Allentown School District (ASD) Planetarium: Astrophotography

Images from the Northern Hemisphere

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Photography under a moonlit sky can produce near daylight quality photos, but with a surrealistic edge that makes you take a second look. This 4 minute, self-portrait was taken on August 2, 1998 at Star Hill Inn, near Sapello, NM. A 35mm Nikkor lens was used at F/2.8. Gary A. Becker photo... [CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE]
[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] Take away the moon and the observing deck at Star Hill Inn takes on a completely different quality. It now becomes a red light zone. This early November scene was taken in 1991 and shows the fall constellations rising in the NE. Note the Milky Way, center right and a Dipper low in the N. Gary A. Becker photo...
The splendor of our Milky Way Galaxy is revealed at Star Hill Inn, near Sapello, NM. The view is towards the galactic center. The bright star-like object near the upper left of the picture is the planet Saturn. How can you not believe in things bigger than yourself when confronted with the majesty of the
heavens on a serene summer's eve.
Gary A. Becker photo...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] A satellite streaks across the sky during this 10 minute, unguided astrophotograph taken at Star Hill Inn, near Sapello, New Mexico, while a great spaghetti dinner was being enjoyed inside. The Milky Way is plainly visible cutting across the center of the image.
Gary A. Becker photo...
The van door opened momentarily. LIGHT, followed by profuse apologies... I couldn't get angry because I knew it was just the right amount of light. Observing at 4:00 a.m. in Big Bend National Park, this photo was made with a 16mm full frame fisheye lens.
Gary A. Becker photo...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] During the summer of 1993 rain had played havoc with my observations at Star Hill Inn; but the last evening proved to be uncommonly clear. With most of my gear packed for the return flight, I tripoded this shot near the open observing area. The glowing sunflowers were reddened by dim lights along the walkway leading to the deck. Gary A. Becker photo...
Astronomers always observe in the "Red Light District." Red light is the preferred illumination at night because it affects night vision the least. Here in the Schlegel-McHugh Observatory at Pulpit Rock, near Hamburg, PA, Paul Hunsberger provides a quick burst of the "brights" to enhance the 20-inch telescope, while the night stars of summer glide silently overhead. Gary A. Becker photo... [CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE]
[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] The zodiacal light is caused by dust from countless comets dispersing the sun's light. The most visible region for us lies in our orbital plane, which is also near the orbital planes of the other planets. Its conical signature in this late summer photo points to Venus and Jupiter. Orion is rising to the right, Gemini to the left, while V-shaped Taurus is just below Jupiter. Photo by Gary A. Becker...
The moon at night is big and bright--and not just in the heart of Texas. It's also quite a sight in New Mexico at Star Hill Inn. I originally came here to just look at the dark sky, but I slowly began to realize that the sky can be splendid even under the moon's light. The bowl of the Big Dipper is scooping low.
Photo by Gary A. Becker...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] The incredible auroral display of November 9, 1991 was observed well before dark at Star Hill Inn near Sapello, New Mexico. Ektar 1000 film was used in this 15 second tripoded exposure taken with a 16mm fisheye lens. Gary A. Becker photo...
The sale of an astrophoto was reinvested in an extra night of observing at Star Hill Inn. That evening turned out to be the night of the greatest auroral display ever witnessed from New Mexico. This photo appeared in the 1994 Astronomy calendar. It graced the month of March. Gary A. Becker photo... [CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE]
[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] Auroral displays occur when electrical currents discharge in the upper atmosphere causing the air to glow. They are directly related to the earth's magnetic field and solar activity. This auroral portrait was captured on the morning of November 7, 1971 from Pulpit Rock Astronomical Park, near Hamburg, PA.
Gary A. Becker photo...
The night of March 10-11, 1997 was bone chilling cold, and all I wanted was a hot shower and bed by dawn. After 26 hours without sleep and a 600 mile drive, Comet Hale-Bopp was worth observing well into twilight. This photo, accompanied by two shooting stars was the payoff for the entire night. I did fall asleep standing up after a relaxing shower. Gary A. Becker photo... [CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE]
[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] Another sub-freezing morning (March 16), but this time in Chaco Canyon National Historic Park, New Mexico... Hale-Bopp's tail was plainly visible rising above the canyon by 3:00 a.m. Nearby, cyotes called to each other, their sorrowful cries echoing the beginning of a new day. Photo by Gary A. Becker...
A 300 mm ED Nikkor lens at F/4.5 was used to capture Comet Hale-Bopp on the last night (4-9-1997) which would not be affected by moonlight. Adam Jones covered the lens when the bitterly cold wind kicked up making this 7 minute exposure more like 11 minutes to take. Photo by Gary A. Becker and Adam Jones... [CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE]
[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] A two minute guided photograph of Comet Hyakutake, taken at Pulpit Rock, near Hamburg, PA on the very windy, frigid night of March 23, 1996. Note the blueness of the gas tail. By the 27th the comet's tail stretched more than halfway across the heavens from dark sky locations in the Southwestern US.
Gary A. Becker photo...
This Perseid meteor was captured at 12:58 a.m. on August 13, 1971. Perseids are the result of dust from the tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle entering the earth's atmosphere. With regularity, peak activity occurs each year during the morining hours of August 11-13.
Gary A. Becker photo...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] My best meteor photo was snapped at 02:21 a.m. on the morning of August 15, 1971 when a sporadic popped out of the darkness and registered on my film. Its sputterings, which all happened within a half second, are still vivid in my mind, as well as on the photo.
Gary A. Becker photo...
The night of August 12-13, 1980 was a busy one for meteors. In just one hour two bright Perseids were recorded on film, That same evening saw 114 meteors observed with 11 archived on film. Gary A. Becker photos... [CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] [CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE]
[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] My first night at Star Hill Inn, high in the Rocky Mountains of NM, presented untold wonders to my eyes and lenses. The stobe-like flash reflected from the ground while shooting the Big Dipper will always be remembered. Only my camera witnessed the fireball which created it--8/12-13/1988.
Gary A. Becker photo...
The Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) served as the backdrop for a spectacular solar halo which was witnessed from Giza late on the morning of January 6, 1982. It was my last full day in Egypt. May be pyramids were pharoah's stairway to heaven.
Gary A. Becker photo...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] The 22 degree solar halo is winter's "rainbow." Unlike its summertime counterpart, the solar halo is caused by the refraction of sunlight through ice crystals rather than water droplets. It is much less colorful than the rainbow. This halo was seen on April 24, 1974.
Gary A. Becker photo...
This large double rainbow appeared near sunset after a brief summer shower during travels through Arizona's Canyon de Chelly. The primary bow at its base was nearly 84 degrees wide, while it towered more than halfway into the northwestern sky. The image was captured with a fisheye lens.
Gary A. Becker photo...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] Rainbows can only occur when the sun is 47 degrees or closer to the horizon. If the bow is created by a high sun, like it was in this 1988 photo of Cliff Palace (Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado), the arc appears small and near the horizon.
Gary A. Becker photo...
Conjunctions of the moon and planets are rarely as spectacular as this April 19, 1988 event where Venus and the Moon were separated by less than one half degree. Hazy sky conditions added a surrealistic quality to this 15 second exposure. Note the earthshine on the unlit portion of the moon.
Gary A. Becker photo...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] This 32 second exposure of the conjunction of Venus and the Moon was taken at Kutztown University Observatory on the evening of January 22, 1988. A 500 mm lens stopped down to F/8 was used with ASA 64 film. Venus was distinctly visible to the unaided eye about 30 minutes before sunset.
Gary A. Becker photo...
Conjunctions between planets can also be interesting to observe and are easily accessible to urban observers. In the February 14, 1975 photo on the left, brighter Venus is below Jupiter. Just one week later, on the 21st, it's easy to see that Venus had passed Jupiter. These images were taken about one mile from center city Allentown (PA).
Gary A. Becker photos...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] The summer of 1975 was the first time that I began exploring our country. I had never seen mountains or sunsets as beautiful as these. I've had a love affair with the West ever since. Teton sundown with Venus, Jackson Lake, Wyoming. Gary A. Becker photo...
The moon moves its own diameter during the interval of an hour. These two exposures, taken over a period of 31 minutes on April 19, 1988 were guided on Venus. The crescent moon to the right was recorded at 8:56 p.m. while the one to the left was imaged at 9:27. The moon's orbital motion carried it eastward about 1/4 degree during this time period.
Gary A. Becker photo...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] The moon can be easily seen in the daytime if sky conditions are clear enough. That's not hard to create in the Teton Mountains of Wyoming. After taking this exposure, my friend, Allen and I set up my small Questar telescope and observed climbers walking across sun-drenched ice fields.
Gary A. Becker photo...
Earthshine results when light reflected from earth faintly illuminates the nightside of the lunar hemisphere facing us. It is best seen when the moon is a thin crescent. These images (6 sec. and 27 sec. respectively) were recorded after sunset on March 25, 1974.
Gary A. Becker photo...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] [CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] Once you've seen one lunar eclipse, you've seen them all. RIGHT!!! Note the differences between the December 9, 1992 and the November 30, 1993 total lunar eclipses. Every event is different.
Gary A. Becker photos...
The twilight wedge can be seen in the direction opposite to the setting sun. It is the earth's shadow being projected into space. The shadow continues to rise after sunset, eventually disappearing against the inky vault of approaching darkness.
Gary A. Becker photo...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] The sun peeks from the top of Candlestick in Monument Valley, Utah, demonstrating how it obtained its name--1975. The area is a surreal combination of mesas, sentinel buttes, and isolated pinnacles, deep red rock contrasted against saturated blue skies, scorched by the sun and serenaded by drying winds. In a way it is the best and the worst of what land could possibly have to offer.
Gary A. Becker photo...
Delicate Arch in Arches National Part, Utah. If there was ever a formation which seemed to be out of joint it is here. At this place the earth must resonate with the ultimate victory over gravity. Gary A. Becker photo... [CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE]
[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] I had been waiting for February 26, 1998 since the '91 eclipse in Hawaii when the sun appeared just 20 minutes before totality. Here, off the coast of Aruba, clouds shrouded my enthusiasm until about 30 minutes before first contact, but the entire eclipse occurred in a completely clear sky. Gary A. Becker photo...
The sky begins to light up about 20 seconds before the end of totality (7-11-91). The red on the horizon represents regions just outside the boundaries of totality receiving only the redder illumination from the sun's limb.
Gary A. Becker photo...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] This partial solar eclipse seen on December 24, 1973 was witnessed from the front yard of my parents' home in Allentown, PA. Increasing cloud cover seemed to be ready at any moment to obscure the sun, but it never quite happened. Instead the clouds gave this eclipse its own unique luminescent signature.
Gary A. Becker photo...
Just to the NE of the bright star Deneb (right center) in Cygnus, the Swan, lies the North American Nebula. It can be viewed with the unaided eye as a brighter area amidst the soft summer glow of the Milky Way, especially in late summer when it is high in the sky. Its redness results from glowing hydrogen gas excited by ultraviolet light from nearby supergiant Deneb. Gary A. Becker photo... [CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE]

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