On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions.
From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
About a month ago, I was asked to take over as organizer for the local photography group. So for my first photoshoot, I decided to take a small group (10 people) out to Red Rock Canyon State Park to shoot star trails beneath the Red Cliffs. I, however, was not shooting star trails, since I’ve shot them a number of times at that location. Instead I took my sky tracker and had 3 goals: the North American nebula, the California nebula, and a astro-landscape shot of the Orion complex over the hills at Red Rock.
I had difficulty finding the North American nebula, so I soon switched my attention to the California nebula and shot it for a hour (60 one minute exposures), since the Pleiades were close to the California nebula, I pointed my camera at them next and shot for half a hour (30 one minute exposures). By this time Orion was a bit above the horizon and I planned to shoot it for a half hour. Half way though, the battery in my camera died and I had to replace it leading to 2 exposures of Orion, one 15 minutes and the second 16 minutes.
Remember any photo you see in one of my On The Road posts is available for purchase at my store: http://www.billinglendaleca.com. They make excellent Christmas gifts. I also have a Patreon if you like my work and want to see it continue: https://www.patreon.com/BillinGlendaleCA.
The stars in the Pleiades excit the surrounding gas clouds to produce a blue glow.
The California nebula is a cloud of gas with a similar shape to the State of California. Like the Pleiades it is a reflection nebula.
Even with the battery issue, I still got 2 pretty good shots of Orion over the hills at Red Rock. The foreground is not nearly as stunning as the Red Cliffs that were behind me. While processing the photos, I noticed that one star was a greenish blue. There are no green stars. Later in the day while taking my daily look at the Astronomy Picture of the Day I saw the entry for a week earlier, comet ATLAS in Orion. So just about in the center of each photo, you’ll see comet ATLAS.
Cool. Beautiful colors. Especially the hot pink CA nebula. Seems appropo.
Only green balloons.
These are stunning, Bill.
@Mary G: It’s actually not really pink, more of a vibrant red, but my camera has a filter that rejects those wavelengths of light.
@Baud: And comets, or are those green balloons?
@SiubhanDuinne: Thanks, I’ve got some other ideas for this month…once the Moon isn’t present in the sky.
Wonderful photos…but just FTR, you contradict your caption for the Pleiades –
in the very next caption:
These are two very different astronomical phenomena. “Excitation” nebulae are seen when a cloud of gas absorbs the radiation of nearby stars and then emit their own radiation; “reflection” nebulae are seen when a cloud of dust reflects those stars’ light. An excitation nebula shows the emission spectrum of the excited gas; a reflection nebula shows the same spectrum as the starlight it reflects.
In fact the blue glow of the Pleiades is the same as the embedded stars – it is a reflection nebula. Which has been known at least since I was an aspiring astrophysicist (though I did check the Wiki article to make sure our astronomical knowledge hasn’t changed in the last >50 years, as so much else has).
You are cordially invited to render your photos even more wonderful by editing the first caption for accuracy.
@Uncle Cosmo: I can’t edit photos once they are submitted. You’ll have to speak to a higher power(aka a front pager).
The best type of fireworks in the sky are those that occur naturally. Just beautiful photos.
@JPL: There’s amazing stuff up there indeed.
You always light up the room Billin. These are a gift. Thanks.
J R in WV
Maybe I should get a good tripod/star tracker device… on the other hand, in the East the air is full of moisture… On the gripping hand, I bet Tucson is a good place to buy astro equipment!
Great work, as always! And thanks for sharing! You are a source of inspiration…..
Yay, a Notorious B.I.G.CA. submission! Lately I don’t seem to need to be taken out of this world as much as I have for the past few years, but these are still wonderful to gaze at. How great that you shot a comet without knowing it!
Lovely. Orion is a favorite of mine, gracing the early evening sky as it does at this season of early darkness. It’s interesting how differently it fits into its context in these long exposure shots, compared to just a quick snap. Cool!
@Uncle Cosmo: Blue light is more readily scattered compared to red light (for example the blue daytime sky and the red sunsets), so reflection nebula tend to look blue. Nebula that look red are so because dominant emission line from hydrogen is red. Sometimes you can see hints of green—-this is emission from oxygen.
Great work @BillinGlendaleCA! And it reinforces my commitment to not doing astrophotography – it’s too much work! LOL. (If I can get a nice shot out of a 20-30 second exposure one day, that will do for me.)
@Aleta: Glad you enjoyed them.
@J R in WV: While low humidity and higher elevation are better, the main consideration is light pollution. I’d(and did) get the tacker months before I first intended to use it and practiced here in Glendale(some of the poorest light pollution conditions on the planet). Learning how to do polar alignment is essential and it takes time. Having a camera device like iPolar as I do on my tracker can help, but even that takes time. So I’d buy earlier and practice at home.
This is the tracker I use(there are better ones): SkyTracker Pro Camera Mount with iPolar (ioptron.com)
One of the light pollution maps I use: Light pollution map
@stinger: Thanks, I check APOD every night(it updates around 9pm our time) and did see the one with the comet and was already planning on going out to shoot Orion. But then I forgot about it and didn’t realize that I’d captured it until I noticed that odd colored “star” and did my nightly check of APOD about a week ago.
@JanieM: Orion is a constellation that even those in the most light polluted areas can enjoy since it’s so bright. Most nights I can see the great Orion nebula here.
@BigJimSlade: You can get some pretty good photos of the Milky Way without a really long exposure and without a tracker(stacking helps reduce noise). The bigger the sensor, the better; but I’ve seen pretty good astro-landscape shots done with a modern cellphone camera(Samsung S20 Ultra). I’m definitely planning on taking my group out for a couple of Milky Way shots this Spring/Summer.
Thank you for sharing these, Bill.
I love the beauty and the color and the sense of life in your photos. Most astrophotography, even when beautiful, or of an amazing event or phenomenon, always feels somehow clinical? detached? to me; I’m not sure exactly how to explain it.
Yours does not. Your photos are full of a sense of energy and connectedness, and feel alive and vibrant, a reminder that while we are a speck in the grand scheme of things, we are connected to it all.
Thanks, as always, for sharing these images, and thanks for the joy they bring. They made a very difficult week brighter this morning.
@Mel: Thanks, glad the images help out.
I’ll probably focus more on the astro-landscape photos for my shoots next month, maybe another of Orion is a couple of places and I’ll have to check when the Andromeda Galaxy is close to the horizon, that would be a nice shot with a good foreground.