The Moon, Albireo, M39, M13 and M11

A couple of weeks ago I promised to capture some cool images of double stars, open clusters and globular clusters. Unfortunately, my attempts were seriously hampered by ever returning clouds, but last night I finally had a few hours of clear skies. As always when the moon is visible I captured a nice shot of it:

SIngle exposure of last night's moon

Single exposure of last night’s moon

But by now, we kind of know the moon images right? So I’d like to show you Albireo:

Double star Albireo

Double star Albireo

Albireo is a double star that consists of Ablireo A (Orange) and Alibreo B (Blue-ish). To the naked eye, Albireo is just a single star, but through a telescope Albireo A and B become distuinguishable.

On my to-shoot-list was also the M81 M82 galaxy pair. But by the time it was dark enough to align and focus on polaris, the galaxies were well behind the chimney. Another thing on my list was trying to manually guide my telescope with the shutter open and that also didn’t go very well.

Another image I promised was a telescopic view of the open cluster M39, which I previously imaged with a 80mm lens. While the image may not be the most exciting astrophoto at first sight, M39 surely is interesting. All the brightest stars in the image are blue. No yellow, orange or red giants, which are more common, but just rarer blue stars.

Telescopic view of open cluster M39

Telescopic view of open cluster M39

I also shot my first globular cluster through the telescope. This is M13 (Great cluster in Hercules) which I also imaged before:

M13 globular cluster in Hercules

M13 globular cluster in Hercules

This image is a stack of 30 0.5 second frames and shows a cluster of a large amount of stars. Hundreds more can be seen in longer exposures, which I can’t do since I don’t have a guided mount. The Hercules cluster is the brightest cluster of the northern skies.

At the end of the evening I shot 30 images of the Wild Duck open cluster (Messier 11). It is called the Wild Duck cluster because it somehow resembles a flight of ducks. But to be honest, it doesn’t look like a flight of ducks any more than any other open cluster… Anyway, I like it as the closing picture of this post:

M11 Wild Duck cluster

M11 Wild Duck cluster

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Astrophotography doesn’t require a telescope…

Whoever told you that you need a telescope for astrophotography was wrong. If no one told you such a thing, nevermind. My point is: check out what I photographed under the light polluted skies of the outskirts of Amsterdam, using nothing but a dslr and a tripod:

Spiral galaxies M81 and M82 in Ursa Major

Spiral galaxies M81 and M82 in Ursa Major

This image was from the second night I tried to photograph deep sky objects near Amsterdam. My images from the first night weren’t focussed well enough, so I didn’t really get any good results from that. The second night however, I paid plenty of attention to focussing and the results were singificantly better. I used an old 35-80mm Canon zoom lens at 80mm to image my most distant target ever.

A while ago I mentioned the Andromeda galaxy being very far away right? Well, these galaxies reside at 12 million light years distance from us and 130.000 light years apart. In fact, the galaxies are so close to each other that M81’s gravitational forces are believed to trigger an enormous amount of star formation in M82 by pulling gas clouds into the galaxy’s core. M81 appears as an oval galaxy while our ‘edge on’ view of M82 causes it to appear as a bright bar. Hence its nickname ‘Cigar Galaxy’.

The M39 open cluster in Cygnus

The M39 open cluster in Cygnus

M39 is a group of stars that all originated from the same gas cloud near the Cygnus constellation. You may have noticed that this photo contains way more stars than the first image. This has 2 reasons.

Reason 1: The first image was taken near where the sun had just set, so the sky was much brighter and less stars are brighter than the background glow.

Reason 2: The Cygnus constellation lies within one of the spiral arms of our galaxy and therefore, there simply are more stars to see.

The M13 globular cluster in Hercules

The M13 globular cluster in Hercules

My last image is one of the great cluster in Hercules, which is a globular cluster. Globular clusters are groups of then thousand to a million stars very densely and spherically packed, so that look like fuzzy balls to my camera. On a clear night under dark skies, M13 will appear to your eyes about the same as in this image. When observed through telescopes, globular clusters start to show their distinct stars and look like brilliant clusters of shiny pearls. Open clusters may be even more breathtaking to view through a telescope, as more and more stars just keep appearing the longer you look.

Soon I will try to image some cool double stars, open (or globular) clusters and maybe shoot a good Andromeda image through my telescope. Also, a bunch of cool terrestrial photos is on its way 😉