When most photos are captured in fractions of a second, spending an hour or more to take a photo feels like madness. That’s the reason why I never attempted to photograph star trails before. However, once I headed down the path of astrophotography, the calculation changed. Since I’m waiting for the camera most of the time, I could be twice as productive by setting up an older camera to take star trails. Since this was my third attempt, I was only willing to commit 30 minutes to the process. Also, I wasn’t sure what factor the 62% waxing gibbous would play in the final image. The end result turned out better than expected.
Antares and Rho Ophiuchi. Can’t wait for this target to move to a direction with less light pollution. It wasn’t a completely clear night. The light pollution illuminating the clouds doesn’t make it any easier.
Ever since the departure of Orion and Andromeda, I’ve been searching for a new target. The other night, I spotted Antares, the red supergiant, in the constellation Scorpius. I knew that Rho Ophiuchi was near Antares, but I didn’t bring a star chart and I was in an area with a poor cell signal. It was only after processing the Antares photos that I discovered that Rho Ophiuchi is in the same area.
During the second attempt, I waited for the rise of Antares. On the back of the camera, I could see the pentagon in Live View. Including the star above and below the pentagon ensured that I was not cutting off the image.
The classic view of Stanford University is from Palm Drive. From this behind-the-scenes angle, you can see the Stanford campus from a different perspective. The iconic Hoover Tower stands out and above all the surrounding buildings. The back of Memorial Church is also visible. Just follow Palm Drive, which is the vertical line on the left, down to the Quad. The Stanford Dish is not visible, but you can find the illuminated smaller dish.
Usually, I am looking for a galaxy or nebula near a bright star. However, the Virgo Cluster had no bright stars in that section of the sky for reference. I had to guess at the location since the back of the camera in Live View mode was pitch black.
The bright galaxies are M 86 and M84 in the center from left to right. Below that is M 87 or the Virgo Galaxy. To its left is M 88. M 99 is also visible and appears at the top of the image just right of center. Also known as the Coma Pinwheel or Virgo Cluster Pinwheel, it looks somewhat like a comma since one spiral is further out than the others.
The Whirlpool Galaxy (Messier 51) is pretty easy to locate. I targeted Mizar and Alkaid, the last two stars in handle of the Big Dipper, with a TPO UltraWide 180 f/4.5 lens and M 51 appears comfortably within the frame. I tracked with a MoveShootMove rotator. Stacked 30 frames at f/4.5, 25s and ISO 1600 in Sequator and edited in stacked image in Photoshop and Luminar.
The Pleiades. Did not realize that the positions of the constellations changed with the seasons. When I first started, The Pleiades was higher in the sky and, for me, in the direction furthest away from light pollution. Last night, the skies were clear with a late moonrise. However, The Pleiades was closer to the horizon and edging in the direction towards the city lights. Glad I got this one.
I tested the TPO UltraWide 180 f/4.5 astrophotography lens on a nighttime cityscape of San Francisco. From this vantage point, I was able to capture many of the major landmarks including Sutro Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge, Downtown San Francisco and the Bay Bridge.
Headed out to a Bortle 4 location for my first serious attempt at Andromeda Galaxy. The skies were supposed to be clear, but there were clouds passing through during the imaging sequence. I wasn’t sure how well the final image would come out since the moon created quite a bit of light pollution. That 72% waxing gibbous moon was illuminating the sky from overhead. I couldn’t even see the fainter stars in Orion that are usually visible in that location.
Overall, I’m quite satisfied with the final result. I used an 85mm lens because I only knew the general location of the Andromeda Galaxy. The unintentional bonus was the Triangulum Galaxy anchoring the other side of the image. I stacked 100 images at f/2.8 15s and ISO 400 in Sequator and edited in Photoshop with some help from Luminar and NIK.
I wanted to get another photo of the full moon rising over Lick Observatory. I adjusted my location based on my experience during the previous full moon. Unfortunately, the moon rose further north than last month. I guess that approximately is not good enough. Need to be more careful with the calculations next time.