Beginning Astrophotography: Milky Way on 14 July 2018

Milky Way core, photographed at 22:58 on the night of 14 July 18 with my Sony α6300 using a Zeiss Touit 32mm lens stopped to 𝑓/1.8 and exposed for 8 seconds at 3200 ISO.
Milky Way core, photographed at 22:58 on the night of 14 July 18 with my Sony α6300 using a Zeiss Touit 32mm lens stopped to 𝑓/1.8 and exposed for 8 seconds at 3200 ISO.

On the night of the 14th, I got to take my camera out to a friend’s farm—the same one I visited last year—and try more photos of the Milky Way. None of them came out particularly special, but I thought I’d share a few here in one place.

My favorite of the evening might’ve been while I was waiting for dusk, watching the last rays of the sun over the countryside.

Sunset seen over the Oregon farmland, photographed at 20:37 on the evening of 14 July 18 with my Sony α6300 using a Zeiss Touit 32mm lens stopped to 𝑓/8 and exposed for 1/160 seconds at 400 ISO.
Sunset seen over the Oregon farmland, photographed at 20:37 on the evening of 14 July 18 with my Sony α6300 using a Zeiss Touit 32mm lens stopped to 𝑓/8 and exposed for 1/160 seconds at 400 ISO.

I ended up using my Zeiss Touit lens more than usual this time. It has considerable aberrations and some vignetting, as I’ve pointed out in the past, but its longer focal length let me frame the core of the Milky Way more tightly. It’s a 32mm lens, meaning that on my camera’s APS-C sensor, it is the equivalent of a 48mm lens on a full frame sensor. It’s ideal for things like portraiture, not really for landscapes or astrophotography, but I wanted to give it a try.

I took several photos dead into the Milky Way core with it. I haven’t yet reached the point where I’m taking longer exposures to combine them for more detail. I’ve been instead experimenting with seeing how much detail I can get from individual photos using different settings.

The photo I pushed the most used an ISO of 3200.

Core of the Milky Way, photographed at 22:55 on the night of 14 July 18 with my Sony α6300 using a Zeiss Touit 32mm lens stopped to 𝑓/1.8 and exposed for 8 seconds at 3200 ISO.
Milky Way core, photographed at 22:55 on the night of 14 July 18 with my Sony α6300 using a Zeiss Touit 32mm lens stopped to 𝑓/1.8 and exposed for 8 seconds at 3200 ISO.

A lot of the brightness comes from aggressive processing after the fact, though. With another photo from the set, taken with identical settings and nearly identical framing, I used more subdued processing.

Milky Way core, photographed at 22:58 on the night of 14 July 18 with my Sony α6300 using a Zeiss Touit 32mm lens stopped to 𝑓/1.8 and exposed for 8 seconds at 3200 ISO.
Milky Way core, photographed at 22:58 on the night of 14 July 18 with my Sony α6300 using a Zeiss Touit 32mm lens stopped to 𝑓/1.8 and exposed for 8 seconds at 3200 ISO.

I also turned the camera up to the zenith to catch Vega, Lyra, some of Cygnus, and a bit of the North American Nebula.

Zenith, including constellation Lyra and North American Nebula, photographed at 23:19 on the night of 14 July 18 with my Sony α6300 using a Zeiss Touit 32mm lens stopped to 𝑓/1.8 and exposed for 13 seconds at 1600 ISO.
Zenith, including constellation Lyra and North American Nebula, photographed at 23:19 on the night of 14 July 18 with my Sony α6300 using a Zeiss Touit 32mm lens stopped to 𝑓/1.8 and exposed for 13 seconds at 1600 ISO.

By the time I got out the lens I normally use for night sky wide-field photos, the Rokinon, a few clouds had drifted into view and began to spoil the shots in the direction of the core. So I got nothing so wonderful as last year, but still some nice and expansive shots. My friend suggested portrait aspect, and I definitely got the most out of that.

Milky Way core partially obscured by foreground clouds, photographed at 00:20 on the morning of 15 July 18 with my Sony α6300 using a Rokinon 12mm lens stopped to 𝑓/2.2 and exposed for 20 seconds at 2500 ISO.
Milky Way core partially obscured by foreground clouds, photographed at 00:20 on the morning of 15 July 18 with my Sony α6300 using a Rokinon 12mm lens stopped to 𝑓/2.2 and exposed for 20 seconds at 2500 ISO.

I took photos facing both toward and away from the center of the galaxy, though the latter required some additional processing to reduce the distorted colors from light pollution. There’s a small glimpse of the Andromeda Galaxy as a small blur in the lower right, but not much definition is there—I’d need a zoom lens and many exposures to get more.

View looking toward trailing end of Milky Way, with Andromeda Galaxy and Cassiopeia, photographed at 00:25 on the morning of 15 July 18 with my Sony α6300 using a Rokinon 12mm lens stopped to 𝑓/2.2 and exposed for 15 seconds at 3200 ISO.
View looking toward trailing end of Milky Way, with Andromeda Galaxy and Cassiopeia, photographed at 00:25 on the morning of 15 July 18 with my Sony α6300 using a Rokinon 12mm lens stopped to 𝑓/2.2 and exposed for 15 seconds at 3200 ISO.

Beginning Astrophotography: Deep Sky

I’ve spent so long looking at Jupiter in my backyard that I finally decided I wanted to see if I could spot anything outside of our solar system. Light pollution sorely inhibited my efforts, but I managed to capture a few things! I’ll keep this post short and just share two representative photos I took.

Each photo has a small bit of blur in the direction of about eleven o’clock. This might have been due to a slight jostle that happened as I lifted my finger from the camera shutter. However, I’ve realized this blur could also have been due to collimation error.

Ring Nebula

The Ring Nebula
The Ring Nebula photographed on the night of 20 May 2017 at 23:10 PDT

One of the best things I saw last night was the Ring Nebula. It was one of only two nebulae that I was able to get any sort of decent view of, given the light pollution. It’s a planetary nebula, and it subtends a disc roughly the same size as a planet like Jupiter. It, like all the rest of the photos in this post, were taken by my usual setup, with my telescope stopped down to f/6 by a reducer (which makes everything seem smaller and brighter). No physical filters were applied (meaning, nothing to block out light pollution). It’s been edited lightly to remove the light pollution haze and bring out the color and contrast.

Seen with my actual eye, it looked largely like this photo, but the color was more difficult to make out. It looked ghostly and pale, like a puff of vapor. Color was a little easier to see if I looked just off to the side of it.

Hercules Globular Cluster

Hercules Globular Cluster photographed on the night of 20 May 2017 at 23:01 PDT
Hercules Globular Cluster photographed on the night of 20 May 2017 at 23:01 PDT

I didn’t expect a globular cluster to be any interesting to look at. Most of the targets of opportunity from my backyard were globular clusters, though, and I looked at a few. I looked at the Hercules Globular Cluster (Messier 13) first. It was like a diffuse scattering of dew drops spread on the petals of a flower too dark to see. Each of the individual stars were a bit difficult to see individually. But it photographed decently well.

I saw, and photographed, a couple of others, but their photos were not entirely as impressive, and I failed to note which was which, so I could not properly identify them for this post.

Filters

Future photos I plan to take will use either a narrowband O-III filter or a broadband UHC/LPR filter. The former permits a specific sort of light to pass through, while the latter tries to filter out particularly problematic types of light. Either should help both with photography and viewing. So hopefully the next few photos will be improved! I’ve learned a lot already.