All posts filed under: Nightsky

Milky Way and Zodiacal Light

The band of the Milky Way stretches nicely across this pre-dawn fisheye view. The noticeable round dot in the Milky Way is the bright planet Jupiter. The light pillar extending from the horizon toward the Milky Way is the zodiacal light. And what appears to be a smudge on the bottom right hand of the image, is in fact the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), an irregular dwarf galaxy that can be seen with the naked eye under dark skies in the Southern Hemisphere.

Morning Planets

Another morning meant another opportunity to catch the lovely show of the planets. As the moon was quite literally out of the picture, the rather faint glow of the zodiacal light was visible. The zodiacal light is a pillar of light that is visible in the east just before sunrise during fall in the Southern Hemisphere. A few minutes later dawn set in, and Mercury became visible above the mountains.

Planet Show

These days the early bird not only catches the worm, but a lovely show of the planets, as they parade along the ecliptic (the apparent path that the sun, moon and planets follow in the Earth’s sky). The next two days the waning crescent moon will cuddle up with Venus and Mercury respectively before doing its disappearing act on new moon. Please be aware that this image was taken in the Southern Hemisphere, where the ecliptic is much steeper at this time of year, which means that the planets Venus and Mercury are higher in the sky and can therefore be more easily spotted.

Jewels of the Southern Sky

This beautiful nightscape above the derelict church of Serón features many of the well-known objects of the southern sky:  the bright stars Alpha and Beta Centauri, the Southern Cross, the Coalsack Nebula, the Magellanic Clouds as well as the globular clusters Omega Centauri and 47 TUC.

Mars and friends

Currently Mars is shining brightly in one of the most intriguing parts of the Milky Way. The picture shows Mars (the orange dot in the left hand corner) along with the Lagoon Nebula ( red cloud below Mars), the Trifid Nebula (small red-blue dot to the right of the Lagoon Nebula), the Omega Nebula (red dot to the far right) and the Eagle Nebula (in the lower right corner).  Also visible are a number of star clusters, the most prominent of which is the globular cluster M22 (the bright white dot at the upper edge of the image).

Scorpius and the planets

Scorpius and the planets Mars (brightest dot in the upper left hand corner) and Saturn (bright white dot almost straight below Mars) one day after full moon. The image was taken with a special diffuser filter to highlight the colors of the stars and planets.

Wide-field view

Finally El Niño gave us a break and we had a spectacular clear night, which I used for some wide-field images of the Milky Way. The bright red dot above the Milky Way is the planet Mars, the fainter red dot below it is Antares (the main star of the constellation Scorpius), and the brighter dot to the left of Antares is the planet Saturn. The images were taken with my camera sitting “piggyback” on a  telescope with motorized tracking.

Nightsky observer

Enjoying the beauty of the nightsky in the Salt Cordillera in the area of San Pedro de Atacama. The band of the Milky Way stretches from Alpha Centauri (left) to Orion (right), with the Large Magellanic Cloud featuring prominently close to the center (the fuzzy spot below the Milky Way).

Polloquere hot springs

The Polloquere hot springs are located at 4318 meters in the Salar de Surire in northern Chile (Parinacota region). This is a very remote area that can only be reached by offroad vehicles on rather precarious roads (don’t forget to bring extra gas and lots of water). The thermal water is moderately to very hot, and thus perfect to warm up in cold temperatures. During our stay at the hot springs we had a full moon. Although this is not ideal for astro photography, it nevertheless illuminated the landscape nicely and gave the sky an appealing blue tint. Rise of the full moon.   The two brightest stars of the nightsky, Sirius (right) and Canopus (left) are setting.   The Big Dipper, but on its head.   Great campsite with lots of parking available.   Frozen windows in the morning.   Moon setting.   Sun rising.   The moon is setting behing the ridge on the right, while the first rays of the sun illuminate the mountain on the left.   Lovely morning scenery.

Morning Parade

For the first time since 2005 all five visible (naked-eye) planets could be seen at once in the morning sky. Since the mountain ridges around the Hacienda made it rather difficult to capture all five planets at once, I searched for a different spot, and finally got lucky in a high-mountain valley that provided the perfect view towards the east. Click on image to enlarge. A lovely pair: Venus and Mercury in the morning sky (10 sec. exposure).

Heavenly conjunction

On the morning of November 7, 2015, the waning crescent moon formed a splendid triangle together with brillant Venus (lower right) and the much fainter red Mars (to the left). I took the picture in the wake of a 6.8 earthquake that had hit our region just an hour earlier, and send us all running out of the house. Luckily no damage was done.

Morning Sky

A magnificent spectacle as the waning moon joins the early-morning planet round-up.  Jupiter can be found directly below the moon and brillant Venus shines in the lower right-hand corner. Much fainter is the planet Mars, the tiny spot just left of Venus. *A close-up of the heavenly conjunction.

Supermoon Eclipse

On the evening of September 27, 2015, we were lucky to witness the eclipse of a Supermoon. A full moon is referred to as a Supermoon when it is closest to the Earth and therefore is a tiny bit larger and brighter than a regular full moon. Lunar eclipses of Supermoons are relatively rare. The last one took place in 1982 and the next one will be in 2033. Here in Oregon (USA) we missed the first part of the eclipse (first and second contact) as the moon was still below the horizon. However, we got treated to a nice total phase, which began at the horizon and gradually made its way up. [Just click on the pictures below for a larger image.] Our location with an unobstructed view of Mount Hood, Oregon’s highest mountain (3429 m).   It was a beautiful location, but – we were not alone. In fact, we were joined by dozens of fellow lunar enthusiasts. Ready for action. Shortly before moonrise. There is a bit of haze at the horizon, making …

Dee Wright Observatory

Daybreak at the Dee Wright Observatory, an observation structure built of lava rock, at the summit of the McKenzie Pass (1623 m) in Oregon. * The waning crescent moon and Venus pairing up at dawn. *  The Belt of Venus and Earth’s shadow.