Here is another photo from the weekend of the observatory as the clouds parted for a moment. The guys at the site and the booking agents liked this photo enough to put it on their website! If you would like a romantic nerdy weekend (was that an oxymoron?) be sure to check out the cottage and astro tour they offer.
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This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting the Blue Mountains Observatory in Leura, NSW. Unfortunately despite staying for 3 nights during the moonless lunar phase, the site was covered by cloud, fog and rain the entire time. The only exception was 1 hour around 1am on the second night, by which time I was sufficiently inebriated enough to make operating my camera equipment fairly challenging. I managed to get a few decent shots that even the real (qualified) astronomers told me they enjoyed. This star trail photo is an old fashioned 11 minute single exposure at 16mm / f.28 / ISO 1600. There is some cloud behind the dome illuminated by Katoomba light pollution but the middle of the image is the glow of the milky way itself which runs horizontally across the image. I will post another version without star trails soon.
Still working out the kinks in my workflow, but here is a decent stack of exposures from my driveway of the Table of Scorpius region which is filled with all kinds of crazy star clusters, nebula, dust clouds, gas and basically anything you can imagine. If you held up a business card at arms length at the sky, that is about the size of what you are seeing here. The word space is probably a misnomer in some regards. It is pretty full really.
NikonD5100 piggybacked on Celestron 4SE / Several x 30s, ISO1600, f2.2, 50mm prime.
Otherwise known by the media as the (sigh) supermoon. The difference in size is really quite minor and does not make a huge difference to the casual observer. Honestly, every full moon is pretty wonderful regardless. Most astronomy nerds who have to put down their telescopes for a few weeks waiting for it to go away know it better as the stupid moon.
Captured here with a 9.25" Celestron SCT in thin cloud unfortunately, but it turned out ok. 1/1600s / F11 / ISO 100.
My New Zealand readers might be familiar with the big kiwi bird in the Sagittarius region of the milky way. Can you see it? It looks kind of like a big ball sack to me but I can go with kiwi bird, sure.
This tiny patch of the milky way is dominated by Antares, the bright orange star on the left. Dark wispy tendrils of gases and clouds in this area are star-forming nebula that are so large, I can photograph them with a regular DSLR 55mm lens as done here.
This image is made from 20 x 30" exposures stacked together to draw out the cloud definition. The camera was piggybacked to a telescope that was tracking the sky rotation so the stars would not streak.
This is my first attempt at the Lagoon Nebula (M8) and after much fiddling and cursing in the dark I managed to grab a few short frames that were relatively ok. About 4 or 5 exposures stacked together. Though not as sharp or detailed as I would like (the view slipped behind a tree just as I was fine tuning my equipment), Nebula are easily my favourite targets in the sky. The colours here are natural, just as my RGB camera captured them. The diffraction spikes however, are added in post processing for that classic retro star shine that older lenses and equipment would produce. Interestingly, they still feature regularly in NASA and award winning astro imagery but are not captured by modern telescope optics!