Besides it actually being very chilly (it was freezing), the evening of January the 21st got most of its coolness from the awesome astrophotos it allowed me to take. Starting with the first time I saw Venus. Venus is always closely to the Sun in our sky so it’s only visible on clear evenings or very early mornings, depending on the season. The photo I took of Venus turned out really cool as it also shows a beautiful moon and Mars just in the top left.
Moon, Venus and Mars, low in the evening sky
A little later, around 7.30, I used my camera to take another wide field photo of comet Lovejoy near the Pleiades.
Wide field image of comet Lovejoy
As clouds were coming close quickly, I decided to save time by using only a telescope and camera with build-in display. Despite a very fast mount alignment, the tracking system worked really well and I could take exposures of ~25 seconds without trailing. A close-up of comet Lovejoy with a telescope shows a more pronounced tail. This image is a stack of 4 25 second frames at ISO6400.
Telescopic image of comet Lovejoy
After taking the comet Lovejoy images, I aimed my telescope towards Andromeda and took a bunch of 25 second shots at ISO6400. Not knowing what to expect, I was really surprised by the result. A stack of 8 25 second images resulted in the following image:
M31: The Andromeda galaxy
Now that I know that I can capture quite some detail of Andromeda with moderate seeing conditions, I am really curious to see what I can achieve with good skies and more time to setup the telescope and take dark, flat and bias frames.
Last Wednesday, when the thickest of clouds momentarily (30 minutes!) made way, I took my chance and photographed comet Lovejoy with a bare DSLR and zoomlens. Sadly, by the time I would have finished setting up a telescope, clouds would have been back, making the skies look like a white/orange blanket again. Maybe someday I will have the opportunity to make a high detail photo of the comet and its tail of dust, but for now I’m really happy that I was able to take this picture of it.
A quick shot of comet Lovejoy with zoomlens at 30mm and ISO 6400
The image shows a rather wide star field just above and to the right of the Orion constellation. The constellation in this photo is called Taurus and is recognizable by the distinct V-formation of the brightest stars (here oriented as > ). Apart form the bright orange star (Aldebaran), all the stars that make up the V are part of the Hyades cluster and were “born” around the same time. The little bunch of stars in the top are the Pleiades or M45, which I have shown you before in greater detail.
But what the photo really is about, is the bright green-ish comet Lovejoy in the right of the image. Very faintly, a hint of the tail is visible on the left of the comets nucleus. This tail consists mainly of ionized carbonmonoxide and is over 5 million kilometers long. The green color of the nucleus itself comes from diatomic carbon that reflects the sunlight.
Given that I took this picture on a very windy evening, with my camera on a not-so-sturdy mount that was hanging on my window frame, I was quite surprised with this decent result. 🙂