Bert Verstraete's 8-inch film Astrophotography Page



Galaxies

The Home Galaxy

Looking toward the center of the Milky Way galaxy, facing south in summer, is the Sagittarius region. Behind this image's brightest region, a black hole lurks in the galaxy's core (probably).
Looking along our spiral arm of our galaxy, is the Cygnus arm
Overhead in winter Cassiopeia region

The 'Local Group' of neighborhood galaxies

Central portion of the giant Andromeda Galaxy M31. One of Andromeda's two satellite galaxies appears at the bottom, M32.
The Pinwheel Galaxy M33

Distant galaxies

Spiral galaxy M101
A central portion of the Virgo Cluster
Faint image of distant Galaxies M65 and M66

Within the Milky Way

Nebulae

The large faint North America Nebula NGC 7000
The Rosette Nebula NGC 2237
The Horsehead Nebula IC 434 is an example of a dark nebula.
The constellation Orion containing Barnard's Loop
, the semi-circular area left of Orion's belt.
The Omega (or Swan) Nebula M17
The Trifid Nebula M20

Star Birth

Great nebula of Orion M42, the most famous star birthplace. This January 1999 image also contains the blue NGC 1973-75-77 gas cloud.
The Eagle Nebula M16, another star birth region and site of one of the Hubble telescope's most famous images.
The Lagoon Nebula M8 rivals the Orion Nebula in size and brightness.

Star Clusters

The blue nebula surrounding the Pleiades M45
Chance alignment of 2 star clusters in Gemini M35
The great globular cluster Omega Centauri NGC 5139. These spherical clusters exist in outlying areas of galaxies and contain old stars.

Star Death

Planetary Nebulae
As a sun-size star dies off, it blows off much if its old self, creating a shell of gas surrounding surrounding the star, which becomes a relatively dim white dwarf star. The result is a 'Planetary Nebula'. The name is deceiving, it's not believed to be a place where planets form.
The Owl Nebula M97
The bright M57, the Ring Nebula, among the stars
Another distant planetary nebula, embedded in a star cluster M46
The Helix Nebula, NGC 7293 is very faint in this photo, but the central 13th magnitude white dwarf star is visible.
Supernova Remnants
A supernova which archaeologists say the Chinese and possibly New Mexico's Anasazi natives witnessed and recorded 900-some years ago, known as the Crab Nebula M1
There are other supernova remnants which are fainter, such as the Veil Nebula (not pictured here).

The Solar System

The SUN with 2 sunspot groups, sometime in 1997.
The sun at maximum in 2001. The large spot was responsible for an aurora visible from Southern New Mexico (though I missed it)
The dust of the Zodiacal Light forming a big 'V' with the Milky Way

The Earth's Moon

A first-quarter MOON with some identified features, including the Apollo 11 landing site.
A young MOON with earthshine in the shadow of the sun.
Lunar Eclipse of 9/26/1996
Organ Mountain Moonrise
Moon in near total phase Closeup
Moon's proximity to Saturn during totality
Lunar Eclipse of 1/20/2000
The eclipse of 1/20/2000 was darker, possibly due to less volcanic residue in the Earth's atmosphere.
Partial Solar Eclipse of 10/4/2002
Sunset over Taliholt mountain in the Sierra de las Uvas... This peak was once scouted by mule by Pluto-discoverer Clyde Tombaugh for an observatory site.
Second sunset photo with the mountain partially obscuring the sun.
White solar-filter close-up of maximum (around 70%)
These photos were all taken during an ASLC public observing session at the Mesilla Valley Mall. The sunset pics were taken with an ordinary 200 MM lens unfiltered, focused at infinity before targeting the sun, and care taken not to stare at the sun.

Planets

Mercury
The moon and elusive Mercury set right after the sun. Mercury is a very tiny dot on the right.
The transit of Mercury across the face of the sun on November 15, 1999.
Venus
This bright object has been mistaken for a UFO, whether you reside in the land of UFOs or not. Its just Venus glowing in a New Mexico sunset.
Mars
Every 2 years Mars orbits behind the Earth, and surface features such as ice caps and light and dark areas become more visible. This is a photo from the 1999 opposition.
Jupiter
Jupiter and its 2 main weather bands can be seen in a small telescope. The motion of the moons Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto can be followed within a timespan of hours.
Saturn
Saturn and its rings. The rings change orientation slowly through a 15 year cycle.

Comets

Comet Hyakutake March 96
Comet Hale-Bopp October 96
Nucleus of Hale-Bopp on 2-28-97
The comet menaces the neighborhood
The dust tail shows up white, while the ionic gas tail is blue in this image of Hale-Bopp on 4-5-97 (In memory of James Hannig)
The conjunction of the moon and the comet on May 8, 1997
Images of comet Ikeya-Zhang taken on March 8-9, 2002 at 200 MM and at 1250 MM

Meteors

This is a composite of 3 images of the November 17, 2001 Leonid Meteor Storm.
Six meteors are visible, a couple more are barely visible on the original print.

White Sands Star Party photos

Observing site during WSSP 3 (2001) showing some attendees camping.
The monolith built by Alamogordo astronomy club members (complete with wake-up music!)
2 hour star trail with a foreground yucca in the sand.
4 hour star trail exposure, different plant.
The Pleiades over the night landscape.

Link to WSSP site



The REAL Zodiac

Ever wondered what your sign actually looks like in the sky?
Here's your opportunity to find out.
What's your sign?


Other constellations (Asterisms)

If you dont know what THIS is, ask your kid.
The Northern Cross graces the neighborhood at Christmas

Star Trails

Orion rises over the Organ Mountains
Polaris star trail (earth's rotation causes apparent movement) 1 Hour exposure and a remote site 4 Hour exposure

Notes about these pictures

In general, the deep-space objects are photographed using an 8-inch aperture cassegrain telescope (Celestar) with 2000 or 1250mm focal length, with a clock drive (a motor attached to the telescope) and an off-axis guider (a strange little gizmo which helps track your exact position) to follow the movement of the subject across the sky. Exposure time is generally 30 to 45 minutes at 2000mm (F10), or 15 to 30 minutes at 1250 mm (F6.3), or 30 minutes at 500 mm (F5.6) but that time may vary based on the object's brightness, film speed, etc. For example, the Orion Nebula is relatively bright and the exposure time can be shortened. Some of the telescope objects were significantly enhanced after the picture was scanned into the computer, by using contrast enhancement software mainly to remove the graying or discoloring effect of sky fog on the film.
The wide sky pictures, such as the Milky Way and constellations, are taken by "piggybacking" the camera on top of the telescope with the clock drive running. Generally they are around 10-minute exposures. I used F3.5 on my camera for the Milky Way pictures (28 - 70mm lens) or F2 (50 mm lens).
Planet projection pictures such as Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are difficult, especially with ordinary film, because of the magnification involved and the unsteady atmosphere, and that is why very little detail is visible. Many amateur astronomers use CCDs for photos (similar to what digital cameras use) to try to capture better detail.
Although you may find much better pictures of most of these objects elsewhere on the internet, I decided to go ahead and include just about anything the least bit useful. There are others with larger, more elaborate setups, more advanced developing techniques, etc. But I think all who take these photos would agree that it is a fascinating hobby.
E-Mail questions to verstraete@zianet.com

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For equipment, here are some mail-order outfits with good reputations:

For telescopes and supplies: Orion is good for beginner to intermediate amateurs.
For basic camera supplies: Porter's camera
Browse the Astronomy Mall for more stuff.