Astronomy: Imaging

Photographing the Universe On The Cheap


Lately: Sun of a Gun

I've had some luck taking a small digital camera and placing it against the eyepiece of my small refractor. This very large sunspot group, number 798 from September 2005, produced some massive solar outbursts.



Sunspot group 822, imaged 16 Nov 05, was an especially big and broad feature. This dark archipelago spanned over 86,000 miles (140,000 km).



In the hydrogen alpha radiation spectrum, we can see the active outer layers of the Sun (the coronasphere) come to life. In 2006, we are in a solar minimum phase, so we'll be seeing relatively few solar flares. There are two in this image, at about one o'clock and four o'clock.





The Very First Try:

What is this little blob? Another joke, right? Actually, it's my very first astrophotograph, and thus worthy of mention. I put a small digital camera up to the eyepiece of my small telescope, and tripped the shutter. Well, no real detail or features, but it was a start. What is it really?: the planet Jupiter. If you really squint you can see one atmospheric belt (brown stripe of cloud band). Well, the point is to give it a go, no matter how modest your equipment.


Getting There

Here is Jupiter again, from a few more tries at the 2005 Texas Star Party. With more expertise avaiable, some practice, a little processing, and a few cloudy nights to ponder the results, at least we're up to two major cloud belts!




OK, Maybe:

This poor little ghost image is a first go at what is arguably the most beautiful sight in our Solar System: the Lord of the Rings, planet Saturn. This was taken when the giant planet was most favorably placed, near opposition, in December 2002. Well, at least you can see the ring plane....


Getting a Little Better:

Here is Comet 2002/C1 Ikeya-Zheng, discovered February 1, 2002, by Japanese observer Kaoru Ikeya and Chinese amateur Zhang Daqing. This marvelous "tailed star" was in the constellation Cetus, the Whale, and was my first close up view of one of these marvelous visitors.



Not Bad:

Yes, it's only black & white, but it's my best shot so far: the beautiful Messier 51 Whirlpool Galaxy and its stellar handshaking NGC 5195 companion. Deep space has the greatest array of wonders - and I'm just starting to look!



These are but first struggling efforts: balancing exposures, learning photoprocessing software, and just plain experimenting. The idea here is to just start imaging - don't worry about quality - just keep trying.