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SkyNews September - October 2018

SkyNews, the magazine of astronomy and stargazing, features complete observing information, expert equipment reviews, star chart — everything beginners and intermediate amateur astronomers and astrophotographers need. Edited by astronomy author Terence Dickinson, published in Canada, writers include equipment guru Alan Dyer, comet hunter David Levy, wilderness astronomer Peter McMahon, Ken Hewitt-White, Gary Seronik, Ray Villard

Royal Astronomical Society of Canada
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a dabbler’s approach to astrophotography

GO BIG or go home. These days, that obnoxious declaration seems to pop up with alarming frequency in everything from sporting events to cooking shows. I get it—half measures are akin to admitting defeat before the game has even started. But it’s also nonsensical when it’s applied to recreational activities, such as taking pictures of the night sky. I suspect that more than a few readers have shied away from astrophotography because they lack the time and equipment to “go big.” In reality, getting nicely detailed shots of galaxies, star clusters and nebulas isn’t an all-or-nothing game. There’s a satisfying middle ground. Indeed, you may already have most of the tools you need. When it comes to astrophotography, I readily admit to being a dabbler. I enjoy making night-sky photos from time…

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sky news briefs

50 YEARS AND COUNTING AT VANCOUVER’S MACMILLAN PLANETARIUM TO PORTRAY the drama of the universe. That was the mandate of Vancouver’s H. R. MacMillan Planetarium when it opened on October 26, 1968. “The universe is a very dramatic place,” says David Rodger, the facility’s first director. “I saw it as our goal to portray that drama using top-notch visual effects, documentary-style narration, scientific accuracy and music, all of which would be framed by the brilliant night sky produced by the Zeiss star projector.” The first Canadian planetarium opened in Edmonton in 1960; Rodger was its second director. Vancouver’s star theatre was one of five constructed between 1966 and 1968—the others sprouting up in Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal. The West Coast iteration materialized thanks to a gift of $1.5 million from H. R.…

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best of the   best

CAPTURING THE WONDER of the night (and day!) sky has never been easier. Even budget DSLR cameras with kit lenses are capable of exciting, eye-catching results. But it’s not just novice astrophotographers who are cashing in on the potential of today’s gear—advanced imagers are making use of ever more sophisticated equipment and processing techniques. For example, we regularly receive remarkable deep-sky shots taken from suburban backyards thanks to the emergence of narrowband imaging. Using narrowband filters, which allow selected wavelengths of light to pass through while blocking others, photographers are able to (largely) exclude the effects of big-city light pollution. You no longer have to drive for hours to a dark sky location to have any hope of imaging faint nebulas. Every year, the quality of the submissions we receive gets…

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shoot the moon with your dslr

OVER THE YEARS AT SkyNews, we’ve published quite a few impressive pictures of the Moon. And we’ve published a few of mine too. Our nearest celestial neighbour is tremendously photogenic. From wide-angle shots of conjunctions between the crescent Moon and Venus to highly detailed closeups of the lunar surface—the compositional possibilities are endless. But for me, nothing beats a frame-filling portrait of the Moon’s entire disc. It’s the best of both worlds—details show up readily, and you can appreciate them in context. Happily, these kinds of images are among the easiest to create. So what’s involved? If you already have a telescope on a tracking mount and a DSLR camera, you’ll need only a couple of accessories. First, you must have some means of attaching your camera directly to the scope’s…

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planning your astrophoto sessions

THE HISTORY of professional sports is filled with many “lucky shot” stories. But chalking up these events to good fortune ignores the years of practice athletes put into honing their skills. I’ve noticed the same thing with my photography—the better prepared I am, the luckier I seem to get! Autumn is my favourite time of year to be an astrophotographer. Shorter days and longer nights mean less time waiting for darkness. In the early evening, the very best of the summer’s deep-sky objects are still on display and the majestic arch of the Milky Way swings into perfect position for dramatic wide-field portraits. If you’re willing to stay up late (or rise early), the predawn offers a tantalizing preview of the winter constellations minus the bone-chilling temperatures. But even in early…

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two clusters for the price of one

AT FIRST GLANCE, NGC6885 is an ordinary, garden-variety open cluster, but this easily overlooked object is a celestial odd duck. Let’s visit and find out why. Our star-hop begins at third-magnitude Albireo, the colourful double star marking the head of Cygnus the swan (or the foot of the Northern Cross). From Albireo, sweep eastward for 6¾ degrees to 4.7-magnitude 15 Vulpeculae, then, using low power in your telescope, veer a little more than two degrees southeast to a shallow triangle formed by the sixth-magnitude stars 18, 19 and 20 Vulpeculae. The latter star overlays the northeastern part of NGC6885. Here’s where the “odd duck” aspect comes in—there are, in fact, two clusters at this location. Due to the imprecision of certain historical measurements (and other errors), the overlapping clusters are often plotted…