellent work done by our members! The display is from September through October 2015.

Thanks to Steve Gallant, Dave Watkins, Dave Nuti, James Guilford, Chris Christe, Steve Spears, Alan Studt , and Joe Golias for providing photos for the display. We had more photos than we could fit on the Gallery Wall, so we mounted some images on nearby walls in the gallery room.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of room not all the images could be displayed. I helped hang the photos, however, and made sure that everyone who submitted images was represented. Thanks again to everyone for participating!

A most memorable vacation photo

Photo: The Milky Way by Alan Studt
Milky Way Rising – Photo by Alan Studt – Click to Enlarge

Cuyahoga Astronomical Association member Alan Studt captured this wonderful photo of our home galaxy, the Milky Way, under some fairly challenging circumstances the night of May 23. He and his wife, Gale, were on vacation in Massachusetts when a celestial photo op presented itself.

“That … night happened to be the only clear night in the forecast during our vacation so I had to check it out. We were staying about six miles east of Hyannis in West Dennis, just a five-minute drive from the south shoreline of Cape Cod.

“The beach parking lot gates get locked at midnight and the ‘Teapot’ in Sagittarius didn’t clear the horizon until 11:45, so I didn’t have a lot of time to shoot. I didn’t know where else to go to stay out later until the Milky Way was higher so I had to to accept what I could get.

“The weather conditions were not great. Temps in the mid-40s with at least a steady 25 MPH wind gusting to 35 MPH. Gale thinks it was faster since the car was shaking when she went back in to wait for me. My tripods blew over before I hung bags with bottles of water, extra lenses and shoes on them… the cameras were not attached at the time.”

So, even under pressure of time and weather, Studt came home with something truly out-of-this-world as a memorable vacation photo: a sea of stars!

Studt’s Photo Notes: Looking out over Nantucket Sound/Atlantic Ocean. Three horizontal shots layered together in Photoshop. 90-degree view – east to south. Taken at West Dennis Beach, Massachusetts on a very windy evening just before midnight. The lights in the distance on the right are from Nantucket Island, 30 miles south. On the left, down at the end of the beach is The Lighthouse Inn, an old lighthouse that is now a restaurant. There was a waxing First Quarter Moon about — maybe 30 degrees — above the horizon in the west. Nikon D600, 24mm, f3.5, ISO 6400, 20 seconds. Processed in Lightroom & Photoshop CC

First Public Star Party of 2015

Photo: Venus & Gemini Setting. Photo by James Guilford.
Venus and Gemini Setting over the lake in Letha House Park – Photo by James Guilford.

Saturday night, May 23, the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA) held our first Public Star Party for 2015. The event took place at the club’s observatory situated on the grounds of the Medina County Park System’s Letha House Park in Spencer, Ohio. Members of the public were generally enthusiastic, excitedly moving between telescopes. The sky was beautifully clear and allowed excellent views of the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, the Hercules Star Cluster (M13), M81 & M82, and other astronomical wonders.

CAA President William Murmann wrote, “Thanks to everyone who attended and who brought scopes to help with the program!

“The park staff said we had about 50 guests join us, including families with children.  We had clear skies all day, but some high, thin wispy stuff moved in during the evening, although we had good observing.

“It was nice to see to James Guilford, Steve Spears, Chris Christe, Chris Burke, Paul Leopold, Suzie Dills, Trevor Braun, Bob Wiersma, Jay Reynolds, Rich Rinehart, Bill & Carol Lee, Tim Campbell and Mary Ann, Steve & Gail Korylak, Rich & Nancy Whisler, Dave & Jan Heideloff, Carl Kudrna, Larry Smith — and new member Anita Kazarian, who joined us.  Sorry if I missed anyone.

“Noteworthy for the evening–Steve Korylak spotted Comet Lovejoy with his scope.

“It was a nice program and a nice get together for members.  Thanks again.”

……………..

Simulated View of Moon and Acubens
Simulated View of Moon and Acubens

Among the objects the public viewed in beautiful detail was Earth’s Moon. Early in the evening not only could observers see the brightly-lit portion of the Moon but also the Earth-lit shadowed portion of the disk. Adding to the scene was a beautiful speck of a star near the horn of the Moon: Acubens, a star in constellation Cancer.

 

The comet and The Pleiades

Photo: Comet C/2014 Q2 by Dave Watkins
Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) with The Pleiades by Dave Watkins

Club member Dave Watkins was inspired to brave a cold night in January to try and capture a photo of Comet Lovejoy (2014 Q2/Lovejoy) but, “It was just too cold to set up the Celestron and/or mount!” Using his camera gear mounted on a tripod and employing modern techniques, Dave captured a beautiful image of the comet as it passed close to the Pleiades star cluster (M45) the night of January 14. (Click the image to see full-size.)

He reports he “really had to play with the ISO and shutter speed because of all the light pollution.”

Technical details: Canon 5D Mark II body, Canon 70-200mm lens @ 70mm, f2.8, ISO400, 5-second exposures, 245 light images, 29 dark images, 29 flat files, master bias file, calibrated, aligned, integrated, and processed in PixInsight with some help from Photoshop.

Image: Comet finder chart for January 2015 - Credit: FreeStarCharts.com
Credit: FreeStarCharts.com

Hubble revisits iconic “Pillars of Creation” image

Photo: Iconic "Pillars of Creation" reimaged. Credit: NASA, ESA/Hubble and the Hubble Heritage Team
New view of the Pillars of Creation — Visible Light. Click to Enlarge.

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured many breathtaking images of the Universe, but one snapshot stands out from the rest: the Eagle Nebula’s Pillars of Creation. In 1995 Hubble’s iconic image revealed never-before-seen details in the giant columns and now the telescope is kickstarting its 25th year in orbit with an even clearer, and more stunning, image of these beautiful structures.

The three impressive towers of gas and dust captured in this image are part of the Eagle Nebula, otherwise known as Messier 16. Although such features are not uncommon in star-forming regions, the Messier 16 structures are by far the most photogenic and evocative ever captured. The Hubble image of the pillars taken in 1995 is so popular that it has appeared in film and television, on tee-shirts and pillows, and even on postage stamps.

Now Hubble has revisited the famous pillars, capturing the multi-colored glow of gas clouds, wispy tendrils of dark cosmic dust, and the rust-colored elephants’ trunks with the newer Wide Field Camera 3, installed in 2009. The visible-light image builds on one of the most iconic astronomy images ever taken and provides astronomers with an even sharper and wider view.

In addition to this new visible-light image, Hubble has also produced a bonus image. This image is taken in infrared light, which penetrates much of the obscuring dust and gas and unveils a more unfamiliar view of the pillars, transforming them into wispy silhouettes set against a background peppered with stars. Here newborn stars, hidden in the visible-light view, can be seen forming within the pillars themselves.

Photos: The Pillars of Creation, New and Old. Credit: NASA, ESA/Hubble and the Hubble Heritage Team
The Pillars of Creation – New and Old

Although the original image was dubbed the “Pillars of Creation”, this new image hints that they are also pillars of destruction. The dust and gas in these pillars is seared by intense radiation from the young stars forming within them, and eroded by strong winds from massive nearby stars. The ghostly bluish haze around the dense edges of the pillars in the visible-light view is material that is being heated by bright young stars and evaporating away.

With these new images come better contrast and clearer views of the region. Astronomers can use these new images to study how the physical structure of the pillars is changing over time. The infrared image shows that the reason the pillars exist is because the very ends of them are dense, and they shadow the gas below them, creating the long, pillar-like structures. The gas in between the pillars has long since been blown away by the winds from a nearby star cluster.

At the top edge of the left-hand pillar, a gaseous fragment has been heated up and is flying away from the structure, highlighting the violent nature of star-forming regions.

These massive stars may be slowly destroying the pillars but they are also the reason Hubble sees the structures at all. They radiate enough ultraviolet light to illuminate the area and make the clouds of oxygen, hydrogen and sulphur glow.

Although structures like these exist throughout the Universe, the Pillars of Creation — at a distance of 6,500 light-years away — provide the best, and most dramatic, example. Now, these images have allowed us to see them more clearly than ever, proving that at 25 years of age, Hubble is still going strong.

This image and the associated results were presented today at the 225th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Washington, USA.