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

The Beautiful “Elephant Trunk”

IC 1396 - The "Elephant Trunk" Nebula in Cepheus, by Joe Golias
IC 1396 – The “Elephant Trunk” Nebula in Cepheus

by Joe Golias

We were fortunate enough to have clear skies this past weekend and I managed to do some narrowband imaging from my back yard in Granger, Ohio. I’d like to share with everyone one of my latest CCD images taken of the Elephant trunk nebula IC 1396 located in the constellation of Cepheus. I often wonder why I bother traveling great distances to dark sky sites like Texas and Florida when I can get results like this from my back yard in Ohio!

Imaging details: Telescope: Takahashi TOA 150 Refractor. Camera: SBIG ST8300M with self-guiding filter wheel. Mount: Losmandy: G-11. Exposure times in narrowband: 4 hours SII filter with 20-min. sub exposures, 4 hours OIII filter with 20-min. sub exposures, 4 hours HA filter with 20-min. sub exposures. Location: Granger, Ohio. Processed in MaxIm DL, Images Plus, Pixinsight, and Photoshop. Final RGB combination was converted using the Hubble color palette, HST.

CAA Member Joe Golias is (obviously) an expert astro-imager and is owner of Astrozap, a Cleveland-area company that produces astronomy accessories.

Almost Full Moon

Photo: Earth's Moon, August 7, 2014. Photo by David Watkins.
Almost Full Moon

by Dave Watkins

I was playing around with stills, videos, and some different cameras last night (August 7).

This was 1080P video mode from my Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera and Celestron EdgeHD 8-inch using prime (focus), T-adapter (with one section removed), at ISO 200. I shot about five minutes of video which came out to over 10,000 frames.

I used PIPP (Planetary Imaging PreProcessor) to find and sort the sharpest 1,200 frames. Then I used AutoStakkert! to use the sharpest 30 percent to stack.

The Moon filled up so much of the frame that I had to remove part of my T-adapter to slightly shrink the image on my 5D MarkII.

Lake Hope and The Milky Way

The Milky Way and galactic center by Alan Studt.
Milky Way by Alan Studt

by Alan Studt, CAA Member

About a year and a half ago I ran across a guy in Grand Teton National Park who photographs the night sky using beautiful landscapes as the foregrounds for his “Nightscapes.” I was hooked and wanted to learn how to do that. When I got home to cloudy Ohio I took advantage of the rare clear nights and started learning how to go about it and also learning what it was I was seeing up there. At the time, all I really knew was the Big and Little Dippers, and that the Milky Way was our galaxy and that fuzzy streak you could see in really dark sky places.

My interest in photography has helped me learn about the constellations and other objects in the sky. I’ve shot areas of the sky not knowing what was there, then I’d study the photos and find the constellations by looking at charts. There is so much up there and I find it all fascinating.

On March 5-8 we spent some time in southern Ohio at Lake Hope State Park and also hiking around the various parks in Hocking Hills. It’s very dark out that way and we were fortunate enough to have two very clear nights and a clear early morning. Despite the very bright half-moon in the evenings you could see many things impossible to see in Parma.

I have an app on my iPod called “Star Walk” and I can see what position the stars will be in on any given date and time so I knew the Milky Way would be visible in the southeast a couple hours before sunrise. I woke up one morning around 4:15 AM, looked out the window of our cottage, and could see Cygnus very clearly. So, I packed up my stuff and headed down by the lake and got my best shots to date of the Galactic Center, and a few other nice shots as well.

Specs for the photo: Nikon D600, Nikkor AF-S 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR, 20 seconds, f/3.5, ISO 6400. Processed in Lightroom 5.3 for Windows.

October begins with aurora’s glowing showing

Photo: Aurora by Christopher Christie
Aurora borealis of October 2, 2013 photographed by Christopher Christie

A coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth’s magnetic field during the early hours of October 2, sparking a geomagnetic storm. In North America, auroras spilled across the Canadian border into more than a dozen northern-tier US states, including Northern Ohio. The CME left the sun on Sept. 30, propelled by an erupting magnetic filament, racing away from the Sun at 2 million MPH.

CAA members David Nuti and Christopher Christie observed the light show from Lake Erie’s southern shoreline and captured some images. Presented here is one we think is pretty spectacular!

Photo Notes: Canon EOS Rebel T3: ISO 800, 12 sec., f/3.5, 18mm, 12:41 AM, October 2, 2013.

Too much of a good thing?

Photo: Aurora by David Nuti
Aurora as Seen in Canada, August 2013 – David Nuti

CAA member David Nuti was on vacation in backwoods Canada recently. He did a little fishing and, at night, took full advantage of clear, truly dark skies to do a little stargazing. He did note, however, that his view of the stars was obscured at times by bright lights in the sky. No, it wasn’t light pollution in the sense with which we are all too familiar. Nuti’s view of the stars was hindered by the sky itself in the form of brilliant auroras or “Northern Lights!” Too much of a good thing, perhaps? He shared a couple of photographs with us of a display that took place around midnight, Aug. 13 – 14, 2013.

Photo: Aurora as Seen in Canada, August 2013 - David Nuti
Aurora as Seen in Canada, August 2013 – David Nuti

Photographic Notes: Nikon D5000, 18mm lens (27mm equiv.), top image – ISO 450, f/5.0, 30 sec.; bottom image – ISO 3200, f/5.0, 40 sec.

Andromeda from Up North

Photo: Andromeda Galaxy by David Nuti
Andromeda Galaxy with Two Satellite Galaxies

On a recent trip to the back woods of Canada, CAA member David Nuti did a little fishing and a little stargazing. We don’t know how the fishing went, but when it came to sky-watching, the “big one” did not get away. Nuti shared a beautiful astrophotograph with the membership and we’re sharing it here: the Great Andromeda Galaxy (M31) appears as a beautiful cloud in the center of this image. Closer inspection reveals he caught a couple of Andromeda’s “satellite galaxies” — smaller “island universes” captured by Andromeda’s enormous gravitational attraction. Messier 110 (M110) is seen here as a glowing spot directly above Andromeda’s glowing center. M32 appears as a golden spot little below and to the right of the galactic giant. Some curving structure may be seen in Andromeda’s faint disk of stars and dust.

Photographic Notes: Nikon D5000, f/5.6, 181 seconds, ISO 3200, 300mm lens — 450mm equivalent