Milky Way stars during public star party

Photo: Looking South Along the Lake at Letha House Park, Milky Way Glowing Overhead, the Moon Sinking Low in the West. Photo by Alan Studt.
Looking South Along the Lake at Letha House Park, Milky Way Glowing Overhead. Photo by Alan Studt. Nikon D810: ISO 3200, 13 sec., f/2.8, 14mm.

We had great sky conditions for our August 6 public star party at Letha House Park. We didn’t get an exact count, but I think there were between 75 and 100 guests who came for the program, including Park Ranger Bob who stopped by to say hello.

I had to make a quick count in the dark, but I think we had about 12 telescopes for this Medina County Park District program. Two telescopes were brought by new members who I believe joined one of our star parties for the first time.

Many thanks to Dave Nuti, Chris Christe, Bruce Lane, Jay Reynolds, Nora Mishey, Carl Kudrna, Rich & Nancy Whisler, Bob Wiersma, Alan Studt, Rob Seig, Bob & Mary Deep, and Gale Franko who joined me to help with the program!

Thanks to Jay, who manned the observatory and gave our new 12-inch go-to scope a workout to show the night sky to our numerous  guests.  And thanks also to Nora, who brought delicious homemade cookies and her astronomy Q & A display, and who served as a host in the building to help promote our club and the park district’s programs.

Reported by William Murmann, CAA President

Photo: Summer Milky Way. Photo by Alan Studt.
Summer Milky Way. Photo by Alan Studt. Nikon D810: ISO 5000, 15 sec., f/2.8, 14mm.

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

Tracing the Milky Way’s magnetic field

Image: Polarized Emission from Milky Way Dust. Credit: ESA and the Planck Collaboration
Polarized Emission from Milky Way Dust

The interaction between interstellar dust in the Milky Way and the structure of our Galaxy’s magnetic field, as detected by the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite over the entire sky.

Planck scanned the sky to detect the most ancient light in the history of the Universe – the cosmic microwave background. It also detected significant foreground emission from diffuse material in our galaxy which, although a nuisance for cosmological studies, is extremely important for studying the birth of stars and other phenomena in the Milky Way.

Among the foreground sources at the wavelengths probed by Planck is cosmic dust, a minor but crucial component of the interstellar medium that pervades the galaxy. Mainly gas, it is the raw material for stars to form.

Interstellar clouds of gas and dust are also threaded by the galaxy’s magnetic field, and dust grains tend to align their longest axis at right angles to the direction of the field. As a result, the light emitted by dust grains is partly ‘polarized’ – it vibrates in a preferred direction – and, as such, could be caught by the polarization-sensitive detectors on Planck.

Scientists in the Planck collaboration are using the polarized emission of interstellar dust to reconstruct the galaxy’s magnetic field and study its role in the build-up of structure in the Milky Way, leading to star formation.

In this image, the color scale represents the total intensity of dust emission, revealing the structure of interstellar clouds in the Milky Way. The texture is based on measurements of the direction of the polarized light emitted by the dust, which in turn indicates the orientation of the magnetic field.

Credit: ESA and the Planck Collaboration

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.