Thursday, October 25, 2007

M31 - the Andromeda Galaxy (in progress)

Now that the full moon is blazing brightly in the night sky (made even brighter by being in perigee) I am taking some time to go back over the images of M31 collected two weeks ago under the dark skies of the new moon. I spent two nights in a row collecting 5 minute, 3 minute, and one minute exposures at ISO 800. In hindsight I should have just taken a lot of 5 minute exposures and a few short ones, but I was curious if I could get close to the same result with a lot of 3-minute exposures. There was no contest - the 5-minute subs resulted in a much better image than lots more shorter subs. Eventually I will work up a comparison. I got to a stopping point last week with the stack of 5-minute subs, and decided to take a break for a while and come back later with a fresh start. Here's the result of that previous work:

It's a pretty good image, I think, but maybe it could be better? Maybe I've been looking at it too much and noticing all the flaws. I'll keep reading "Photoshop Astronomy" and going through the tutorials provided with ImagesPlus to get some ideas. I still have lots to learn about image processing. The above image was mostly the result of a few Levels and Curves adjustments in Photoshop, along with a high-pass filter mask.
Looking back at where I was a year ago while just starting out, I believe I have improved quite a bit. Here is last years M31 - my first:

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The crescent moon passes near Jupiter

Last Sunday evening I just happened to glance outside and see a thin crescent moon low on the horizon with Jupiter beginning to shine brightly above it. The color of the sky was interesting and I quickly grabbed the Rebel XT and the tripod for a few quick images.

The next evening the moon was even closer to Jupiter. Clouds were rolling in and I managed to find a break to capture this view. The bright star Arcturus is visible to the right of the moon.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Moon, Saturn, & Venus Get Together

Finally fall is here and the muggy skies of summer are clearing out to reveal deep black skies with stars seemingly shining brighter than ever. The clear, drier air really makes the stars pop - a welcome scene after months of heat, haze, & humidity. On the morning of Sunday 10/07, the Moon teamed up with Saturn and Venus to make a nice grouping in the eastern pre-dawn sky. I was excited the night before with the thought of viewing this event and capturing it with my camera. I was a little less excited when the alarm went off at 5:30AM, but I crawled out of bed and got set up outside, still partially asleep. This was a good opportunity to try out my new Sigma 55-200mm zoom lens. At about 147mm everything framed up nicely and I snapped several images at various exposure times. I combined four images ranging from 0.4s to 2.5s to make the above image. After just watching this beautiful alignment for a little while, and catching a few bright meteors whizzing by, I headed back to bed for more sleep. I'm so happy "imaging season" has returned to Georgia.