Milky Way Photo Shoots take you to interesting Dark Sky locations!

Milky Way at Dead Horse Point State Park
Milky Way at Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah

In case you were in any doubt, the Astro La Vista Observatory Website is a hobby site, not a business site. I left the business world some years ago and am lucky to be able to spend my time not only photographing the night sky from the Astro La Vista Observatory, but also on Milky Way photo shoots in Dark Sky locations.

In general, I will respond to any requests on this website within 24-48 hours, but if a New Moon or other Celestial event is occurring, I am most likely to be found in some wilderness area outside of cell phone or Internet range. In those times I might not get back to you for a week or more. Rest assured I will bag another rare Milky Way shot for your viewing pleasure.

Above is a photo of the Milky Way’s Galactic Center over the Colorado River that your host took on a Photo Shoot at Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah. I spent a Saturday night (New Moon) perched on a pitch black ledge, shielding my tripod from 15-20 mile winds in hundred degree heat with smoke from forest fires all around. With all the wind, I had to stick with short exposures.

I tried a few surface shots, but with all of the wind, there wasn’t much point in using them since they were pretty much as blurry as stacking these tracked shots by themselves. In the interest of living a long life, I exited the ledge after I took five sixty second tracked shots at f2.8 and ISO 3200. The Colorado River can be seen in the distance.

In the images below there is a daylight image of Dead Horse Point’s Colorado “Gooseneck” itself, as well as a Moonrise shot to show the smoke polluted skies. I found it interesting that you could see no light domes of towns or cities from this location. I used PhotoPills to scope out the time, day and location for this image, all I had to do was show up.

Dead Horse Point
Dead Horse Point “Gooseneck”

Smoky Moon Rise at Dead Horse Point State Park


Sometimes I am able to capture the Milky Way closer to home in Prescott, Az. I have been working on becoming more familiar with Milky Way Photography by practicing in the back yard Below is an image of my observatory in the back yard and was one of my first attempts. I took one foreground image of 4 minutes, and 5 four minute sky images at F 2.8 and ISO 800. I used the MSM tracking mount and stacked the images using Sequator. These were taken between 3AM and 4 AM. The sky glow is from Phoenix, which is roughly 90 miles Southeast from my location.

Milky Way Over Astro La Vista Observatory, Prescott, Az.
Milky Way over Astro La Vista Observatory, Prescott, Az.


The Cygnus region of the Milky Way is featured in this image. The North American Nebula is a rather small feature that is located to the left of center just below the star Deneb in the photo. This is first light for a Sigma 28mm f1.4 lens that I acquired for Milky Way photography. Due to wind and ambient light, I was limited to one minute exposures on my SkyWatcher Star Adventurer mount. At the bottom right is the Phoenix. AZ light dome (90 miles S). Ten images were stacked in Lightroom. ISO 800, shot at f1.8.

Borrego Springs, California also offers a bit of dark sky compared to the urban areas that are nearby. The nearby Anza Borrego Desert State Park has been recognized as an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association. With the new moon, I thought I would give the Milky Way a try. This is an 8 panel mosaic of what is right in our back yard. The 8 unguided 15 second image panels were taken with a Nikon D780 and a Sigma Art 28mm f1.4 lens shot at f1.8.

Milky Way over Rams Hill Golf Couse, Borrego Springs, Ca
Milky Way over Rams Hill Golf Course, Borrego Springs, Ca.

A wealthy man owned a bunch of Borrego Springs real estate that he never developed. Instead he placed metal art on it throughout the town. The Serpent is one of the most famous pieces. It was not easy to find the Serpent after midnight in the dark sky of a new moon, but I soon located it with my trusty flash light. I took a bunch of images, but narrowed it down to one 4 minute image for the sky and one 4 minute image for the foreground. This was processed in Photoshop.

Milky Way over Serpent in Borrego Springs, Ca
The Serpent at Borrego Springs

All I can say is Life Is Good!

Sharpless 2-132 Lion Nebula Award Winner – 4 Downloadable High Quality HA, OIII, SII, NII Master FITS Files

Sharpless 2-132 Award Winner Master FITS files for this image are available for download.

Download 4 extremely clean, stacked, aligned and calibrated H-Alpha, Oiii, SII, and NII Award Winner master FITS files from Dropbox for use in your astrophotography projects (with attribution). Total integration time = 27 hours. After you complete payment, Astro La Vista Observatory will email you a link for your Dropbox downloads. Images acquired by Jim Matzger, Astro La Vista Observatory. An Astrobin Best Pick Award Winner 2017.

$99.99

Below is an Award Winner (2017 Astrobin Best Pick) processed color image showing a Hubble Palette version of a portion of Sharpless 2-132 (Lion Nebula) that was created by processing 54 stacked, calibrated, and aligned H-Alpha, Oxygen, Sulphur, and Nitrogen narrowband sub images.

Noted Astrophotographer Sara Wager had this to say about the Lion Nebula…

”Sharpless 2-232 is a very faint emission type nebula on the Cepheus/Lacerta border. It lies at a degree southeast of Epsilon CEP, and has a size of about 40 arc minutes.

It is estimated to be about 10,000 to 12,000 light years away… but this is no more than an estimite. It’s a well studied region as well, with lots going on.”

This selection is from the Sharpless catalog which offers listings of famous objects like the Orion Nebula as well as faint objects that were difficult objects for amateurs in the film era. With the advent of digital photography, these faint nebulae have become more accessible. I have found the catalog to be a promising resource for astrophotography target selection.

More can be found on the web about Stewart Sharpless and his catalog at “The Best of Sharpless Catalog.” Accordingly to that resource…

“Many famous objects are imaged by amateur astronomers who are unaware that they are part of the Sharpless (SH2) catalog.  The great Orion nebula, also known as Sh2-281, and the commonly imaged Flame nebula, known as SH2-277, are some of the December favorites.  Six months later in the month of June, SH2-25, which is also known as The Lagoon nebula and the North American Nebula listed in the catalog as SH2-117, are in the sky. 

Some of the objects that Sharpless includes are not HII nebulae at all; instead they are reflected star light off a galactic dust cloud above and below our own galaxy.  This is known as Integrated Flux Nebulae which Steve Mandel cataloged in his Unexplored Nebulae Project.  There are a few Sharpless catalog numbers that fall into this, the largest labeled Sh2-178 near the North Star Polaris.”

Award Winner Sharpless 2-132

The sub images were taken at the Astro La Vista Observatory in Prescott, Arizona with an APM 152MM 1200MM focal length ED APO refractor mounted on an Astro-Physics 1100GTO mount with encoders. The imaging camera was a QSI 690wsg with a Lodestar guider.

Frames were taken in the Fall of 2017 as follows:

Astrodon True-Balance 3NM H-Alpha 12×1800” (6 hours) bin 2×2

Astrodon True-Balance 3NM Oxygen 18×1800” (9 hours) bin 2×2

Astrodon True-Balance 3NM Sulphur 12×1800” (6 hours) bin 2×2

Astrodon True-Balance 3NM Nitrogen 12-1800” (6 hours) bin 2×2

Included in the download are a cropped and rotated version of the files, as well as unmodified versions for your processing convenience.

Sharpless 2-132 Award Winner Master FITS files for this image are available for download.

Download 4 extremely clean, stacked, aligned and calibrated H-Alpha, Oiii, SII, and NII Award Winner master FITS files from Dropbox for use in your astrophotography projects (with attribution). Total integration time = 27 hours. After you complete payment, Astro La Vista Observatory will email you a link for your Dropbox downloads. Images acquired by Jim Matzger, Astro La Vista Observatory. An Astrobin Best Pick Award Winner 2017.

$99.99

Flaming Star Nebula – 5 downloadable high quality HA, OIII, and RGB master FITS files.

Flaming Star Nebula master FITS files for this image are available for download.

Download 5 extremely clean, stacked, aligned and calibrated H-Alpha, Oiii, and RGB master FITS files from Dropbox for use in your astrophotography projects (with attribution). Total integration time = 24 hrs. 30 min. After you complete payment, Astro La Vista Observatory will email you a link for your Dropbox downloads. Images acquired by Jim Matzger, Astro La Vista Observatory.

$99.99

Below is a processed color image showing an interior closeup of a portion of the Flaming Star Nebula that was created by processing 310 stacked, calibrated, and aligned H-Alpha, Oxygen and RGB sub images. It shows the distinctive blue color of a reflection nebula near the star AE Aurigae and the pink color of ionized gas elsewhere in the image.

According to the “Annals of the Deep Sky” by Jeff Kanipe and Dennis Webb, one of the discoverers, Max Wolf, set the stage for the naming of the nebula. “In a paper he described AE Aurigae as ‘a burning body from which several enormous curved flames seem to break out like gigantic prominences.’ He urged spectroscopists to observe this ‘flaming star . . ., which seems physically connected with the nebulous matter.'”

Flaming Star Nebula H-Alpha, Oxygen, RGB
Flaming Star RGB\HA\OIII processed Image

An H-Alpha image is especially detailed and stunning when taken with long exposures and an ultra narrowband filter.

Flaming Star H-Alpha
Flaming Star H-Alpha processed image

I have to say that this has to be one of the finest sets of sub images that I have ever taken. The sub images were taken at the Astro La Vista Observatory in Prescott,AZ. with an APM 152mm 1200mm focal length ED APO refractor mounted on an Astro Physics 1100GTO mount with encoders. The imaging camera was a QSI 690wsg with a Lodestar guider. The imaging field of view was only .366 degrees and the pixel scale was .626 arc seconds per pixel.

Frames were taken in October and November of 2020 as follows:

Astrodon Gen2E Red: 90×60″ (1 hr. 30″) bin 1×1

Astrodon Gen 2E Green: 90×60″ (1 hr. 30″) bin 1×1

Astrodon Gen 2E Blue: 90×60″ (1 hr. 30″) bin 1×1

Astrodon Tru-Balance 3nm OIII: (20×1800″) bin 1×1

Astrodon Tru-Balance 3nm Ha: (20×1800″) bin 1×1

As you might be aware, Astrodon filters have been the gold standard for astro imaging. The ultra narrow band filters are expensive and often not readily available.

It takes a very robust imaging setup to achieve the precision necessary to get 1800 second subs with a 6 inch 1200mm refractor. I hope you can utilize these exquisite images to produce your own work of art with attribution.

Images acquired by Jim Matzger, Astro La Vista Observatory.

Flaming Star Nebula master FITS files for this image are available for download.

Download 5 extremely clean, stacked, aligned and calibrated H-Alpha, Oiii, and RGB master FITS files from Dropbox for use in your astrophotography projects (with attribution). Total integration time = 24 hrs. 30 min. After you complete payment, Astro La Vista Observatory will email you a link for your Dropbox downloads. Images acquired by Jim Matzger, Astro La Vista Observatory.

$99.99

About Starizona Hyperstar…

Starizona Hyperstar

Starizona Hyperstar is a device sold by Starizona to convert a slow f/10 Schmidt Cassegrain telescope into a super fast F/2 camera lens. The idea always seemed appealing to me since I have a Celestron EdgeHD 11 inch Schmidt Cassegrain to use it on. Some years ago I bought a Starizona Hyperstar device, but sadly it has been rarely used since I bought it. Several of the problems with it are that it is difficult to get into perfect focus, and collimating is difficult.

In the last year my interest in using this device has been enhanced by exposure to the fine results that others are getting with Hyperstar, particularly in the realm of narrowband imaging. Narrowband imaging requires hours and hours of long exposures since the light that reaches the camera just trickles in a photon at a time. With Hyperstar, that imaging time can be cut down substantially.

One of the weaknesses is that stars just seem to work better with refractors. If there was a way to combine the nebulosity of narrowband from the Hyperstar with RGB stars from a refractor, then the combined image could be acquired in a more efficient way. Today’s wonderful software allows you to do just that.

Below is the field of view of a Takahashi FSQ 106 refractor compared with a Celestron 11 inch Hyperstar equipped Schmidt Cassegrain. Both are equipped with a ZWO ASI 1600MM camera. The similar fields of view make it much easier to combine images. With this in mind, I have been upgrading my Hyperstar setup to engage in this type of imaging.

Below is a link to an image that was acquired and processed by a top imager at Astrobin using these techniques. It looks pretty magnificent to me, so I guess I will give it a try.

https://www.astrobin.com/1ndbqs/

Pre-Order the Unique 2022 Astro La Vista Observatory Calendar (8 1/2” X 11”) on Premium Glossy Card Stock.

Pre-Order the Unique 2022 Astro La Vista Observatory Calendar (8 1/2” X !1”)

The calendar is $29.99 + $3.99 US flat rate shipping. Delivery by October 31st.

$33.98

It is the time of year to assemble my best images to produce next year’s unique 2022 Astro La Vista Observatory calendar.  I give these calendars to immediate neighbors and family, but I can accommodate other folks that might want a copy.

This past year I have taken a number of Milky Way images from my home in Prescott, Az. as well as Borrego Springs, Ca. (including one of a metal art Serpent). In addition I have a few images that were processed from data that was acquired from the nice people at Insight Observatory that have access to a telescope in Chile.  I also had some Sunrises and Sunsets with beautiful terrain in the foreground.  If you are located in the US you can order it now. If you are located outside the US, I will see what I can do to accommodate you.

The cover photo on the unique 2022 Astro La Vista Observatory calendar is an image of the Milky Way galactic center over the Astro La Vista Observatory that was taken from my back yard in early May, 2021. I used my Nikon D780 together with a Sigma Art 14mm f1.8 wide angle lens. One 4 minute untracked foreground shot was blended with five tracked 4 minute sky images at F2.8 and ISO 800. For tracking the sky movement I used the Move Shoot Move tracking mount. These were taken around the time of a New Moon between 3AM and 4AM. The sky glow is from Phoenix, which is roughly 90 miles South East from my location.

The January image is a 2 panel mosaic of Sunset at Fonts Point in Borrego Springs. This is a very popular spot for visitors to the Anza Borrego Desert State Park. In late February, 2020 the Full Moon was rising in the East at the same time as the Sun was setting in the West (See December’s image). For this Sunset image I used the Nikon D780 together with the Sigma Art 14mm f2.8 to produce two images that were merged to produce the two panel mosaic.

The Pencil Nebula was processed from data acquired by Gturgeon (Astrobin) on a 17” CDK telescope located in Chile. His raw images are available on a subscription basis. The Pencil Nebula is usually below the horizon in my location, so this was a way to work on image data that I was unable to obtain through my own telescopes.

The “blood moon” image was the best one out of two hundred two second exposures that I took with my Nikon D780 matched with the Nikon AF VR Nikkor 80-400 f4.5-5.6 telephoto at 400mm and f5.6. Since we were battling clouds, this was a lucky shot. A blood moon is seen during a total lunar eclipse.

The April Colorado River Milky Way photograph was taken at Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah. I spent a Saturday night (New Moon) perched on a pitch black ledge, shielding my tripod from 15-20 mile winds in hundred degree heat with smoke from forest fires all around. With all the wind, I had to stick with short exposures. I tried a few surface shots, but with all of the wind, there wasn’t much point in using them since they were pretty much as blurry as stacking these tracked shots by themselves.

In the interest of living a long life, I exited the ledge after I took five sixty second tracked shots at f2.8 and ISO 3200. The Colorado River can be seen in the distance. I found it interesting that you could see no light domes of towns or cities from this location. I used PhotoPills to scope out the time, day and location for this image, all I had to do was show up. Here is what it looks like during the day.


The May image is a photograph of Borrego Springs famous “Serpent.” A wealthy man owned a bunch of Borrego Springs real estate that he never developed. Instead he placed metal art on it throughout the town. The Serpent is one of the most famous pieces. It was not easy to find the Serpent after midnight in the dark sky of a new moon, but I soon located it with my trusty flash light. I took a bunch of images, but narrowed it down to one 4 minute image for the sky and one 4 minute image for the foreground. This was processed in Photoshop.

The June image for the unique 2020 Astro La Vista Observatory Calendar was taken at the Rams Hill Course in Borrego Springs. Borrego Springs offers a bit of dark sky compared to the urban areas that are nearby. With the new moon, I thought I would give the Milky Way a try. This is an 8 panel mosaic of what is right in our back yard there. The 8 unguided 15 second image panels were taken with a Nikon D780 and a Sigma Art 28mm f1.4 lens shot at f1.8.

July offers a smoky Sunset near downtown Prescott, Az. One of the prime geological features of the Prescott Arizona landscape is Thumb Butte. I was visiting a friend and managed to capture this smoky sunset image of Thumb Butte within a few days of the Summer Solstice from their back patio with my Iphone. I did a photo merge of 10 images to come up with this final version.

The Cygnus region of the Milky Way is featured in the August image. The North American Nebula is a rather small feature that is located to the left of center just below the star Deneb in the photo. This is first light for a Sigma 28mm f1.4 lens that I acquired for Milky Way photography. Due to wind and ambient light, I was limited to one minute exposures on my SkyWatcher Star Adventurer mount. At the bottom right is the Phoenix. AZ light dome (90 miles S). Ten images were stacked in Lightroom. ISO 800, shot at f1.8.

The September image was processed from data I acquired from Insight Observatory which has a telescope in Chile. Insight Observatory proved to have some exciting material for the unique 2022 Astro La Vista Observatory Calendar. The Vela remnant is visible in the Southern Hemisphere. Here are some words about it from Insight Observatory…

“The Moon is the biggest single object in the night sky that’s visible to the eye alone. But many objects that are too faint to see are much bigger. The “Vela” nebula spans about 16 times the width of the Moon, almost the size of your fist held at arm’s length and it’s getting bigger all the time.“

This image represents a tiny piece of that very large Supernova remnant. Image acquisition by: Insight Observatory (Franck Jobard at Deep Sky Chile). Image processing by Jim Matzger (me).

The Tarantula Nebula was also processed from Insight data. Here is a little bit about the telescope:

”Insight Observatory’s affiliate remote telescope designated the Astronomical Telescope for Educational Outreach (ATEO-3) is a 12.5″ f/9 (2860mm focal length) Quasar Optics Ritchey Chretien owned and operated by Franck Jobard. This remote telescope is located at an elevation over 5990 ft at Deep Sky Chile remote telescope hosting in the dark skies of the Rio Hurtado Valley in Chile. The telescope is accessible remotely via the internet for conducting astronomical research projects for science education, the general public or accessing image sets from Starbase for image processing”

You can find out more about Insight Observatory at the link below:

https://www.insightobservatory.com/p/home-page.html

The “Running Chicken Nebula” was another fun project from Chile. I think it turned out pretty well, if I don’t say so myself. The final image brings us back to where we started, a full moon as seen from Fonts Point.

Needless to say, the year involved photo shoots all over the place. Order your unique Astro La Vista Observatory calendar below. Astro La Vista wishes you a Happy New Year in 2022. Astro La Vista, Baby!

Unique 2022 Astro La Vista Observatory Calendar

Pre-Order the Unique 2022 Astro La Vista Observatory Calendar (8 1/2” X !1”)

The calendar is $29.99 + $3.99 US flat rate shipping. Delivery by October 31st.

$33.98

Messier 1 – Crab Nebula

This deep sky object is called the Crab Nebula. It is a supernova remnant that was the first Messier Object – M1. It is located in the Constellation Taurus and is a Milky Way Galaxy resident that is about 6500 light years away. Messier was tired of finding objects like this when he was searching for Comets, so he devised a list of deplorables like this in order to avoid them in the future. I managed to tease out some interesting detail in M1 by using three extremely narrow band filters (Oxygen, Hydrogen and Nitrogen) and assigning them to colors that would enhance the detail in the image. One advantage of narrow band filters is that they filter out moon glow which was almost at it’s peak during these imaging sessions. The 25 stacked exposures totaled about 12.5 hours through a six inch refractor at f8 with a 1200mm focal length. More details are available at my Astrobin site. http://astrob.in/287183/0/

M1-WATERMARK

The Spaghetti Nebula – Simeis 147

image

image

From Wikipedia:

Simeis 147, also known as the Spaghetti Nebula, SNR G180.0-01.7 or Sharpless 2-240, is a supernova remnant (SNR) in the Milky Way, straddling the border between the constellations Auriga and Taurus. Discovered in 1952 at the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory using a 25-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, it is difficult to observe due to its extremely low brightness.

The nebulous area is fairly large with an almost spherical shell and filamentary structure.  The remnant has an apparent diameter of approximately 3 degrees, an estimated distance of approximately 3000 (±350) light-years, and an age of approximately 40,000 years.

It is believed that after its stellar explosion a rapidly spinning neutron star known as pulsar PSR J0538+2817 was left behind in the nebula core, emitting a strong radio signal.

Acquisition information can be found here…

http://www.astrobin.com/273407/?nc=user