Sunday, 27 May 2012

Perth Observatory Star Trails

Last night I was at the Perth Observatory where I help with volunteer work by hosting public viewing session and operating telescopes for the public. While there for the evening I decided to test out my new lens on some simple star trails ....

Star Trails over the Perth Observatory
Star Trails over the Perth Observatory

I like the result! It shows good potential.

I do find it quite funny that it looks like the person who walked to the closest observatory's door looks like nothing more than a floating spirit which impacted the door! ... consequences of wearing a head torch. :)

PS. If you live in Perth and haven't been to the Perth Observatory for a viewing session yet - book yourself in to next season (we have a break over winter). It's great fun and we aren't too scary, promise no mysteriously floating head torches!

Friday, 25 May 2012

Orion Setting in Twilight Colours

You may know from previous blog posts of mine that I just love the rich colours of mid-late twilight. I can't take enough photo's of those wonderful colours (blues, golds, oranges - strong and rich), and the smooth gradient.

Here is a fine example of twilight colours, from last weekend out in the Wheatbelt. Taken with the very wide Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens the horizon is curved, nicely cradling the constellation of Orion with a golden rim.

Click to see the larger image and you will clearly see Orion's belt and sword, along with bright stars Betelgeuse, Rigel, Sirius, Canopus, and more.

Below the bright stars in the photograph are labeled:

In my opinion Orion is one of the few vaguely recognisable constellations. Orion, Crux (Southern Cross) and Scorpius are the ones I think are quite easy to make out. Preferring science to mythology the constellations are for me simply a way to find one's way around the night sky.

This picture might help you spot it yourself in the twilight sky! Take a peak outside just after dinner. The photograph was taken at 6:11pm local time, so approximately 45 minutes after sunset, looking west.

Posters, prints and canvas are available of this photograph of Orion, contact us for enquiries.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Milky Way rising over wheatfield and camp

To the right, camp and the reserve I am set up in. To the left, large and open flat wheatfields. Over head? Milky Way arching spectacularly from horizon to horizon!

The Milky Way rising over wheatfields

1:30am, the last photograph from night one of my weekend trip to the wheatbelt of Western Australia. Quite chilled and tired by this point, but how could I not take another photo?

The portion of our Milky Way galaxy featured in the series of photographs from this weekend is the centre of our galaxy - you are looking towars millions upon millions of stars, many just like our own Sun. How many planets like our own I wonder?

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The Emu and Milky Way framed by Silhouettes

Here is a new version of the first astrophoto from my weekend away. I've been trying to bring out the Milky Way stronger yet retain the realistic sky colour, as the first version didn't give it the impact it deserved.

If you are wondering where the emu is - it's a "constellation" referred to by the Aboriginal people of Australia. The shape of an emu is formed by following the dark patches in the Milky Way, starting at the Coal Sack (near the Southern Cross) which is the head of the emu. At the right time of the year the emu is standing on the ground, here it is almost horizontal across the field of view.

The blur in the silhouetted trees is largely from the stiff breeze that was blowing on the night - 9 degrees C was not too bad in its self, but with a windchill that felt significantly colder! I was glad to have a well protected sleeping bag to crawl in to at the end of that night (1:30am mind you..).

You will also notice the ground is just visible - the silhouettes are not 100% solid. This is real, and quite common in the Wheatbelt and country areas I capture astrophotography, that the light from the Milky Way and sky overhead are bright enough to illuminate the landscape.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Iridium Flare

Iridium Satellites are known for producing particularly bright flare effects as the sun reflects off them, as they move quickly through low earth orbit. I've often seen them, regularly pointing them out at Perth Observatory viewing nights, but I've never photographed one, until now!

As luck would have it, my shutter was open and camera pointing the right direction! Without knowing it was going to happen, an Iridium satellite passed nicely through the field of view, between the pointers - Alpha and Beta Centauri.  Check out the resulting photograph:

See other astrophotography from the weekend here.

If you are out near sunset it's hard to not see a satellite go overhead and usually there will be one or two which are quite bright. You can find predictions of when the best will be visible at the Heavens Above site. The most common bright satellites you will see are the International Space Station (ISS) and Iridium satellites.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

A wonderful weekend under the stars

Every now and then there is a time where you think to yourself "why can't life always be like this?". Well, that was the story for me this weekend. Two nights camping in the Western Australian Wheatbelt working until the early hours each morning capturing lots of stunning astrophotography!

Wonderful clear conditions, a new camera lens and a bigger car (camping is so much simpler now!) gave me the opportunity to capture a huge range of photographs over the two nights. I don't think I have had a weekend before where I come back expecting to so many different high quality photo's from my efforts.

Like I said - If only life could always be like this!

It will take some time to process all the photographs as it's a fairly time consuming job, I estimate about 30 hours work ahead of me for this weekend's photo's. Even the first examples below are likely to change as I continue to tweak the results - to bring out the most of the photo's and best represent the effect and feeling I am looking for in the shots.

Here are few astro photographs to start with:

The Emu and Milky Way framed by silhouettes

Photograph: The Southern Cross with Pointers (left) and Eta Carina (right)

Photograph: The centre of the Milky Way rising in the east and extending overhead

It feels like after many years of struggling with astrophotography equipment, techniques, and dark sky locations it is all finally coming together for me. First the goldfields trip a few weeks back, now this long weekend. I have settled on a compact and neat equipment setup, I have a handful of stable dark sky viewing locations, and a larger car which makes camping under the stars and doing astrophotography so incredibly easier than the little hatchbacks I am used to. This next two are not stunning astro photo's but do set the scene:

Photograph: Camping under the stars
Night sky over wheatfield (left) and camp (right). The distant light of farm machinery in the distance (likely seeding).

Watch this space - more to come from the weekend.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Orion Setting

It's that time of year when Orion is getting very low in the west in the early night. As Orion sets in the west Scorpius rises in the east, something to look forward to. Scorpius represents the central region of our Milky Way galaxy where as Orion is looking the opposite direction, towards the outer edge of the Milky Way. Orion its self is therefore a group of stars between us and the edge of our Milky Way galaxy. I like to visualise that looking beyond the stars of Orion is deep space - nothing but emptiness until the next far-away galaxy.

A couple of weeks ago when out in the Western Australian Goldfields (see Digging for Astrophotography Gold post) the first photo of the evening was actually this one of Orion Setting.

Photographed on an old pastoral lease, the fence in the foreground is some of the remaining fence of the cattle yards at the former station. The red dirt so typical for the area.

I quite like how Orion is positioned over the silhouettes but would have preferred it slightly higher (I need to go back a month earlier next year!). Certainly not one of the most eye catching photographs I have taken but it's still a nice composition I think and helps form part of a "Goldfields" series of astro photographs I am hoping to put together as an exhibition.