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Utah Dark Site for Phonetography

NV astrophotography
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#1 GeezerGazer

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Posted 12 October 2019 - 01:49 PM

I have had the good fortune to travel to dark sites three times this year, in Arizona, Nevada, and most recently, to S/E Utah, where 5 of the OFLI members observed for 6 nights and explored Anasazi Indian ruins by day.  That part of our country is remarkably beautiful and full of Native American history.  We stayed at the Natural Bridges Nat'l Monument campground which is a recognized dark site.  The sites were well separated and we had plenty of space to set up the equipment in one area.  The campground has NO potable water and pit toilets, so this camping is not for the faint of heart; if you don't bring what you need, it's a 40 mile drive to the nearest town of Blanding, UT.  RVs are permitted, but most were in tents; I slept in my van.  

 

Weather was not terribly cooperative at new moon and we had clouds half of the nights.  But when clear the skies are very dark.  Rod P. had an SQM which he said showed 21.6 on two of the nights without clouds.  I used my 8" Newt with ASA reducer at f:2.8 or with a barlow at f:8, and my Nikon lenses to image a variety of targets, all taken through my NV, Mod 3C.  

 

So here are a few of the more than 200 images taken during this trip, that show the variety I was seeking. Please keep in mind that photos often reveal a brighter image than can be seen visually.  That difference is why I image.  These images have all been compressed from about 4-5mb down to 30-50kb... so they are quite inferior to the originals.

 

IC443, Jellyfish taken at 4:40 a.m., ES 208 + ASA reducer + 7nm H-a, ISO 10000, 1/4s for 15s:

IMG_E5982.jpeg

 

IC1848, Soul Nebula taken at 2:38 a.m., Nikon 300mm + 7nm H-a, ISO 6400, 1/4s for 15s:

IMG_5414.jpeg

 

IC5068 including B & C components (this image is not about the NAN or the Pelican, but puts them in the image to show proximity to IC5068, which are the three blotches at about 4 o'clock): 

IMG_E5890.jpeg

 

M22, taken at 8:46 p.m., ES 208 + 2x barlow, ISO1250, 1/10s for 7s:

IMG_5778.jpeg

 

M16 with Pillars of Creation, taken at 8:52 p.m., ES 208 + 2x + 7nm H-a, ISO 5000, 1/5s for 20s:

IMG_5779.jpeg

 

Sh2-113, -114, taken at 10:06 p.m., Nikon 300 + 7nm H-a, ISO 10000, 1/4s for 20s:

IMG_E5911.jpeg

 

Barnard 312, taken at 9:49 p.m., ES 208 + ASA reducer, ISO 80, 1/12s for 15s:

IMG_E5948.jpeg

 

NGC 6939 (Open Cluster) + 6946 (galaxy), taken at 10:16 p.m., ES 208 + ASA reducer, ISO 200, 1/10s for 15s:

IMG_E5952.jpeg

 

And finally, a night scape taken with a Fujifilm X-T30 using a Laowa 9mm lens at f:2.8, 50s:

XT300592.jpeg


Edited by GeezerGazer, 12 October 2019 - 06:51 PM.

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#2 GeezerGazer

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Posted 12 October 2019 - 01:54 PM

This image was taken at 1x using the Envis lens... I had to get up early for the winter constellations.  This includes Barnard's Loop, M42, the Flame and HH, Angelfish and the Rosette.  ISO 500, 1/12s for 20s:

IMG_E5986.jpeg


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#3 GeezerGazer

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Posted 12 October 2019 - 02:00 PM

I have also started identifying multiple targets within a single exposure so I'll know later, which is which.  This is an example of what I'm doing before placing the images in various albums of Messier, IC, Barnard, Sharpless, etc.  

 

B-142, -143, taken at 8:53 p.m., using ES 208 + ASA reducer, ISO 125, 1/11s for 15s:

Barnard-142, -143.jpg


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#4 GeezerGazer

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Posted 12 October 2019 - 02:31 PM

I took many images of our popular H-a targets, but most of my images on this trip were more obscure Sharpless and Barnard items.  It's hard to resist taking a look at or photographing our best known subjects from a dark zone.  Here are two more:

 

California Nebula, NGC 1499, taken with Nikon 300 + 7nm H-a, ISO 160, 1s exposure for 20s:

IMG_6005.jpeg

 

Horse Head and Flame, IC434 & NGC 2024, Nikon 300 + 7nm H-a, ISO 250, 1s for 20s:

IMG_E6002.jpeg

 

 

All NV photos on this trip were taken with an iPhone XR using NightCap camera app for manual exposures.  


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#5 Gavster

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Posted 12 October 2019 - 03:05 PM

The pics just keep getting better and better Ray! Excellent stuff.

I love the pillars of creation. And the widefield shot of Orion is possibly my favourite nv view of them all. Night vision at a dark sky is just the best smile.gif

Quick question - I thought you generally preferred the 12nm to the 7nm for phonetography - but I see these are with the 7nm, any particular reason?


Edited by Gavster, 12 October 2019 - 03:07 PM.

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#6 chemisted

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Posted 12 October 2019 - 04:39 PM

Great shots, Ray!  I'm glad you had such a good time.  Just for accuracy, the globular labeled M2 is actually M22.  Thanks, again, for sharing!  


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#7 GeezerGazer

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Posted 12 October 2019 - 07:33 PM

The pics just keep getting better and better Ray! Excellent stuff.

I love the pillars of creation. And the widefield shot of Orion is possibly my favourite nv view of them all. Night vision at a dark sky is just the best smile.gif

Quick question - I thought you generally preferred the 12nm to the 7nm for phonetography - but I see these are with the 7nm, any particular reason?

 

Yes.  I am starting to discriminate filter use based on the H-a subject... but I'm still learning.  Starting about June, I started experimenting with the 7nm.  I have found that if I want to see the fainter nebulosity in my images, the 7nm is a better choice.  As you know, the narrower the band, the more stars are attenuated.  I do like seeing the star field as it would be presented through a glass eyepiece, so I have used the 12nm filter most of the time.  But as I take images of more obscure, less bright H-a subject matter, I find that the 7nm is a better choice. 

 

Here is a good example.  When I was in Nevada at new moon in late August, at the Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park, another very dark site, I took this image of the Propeller Nebula, Simeis 57, aka: DWB-111.  I wanted the Propeller, but I really wanted to show the fainter nebulosity near it.  So I used the 7nm.  This image was taken 8-31-19 at 2:44 a.m., ISO 5000, 1/5s exposure averaged 15s: 

IMG_5418.jpeg

 

I think a 12nm would have shown some of the fainter nebulosity, but not with as great of definition as the 7nm.  


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#8 GeezerGazer

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Posted 12 October 2019 - 07:36 PM

Great shots, Ray!  I'm glad you had such a good time.  Just for accuracy, the globular labeled M2 is actually M22.  Thanks, again, for sharing!  

Yes, you are correct Ed... I missed the second 2!  Thank you, the remedy has been applied!  waytogo.gif



#9 Gavster

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Posted 13 October 2019 - 01:09 AM

Yes.  I am starting to discriminate filter use based on the H-a subject... but I'm still learning.  Starting about June, I started experimenting with the 7nm.  I have found that if I want to see the fainter nebulosity in my images, the 7nm is a better choice.  As you know, the narrower the band, the more stars are attenuated.  I do like seeing the star field as it would be presented through a glass eyepiece, so I have used the 12nm filter most of the time.  But as I take images of more obscure, less bright H-a subject matter, I find that the 7nm is a better choice. 

 

Here is a good example.  When I was in Nevada at new moon in late August, at the Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park, another very dark site, I took this image of the Propeller Nebula, Simeis 57, aka: DWB-111.  I wanted the Propeller, but I really wanted to show the fainter nebulosity near it.  So I used the 7nm.  This image was taken 8-31-19 at 2:44 a.m., ISO 5000, 1/5s exposure averaged 15s: 

attachicon.gif IMG_5418.jpeg

 

I think a 12nm would have shown some of the fainter nebulosity, but not with as great of definition as the 7nm.  

Ah interesting! Do you still have your 5nm? And if so does that show even more of the fainter stuff in images?



#10 AllanDystrup

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Posted 13 October 2019 - 02:10 AM

     Many “WOWsers” here!!

 

     Fine large image scale, good filter choice to balance nebula/star brightness, great settings of ISO and exp.time to optimize the S/N ratio. 

 

     Esp. Interesting for me to compare what an excellent 8” Newtonian can cook up when used under a dark night sky, as compared to my 4” refractor from a 5-6 NELM suburban backyard. I love the jellyfish, eagle, flame-HH... Heck, i love them all lol.gif

 

     — Allan


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#11 GeezerGazer

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Posted 13 October 2019 - 04:00 AM

Ah interesting! Do you still have your 5nm? And if so does that show even more of the fainter stuff in images?

Ah, I sold the 5nm for lack of use.  The 5nm was really tough for phonetography because the iPhone camera is limited to 1s exposures which means ISO has to be set much higher than a camera allowing single 20s exposures like the Huawei.  With short exposures of 1s or less, the narrower band filter induces photon starvation.  The averaging in NightCap does a very good job of eliminating noise from high ISO settings (5000 to 10000), but for 1s exposures, averaging needs to be longer, 25-35s.  I do like the photo averaging done in NightCap; it is a potent tool that is not found in most cameras.  There is a necessary balance to the manual control settings (ISO, exposure and length of averaging) that needs to be observed.  Sometimes I push ISO a little too much or I set the exposure a bit too high, and end up with grainy images, because I don't average them long enough.  When using H-a filters, I like to make sure that at least 30 images are averaged, so a 1/3s exposure requires 10s of averaging; 1/4s requires about 8s; 1/2s requires 15s, etc.  The good news is that these images only take 15-20 seconds most of the time, so a repeat is not time consuming.  The 5nm filter pushed iPhone ISO to the extreme for all but the brightest H-a subjects.  If iPhone offered more than 1s exposures, the 5nm might be a better potential candidate.  I've thought that the 8nm Chroma would be pretty ideal for current iPhone cameras.  For now, I'll continue to use the 7nm when needed.  

 

I'm still learning capabilities and limitations of the phone and NightCap when used with my 3 main optical systems. But it's all fun and I like the results.  As you noted, results keep improving; technology keeps upgrading.  

 

While I was in Utah, during one of the cloudy nights, I set my phone in a holder on a tripod (no tracking) to take a long exposure of the MW; using NightCap (no NVD), I set the ISO to 10000, the exposure to 1s, and averaged it for 20s... the longest I could reasonably go without tracking.  The photo was not great; it reminded me of the images I was taking in 2017, with mottling and graininess.  But the MW was visible through the black clouds that were in front of it.  I should have tried it on a clear night!  I'll attach it here.  But I'm guessing that in two more generations, the iPhone will be able to take that very low light image with aplomb!

IMG_5930.JPG


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#12 GeezerGazer

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Posted 13 October 2019 - 04:13 AM

     Many “WOWsers” here!!

 

     Fine large image scale, good filter choice to balance nebula/star brightness, great settings of ISO and exp.time to optimize the S/N ratio. 

 

     Esp. Interesting for me to compare what an excellent 8” Newtonian can cook up when used under a dark night sky, as compared to my 4” refractor from a 5-6 NELM suburban backyard. I love the jellyfish, eagle, flame-HH... Heck, i love them all lol.gif

 

     — Allan

Thanks for your kind words. It still amazes me Allan, that with pretty modest optics, NV and a phone, such images can be captured.  They are really just snapshots, but they contain so much detail!  I wonder what phone cameras will be like in 10 yrs??


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#13 bobhen

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Posted 13 October 2019 - 06:32 AM

Just wonderful and impressive images.

 

Many years ago I discovered Southern Utah with its National Parks, inspiring scenery and dark skies.

 

The sky at Bryce Canyon was one of the darkest I’ve seen. My 4” refractor was a great companion and thrilled under the dark sky, and that was before I purchased my Image Intensifier. It would be nice to give the intensifier a try out there.

 

Southern Utah is the new Arizona. So don’t tell anyone and it will be our secret.

 

Hoping to get back there someday.

 

Bob


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#14 GOLGO13

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Posted 13 October 2019 - 07:21 AM

Beautiful pictures. Sounds like a great trip.
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#15 Jeff Morgan

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Posted 13 October 2019 - 11:17 AM

Ray, I have been trying to hold out for next years model phone, you're killing me!


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#16 GeezerGazer

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Posted 13 October 2019 - 12:51 PM

Ray, I have been trying to hold out for next years model phone, you're killing me!

lol.gif  Next year's iPhone is already announced... not too many, changes, except another lens (3 now) for extra wide angle images. I'll wait at least another year for the next generation.  I'm hoping they'll come up with some new way of getting very low light images, or longer exposures.  I use my phone camera a LOT more than my Fujifilm X-T30; gave my Nikon D7100 to my daughter.  A new phone is about the same price as a good lens for the X-T30.  I have not found a lens for the X-T30 that plays nice with the NVD ocular using an afocal connection, and I've tried a 50mm, 35, 25, 18, 12, and 9mm of different brands.  Really, the only good option for using a regular camera is a relay lens like jdbastro uses... but there are NO relay lenses made for the Mod 3C.  crazy.gif



#17 GeezerGazer

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Posted 13 October 2019 - 01:27 PM

Just wonderful and impressive images.

 

Many years ago I discovered Southern Utah with its National Parks, inspiring scenery and dark skies.

 

The sky at Bryce Canyon was one of the darkest I’ve seen. My 4” refractor was a great companion and thrilled under the dark sky, and that was before I purchased my Image Intensifier. It would be nice to give the intensifier a try out there.

 

Southern Utah is the new Arizona. So don’t tell anyone and it will be our secret.

 

Hoping to get back there someday.

 

Bob

Bob, about 2001, we stayed in the campground at Mesa Verde (Anasazi cliff dwellings) in Colorado, and I got to observe with a then new TV-85.  The campground at Mesa Verde is surrounded by mountains which blocked all light from nearby Cortez, CO.  It was very dark, clear and steady, and as my wife and daughters slept, I got lost in the stars until 4 a.m.  Those kinds of nights become etched in my memory as special... like your Bryce Canyon experience.  I've been to Bryce 3 times in the last 15 years and I've seen it change.  Today, from May to October, dozens (seems like hundreds!) of busloads of tourists arrive every day to stay at the main lodge in Bryce and night lights permeate that area.  There are still dark sites within Bryce, but you must find them.  When I return to S/E Utah for dark sky observing, I'll probably go to Hovenweep which has much better access to the southern horizon.  

 

The OFLI group I observe with once or twice a year, really liked Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, for its daytime excursions into Anasazi history and for the night skies. I'm hoping to go there next year... protected from tourists by many miles of gravel road and primitive camping, it is reportedly a very good dark site.  

Ray


Edited by GeezerGazer, 13 October 2019 - 07:20 PM.


#18 Tyson M

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Posted 15 October 2019 - 10:31 PM

These are some incredible night vision images!   

Well caught! 


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#19 Jeffmar

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Posted 17 October 2019 - 04:25 PM

Just wonderful and impressive images.

 

Many years ago I discovered Southern Utah with its National Parks, inspiring scenery and dark skies.

 

The sky at Bryce Canyon was one of the darkest I’ve seen. My 4” refractor was a great companion and thrilled under the dark sky, and that was before I purchased my Image Intensifier. It would be nice to give the intensifier a try out there.

 

Southern Utah is the new Arizona. So don’t tell anyone and it will be our secret.

 

Hoping to get back there someday.

 

Bob

I have been to a couple of star parties at Bryce Canyon. The first time I went there using a C11, I finally saw m51 with dust lanes and detail through an eyepiece. In my back yard with my larger scope I can only get a couple of smudges with no detail. Everything in the sky looks amazing at Bryce Canyon.


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#20 Eddgie

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 09:38 AM

I've only just seen this post.

 

Honestly I gave up on trying to pick a favorite.  There is just so much great about every image.

 

Reading something in your post about three trips to dark skies this year... I actually go to dark skies more since gettting NV that I used to prior to NV.  As great as NV is from a white zone, under really dark skies, it is so staggeringly good that I feel like I am in outer space.  

 

Heck, I bet even the ISS astronauts don't get the views of the sky that we get. 

 

Fantastic images. and if there were trophy awards for being a master of the craft of NV cell phone photography, you would get my vote, and you keep getting better and better.


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#21 Eddgie

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 09:44 AM

Somehow I had missed that you went the ASA reducer route. The Barnard 312 image is a great example of how good field illumination can really make a difference. I love my 6" f/2.8 but sometimes I wish I had gone to the 8". 

 

Did the scope have enough flange to focal plane distance for the ASA out of the box, or did you have to move the primary up?  If you have posted on this, I guess I just missed it.  

 

Also, I was thrilled to see that you included some dark nebula shots.  H-a gets all the love, but this year, I have done as much dark nebula as H-a.  These are also a compelling reason to get to dark sky.   Anyway,  I was pleased to see that you are giving them some exposure.  


Edited by Eddgie, 18 October 2019 - 09:46 AM.

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#22 JMW

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 10:21 AM

A few weeks ago we hiked for the afternoon in Natural Bridges and stayed at an old air strip about 6 miles away. The place was recommended for RV users by the rangers since the campground was already full when we arrived at 11AM.

 

That night we shared the air strip with two other groups. They all were asleep by 10 and had all their lights off. We setup a tripod and spent a couple of hours taking Milky Way shots with a 12mm manual lens using a Fuji XT3.  We didn't a see car go by or any light solution other than the occasional jet which would leave a short streak in the photo.  It was very mild and I was outside at 11PM in running shorts.

 

The sky conditions looked great and it was the best night of naked eye astronomy that we enjoyed in a long time.

 

Your photos look great. I haven't tried using an iPhone with my scopes. I just downloaded the NightCap after after seeing your results.


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#23 Mike Lockwood

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 01:40 PM

Also, I was thrilled to see that you included some dark nebula shots.  H-a gets all the love, but this year, I have done as much dark nebula as H-a.  These are also a compelling reason to get to dark sky.   Anyway,  I was pleased to see that you are giving them some exposure.  

I have to agree, having just been to Okie-Tex - dark nebulae are almost as much fun as h-a in some ways.

 

I have really enjoyed all of the images in this thread.


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#24 GeezerGazer

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 04:07 PM

Somehow I had missed that you went the ASA reducer route. The Barnard 312 image is a great example of how good field illumination can really make a difference. I love my 6" f/2.8 but sometimes I wish I had gone to the 8". 

 

Did the scope have enough flange to focal plane distance for the ASA out of the box, or did you have to move the primary up?  If you have posted on this, I guess I just missed it.  

 

Also, I was thrilled to see that you included some dark nebula shots.  H-a gets all the love, but this year, I have done as much dark nebula as H-a.  These are also a compelling reason to get to dark sky.   Anyway,  I was pleased to see that you are giving them some exposure.  

Ed, it worked without modification.  It is a very useful tool with NV. I bought the ASA reducer for the Orion f:4 I had before the ES 8”.  It works fine with both scopes.  And thanks for your kind words. 



#25 Eddgie

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Posted 18 October 2019 - 06:14 PM

I have to agree, having just been to Okie-Tex - dark nebulae are almost as much fun as h-a in some ways.

 

I have really enjoyed all of the images in this thread.

Yeah, While we can see H-a even from bright skies, dark nebula is not as good from city skies, but under dark skies, they can be quite amazing.  The Ink Spot is dead black under dark skies.  Dark nebula just adds a tremendous amount of structure to the galaxy. 




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