Allentown School District (ASD) Planetarium: Astrophotography

Images from the Southern Hemisphere

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My trip to Australia was helped immeasurable by my traveling associates, John Sefick and Tracy Brockwell (box to left) and our Australian connection (upper box) Bob and Robin Shobbrook, and Jan and John Shobbrook. The two families were not related. Iím in the right box a little sleep-deprived. We could not use the large telescope because its electronics had been damaged by a recent lightning strike.
Gary A. Becker/Tracy Brockwell photo...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] Looking down from the roof of the Automated Patrol Telescope (APT), the Schmidt telescope can be seen against the darkening landscape. This exposure was started 56 minutes after sunset. There is still a healthy glow on the southwestern horizon.
Feb. 16, 2001, 20:48 local time, 4 min., 16mm Nikkor fisheye at F/3.5+, tripoded, Fuji Press/800. Gary A. Becker photo...
By an hour after sunset, detail in the Milky Way is already being registered on this 16 minute exposure. Keep in mind that you will need a tripod and a cable release in order to keep the image from moving during the timed exposure. You will also need a flashlight and a watch to keep track of your time.
Feb. 16, 2001, 20:52 local time, 8 min., 16mm Nikkor fisheye at F/3.5, tripoded, Fuji Press/800. Gary A. Becker photo...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] Just short of one hour 15 minutes after sunset, this 16 minute photo captures the dark sky and Milky Way to the southeast and the dusk of late evening twilight in the southwest. A lamp with a red lightbulb augments the failing light from the sky to illuminate the scene.
Feb. 16, 2001, 21:00 local time, 16 min., 16mm Nikkor fisheye at F/3.5, tripoded, Fuji Press/800. Gary A. Becker photo...
The white light indicates a problem with more illumination required to view the telescope. A small flashlight darting around for 15 minutes made the observatory appear to be fully illuminated. Notice the bright meteor in the upper center of the field between the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds.
Feb. 16, 2001, 21:16 local time, 32 min., 16mm Nikkor fisheye at F/3.5, tripoded, Fuji Press/800. Gary A. Becker photo...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] Some of the simplest techniques can yield the most pleasing results. Here, the camera was attached to a tripod for two hours while the Earth rotated, wheeling the stars around the South Celestial Pole. Unlike the Northern Hemisphere where bright Polaris nearly remains stationary and points the way north, there is no bright star in the Southern Hemisphere to indicate where south belongs.
Feb. 23-24, 2001, 23:07 local time, 2 hours even, 24mm Nikkor at F/5.6, tripoded, Fuji Press/800. Gary A. Becker photo...
This was the first series of twilight pictures that I took at Siding Spring. My goal was to capture the transition between day and night. With the exceedingly clean and, therefore, clear air over the Warrumbungle Mountains, the stars begins to appear much sooner than anticipated.
Feb. 14, 2001, 20:48 local time, 4 min., 16mm Nikkor fisheye at F/3.5, tripoded.
Gary A. Becker photo...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] Select your foreground carefully and frame your picture before it gets too dark. A few trees help add perspective to the photograph. The clouds hugging the horizon add additional color and texture. The tree in the center is an Australian Grass tree, probably 500-1000 years of age, while on the left is a common eucalyptus tree.
Feb. 14, 2001, 20:52 local time, 8 min., 16mm Nikkor fisheye at F/3.5, tripoded.
Gary A. Becker photo...
This is the transition image that I have been waiting to capture. The sky is still lit by the sun in the southwest, but it progresses to a complete darkness by the middle of the frame. The Warrumbungle Mountains are extremely windy, and this can be seen in the fuzzed out appearance of the trees due to motion.
Feb. 14, 2001, 21:00 local time, 16 min., 16mm Nikkor fisheye at F/3.5, tripoded.
Gary A. Becker photo...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] Siding Spring, 225 mules NW of Sydney, is considered to be one of the darkest observatories in the world. Still, the sky is bright enough to silhouette the two trees. To the right of the Australian Grass tree is a small town. The elongated dot to the treeís left is a lightning bolt from a distant storm.
Feb. 14, 2001, 21:20 local time, 32 min., 16mm Nikkor fisheye at F/3.5, tripoded.
Gary A. Becker photo...
This was a simple tripoded image of the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds taken on my first night of observing. They are the two satellite galaxies of our Milky Way. Discovered by the crew of Ferdinand Magellan in late 1519 on the first circumnavigation of the world, they are best seen south of the equator
Feb. 13, 2001, 22:55 local time, 15 minutes, 35mm Nikkor at F/2.8, tripoded, Fuji Press/800. Gary A. Becker photo...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is about 170,000 light years from Earth. It has been classified as a barred spiral, similar to our Milky Way, but much smaller. It is definitely a galaxy in distress. Gravitational interactions between the LMC, the Milky Way, and the Small Magellanic Cloud are shredding the LMC apart.
Feb. 22, 2001, 21:11 local time, 20 minutes, 135mm Nikkor at F/2.8, guided, Fuji Press/800. Gary A. Becker photo...
This is a Charged Coupled Device (CCD) image of the Tarantula Nebula, a large hydrogen emission region in the Large Magellanic Cloud. It was the site of 1987A, the most recent great supernova blowout witnessed by astronomers. Unfortunately, the greatest star explosion since 1604 was not visible from the Northern Hemisphere. The Tarantula can be seen in the previous photo as the largest pink spot. Color CCD image, John Sefick lead photographer... [CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE]
[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] Just slightly over 170,000 light years from the Earth lies the other satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC). Because of its asymmetrical shape it is classified as an irregular galaxy. The bluish hue indicates a profusion of new, hot, young stars similar to the LMC, which would be expected if these galaxies were interacting.
February 22, 2001, 21:32 local time, 20 minutes, 135mm Nikkor at F/2.8, guided, Fuji Press/800. Photo by Gary A. Becker...
One of the great globular clusters of the southern heavens is 47 Tucanae, found just north of the SMC. It can also be seen in the last image. Globular clusters are huge assemblages of older stars numbering from the tens of thousands to one million stars. They wheel around the galaxy at high inclinations moving in and out of the galactic plane in periods of several hundred million years.
John Sefick lead photographer...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] The Angelo-Australian Observatory in the background houses a 3.9 meter reflector, the largest telescope in Australia. The instrument is shared jointly with British astronomers from the UK. Here the building is silhouetted against a brightening sky from the rising moon.
Feb. 13, 2001, 23:17 local time, 17 min., 24mm Nikkor at F/2.8, tripoded, Fuji Press/800. Gary A. Becker photo...
Anyone familiar with the sky in the northern hemisphere and not aware that this picture was taken south of the equator, would say, unequivocally, that the stars are setting. However, from the Southern Hemisphere just the opposite is true. Looking south, stars rise to your left and set to your right.
Feb. 22, 2001, 22:21 local time, 50 min., 180mm ED Nikkor at F/4.5, tripoded, Fuji Press/800. Gary A. Becker photo...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] We returned to our cottage earlier than expected because of equipment problems. Still wanting to take one more picture, I set up on a knoll just in back of our cottage to shoot the 3.9 meter dome. Then I went inside and took a long hot shower, returning just in time to end the picture exactly one hour later. Thatís not a bad way to take an astrophoto.
Feb. 23, 2001, 03:17 local time, 60 min., 35mm Nikkor at F/4.0, tripoded, Fuji Press/800. Gary A. Becker photo...
Orion was magnificent from Australia. Notice the three belt stars and the red arc of glowing hydrogen gas to the left. That is Barnardís Loop, an old supernova remnant. All of the redness in the photograph is caused by glowing hydrogen in various concentrations. The star near the bottom of the picture is Sirius, the brightest star of the night.
Feb. 17, 2001, 20:19 local time, 20 min., 35mm Nikkor at F/2.8, guided, Fuji Press/800. Gary A. Becker photo...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] Here is a closer view of the belt of Orion. The yellowish and reddish regions near Alnitak, the bottom star of the belt, are the Flame and Horsehead nebulae respectively. Notice Barnardís Loop arcing to the left from the top to the bottom of the picture. The Orion Nebular is near the bottom of the image.
Feb. 23, 2001, 21:10 local time, 18 min., 135mm Nikkor at F/2.8, guided, Fuji Press/800. Gary A. Becker photo...
Lying at 1600 light years from our solar system is the best Northern Hemispheric example of an emission nebula. The Orion Nebula is a stellar maternity ward where new stars are being forme even as you read this text. The area of greatest action surrounds the Trapezium, the brightest area in this photo.
CCD image, John Sefick lead photographer...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] Here is the Horsehead and Flame nebulae displayed in all of their brilliant colors. Notice that there are fewer stars near the bottom of the image. A dust cloud is encroaching into a hydrogen rich region, and the small dust particles, ramming into the hydrogen atoms, are causing hydrogen gas to glow.
CCD image, John Sefick lead photographer...
This fisheye image of the Milky Way starts with the bright star, Alpha Centauri, at the very bottom of the picture and moves up through the Coalsack, Southern Cross, Eta Carinae, False Cross, Gum Nebula, and ends with the lower portion of the Big Dog which can be seen from our latitude.
Feb. 18, 2001, 21:34 local time, 20 min., 16mm Nikkor fisheye at F/3.5, Fuji Press/800. Gary A. Becker photo...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] Two wide-angle images of the Southern Milky Way were sandwiched together to create this composite. By clicking on the smaller image a larger labeled version of this picture will be loaded.
Feb. 18, 2001, Composite image from two negs., 01:18/01:44 20 min., 35mm Nikkor at F/2.8, guided, Fuji Press/800. Gary A. Becker photo...
Omega Centauri is the largest and brightest globular cluster in the sky with perhaps as many as one million stars. Itís an easy naked eye target and provides a beautiful view through binoculars. By 3 a.m. Omega Centauri, 47 Tucanae, and M13 were all visible at the same time. They are the best examples of globular clusters in the sky.
CCD image, John Sefick photo...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] This is best piece of celestial real estate in the entire sky. Near the top center-left is Omega Centauri. It looks like a bright star. In the Milky Way, left, are Alpha (brighter) and Beta Centauri, followed by the Coalsack, the Southern Cross and Eta Carinae. Compare this photo with the composite Milky Way image two pictures back.
Feb. 24, 2001, 04:43 local time, 20 min., 35mm Nikkor at F/2.8, guided, Fuji Press/800. Gary A. Becker photo...
The darker irregular patch of sky to the left and below the Southern Cross and Jewel Box is known as the Coalsack or Southern Coalsack. It represents an area of the Milky Way where dust is obscuring the brightness of the stars behind it. The Aborigines called the Coalsack, the Emu. Can you see this native Australian bird in the picture?
Feb. 24, 2001, 04:17 local time, 20 min., 135mm Nikkor at F/2.8, guided, Fuji Press/800. Gary A. Becker photo...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] Just one degree to the east of Mimosa, the star farthest to the left (east) in the constellation of the Southern Cross lies a small but very bright young open cluster called the Jewel Box. See the photo above this one. This image shows Mimosaís distinctly blue color along with the mostly blue stars of the Jewel Box.
CCD image, John Sefick lead photographer...
Just west of Crux, the Southern Cross, can be found one of the most beautiful sections of the Milky Way. The large pink region is Eta Carinae, a huge fluorescing region of hydrogen. Below left, is NGC 3532, an open cluster nearly one degree in diameter. One binocular field to the right is an even brighter open cluster, IC 2602.
Feb. 22, 2001, 21:54 local time, 10 min., 135mm Nikkor at F/2.8, guided, Fuji Press/800. Gary A. Becker photo...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] Located at about twice the distance of the Orion nebula, Eta Carinae shines not only brighter, but appears significantly larger than its Northern Hemispheric rival. Glowing hydrogen clouds and dark dust lanes create its visual characteristics. It is without question one of the finest binocular and telescopic objects of the heavens.
CCD image, John Sefick lead photographer...
Our galaxy bulges in the middle like two plates joined at their rims. In Australia where the galactic center rises high into the sky, this phenomenon is easy to see. The Milky Way appears cut off towards the left. This area was nearer to the horizon where atmospheric absorption reduced its visibility.
Feb. 24, 2001, 05:08 local time, 20 min., 24mm Nikkor at F/2.8, guided, Fuji Press/800. Gary A. Becker photo...
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[CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE] The Trifid nebula is a favorite object of amateurs, both north and south of the equator. Located in the constellation of Sagittarius, its blue and red colors are a result of glowing hydrogen (red) and dust scattering blue light from hot young stars.
CCD image, John Sefick lead photographer...

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