Sunday, May 25, 2014


The recent buzz of a possible great meteor shower Friday night / Saturday morning kept us all in anticipation of clear skies. It did not look good, but eastern Maine, specifically coastal Hancock County enjoyed clear skies all night long. The question was then whether the shower would pan out.

Early on I spotted what appeared to be a brilliant meteor exiting the constellation Camelopardalis. The night looked promising. The time since that 10 o'clock hour produced nary a trace of any members of the Camelopardalids. The night had a lack of meteors in general.

The dark and starry night still had gems to behold and one phenomena in general was putting on a decent show. Green colored airglow is the result of oxygen atoms roughly 60 miles high in the extreme upper atmosphere excited by ultraviolet radiation during the daytime.   The glow can be seen by astronauts in Earth's orbit and by stargazers with keen vision under dark skies.

Below is an example of green airglow and the Milky Way early Saturday morning as revealed by long exposure photography.

I noted it visually.  It appeared as large pale white patches of light against a darker sky. The camera sees the green light, but human eyes cannot detect color in such low light conditions as the rods, responsible for night vision do not detect color.

So dark skies are not always dark, indeed the whole front yard of my home seemed "bright".  My Sky Quality Meter read 21.6 Mags/Sq-Arc-sec, that's pretty dark.  The Milky Way was well structured and the dark nebulae in Ophiuchus were not a challenge at all.

These "bright nights" commonly occur during high solar activity, so visual and photographic observations in the coming Solar Minima will enjoy darker skies, a few years away, but it's not too early to start planning.

Airglow veils the Milky Way

Sunday, May 4, 2014


The long winter had taken its toll on millions here in the northeast, lasting longer than we had hoped for.  Springtime is now upon us and a freshness is in the air, a time for waking as if from a long slumber.  

A long pause can change the outlook of an individual.  A long hard look at things almost always creates change.  Last year's hardships and the near death winter brings to the landscape makes the vernal season especially poignant. 

Nightfly Photography and this blog are no longer exclusively about analog astrophotography.  A change derived from a hard look at all things that matter to me and a new found freedom of expression in my work. For 35 years astronomy as an endeavor has been my life's avocation; astrophotography, an expression of the experience.  Last years wake-up call spun me out of control as I faced an episode of mortality.  The work I had hoped to capture before becoming inanimate is now before me.  I lay the groundwork for the finest hour, a positive outlook for creativity in various forms.  

Our short tenure in the immensity of time is too brief to not be engaged fully in what you love and the various ways of expressing that love.  Writing, photography, poetry, all expressions of the human endeavor to celebrate our existence is this grand universe.  Perhaps that is a lofty goal.  Lofty or not, it is simply the ideal I will strive for.  

Furthermore, the discussion will not be simply about technique or equipment.  We will have time for that.  There will be more about the images themselves and how they strike us, how they are internalized.  We will discuss authors, poets, and artists, as well as science, philosophy, and the humanities, mostly within the context of the human response to visual and modern photographic interpretations.

May Morning Milky Way
A few mornings ago, the skies had cleared allowing an opportunity, if one was willing to leave a warm bed, to observe and photograph our summer Milky Way.  I have been experimenting with my new digital camera and fast wide-angle lens.  Utilizing the equatorial mount in the observatory to piggyback the arrangement, I was able to capture, among others, the above image.

I was flabbergasted by how vivid the images were, owing to the dark skies at my home in eastern Maine.  I felt like a writer who had just found the right words for an expression, a singer for a song.  The sky was as dark as it had been in the last few years with Sky Quality Meter reading of 21.6 Mags/Sq-Arc-Sec at the zenith.  Even towards the horizon, the various dark nebulae in Ophiuchus were instantly obvious.  The Great Star Cloud in Sagittarius blazed brightly, illuminating anything painted white in my front yard, not the least, my home.  Perhaps eyesight is not as good over 40, but I was seeing beyond what normally would be considered average for a dark rural sky.  My south horizon does not look over any communities, indeed it looks out over mostly ocean.  That's good if we are shooting in that direction as the above photo testifies.  

I am glad I left the comfort of my bed to witness what is perhaps the grandest object we can behold. The summer Milky Way.  It ratifies an agreement made years ago, to forego living in the city for a lifestyle devoted to being in the simple presence of the majestic.  The limitations of that choice are plentiful, but that decision has always been upheld as I return to bed when twilight strikes my pillow.