Orion Nebula and Running Man Nebula, 4 hours of exposure time. I've been hitting this one every chance I get, I love these 2 nebulae. They are probably my favorite to image. I'm hoping to end up with 8 hours or more of exposure time, cloudy for the next few days here so it will have to wait.
I hope you all enjoyed the Supermoon, here's a hi-res image I took of the Supermoon in Cathedral City! This is a 25 panel mosaic stitched together to create the final image. I will say that I didn't notice much of a difference in the overall apparent size of the full Moon, but it was a heck of a lot brighter than normal.
Spot the International Space Station over the Coachella Valley twice tonight! The first one is almost 7 minutes long and starts at 6:39pm. At 7 minutes long, this will appear to be a slow moving, but increasingly brightening star crossing the sky. It will appear in the Northwest at a 10 degree elevation and pass through the Little Dipper near the north star Polaris. Maximum elevation is 51 degrees, then it will start to fade away into the Southeastern sky. At a magnitude -3.6 it should be pretty bright, the Sun sets at 6:06pm so it will not be the darkest sky but I've personally seen the station pass by in daylight before, so no worries.
The second chance tonight to spot the Space Station will be at 8:18pm, this one only last for 1 minute and will be low on the horizon at a max elevation of 11 degrees and reach a magnitude 1.0. If you have a unobstructed view of the Southwest, it will pass very near the planet Saturn.
The Triangulum Galaxy, or Messier 33, is a spiral galaxy in the constellation Triangulum, and is visible to the naked eye under dark sky conditions. Unfortunately, deep sky objects like this are not visible to the unaided eye here in the Coachella Valley due to city light pollution. I was able to capture this on 9-30-16 during the new moon phase, and am very happy with how it turned out.
Last night, I set the telescope up in my backyard and snapped a few pictures of the Waxing Crescent Moon setting behind the San Jacinto Mountains in Palm Springs. The silhouette of the pine trees in front of the setting Moon looked breathtaking inside the eyepiece of the telescope, but only lasted for a few short seconds before it dipped below the trees and blinked out of existence behind the mountain top. I was only able to capture a couple pictures, but I think they turned out as planned, enjoy!
A conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter over the beautiful San Jacinto Mountains in Palm Springs California, the last one of the year I believe. Jupiter is inching closer to the horizon as each day passes, and will soon disappear from view as it does its dance with the Sun. As the planetary season winds down, I will say I am going to miss Jupiter most of all. It put on one hell of a display during this years opposition, and easily dominated the night sky for months. As sad as I am seeing it go, I am also excited because the winter sky is starting to make an appearance in the pre-dawn hours. The great Orion Constellation (and nebula), the Pleiades, the Taurus Constellation with the mesmerizing star Aldebaran and The Hyades open cluster are all starting to make their way into the night sky. We all know what that means out here in the Coachella Valley...the best winter weather in the world! And the snowbirds...lots and lots of snowbirds lol
The Wild Duck Cluster, or M11, is an open cluster in the constellation Scutum. This cluster is a rich and compact open cluster, known to contain about 2900 stars. Its name is derived from the brighter stars forming a triangle which apparently resemble a flying flock of ducks (I don't see it, but that's just me).
This is a stack of 30x1 minute exposures + 12x2 minute exposures at ISO 1600, camera used is a Canon 450d, and a Celestron Nexstar 6se telescope + wedge and a 6.3 focal reducer, 60mm guidescope + asi120mc-s. Taken in Cathedral City, CA 7-12-16
This is not your typical Moon picture, but a mosaic of 11 pictures of the Moon stitched together to create a very large and detailed image.
This was actually created using 11 short video clips: I pointed at one part of the Moon, took a short video at 64 frames per second, and then used stacking software which picked the best of those frames and added them together to produce a single image. I then moved the telescope to a different part of the Moon and repeated the procedure 11 times, until I had images of the entire surface of the Moon. These were then processed to sharpen the details, and finally stitched together to create the mosaic.
The Eagle Nebula, also known as Messier 16 or M16, is a young open cluster of stars in the constellation Serpens. It’s the location of several famous structures including the Pillars of Creation.
One of the inspirations that led me down the road to astrophotography was the beautiful image the Hubble telescope sent back in 1995 of the Pillars of Creation inside the Eagle Nebula. It is truly a breathtaking image, one for the ages. I was blown away, as were many others I am sure.
This is a stack of 20x2 minute & 25x3 minute exposures at ISO 1600, camera used is a Canon 450d, and a Celestron Nexstar 6se telescope + wedge and a 6.3 focal reducer, 60mm guidescope + asi120mc-s. Taken in Cathedral City, CA 6-4-16
Messier 5 or M5 is a globular cluster of stars in the constellation Serpens. M5 spans 165 light-years in diameter, and is around 13 billion years old. This makes it one of the largest known globular clusters and is one of the oldest globular clusters in the Milky Way. M5 is about 24,500 light-years from us here on Earth. and is thought to contain as many as 500,000 stars!
This is a stack of 40x1 minute exposures at ISO 1600, camera used is a Canon 450d, and a Celestron Nexstar 6se telescope + wedge and a 6.3 focal reducer, 60mm guidescope + asi120mc-s. Taken in Cathedral City, CA 7-12-16
Here is a shot of Mars taken last night 6-23-16. Mars is shining brightly at the moment, due to its recent opposition last month. The desert heat has limited my deep sky imaging lately due to tons of image noise, but the planets are still shining brightly, as is the moon. This was taken with my new ZWO asi120mc-s planetary camera attached to a Nexstar 6se. This camera blows my old Phillips spc900 webcam out of the water! The surface details really stick out in this one, and you can see cloud formations. This is my best image of Mars...so far!
Here is another one from 6-25-16, way better seeing this night!
The Lagoon Nebula, or M8, is an emission nebula in the constellation Sagittarius. This nebula is a giant interstellar cloud some 4,000-6,000 light-years from us here on Earth. Currently, the best time to view the Lagoon Nebula in the Coachella Valley is around 2am looking south. It lies near the Milky Way core, and has plenty of beautiful neighboring eye candy such as the Trifid and Eagle Nebula. As with most nebula, this one is best viewed with a high powered telescope and nebula filter.
I always have such a fun time tracking the International Space Station, and this time I was at least halfway ready for it. I was in my backyard and spotted the station rising in the southwest and made a mad dash inside to grab the tripod and camera. I had only a moment or two, and was only able to capture its trail in a 5 second exposure, but boy was it bright! By the time I had taken the picture and previewed it, the space station was already heading out of sight in the northeastern sky.
The Dumbbell Nebula, or Messier 27 is a planetary nebula in the constellation Vulpecula. In 1764, Charles Messier discovered the Dumbbell Nebula, and was the first of its kind to be discovered, a planetary nebula. A planetary nebula is named more for its round appearance to early astronomers, and has nothing to do with actual planets. A planetary nebula is actually the remains of an old exploded star, and is made up of ejected ionized gas.
This is a stacked image of 17 1 minute exposures at ISO 1600, 17 light frames, 17 dark frames, and 17 bias frames. Stacked in DeepSkyStacker with minor tweaks to contrast and brightness in CS6. These were all taken in my backyard in Cathedral City, CA with average seeing and visibility.
On a side note, I am personally blown away by this image. There has to be over a million stars in the picture! How cool is that right?
After going through the data, and some help from internet astronomy friends, I Have re-edited using PixInsight LE and was able to pull out much more data this time around. The first 2 images are the new edits, and the last 2 images are the old data.
The purpose of this blog, or website, or whatever you want to call it, is to highlight the potential of astronomy and astrophotography in the Coachella Valley and surrounding areas. Last weekend, the wife and I took a quick road trip to the Joshua Tree National Park and got some amazing astronomy and astrophotography pictures. This place is near and dear to me, and is probably my favorite of all of the national parks I have ever been to. The deserts in southern California are truly beautiful, both day and night. The potential for deep sky imaging at the Joshua Tree National Park is what draws thousands of visitors each and every year. The Milky Way is a sight to behold, and unfortunately, it is not visible in light polluted areas such as the Coachella Valley. On the plus side, we have places like the Joshua Tree National Park, Anza Borrego Desert State Park, and even beautiful skies up in the San Jacinto Mountains for night sky observations and imaging.
These images were taken with a Canon 450d, and the Milky Way shot was taken with a Celestron Nexstar 6se with the 450d attached.
The Mercury transit of the Sun on May 9, 2016 did not disappoint in the Coachella Valley, California. The sky was clear, and the weather was wonderful. This was an amazing event to witness, and was my first Mercury transit ever seen. The last Mercury transit occurred in 2006 and the next one won't come until 2019. The first image is a composite showing the path of Mercury crossing the surface of the Sun. The next picture is single frame exposure, and the last image is another single frame exposure with a bit of a zoom on Mercury. Enjoy, and happy stargazing!
The Ring Nebula, or Messier 57, is one of my favorite planetary nebula and lies in the northern constellation of Lyra. The Ring Nebula was formed by an exploding red giant star, and is essentially a cloud of ionized gas, and to our perspective it resembles a ringed shape.
If you would like to view the Ring Nebula here in the Coachella Valley, the best time currently would be around 2am. This is a fairly faint nebula, so a high aperture telescope is needed, and I do recommend a planetary nebula filter like a UHC. On the other hand, if you are interested in astrophotography, like myself, this was taken with a Canon 450D 30s x 30 lights 30 darks 30 bias stacked in DSS and touched up in CS6. The telescope used was a Celestron Nexstar 6SE using the standard alt-azimuth mount.
I got the telescope out early this morning to photograph an ISS Moon transit, but unfortunately it occurred at 6:42am and the Sun was too bright, so I was unable to catch it. I did however catch a beautiful shot of Saturn. Saturn is currently at an apparent magnitude of .17 and will peak in brightness at the beginning of June this year. This is by far my best image of Saturn to date, the surface colors look amazing, as does the famous rings. This was taken with a Celestron Nexstar 6se + Phillips spc900 webcam 24mm eyepiece 2x barlow 2000 frames stacked in Avistack.
Tonight was my first attempt at imaging another galaxy. This is M51 the Whirlpool Galaxy. This was taken with a canon 450d and a nexstar 6se. 19 lights 19 darks 19 bias. This will only get better, as i have a wedge on the way for my 6se. Exposure times should improve, but overall I am pleasantly surprised with what I got, as this is not an easy target in light polluted skies.
4-30-16 High winds, poor seeing, and a last quarter Moon got in my way this morning but I did manage to catch the Mars, Saturn, and Antares triangle along with a little Milky Way so it wasn't all for nothing. This was a 2 minute exposure ISO 1600 Canon 450d piggybacked on a Celestron Nexstar 6se.
Good morning Coachella Valley, I woke up early enough this morning and noticed that Mars, Saturn, and Antares were perfectly lined up in the palm trees in my backyard. So, whats an astronomer to do? Grab the camera of course! Picture taken at 5:25am, with a Canon 450d ISO 100 F/5 30s exposure
Tonight had a fantastic conjunction of our Moon and the planet Jupiter, meaning they were very close to each other in the night sky. This image is a composite of two separate images with different exposures that I combined together to create the final image. Taken with a Canon 450d at f/5.6 1/400s and 4s at ISO 100
I snapped this single exposure image of the Moon tonight with my Canon 450d attached to a Celestron Nexstar 6se with a 6.3 focal reducer. Tonight's Moon is a Waxing Gibbous, and is about 87% full. This months full Moon lands on April 22nd at 1:24 am, and is called the Pink Moon in the farmers almanac due to spring flowers.
Took the telescope out for a spin in the heat today and got a fantastic shot of Sunspot region 2529. It's huge! It also seems to be developing a crack and looks to be splitting in two sometime soon. I love looking at Sunspots through a telescope (proper Sun filter of course), but boy is it hard to do here in the Coachella Valley due to the heat. I typically try and avoid Sun gazing in the summer, but this monster of a Sunspot had to be photographed. Enjoy!
I've been going over the data that I captured on February 26, 2016 and have finally had the time to post about it. I captured a first in my personal astronomy book. There was a double transit of Europa and Io, and I was able to catch the shadows of both along with Io itself and the famous Great Red Spot! This was the first time I've been able to actually capture a Moon transit of Jupiter. I have previous images of shadow transits, but could never quite capture the Moon itself. The seeing was 4/5 for some the night and near the end of my session it dropped to a 2/5 and a few thin clouds. The images start out great and get a bit worse as the transition was ending. So, unfortunately the best pictures of the night were before the best parts of the transits. I'll take what I can get thought, right?
To be honest, I was sadly disappointed with the weather here in the Coachella Valley during Jupiter's March 8 opposition. I had hoped to capture some data that night and post them, but had to settle for my last viewing opportunity which is what you see here.
Images taken with a Celestron Nexstar 6se + Phillips spc900nc webcam 2x barlow. The first 3 I used a little digital zoom from the webcam.