If spring is a season of bad weather and low goals for you, as it is for many of us, things should improve when May arrives. A total lunar eclipse highlights the list on May 15-16.
Total solar eclipse in 2022
This eclipse favors the eastern part of North America and all of South America. Observers on the west coast of North America will see the moon rise during the eclipse, while western Africa and Europe will see the moon set before the eclipse ends. Check this out Place for your local eclipse instances.
If you’re on the west coast of North America and can’t set up your gear the night before, Moonrise will give you little chance to establish your exposure and focus, especially if you’re in the dark. using a telescope and want to take a picture of the Moon being obscured on the eastern horizon.
Prepare to level your exposure and use at least one single axis track mount. A tracking device or astronomical stand will save you from having to adjust your pointing during a solar eclipse, which lasts several hours. During the completely obscured part of the event, you’ll also want to shoot long exposures of up to a few seconds to capture the stars in the background. And by the way, although the lunar eclipse is easily visible even in light-polluted cities, being able to see the stars in a dark location adds even more to the eclipse photo. .
May also opens with a beautiful formation of planets just before sunrise. Venus and Jupiter are close enough to be captured in a single frame taken through a medium-sized telescope. As May progresses, Venus and Jupiter will be apart, but the entire planetary array will still produce a good wide-field composition for a few weeks.
The normally active Lyrid meteor shower is largely a bust with a limited visibility full moon, but the early morning Eta Aquariid meteor shower (dust from Halley’s Comet) seems to be showing some good activity. Wikipedia lists the peak as occurring on May 6but with the actual operation running from April 18 to May 28, we were also able to put our wide field cameras to use whenever we were filming at night during May.
Galaxy Far, Far
Spring is a time for many astrophysicists because many target areas near the Milky Way are either setting in the early evening or rising late in the morning. Since we are at the very edge of our galaxy, for the time being we are looking in the opposite direction to the galactic core. Therefore, we can see objects outside our galaxy without the interference of dust and gas. The downside is that these objects are very small, so a long camera lens or moderately sized telescope is the bare minimum starting point for astrophotography and a tracking mount is required.
At the shorter end of the instrument range, all but a few galaxies will show up as more than faint spots in the vast empty space. But it is possible to photograph some beautifully combined galaxies, such as the “Leo Triplet,” so named because three galaxies (M65, M66 and NGC3628) can be photographed in one shot. Even better, a camera modified to have H-alpha sensitivity is not required to see details in galaxies.
Or, try Markarian’s Chain, a beautiful galaxy arc.
The Markarian sequence is located in a relatively compact galaxy cluster known as the Virgo Cluster, which is of course located in the constellation Virgo. Most galaxies will appear as faint spots in small telescopes, but a few can be imaged in a startling variety of forms, some of which are actually gravitationally interactive. The image below was taken on 6x7cm medium format film, scanned and displayed in negatives, making it a little easier to observe the tiny galaxies. Markarian’s Chain is near the center of this image.
The range used is the Borg 100ED (100mm aperture, f/4). Photo taken from a 45 min exposure on Kodak PPF400 negative film (no longer available). I used the Millennium Star Atlas as a reference to hand-label the galaxies on a rainy weekend. Today, it’s easier to use Astrometry.Net to get a labeled photo. This site allows you to upload an image and, after a few minutes, will return you a note version of your footage (among other information). Use JPEG images and give the program some hints as to where you’ve pointed to speed up the processing.
Find small fuzzy goals
Photographing faint small targets like galaxies presents a whole new set of challenges as you cannot see your target even in the wide-angle finder range. The modern solution is to have a computerized go-to mount. Ideally, if set up properly (aligned on two or three stars on each side of the meridian), a mount should point your scope at a target and place it in your camera’s field of view. friend. In practice, especially when traveling great distances in the sky, a light stand can be imprecise, so the best thing to do is first go to a bright, easily identifiable star nearby. there to synchronize the computer’s path. An older mount with similar installation circles would first need the same kind of synchronization process on a nearby bright star.
Once the target was in the field of view, I turned the ISO on my DSLR or mirrorless camera to the maximum value and took the picture in the frame within seconds. This allows the pointer to be adjusted for the best framing as well as letting me know the exposure times that can be used when the ISO is reduced to the best setting. For all deep sky objects, multiple frames will be required, so a rangefinder is required for the camera.
For advanced astronomical cameras with very complex setups (who don’t need to read this article), a fully computerized camera, stand, and pointing software can be moved to the target point. approximate target, take a picture, determine exactly where it is pointing (equivalent to using .net astrometry), and adjust the pointer so that the frame is exactly as the user specified. But my own preference is not to use such fancy (complex) setup, especially for portable setups, so I use the procedure described earlier.
Whatever your interests, spring brings a whole new level of challenge to your astrophotography. Happy shooting!