Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader Don McCrady sent some astronomy pictures; his notes are indented:

I’ve been collecting some astrophotos this summer, and even an astro-video.  To start with, here’s a couple of recent images taken with my astro-rig.

This is the Iris Nebula, part of a vast complex of dust in the constellation of Cepheus.  The central portion shines with the bright blue reflection of the star SAO 19158, the rest of the nebula fading to a dim brown.  This image represents a total of 7 hours of exposure through separate red, green, and blue filters.

Here we have Sharpless 2-132, a very faint nebula in Cepheus, interesting because of the uneven distribution of gases which is evident by the clean separation of colours.  The blue areas are rich in Oxygen-III, while the red areas are rich in Hydrogen-alpha.  This was taken through Hydrogen-alpha and Oxygen-III filters for a total of 8 hours exposure.

For something a bit different, I’ve been experimenting with wide-field astrophotography, which is quite different from the pure technical telescope stuff.  These were all taken with an unmodified Canon 6D and tracked using a Vixen Polarie.

Here is a wide-shot of the Milky way stretching from Cygnus on the left to Sagittarius on the right, taken with a 16mm lens.  It’s difficult to find the bright constellation stars with all the smaller ones that pop out in a long exposure, but the Summer Triangle (Vega, Altair, Deneb) is clearly encompassed in this shot.

Here, Sagittarius and the center of the Milky Way rise above the mountains east of Rattlesnake Lake, Washington.  Several prominent objects are visible around the most prominent object in the center, the M24 star cloud.  Below it and to the right are the Lagoon Nebula and the Trifid Nebula.  Almost directly above M24 are the Swan Nebula and the Eagle Nebula.

The familiar teapot-shaped constellation of Sagittarius will never fully rise above the mountains.

Scorpius rises over the mountains near Rattlesnake Lake, WA.  Rho Ophiuchus and its colourful nebula complex are visible, as is the faint smear of globular cluster M4 right beside Antares, and the vast molecular clouds of the Sagittarius Milky Way are on the left edge of the image.

Finally, here’s a timelapse video consisting of 312 individual images of the Milky Way over Rattlesnake Lake.

I (mis)used the Vixen Polarie (lying flat, not polar aligned) to slowly rotate the camera from east to south at 1/2 the sidereal rate in order to give the timelapse some foreground motion.  I obviously didn’t level it since the end shot ended up crooked.  You can see that at some point while I slept, somebody blithely walked into my shot, totally oblivious with his lights.

Turn the sound on to hear “Lost Frontier”.


  1. Debbie Coplan
    Posted July 24, 2017 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Just beautiful and thrilling photos!

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted July 24, 2017 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    I try to imagine the thrill of getting these results – there’s something about it – the Internet has tons of pictures like this, but when you DIY, there’s no comparison. The wealth of technology available to us now, compared to Galileo’s time …Hard to pinpoint what it is about this – well done? Obviously. Tedious and time consuming, and maybe cold? I bet. Wish I did it? More like it.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted July 24, 2017 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      … and when I see NASA photos like this, say with the Hubble or some massive telescope- I KNOW I’d NEVER do it myself… it probably takes a while team to do it after all…

  3. Posted July 24, 2017 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Love the video which reveals the earth’s rotation so nicely.

  4. W.Benson
    Posted July 24, 2017 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Beautiful photos. Anyone out there? Will we ever know?

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted July 24, 2017 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      @W. Benson

      Yes, reason would say there’s life out there. But is there “anyone”? I think we’ll never meet anything we would describe as having personhood – only the equivalent of microbes.

      The picture of the Lion Nebula [Oxygen-III / Hydrogen-alpha] – reminded me of this interesting piece today on the amount of booze in space [in the interstellar medium]:

      In the article I was struck by the density of molecules in a typical molecular cloud – in cold, dense regions it’s as much as around 10^11 molecules per m^3 [compared with 10^25 for our lower atmosphere], but still a very respectable vacuum. That ‘vacuum’ might be quite an impediment to gadding about in space at high speeds unless one is inside a substantial rock.

      Finding life with personhood within hailing distance & going to visit in a reasonably quick travel time [less than say 500 years] – probably isn’t going to happen.

  5. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted July 24, 2017 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    These are very, very beautiful, and every time I watch time-lapse videos of the earth slowly spinning it blows me away, but I can never really comprehend what I’m seeing.

    I really try, every time I watch a video like this, to get my brain to recognise what is happening; that the earth is turning in a huge almost empty room(very inexact comparison I know), and those stars are the dust hanging in the air, and even using a partial analogy, I still can’t get my head around it. It’s like trying to imagine a fourth dimension or picture particle spin. I guess we didn’t evolve to be capable of taking in this kind of stuff. Maybe one day we’ll be able to reconfigure our brains to be able to do so, but then we’d be taking away the awe and slight tinge of fear that comes from hitting our heads against the wall of comprehension.

    • Posted July 24, 2017 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      Yes, it is a bit startling. If you look on You Tube for time-lapse movies of the moon going through its monthly phases, you will see that it is hardly static. Although it shows the same side to us, actually it wobbles as it orbits the earth. It is pretty unnerving.

      • rickflick
        Posted July 24, 2017 at 9:29 am | Permalink

        Here’s a link for the moon timelapse. Yes the wobbles are disconcerting and quite lovely.

        • Posted July 24, 2017 at 9:59 am | Permalink

          That is a link to Brian Eno…

          • rickflick
            Posted July 24, 2017 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

            Yes, strange. The address line seems messed up.

            You can find it by just searching:

            The Moon: an hour-by-hour Time Lapse Visualization for a Full Year!

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted July 24, 2017 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

            • rickflick
              Posted July 24, 2017 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

              Thanks. That works.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted July 24, 2017 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

        It’s called ‘libration’ isn’t it? Like a little shake of the hips.

        And it doesn’t show us its other side, which is ideal for the concealment of Nazi moon-bases and inspiring incredibly overrated albums.

  6. darrelle
    Posted July 24, 2017 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Phenomenal! A lot of time invested in these photos. The time lapse is especially beautiful. Rattlesnake Lake looks like gorgeous country.

  7. Posted July 24, 2017 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Highly interesting! Are you going to observe the approaching solar eclipse? I am a bit too far north to see totality.

    • Don McCrady
      Posted July 24, 2017 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      Yes I have my plans made to see the eclipse in eastern Oregon.

  8. rickflick
    Posted July 24, 2017 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Thanks for this look to the “heavens”. The wide views are breathtaking in their expanse. I live near some city lights and among trees so I rarely have much of a view.

  9. Steve Adams
    Posted July 24, 2017 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the images. They are quite beautiful. Well done!

  10. Diana MacPherson
    Posted July 24, 2017 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Nice images and equipment. An apochromatic refractor is a fantasy astrophotography unit to me. I currently have an 8: SCT with a Losmandy GM-8 mount that I attach my SLR to the back of but I’ve been terribly negligent in using it, partially because of weather conditions & partially because I’m tired at night.

  11. Heather Hastie
    Posted July 24, 2017 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful pics, and I especially love the time lapse.

  12. claudia baker
    Posted July 24, 2017 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Incredible, breath-taking, a bit scary. Love this.

  13. ploubere
    Posted July 24, 2017 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Great work. I love astronomy photos.

  14. Mark R.
    Posted July 24, 2017 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    It is well and good to be made very very small. Thanks for the brain health. I am something, but ultimately, I am nothing. And there is nothing wrong with that.

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