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Author Topic: Spiral Arm of the Milky Way above the Texas Desert  (Read 14638 times)

Axilrod

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Re: Spiral Arm of the Milky Way above the Texas Desert
« Reply #30 on: January 22, 2013, 10:58:20 PM »
@ Axilrod - thanks for the info. I'll definitely try your tips.

I was in Death Valley last month just before Christmas and was thinking of shooting some Milky Way stuff at Racetrack Playa but the temp was in the 20s and I just couldn't hack the cold. I just ended up shooting some sunrise and sunsets there. Plus, like you said, the Milky Way's bulging disc in the middle wasn't visible so it looked a bit odd to me and didn't give me any extra motivation to stay up. I'll go back there in late spring or early summer and maybe I'll take home with me a Milky Way image.

Here's one from that trip.

Awesome picture man, yeah some night shots from there would have been sick!
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Re: Spiral Arm of the Milky Way above the Texas Desert
« Reply #30 on: January 22, 2013, 10:58:20 PM »

Axilrod

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Re: Spiral Arm of the Milky Way above the Texas Desert
« Reply #31 on: January 22, 2013, 11:11:49 PM »
Keep in mind these are individual exposures, most of the really insane pictures of the Milky Way you see are a bunch of stacked exposures, but I don't have a tracking mount yet so I couldn't do that.

I know alot of astronomy buffs may be sickened by these, but the general public love shots that look like this.  It was a learning experience and I'm thrilled to have had the chance to finally get some shots like these.  I'm going back in the summer since that's when the brightest part of the Milky Way is visible.

A few quick comments:
1) Excellent photos! I love the colors and the contrast.
2) I'm somewhere between "general public" and "astronomy buff" (closer to the latter in visual experience and knowledge, but a newbie in terms of astrophotography skills and experience), and I can assure you that nobody would be sickened by these. For starters, this is precisely the right way to start taking nighttime images. And these are phenomenal regardless of how long you've been doing it.
3) You can actually stack photos without tracking, although you might need to do a little photoshop work with the landscape. There is stacking software that takes into account the movement of stars, both lateral and rotation.

And, it is possible to stretch images and sqeeze data out of even relatively short exposure images. Here is an image that I took a number of years ago of Comet 17P-Holmes on a tripod, only 4 seconds exposure at ISO 3200, 200mm @ f/2.8 with a 20D. Not eye-popping by any means, but just showing what you can capture in just a few seconds at a longer focal length (8 seconds started showing exaggerated star trails).

Keep 'em coming!

Regards,
Dave

Thanks for the info!  That's good to know, I didn't realize that stacking software could do that.  I'm looking into telescopes now, there are so many options it's kind of overwhelming.  And that pic makes me wish I had some longer lenses, nice shot.
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sach100

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Re: Spiral Arm of the Milky Way above the Texas Desert
« Reply #32 on: January 22, 2013, 11:14:15 PM »
Axilrod - Great pictures! especially the one with the van.

I think your tip on removing the neck strap is very valid - it messed up my first attempt at star trails.

But during my later attempts i used the rubbery thing in the neck strap to cover the viewfinder.
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emag

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Re: Spiral Arm of the Milky Way above the Texas Desert
« Reply #33 on: January 22, 2013, 11:18:56 PM »

Go to the Indian Pass Peninsula! 

I'm in Pensacola, my astronomy club's dark site is in Blackwater River State forest, VERY nice in winter and about a 55 mile drive.  I do astronomy outreach for scout groups that have a campground farther into Blackwater Forest, spectacular skies and very stable air.  I frequently head to Gulf Islands National Seashore and nearby Big Lagoon State Park, they're both very close and dark towards the Gulf, not too shabby overhead.  Our summer skies are very hit and miss and any location is a serious mosquito feed on summer evenings - August is particularly useless, miserable humid and perpetual thunderstorms.  We do somewhat of a 'sidewalk astronomy' gaze at Pensacola Beach two nights per month in the warmer weather, near first quarter moon.  Lots of light pollution but with a modified camera and LPR filters it's surprising what can be picked out.  Meet a lot of interesting folks from all over who come for a few weeks.

Axilrod

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Re: Spiral Arm of the Milky Way above the Texas Desert
« Reply #34 on: January 22, 2013, 11:28:22 PM »
Thanks for the compliments folks.  Just thought of something else.  When it's pitch black framing can be very difficult, but try to get it as close as you can on the first try.  Shooting 30 second exposures means you can only take a couple pictures a minute at most, so you're not going to end up with as many images as you're used to getting, so try and make them count!  Just one more reason to scout the location during the day whenever possible.

Oh, for anyone looking for a way to check out what is going to be where in the night sky, Stellarium (http://www.stellarium.org) is an awesome free application for that.  You put in your exact location, and can pick any date and time and it will show you exactly what will be in the sky and you can simulate what you'll see at any speed over any amount of time.  It's a must have!
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emag

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Re: Spiral Arm of the Milky Way above the Texas Desert
« Reply #35 on: January 22, 2013, 11:47:17 PM »
These were shot from VERY light polluted Pensacola Beach during a public stargaze.  Before and after gussying up to counter the light pollution.  They were taken with a modified 40D using a Sigma 70-200 at 200/2.8.  You can pick up a T3i for a song now and have it modified for astro work.  Plop it on an equatorial mount with a drive and you have a setup that can do some amazing work.  The camera is on my grab and go astrophoto setup.  The tripod and drive base are from an old scope that I have since mated to a much better computerized mount.  Nothing fancy but it does the job and fits neatly in my motorcyle sidecar when I don't feel like lugging the big guns.

Axilrod

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Re: Spiral Arm of the Milky Way above the Texas Desert
« Reply #36 on: January 22, 2013, 11:50:55 PM »
These were shot from VERY light polluted Pensacola Beach during a public stargaze.  Before and after gussying up to counter the light pollution.  They were taken with a modified 40D using a Sigma 70-200 at 200/2.8.  You can pick up a T3i for a song now and have it modified for astro work.  Plop it on an equatorial mount with a drive and you have a setup that can do some amazing work.  The camera is on my grab and go astrophoto setup.  The tripod and drive base are from an old scope that I have since mated to a much better computerized mount.  Nothing fancy but it does the job and fits neatly in my motorcyle sidecar when I don't feel like lugging the big guns.

Wow that's awesome, you could have gotten some amazing stuff in Texas!
« Last Edit: January 23, 2013, 11:24:45 AM by Axilrod »
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Re: Spiral Arm of the Milky Way above the Texas Desert
« Reply #36 on: January 22, 2013, 11:50:55 PM »

Axilrod

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Re: Spiral Arm of the Milky Way above the Texas Desert
« Reply #37 on: January 23, 2013, 11:25:07 AM »
These were shot from VERY light polluted Pensacola Beach during a public stargaze.  Before and after gussying up to counter the light pollution.  They were taken with a modified 40D using a Sigma 70-200 at 200/2.8.  You can pick up a T3i for a song now and have it modified for astro work.  Plop it on an equatorial mount with a drive and you have a setup that can do some amazing work.  The camera is on my grab and go astrophoto setup.  The tripod and drive base are from an old scope that I have since mated to a much better computerized mount.  Nothing fancy but it does the job and fits neatly in my motorcyle sidecar when I don't feel like lugging the big guns.

Oh and what's the story with your equatorial mount?  Did you make that yourself? 
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Re: Spiral Arm of the Milky Way above the Texas Desert
« Reply #38 on: January 23, 2013, 01:29:39 PM »
Absolutely beautiful shots!

20 seconds, hey? That's all it takes to get all the stars like that without a dolly?

Not sure what you mean about the dolly, I guess maybe you're referring to a tracking mount?  Yeah this is what you get from 20 seconds when it's pitch black, that's the crucial part.

Yeah, I meant the track mount. Thanks! I am going to have to try this sometime. Finding a completely dark sky is the difficult part.
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Axilrod

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Re: Spiral Arm of the Milky Way above the Texas Desert
« Reply #39 on: January 23, 2013, 05:55:52 PM »
Finding a completely dark sky is the difficult part.

I agree, just check out the light pollution map I posted and try and plan it around the new moon and you'll be good!
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emag

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Re: Spiral Arm of the Milky Way above the Texas Desert
« Reply #40 on: January 24, 2013, 02:02:08 PM »
Oh and what's the story with your equatorial mount?  Did you make that yourself?

Axilrod - the tripod, wedge and drive base are from an 8 inch Celestron I've had for 35 years, the optics are great but it needed to be on a better mount to reach its potential.  The wood is recycled from another project and the tripod head lives either on this mount or my home made slider depending on what I'm doing.  Older Celestron mounts come up for sale on Astromart once in a while when people transplant the scope to a better mount like I did.  There's another used equipment website I've used, I can't find it with Google but I have the link on my home computer, I'll PM you with it.  Orion sells a small equatorial setup as an intro to astrophotography but it just won't handle much weight.  A used CG5 or SkyViewPro mount for a good price would be an excellent setup, you wouldn't need the computerized version of either.  I use my old C8 mount setup for tracking with up to a 300/f4L.  Setting it vertical I can do panning time lapses.  I've even used it with the mount vertical and the camera pointed straight up in my back yard, the trees rotate around the perimeter of the frame while the stars slowly parade through....would be interesting to try in a place like Joshua Tree.  I'm blocked here at work from getting to the link, it's on YouTube, you should be able to find it with search terms 'emagowan' and 'SkySpin'.

Axilrod

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Re: Spiral Arm of the Milky Way above the Texas Desert
« Reply #41 on: January 24, 2013, 02:33:38 PM »
Axilrod - the tripod, wedge and drive base are from an 8 inch Celestron I've had for 35 years, the optics are great but it needed to be on a better mount to reach its potential.  The wood is recycled from another project and the tripod head lives either on this mount or my home made slider depending on what I'm doing.  Older Celestron mounts come up for sale on Astromart once in a while when people transplant the scope to a better mount like I did.  There's another used equipment website I've used, I can't find it with Google but I have the link on my home computer, I'll PM you with it.  Orion sells a small equatorial setup as an intro to astrophotography but it just won't handle much weight.  A used CG5 or SkyViewPro mount for a good price would be an excellent setup, you wouldn't need the computerized version of either.  I use my old C8 mount setup for tracking with up to a 300/f4L.  Setting it vertical I can do panning time lapses.  I've even used it with the mount vertical and the camera pointed straight up in my back yard, the trees rotate around the perimeter of the frame while the stars slowly parade through....would be interesting to try in a place like Joshua Tree.  I'm blocked here at work from getting to the link, it's on YouTube, you should be able to find it with search terms 'emagowan' and 'SkySpin'.

Thanks for that info, I figured that thing was a "frankenstein" mount of some sort.  I've been looking into getting one of these Astrotrac tracking mounts: http://www.astrotrac.com/Default.aspx?p=tt320x-ag

Supposedly they work very well and are very easy to transport and set up.  Check it out and let me know what you think.
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RomanRacela

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Re: Spiral Arm of the Milky Way above the Texas Desert
« Reply #42 on: January 24, 2013, 03:43:25 PM »
I have a Vixen Polarie Star Tracker that I bought in the Fall and have yet to try it out.

Axilrod's images excites me to get started.

http://www.astroshop.com.au/guides/vixen-polarie.htm
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Re: Spiral Arm of the Milky Way above the Texas Desert
« Reply #42 on: January 24, 2013, 03:43:25 PM »

abirkill

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Re: Spiral Arm of the Milky Way above the Texas Desert
« Reply #43 on: January 25, 2013, 11:24:41 PM »
While dark skies are unquestionably a huge advantage, you can get quite reasonable shots even in areas with moderate light pollution if you get very clear conditions.

I use the ClearDarkSky forecasts to check on atmospheric conditions, and usually find acceptable results with a seeing and transparency value of 3/5 or higher.  It's interesting to see that this doesn't always happen when you've got an apparently clear night -- humidity and temperature can affect the visibility more than you might think.

Here are a couple of shots taken from Mount Baker National Forest, which is a good dark sky location, although the thin cloud on the horizon was highlighting distant lights more than ideal.  As others have said, these might be considered overprocessed from a purely photographic standpoint, but they are quite popular!

Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II @ 16mm, ISO 6400, f/3.2, 30 second exposures, 11 shot panorama:


Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II @ 16mm, ISO 5000, f/2.8, 30 second exposures, 4 shot panorama:


The next two are taken from a park half-way between Vancouver and Whistler -- this is definitely not a dark sky location (it's about 30 minutes drive from Vancouver and 15 minutes from Squamish, a relatively large settlement), but the conditions allowed good visibility of the Milky Way:

Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II @ 16mm, ISO 8000, f/2.8, 45 second exposures, 5 shot panorama:


Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II @ 16mm, ISO 6400, f/2.8, 30 second exposure:


I'm still very much learning how to take these shots, so there is unquestionably a lot more that can be got out of the camera (and probably some more sympathetic processing that can be done, as well!)  The most important thing is to get out there and try it -- don't think you need to drive half-way across the country, just try and find somewhere reasonably dark on a clear, moonless night and see what you can get!

Axilrod

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Re: Spiral Arm of the Milky Way above the Texas Desert
« Reply #44 on: January 27, 2013, 11:50:01 AM »
While dark skies are unquestionably a huge advantage, you can get quite reasonable shots even in areas with moderate light pollution if you get very clear conditions.

I use the ClearDarkSky forecasts to check on atmospheric conditions, and usually find acceptable results with a seeing and transparency value of 3/5 or higher.  It's interesting to see that this doesn't always happen when you've got an apparently clear night -- humidity and temperature can affect the visibility more than you might think.

Here are a couple of shots taken from Mount Baker National Forest, which is a good dark sky location, although the thin cloud on the horizon was highlighting distant lights more than ideal.  As others have said, these might be considered overprocessed from a purely photographic standpoint, but they are quite popular!

Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II @ 16mm, ISO 6400, f/3.2, 30 second exposures, 11 shot panorama:


Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II @ 16mm, ISO 5000, f/2.8, 30 second exposures, 4 shot panorama:


The next two are taken from a park half-way between Vancouver and Whistler -- this is definitely not a dark sky location (it's about 30 minutes drive from Vancouver and 15 minutes from Squamish, a relatively large settlement), but the conditions allowed good visibility of the Milky Way:

Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II @ 16mm, ISO 8000, f/2.8, 45 second exposures, 5 shot panorama:


Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L II @ 16mm, ISO 6400, f/2.8, 30 second exposure:


I'm still very much learning how to take these shots, so there is unquestionably a lot more that can be got out of the camera (and probably some more sympathetic processing that can be done, as well!)  The most important thing is to get out there and try it -- don't think you need to drive half-way across the country, just try and find somewhere reasonably dark on a clear, moonless night and see what you can get!

Those are great, but it looks like you had to push them quite a bit to get them there.  And I'm sure while some photographers might consider these over-processed, the general public probably love them.  And after trying to get shots like these for 2 years I think light pollution is by far the biggest factor, I tried shooting in Atlanta (fools errand) and couldn't see anything hardly.  Then I tried in Oregon, which was dark but there was a half moon which ruined stuff.  But Texas was just right.  But I agree, even if you are near moderate light pollution it's worth giving it a try just to get some practice.
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Re: Spiral Arm of the Milky Way above the Texas Desert
« Reply #44 on: January 27, 2013, 11:50:01 AM »