Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Photographing the Constellations

I have always wanted to take respectable photos of the night sky, but because I never had the appropriate equipment, I was never able to succeed. But it was not without trying. I would turn off the flash on my camera and the shutter would open for a fraction of a second longer than a normal photo. I could get passable photos of bright planets while there was still some sunset colors in the sky. What I really needed was to mount an SLR camera on a tripod and be able to  leave the shutter open for seconds at a time. Last night, I finally succeeded.

This picture of the Big Dipper makes the double star of Mizar and Alcor in the handle easy to see. When I look at this photo on my computer and zoom in, I can star hop to where M101 would be, although it does not show up in my picture. But it will definitely help me find my way to it the next time I have my telescope out.

Auriga is not a very easy constellation to spot, but this picture makes it simple. The orangish star is Capella, which nearly sparkles like a firework in real life. The other stars around it that make up the constellation Auriga form nearly a J shape.

At center in the following photograph is the bright star Vega, which appears nearly overhead in the summertime. Vega is in the constellation of Lyra the Lyre. Lyra can be seen as the parallelogram below Vega.

Below, Saturn is right next to the star Porrima in Virgo. The brightest star in Virgo, Spica, is to the lower left.

Next is Leo the Lion. The lion is tipped as if he is heading downward at an angle. His body is the triangle on the left and his head is the backward question mark on the right.

Lastly is Gemini the Twins and Canis Minor. The twin stars include Pollux, the orangish star on the top left, and Castor, the bluish star on the top right. You can trace their stick bodies below. At the bottom left of the photograph is Canis Minor, the Lesser Dog, with the bright star Procyon and a dimmer star named Gomeisa.

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