North America Nebula… An object I always loved and I always feared. But still beautiful and amazing in its detail and charming appearance. I also see the symbolism behind it now when I’ve moved to US with family and kids. It was time to grab the bull by its horns and look at it straight in its eyes.
This image consist of 12 separate exposures between 2 and 2.5 minutes each at ISO 1600 with a Canon DSLR taken 10/26/2019. I’ve made an unprocessed blog post earlier about this nebula, but really never had the time to technically deep dive into post-processing and stacking. I thought since I’m about to write an article on the Observer in its coming issue about postprocessing and I’ve chosen Nebulosity, why not give it a try. I’m kinda allergic to try something more expensive than that, such as PixInsight. One day I’ll get my hands on it too.
So here we are… Behold The North America Nebula a.k.a. NGC 7000. Quite wide object (120 x 100 arc minutes) in one of the most interesting constellations of the northern hemisphere, Cygnus.
Image was taken through William Optics FluoroStar 110, with a Canon 50D DSLR, EQ6 Pro mount.
But all in all… I still don’t give up on this object… I’ll be back soon to collect more of its distant and faint magnitude 4 light!
Haven’t done the Milky way in a while and this time I’ve chosen with a Canon 50D and a Canon 35mm lens. The settings were AWB, ISO 1600 and 14 seconds of exposure by using the 500-rule (500/lens mm).
The foreground is Henry Grieb Observatory – Nyack Airport in Blue Canyon, CA. Right above the dome Saturn to the left and Jupiter to the right.
I’ve now ordered Canon’s EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM lens which apparently is one of the top 3 Canon lenses for Milky way astrophotography to try and get some better results. The lens I was using for the image above isn’t really suitable for Milky way due to high f-ratio, making it a “slow” lens in allowing faint light coming through. That night was also illuminated by the moon (the moonlight reflection can be seen on the dome itself) which makes things worse for Milky way to become more prominent in the photos.
Below are examples of how higher f-stop/f-ratio allows less light through, thus increasing your exposure time, which introduces noise and other issues such as shaking, star trails, etc.
Many times as an amateur astronomer/astrophotographer you’re trying to locate good places with good seeing and local weather to accomodate your needs in astronomical observations. Many amateur astronomers have spotted favorite spots away from modern civilization’s disturbances such as lights, traffic, curious individuals that approach you with headlights in the middle of the night, such as dog owners, hunters, security guards, the local police force, etc.
I’ve met all of these types of people in the middle of the night and believe me sometimes they scare you more than nature wildlife sounds might do. California is rich in wildlife, such as snakes, bears, mountain lions, etc. Animals however always want to keep their distance to your nightly activities and are less curious than human beings on what you’re working on during a photographic session.
There are many stories I can tell you about these meetings, but this blog entry is more about loosing the beauty of nature that once was there protecting you from city and traffic light, dew, and temperatures. The devastating fires in my immediate close area last summer was different. I live with my family very close to California’s most aggressive fires that happened in this state’s history ever before.
The so called Carr fires in Shasta county (including Hirz) then later on the Camp fire in Butte county where the most devastating wildfires that I’ve ever seen. Loosing forests so drastically, not to mention cities and home societies that were wiped out of the map is a weird feeling. You realize how vulnerable we all are against the climate changes and you literally end up loosing everything. At my job we all know someone, either close family relative or a family friend that has lost property and even family members. It feels as if we are in a war zone and you can’t do anything about it. Human lives, wild and domesticated animals, acres of both forest and farming land was lost in matter of a week from the moment those fires started.
Insurance companies are now facing huge issues in trying to pay back all those incoming claims from their insurance policy members which effects everyone financially. Local businesses are lost and people end up moving (migrating) away from the areas. I saw people camping in parking lots and had nowhere to go and no family to take care of them.
It was most noticeable this past November in 2018 when Thankgiving was around the corner when you realized how many people wouldn’t celebrate one of the biggest key holidays in US, freezing cold that night in their cars completely alone from the warm homes that once protected them.
Everyone is making new year’s resolutions about gym, career, health, but I believe my new year’s resolution is to try and bring awareness to people about our nature changes and do my best to document and write more about the climate change and its effects on all of us. There’s a major disbelief that climate change is hoax, but you can’t simply ignore the fact that all these people and animals have died for something we all could have done something about.
While east coast is starting consequentially experiencing annually the wrath of hurricanes and extreme storms here in California we got something called Fire Season… It is unbelievable, you know it’s going to happen again every year and every time with more devastating effects. California’s once proud forests are slowly turning out to its neighboring state Nevada… A Marsian looking desert.
Forests are more than just nature’s lunges… They protect us from landslides, they improve home living from high summer temperatures and people who suffer from medical conditions end up living close to those areas to ride out California’s extreme summer heat, they provide us with knowledge, they improve local businesses and trade by bringing over tourists and campers, they host threatened from extinction animals and insects and many other things.
Let us hope 2019 will be more hopeful with less fires and nature disasters against our natural monuments and our homes.
For my 40th birthday my wife took me to the Lick Observatory. It was in my to-do list a very long time but we never found the right time to just go and visit it. It is resided just 3 hours from where we live, but the road there is very curvy.
Lick Observatory was built 1887 on the top of mountain Hamilton facing San Jose with a breath taking beautiful view. The name of the observatory was in honor of James Lick who founded the building of the the world’s first mountain-top observatory accompanied by the time the world’s largest refractor (lens) telescope.
We had a great time and the observatory is family-friendly. We had the luck to arrive 10 minutes before a guided tour was about to begin. Normally the observatory isn’t open for visits, but around this time of the year they open to public. Much of its funding is done through the gift shop, so if you drop by that’s a great place to make donation to keep the free guided tours alive.
There are many discoveries that have been made by the Lick Observatory, such as the distinction of the several different rings on Saturn, played a key-role in Einstein’s general theory of relativity, the expansion of universe, discovery of exoplanets, among many other successful research discoveries.
Parts of the observatory are still used for science and research with the latest modern equipment. There are other domes that house these aside the infamous Lick telescope dome that occupies the highest point.
At the bottom of their 36-inches Lick telescope is James Lick buried right at its base. I recommend people visit this historically important observatory. There are so many things to look at and read about hanging at its walls and at the exhibition area, such as fragments of meteorites, old generation CCD sensors and cameras and log books from astronomers in the past.
So there was a mysterious smoke clearly visible in north California this evening. It was not the Delta IV rocket scheduled to be launched the very same evening. 4 minutes before the appearance the Delta IV launch was cancelled due to a leak in one of the hydrogen tanks.
From the appearance, this was not an airplane malfunctioning but most likely a meteor.
Tonight Venus and the Moon were in conjunction. A beautiful show that was clearly visible in the Sacramento, CA area despite clouds in the horizon
Camera: Canon EOS 50D – with tripod and remote control
Exposure: 2 secs
Focal Ratio: f/4.5
Focal Length: 96 mm
Original Dimensions: 4752 x 3168 px
Time: 4/17/2018, 7:37 PDT
Location: Sacramento CA, US
Post Processing: Adobe Photoshop CS6
Right after solar eclipses it is commonly expected to observe a total lunar eclipse. In California we’ll be able to observe a total lunar eclipse on January 31, 2018 starting at 02:51 AM.
As the moon moves the first type of shadow will be the earth’s penumbra and as it finally reaches totality it will turn full red (umbra).
The examples I’m posting here, are some very old afocal photos I took when I was living in Stockholm, Sweden through a Newton telescope. These were my very first images back in August 16, 2008 and little I knew about focus, exposures, etc. That will make it easier for me to redeem myself with proper equipment and methods.
Below is how the total lunar eclipse shadow will move across the continents on January 31, 2018. This illustration originates from timeanddate.com. Visit this website to find out how your own eclipse will look like at your location and which time.
Here’s an image from the free license software – Stellarium, showing how the lunar eclipse will look at from your location. Stellarium can be downloaded at no cost for all platforms (Mac, Linux and Windows) click here to download Stellarium.
So it was time to head out of the apartment and head for my spot to take a nice shot of the supermoon. I sneaked out as quietly as I could and try to avoid waking up my wife and our baby sleeping still heavily. I left around 4:30 AM and started driving towards the TRACON area (TRACON is responsible for air traffic control for the whole West of US). Once I arrived I turned in their parking lot, but a security guard approached me letting me know I wasn’t allowed to park there but they were kind enough to advice me to park across the street. I thanked them and also asked them if they knew about the supermoon showing up this morning and their response was “Yeah! We’ve been watching it all night”. I left shortly after our short conversation looking at the security guards gazing high up in the night sky all in awe about the brightens of this beautiful full moon.
I couldn’t center the statue I had in mind (a statue of army pilots pointing towards the sky. I thought it would have been awesome to put the moon at their finger tips but that plan and angle didn’t work all too well because of the tree line in the way) and so I changed quickly plans and had the Californian state flag and US flag poles centered in the middle. Fortunately from that angle the trees weren’t in my way.
And here we go, supermoon in all its glory
For you who have missed this event, there’s one more chance the 13th of December. I’ll be back about it and might make a new try again for my perfect shot.
One of the most amazing things about California, are the infamous sunsets. The stratocumulus clouds are shattered across the horizon but still merged reminding us the potential rainfall on its way, as the twilight spreads in the upper atmosphere dominating the evening sky with red, orange, pink and yellow palette of colors. A magnificent view to say the least!
As I am gazing at the evening and night skies I can’t wait for my equipment to be transferred to the states from Sweden very soon. The need to be out in the nature and taking photos at the deep sky grows bigger for every day.
The 14th of November this year the moon’s perigee position and phase (full moon) will offer all the observers a spectacular show. It will appear the biggest in 70 years. So to all my California friends, go up this early morning around 5 AM and take photos. I will try and see if I can find a nice recognizable monument in Sacramento (maybe the tower bridge).
The moon will be already descending towards the West and its declination or angle close to the horizon will cause the moon to appear larger than its actual size. It is actually worthy witnessing this beautiful event, as it will not happen again for another 70 years. There is however one more chance during next full moon in December (12/13/2016) if you happen to miss it. In December you’ll have to look out even for the Geminids Meteor showers, however do not make many hopes as the full moon brightness will make it harder discovering them.
In order to take a nice photo of this event you’ll need to stand far away from an object/monument or building of your choice and use a telescope or a telephoto lens that will magnify enough the size of the moon while keeping your object in focus.
While moving away from that object will reduce its size due to the distance from it, use your telephoto lens to magnify it. That is how you accomplish these images like in the example below (a large moon and a recognizable building/object next or right in front of it).
Unfortunately cell phone cameras will not be able to take any good images as these get worse by using zooming/image enlargement and also over exposed (bright sphere with unrecognizable features). Unless of course you are able to control shutter speeds and ISO values (such as in some Microsoft/Windows phones). For this image you’ll need a tripod and a DSRL/SRL camera with telescope lens to accommodate your needs properly.
- Stellarium – Star chart program completely free and available for all platforms (Windows, Linux, Mac OS)
- Original example image below from National Geographic
Click on the mosaic below for larger images: