On the Trail of Stars in Arizona

Arizona’s motto is the Canyon State – which is great. Canyons are cool. It’s also an astronomer’s dream. They sky is clear much of the year, and many areas are at a high elevation, too. Several prominent observatories are located in Arizona.

In May 2013 I took a week’s vacation in Arizona, with seeking out some astronomy opportunities high in mind. I will describe some of my other trip events in other posts. In this note, I thought I’d pass along results of my first couple of nights taking photos of the night sky near the wonderful Bed & Breakfast I stayed in, Down By The River. The B&B is in Cochise County, south and east of Tuscon, and as it’s in a rural area the sky is lovely there. The hosts, Mike and Angie, provided me with an amazing stay in their lovely inn. Highly recommended! http://downbytheriverbandb.com/

Here are a few of my early results.

A Couple of Individual Exposures

Scorpio rising over the BBQ

Scorpio rising over the BBQ. At the back of the Down By The River B&B, south of St. David, AZ.

On the evening of 29 May, 2013 three planets were in close alignment at sunset:

A planetary alignment at sunset 29 May 2013

Mercury (top), Venus, and Jupiter together just after sunset on the evening of 29 May 2013. South of St. David, AZ.

A Stacked Star Trail Image

I love making star trail images. On the night of 29 May I was able to capture a fairly good series of 52 exposures, 30 seconds each, with the camera pointed just east of north:

Stacked image 29 May 2013

A 27 minute star stack image taken from south of St. David, Arizona, on the evening of 29 May 2013. A total of 52 individual images, each 30 seconds long, were stacked together using StarStaX, a free program. Taken with a Nikon D800 and 24-120 mm lens at 24 mm, ISO 1000, f/3.5. I was having a little trouble getting the internal timer on the camera to work, so this series was taken by hand with a cable release. This copy is reduced down in size by about 90% in both directions. See below for a cropped portion at the original resolution.

The area around Polaris itself. Note that the centre of rotation is not right on the north star - the pole is a little less than one degree to one side of it.

The area around Polaris itself. Note that the centre of rotation is not right on the north star – the pole is a little less than one degree to one side of it. This section of the image above is cropped down to 800 pixels wide, showing the detail on the original image.

Stars

“Red, White, and Blue.” A little playing around with colours, brightness, and contrast on the image above. Sort of the Time Tunnel meets Van Gough.

I’ll post more as I’m able to catch up with things!

Copyright © 2013 David Allan Galbraith
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