NFR Stuff in the Sky: A Lighthearted Look

Canuck from Kansas

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So I’ve been doing some research, I am a scientist by training after all, and it turns out the sky is big, I mean really big. There are some anecdotal reports that it’s even bigger in Montana, but this has yet to be verified in the peer reviewed literature (at least from what I can find). Anyway, I digress. So the sky is really big, bigger than the land, and even bigger than the sea. My research has also found that it is chock full of stuff.

Photographing stuff in the sky can be challenging, it's often moving, and sometimes it's dark; despite that, in my self-indulgent way I have been trying to document some of the stuff I have observed in the sky. I have also noticed there are some very good photographers on this site, so if you have stuff you have captured in the sky I hope you will share (history and background info are very welcome).

I’ll start us off:

Birds are in the sky, they tend to be relatively close:

Bald Eagle:


Canada Geese:


And what I believe is a Red-tailed Hawk (someone please correct me if I'm wrong)


The moon. It’s a little further away than most birds. This was for some reason called a “Blue Moon” - Blue moon usually refers to the second full moon of a month; however, this was in the middle of August; I learned Blue Moon also refers to the 4th full moon of a particular quarter. I would argue this was a red moon.




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Since we're being light hearted....I suck at birds....
Either out of focus:
View attachment _DSC9436.JPG

Or I realize my lens is dirty:
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Sometimes get a descent one - but there's always something off that requires editing. Too far away or general comp is no bueno/timing was off.
View attachment _DSC9441.JPG

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Guessing it has more to do with technique than good glass, but I wouldn't mind an upgrade on the glass side.

They sure are fun to try to shoot though.

Canuck from Kansas

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Once the skies finally cleared of the smoke last week, got out for some evening stargazing, though there was a quarter moon, making the sky a little bright.


After the moon set, the Milky Way was a little more visible (Milky Way is made up of millions of bits of stuff). If you really squint, you can almost make out the Dark Horse Nebula (aka Great Dark Horse, Prancing Horse).

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Hoping for clear skies the beginning of October, last chance until spring to get better Milky Way shots.



Active Member
Or I realize my lens is dirty:
View attachment 295555
Those light halos are actually dust spots on your sensor (I think that is what you are referencing?) Self-fix is a catch-22 if you want to avoid taking it to a shop $. You can carefully try a quick light blast or two of canned air and hopefully not blow more particles on the sensor (look up camera manual to find out how to set controls on camera for this procedure if camera has a mirror).

Dust is often staticly drawn to the sensor to add to the headache. Many camera brands, like Olympus, have a built in sensor shake on camera start up to help dislodge.
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Canuck from Kansas

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There are also sensor cleaning kits, most use swabs with a cleaning fluid. There is one kit that uses an adhesive to pick dust off the sensor, but I've been warned off this sort as they may leave residue on the sensor.


Canuck from Kansas

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The Orion Nebula - one of the most popular bits of stuff in the nighttime sky:

Screen Shot 2021-09-24 at 9.35.45 AM.png

Saw a discussion on the comet Neowise about "layering" images and why or if it is OK - from what I am learning, it's almost a necessity to "stack" images. It allows for cranking up the ISO for short exposure (go more than 2 seconds without a tracker and you start getting trailing - the above is a stack of 20 "light" x 2" exposures 10 x 2" "Dark" exposures (ie, same settings but with lens cap on - used to delete sensor hotspots) and and you can see the stars are not round, ie, there is some trailing). Stacking programs help align the images and average images to remove noise from high ISO.

Below is a single image

Screen Shot 2021-09-24 at 9.50.29 AM.png

The above images are JPEGs, the difference in quality is far greater in TIFF format.

Hope to get more into this, wishlist includes a tracker and decent refractor scope (these were using my 400 mm zoom).


Canuck from Kansas

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So, upon further research I have come to learn that we humans put stuff way up in the sky; shooting Saturn (the brightest dot) and Jupiter (second brightest dot) the other night, a man-made interloper (purples lines) floated by - the ISS (International Space Station; NORAD ID: 25544) - dashed line due to 5 sequential 15 second exposures; ie, it took about 75 seconds to travel what you see. The fainter line crossing the ISS is likely also man made, an airplane (crossed the sky just after the ISS but I kept as part or the stack) - magnifying in showed a series of red dots rather than a solid line, ie navigation lights.

The cool thing, the ISS showed up right on schedule as predicted by Stellarium.

Screen Shot 2021-10-06 at 1.57.53 PM.png

Better shot of Saturn, Jupiter and the Milky Way from a couple of night prior:

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This all just further reinforces what I have come to believe, there's lots of stuff up there.

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Canuck from Kansas

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So, I was going to post how cool it is that stuff in the sky is dynamic, that is, the relationship of some stuff to other stuff in the sky is always changing. F’rinstance, last night, the moon was in conjunction with Venus, which was in even closer conjunction with Delta Scorpii (Dschubba) just after dusk.

Then clouds happened.

Now as many already know, clouds are in fact in the sky, and they can absolutely enhance your vista:

Bachelor at dusk

Screen Shot 2021-10-10 at 12.27.12 PM.png

On the other hand, they can thoroughly muck up your view of anything that may be on the other side of those clouds. I had planned to get shots of the Moon – Venus conjunction, but as the hour came close, I had this:


As luck would have it though, the skies somewhat cleared, just in the nick of time – The Moon (you can probably guess) – Venus (the brightest white dot at about 5 o’clock to the moon) – Delta Scorpii (faint white dot at about 1:00 to Venus) – Acrab (faint dot at about 2:00 to the moon) – Antares (faint dot about 8:00 to the moon); and of course, an interloper (ISS Zarya cargo module) photobombed my shot (faint line above the moon), all as predicted by Stellarium at 7:15:14 (09 October 2021).

Single shot; 135 mm; f4.5; ISO 200; 1.6” exposure:

Screen Shot 2021-10-10 at 6.27.06 AM.png

And just s little later:

Screen Shot 2021-10-10 at 12.34.44 PM.png

Seems clouds can further enhance stuff in the sky.


Canuck from Kansas

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Well, the wife seems to be encouraging my explorations, and as such, I have a new setup; an Ioptron Skyguider Pro, which will allow me long exposures of stuff in the night sky.


Just getting to know tolerances and capabilities; early Saturday morning took it out for a first test drive:

30 second exposure using just tripod:


30 second exposure using the Skyguider:


Then, 100 stacked 30 second exposures (ISO 400) of the Orion Nebula; compare this to #7 above, so much cleaner.


Then this early morning went out to push it out further, 2 minute exposures, unfortunately, moon is filling and high thin clouds were pushing through, so I didn't bother to go to my high mountain dark sky spot, but still, a stack of 40 X 2 minute exposures (ISO 400) of the Pleiades (AKA 7 Sisters, M45, Subaru), an open star cluster containing middle-aged, hot (blue) B-type stars:

Screen Shot 2021-10-17 at 10.52.41 AM.png

This should greatly expand my explorations of stuff in the sky - think this will mean I need to get up even earlier when I go fishin'.

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