Wheatbelt Astrophotography Fun

It’s not often these days that I manage a break under dark skies for astrophotography. Combination of work, volunteering at the Perth Observatory and my astrophotography small business persuits leaves little time! On the weekend of 23, 24 and 25th January I did return to a favourite wheatbelt stomping ground of mine. Here’s some photo’s from the weekend under the stars.

Wheatbelt Sunset on the 23rd January 2015. A typical sunset scene over the flat wheatbelt with the crescent moon and Venus both visible along with a lone silhouetted tree.

Wheatbelt Sunset on the 23rd January 2015. A typical sunset scene over the flat wheatbelt with the crescent moon and Venus both visible along with a lone silhouetted tree.

The first night was quite clear, although with mixed atmospheric conditions including some light cloud. Sunset was typical for the whetabelt – clear and golden with hue’s of blue high in the sky. This makes for beautiful silhouette photography. The crescent moon was stunning, watching it set low on the west horizon later in the evening was a highlight.

Eta Carina, Southern Cross, Coalsack and Pointers with nice variation in sky colour due to the atmospheric conditions on the night. Green skygow is visible above the brown "murk" affecting the area near the horizon. The Eta Carina nebula is showing nicely bright and pink in the upper left.

Eta Carina, Southern Cross, Coalsack and Pointers with nice variation in sky colour due to the atmospheric conditions on the night. Green skygow is visible above the brown “murk” affecting the area near the horizon. The Eta Carina nebula is showing nicely bright and pink in the upper left.

The constellation of Orion high in the northern sky with the Milky Way extending down to the horizon on the right, Pleiades below, and if you squint hard enough a hint of Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy low on the left in the "murk".

The constellation of Orion high in the northern sky with the Milky Way extending down to the horizon on the right, Pleiades below, and if you squint hard enough a hint of Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy low on the left in the “murk” (it looks much like a star, it’s tail hidden by the poor atmospheric conditions that low to the horizon).

A simple and typical but nice sunset panoramic over the wheatbelt.

A simple and typical but nice sunset panoramic over the wheatbelt.

The second night was partly cloudy, as the above sunset photograph shows. This is not all bad for astronomy, the clouds passing in front of background stars and Milky Way can make for great wide-field photographs and timelapse sequences. On this particular night the wind also kicked up at about 11pm which made the conditions unpleasant enough to call it a night at that stage. Plenty of good astrophoto’s captured in the first few hours though.

A very picturesque representation of clouds flying overhead, lit by the thin crescent moon and fading twilight. Sitting back listening to some favourite music while watching the twilight end.

A very picturesque representation of clouds flying overhead, lit by the thin crescent moon and fading twilight. Sitting back listening to some favourite music while watching the twilight end. It’s hard to beat.

The most striking thing about this photograph is the green sky, caused by an astmospheric effect these days referred to as "skyglow". The photo features Jupiter and the open cluster known as the Beehive Cluster, which is in the constellation of Cancer.

The most striking thing about this photograph is the green sky, caused by an astmospheric effect these days referred to as “skyglow”. The photo features Jupiter and the open cluster known as the Beehive Cluster, which is in the constellation of Cancer.

Constellation of Orion with Comet Lovejoy

The constellation of Orion with the comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy).

The constellation of Orion with the comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy).

The christmas comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) is joined here in this photograph with the easily recognised constellation of Orion. Shown in the orientation as viewed in the Southern Hemisphere,the constellation of Orion appears as we often call it as “the saucepan”, up-side-down if considering it to be Orion the hunter.

In the constellation of Orion within the photograph you can see:

  • Barnard’s Loop – the faint pink/red nebulosity surrounding Orion to the right in an arc.
  • The Flame Nebula, near the 3rd bright star making up the belt of Orion (or the base of the saucepan if in the southern hemisphere!).
  • A hint of the pink which contains the Horsehead Nebula just above the Flame Nebula.
  • The Great Orion Nebula, in the sward of Orion (or the handle of the saucepan if in the southern hemisphere!)
  • The bright blue-white star Rigel to the top-left of Orion.
  • Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) above Orion with it’s beautiful blue-green colour.

Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) continues to shine

Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) without stars.

Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) without stars.

Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) with stars.

Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) with stars.

The bright Christmas comet of 2014 continues to shine beautifully high in the night sky. Now moving north and located directly south of the constellation of Orion (about 20 degrees south of Orion) the comet is sporting a beautiful tail. The comet is visible to the naked eye under dark skies, but this is not the case from my outer suburban location where it shows nicely visually in a telescope but not naked eye.

Comet C/2014 Q2 was discovered by Australian amateur astronomer and comet hunter Terry Lovejoy.

Photographs of Comet C/2014 Q2 can be purchased from me as prints, canvas or digital media for approved use. Contact me for more information.

Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy)

Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) on the 20th December 2014

Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) on the 20th December 2014

Comet-C2014-Q2-(Lovejoy)---comet-align-median-DBE

The intrepid Aussie comet hunter, Terry Lovejoy has done it again by finding another spectacular comet. His C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy) comet turned in to an amazing naked eye comet in 2012, will this one do similar? At the moment Q2 is only showing a hairline tail visible in photographs even though it’s nucleus is very bright.

The image above is a photograph I took of comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) on the 17th December 2014. It’s a colour image from my 6D DSLR, a series of 10 exposures each 3 minutes in length at 2500ISO.

The new comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) is currently naked eye visible, at about magnitude 5.9. It is currently located almost directly between the bright stars Sirius and Canopus, putting it in a perfect position for viewing and photography throughout the night (in the southern hemisphere at least). The below image shows where you can find it on the 17th December 2014 at 9:30pm AWST:

Comet-C2014-Q2-(Lovejoy)---finder-2014-12-17

Seconds and Specials (limited time only)

I have uploaded some photographs of once off, prototype and seconds prints which have been collecting dust in my office. Browse the collection and grab yourself a $5 or $10 bargain.

Click here to hunt a bargain and find your astro print

Most prints $5. Postage additional.

specials-contact-sheet

2015 Astronomy Calendar now available!

2015 Astronomy Calendar - Back Cover

2015 Astronomy Calendar – Back Cover

Plan your astrophotography and viewing year of 2015 with this useful calendar packed full of astronomical information – upcoming events, great pictures, and more. More Info

An Epic View of the Moon Setting

RG_IMG_201410_8924-Crescent-Moon-Setting---Devils-Horns---by-Roger-Groom

An epic view of the Moon setting. Click to view large.

A couple of weeks ago I took off after work one Monday afternoon, drove two hours inland to dark skies and did a bunch of astrophotography. I camped the night and drove two hours back to work in the morning. It was an amazing night, but the highlight was definitely this absolutely amazing view of the moon setting on a perfectly flat western horizon!

I do not recall such an amazing view of the moon. The bright crescent moon descended towards the completely unobstructed flat western horizon. As it neared the horizon the brightness started to fade as bands of thin cloud passed in front. Very near the horizon the moon (by this stage appearing more like a totally eclipsed blood red moon) appeared to hang over the western horizon, oh so very slowly lowering as it dipped to the horizon. The view I was seeing of the Moon was clearly refracted over the horizon – distorted and squashed by the effects of refraction. It was amazing just how long the process took – how much the projection of the moon refracted through our atmosphere slowed and how long it hung there. In the end all that was left was the tip of the crescent, appearing almost as though a devils horn sticking up from the horizon.

Simply amazing.

Total Lunar Eclipse from Perth Western Australia

Purchase prints of the total lunar eclipse over Perth CBD skyline here.

Total Lunar Eclipse from Perth Western Australia by Roger Groom. Taken from Kings Park showing the CBD of the City of Perth.

Total Lunar Eclipse from Perth Western Australia by Roger Groom. Taken from Kings Park showing the CBD of the City of Perth.

Total Lunar Eclipse from Perth Western Australia by Roger Groom. Taken from Kings Park showing the Perth BHP Billiton building.

Total Lunar Eclipse from Perth Western Australia by Roger Groom. Taken from Kings Park showing the Perth BHP Billiton building.

Total Lunar Eclipse from Perth Western Australia by Roger Groom. Taken from Kings Park. My first peak at the Moon as it appeared from behind clouds.

Total Lunar Eclipse from Perth Western Australia by Roger Groom. Taken from Kings Park. My first peak at the Moon as it appeared from behind clouds.

RG_IMG_201410_8568-Lunar-Eclipse-by-Roger-GroomTonight was the Total Lunar Eclipse of 8th October 2014. I have just returned from a several week overseas trip and my interest in astrophotography as waned during this time, and over the southern hemisphere winter. However I still made it out to snap a few pics of tonight’s eclipse, from a popular local spot overlooking the city of Perth, Western Australia.

The late twilight colours made for quite a nice setting of the lunar eclipse, as well as the brightness of the foreground light pollution matching the moon quite well.

Purchase prints of the total lunar eclipse over Perth city skyline here.

 

Milky Way Vista

Milky Way Vista (central region of our Milky Way including various nebulas such as the Lagoon Nebula (M8).

Milky Way Vista (central region of our Milky Way including various nebulas such as the Lagoon Nebula (M8).

I have a new lens! The Canon pancake 40mm f/2.8. I purchased the lens for everything except atsrophotography – but of course you know I will try it for astrophotography anyway! As reviews like this one show, the lens is amazingly sharp for general use, even compared to many canon L lenses. However, as I was to find out, the old rule applies – good for landscape doesn’t necessarily mean good for astrophotography! (so often the case). For astrophotography this lens exhibits severe distortion in the corners at f/2.8 and only becomes pinpoint to the edge at f/5.6. This did really surprise me as I’ve been very much enjoying using the lens for every-day photography and landscape photography, with those photographs coming out looking spectacularly sharp. I must get to the bottom of understanding that difference one day.

This photograph is a stack of 3 x 120 second exposures using my Canon 6D at 3200ISO from my suburban backyard (light polluted).

Ocean of Stars

Ocean of Stars - The Milky Way over the Indian Ocean from coastal cliffs.

Ocean of Stars – The Milky Way over the Indian Ocean from coastal cliffs.

At an introduction to nightscape astrophotography workshop I ran for Shoot Photography Workshops this weekend just gone, I was reminded of this photograph which I haven’t published on my website yet. This photograph, “Ocean of Stars” featured in an exhibition at the Perth Town Hall back in December, and was one of several prints to sell during the exhibition. Since then it has slipped to the back of the pile of photo’s, as have many other images from my trips to Kalbarri National Park.

The participants of the workshop particularly liked this image.

This astrophotograph of the Milky Way over the Indian Ocean is particularly large, being over 16,000 pixels wide due to the fact it is comprised of many frames stitched together making the single panoramic image. This makes it a great candidate for large format printing.

The vast Indian Ocean disappears in to the distance beyond the cliffs of Kalbarri National Park, as the brilliant Milky Way and Magellanic Clouds with their millions of stars shine overhead. Island Rock is to the bottom left, and the coastal path meanders along the cliff top to the right.