Since arriving back in Tucson, I’ve been spending a large amount of time on Kitt Peak and have had ample time to practice deep-sky imaging. This blogpost will mostly contain images from the past few months, and in due time I will segue them into the existing Kitt Peak National Observatory blogpost.
Several weeks ago I used our new Levine 16″ telescope for some deep-sky imaging. Normally, DSLR cameras are attached to the side refractor and a CCD camera may be attached to the telescope prime focus for guiding. This allows the photographer to take longer exposures without the stars elongating. My coworker and I instead attached the DSLR directly to the 16″ telescope, and guided through the 5″ refractor. This has the disadvantage of a smaller field-of-view and a lower light gathering capability. However, we captured some beautiful images more quickly than we would have with a CCD camera.
The above two images were taken with a Canon 60Da (modified DSLR, for astrophotography purposes). They are a combination of six 3-minute exposures taken at ISO 1600. They were processed in Maxim DL, CCDStack and Photoshop.
On April 14, three of us imaged the total lunar eclipse through the Levine’s 5″ refractor. Our original intent was to create a movie, but this will be difficult because we did not change the exposures quickly enough. I was able to salvage the night’s work and process 8 of the images to create a composite of the sequence. This is currently being featured on the National Observatory’s Kitt Peak homepage (keep in mind the image at this link will eventually change, but it is current as of May 2014).
Finally, on April 21, I got the “dead-bodies” tour of the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope – all of the nooks and crannies that are never seen. I even got to go all the way to the tippity-top! In case you haven’t seen the original Kitt Peak blogpost, an image of the solar telescope is shown below.
The McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope is currently the largest in the world, soon to be replaced by the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope. It is sensitive enough to be used for nighttime observations in addition to the daytime observations of the Sun. When I visited, the astronomers were studying the moon. Other astronomers study Mercury, Venus, the moons of Jupiter and bright binary systems of stars.
The following deep images were taken without a tripod; an improvised tripod was created with a tube of chapstick, so not the ideal method for stable images. However, they don’t look too bad. Hopefully I can visit again in May with a real tripod.
That’s all for now – I have about two more months until departing Tucson for good, so hopefully I’ll manage to check a few more things off my list. More updates to come soon!