Astrophotography is challenging, requiring a substantial commitment of time and resources of its participants.  It is also a very rewarding and satisfying hobby to undertake.  The images in the galleries below represent the work of amateur astrophotographers of the River Bend Astronomy Club and offer a peek into the wide universe above us in the night sky.

 

Lunar

The lunar surface offers incredible views through even modest amateur telescopes.  Craters, mountain ranges and the dark lunar maria (“seas”) come in and out of view as the moon goes through its monthly cycle from New Moon and back again.  Photographing the moon can be challenging at high powers as turbulence dictates the clarity on any given night, although excellent results can be had with web cams, DSLRs and CCD cameras.  Good images can be acquired even with your cell phone camera held at the focal point of a telescope / eyepiece, a method known as afocal astrophotography.

Our moon offers the amateur astronomer years of surprises while exploring its ancient face, whether it be with the eye or the camera.

 

Solar

Viewing and imaging the sun’s surface is a specialized field in astronomy, although amateur scopes fitted with solar filters or film (never view the sun through scopes/binoculars/cameras without one!) yield “white light” images of our star.  Sunspots, granularity and the occasional flare are what is visible using one of these filters.  The really spectacular views (and images) of the sun taken by amateurs are usually acquired with a hydrogen-alpha solar telescope, a specialized optical / filter scope that isolates the specific hydrogen-alph wavelength of light.  These telescopes reveal a dynamic and highly granular surface releasing huge plumes of gas and plasma into its atmosphere and out into space.

 

Planets

Our planetary neighbors in the solar system are favorite targets for amateur astronomers, both visually and with a camera.  Jupiter and its four Galilean moons and spectacular Saturn with its rings are bright and reveal much detail, even in smaller telescopes.  Although the brightest of the planets, Venus is a featureless world shrouded in thick clouds, often appearing as a crescent through scopes.  Mercury is difficult to pick out amid the light of the rising or setting sun, never wandering far from our home star.  Mars is small through amateur scopes, but shows its ice caps and changing surface when it gets closest to earth every two or three years.  Uranus and Neptune are faint and present themselves as small, bluish-green disks in larger amateur telescopes.

The preferred method for imaging planets or the moon is a video camera or modified web cam.  These cameras can take 15 to 30 images per second, specialized software selects the best images and stacks them into a single image.  Turbulence in our atmosphere makes moments of clear, sharp images fleeting and the rapid collection of hundreds of images by these devices allow these moments to be captured.

 

Deep Sky Objects

Deep Sky Objects (DSOs) are the Holy Grail of the amateur astrophotographer.  Photographing DSOs require a sturdy equatorial mount capable of accurately tracking stars and objects with extreme precision as they appear to move through the night sky.  They also require good optics and a variety of refractors, reflectors and “hybrid” telescopes such as Schmidt-Cassegrains or Maksutov-Cassagrains are capable of producing spectacular images of these faint objects.  Off the shelf digital cameras (DSLRs) are a great way to enter the world of AP while the astronomical CCD camera represents the apex of amateur astrophotography.

Although a few DSOs are visible to the naked eye (Andromeda Galaxy, Orion Nebula, etc.) most require a good scope to track down the “faint fuzzies” and multiple long exposures to reveal detail and deep color.  The images in this gallery represent but a small fraction of the wide variety of star clusters, nebula and distant galaxies to explore in the night sky.

 

Aurorae

Unless you live in high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere or the Southern Hemisphere, aurorae are a rarity to see, not to mention photograph. Several members of River Bend Astronomy Club were in the right place at the right time late in 2003 and obtained numerous images of these elusive sky displays.

 

Comets

Although members of our solar system, comets have been a mystery to astronomers for centuries. Numerous members of River Bend have photographed comets for many years, with quite a few good images coming forth since 1996.

 

Events

Pictures from Events that RBAC has attended or hosted.