Astrophotography at Berry College

Mount Berry, GA


Overview

We are in the early stages of developing a program in astrophotography at Berry College's Pew Observatory. So far we have obtained some rough images of relatively bright objects that require only short exposure times. We plan to start taken images using autoguiding soon, and we are also learning how to process astronomical images. Hopefully we will have some high-quality images to show in the near future.

For now, you can take a look at the rough images we have obtained so far. If you want to see our images of the transit of Venus in 2012 (which turned out quite well) please visit our Transit of Venus page.


Student Photography

A few of my astronomy students have gotten some nice shots of the moon through afocal photography using their phones. The results are pretty good considering the equipment and method used, the lack of astrophotography training, and the fact that it was all done very quickly amide the hustle and bustle of a night lab. The images below were taken by Berry students Haley Caulkins (left image), Hayley Westphal (center image), and Deanna Cunningham (right image). All three images were taken the same night. Obviously the images taken by Haley and Hayley used a red filter. Deanna's image was unfiltered but the Moon extended beyond the field of view of the eyepiece.

Second Attempt

The image below of M 13 was taken by Todd Timberlake and Kalen Maloney on 19 September 2012 using the Canon T2i camera on our Astro-Physics 155 mm apochromatic refractor. We tried to use autoguiding but it was not very successful because of poor polar alignment of the mount (since corrected). The image combines eight one minute exposures with some dark correction and a bit of processing in Photoshop.

Our First Astrophotos

The images below were all taken by Dr. Todd Timberlake (Director of the Pew Observatory) and Kalen Maloney (an undergraduate physics major and assistant director of the observatory), with assistance from Zane Cochrane. The sunspot image was taken with an 8-inch Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope and solar filter. The other images were taken with an Astro-physics 155 mm apochromatic refractor. All images were taken with a Canon T2i digital SLR camera. The camera has been modified by removing the IR-blocking filter, which results in unusual coloring for images taken without additional filters. These images are unprocessed except for some very unsophisticated image sharpening.

Albireo

Albireo is a double star in the constellation Cygnus (the Swan). The two stars that form this pair have noticeably different colors, with the orangish star somewhat brighter than the blue star.

Jupiter

In the image of Jupiter below you can see faint traces of cloud bands on the planet's surface. The four Galilean moons of Jupiter (Io, Callisto, Ganymede, and Europa) can be seen along a line running down and to the left of Jupiter itself.

M 13

Messier 13 is a globular cluster in the constellation Hercules. A globular cluster is an enormous spherical collection of stars. This image was taken without autoguiding, resulting in the streaky appearance of the stars in the cluster.

M 31

Messier 31 is a spiral galaxy in the constellation Andromeda. It is the closest large galaxy to our Milky Way, and is slightly bigger than the Milky Way. In this unguided image you can see the bright central core of the galaxy, with the galactic disk showing up as a hazy bright patch.

Moon

Unguided photography works much better when you can take very short exposures. It is possible to get high-quality images of very bright objects, like the Moon, without autoguiding.

Sun

The image of the Sun below was taken with an 8-inch SCT and a solar filter. The group of sunspots in the lower left is clearly visible, while some fainter spots can be seen nearer the center.


[Return to Pew Observatory Main Page]

Todd K. Timberlake (ttimberlake@berry.edu)