Southern Skies

In April 2007 four of us from Castle Point Astronomy Club went on a three week trip to NSW, Australia. The prime motivation of this trip was to observe and photograph the dark southern sky.

Photographic equipment

Canon 20Da with Canon 10-22mm, Canon 24-105mm, Canon 100-400mm lenses.

Teegul II mount on a Manfrotto tripod with 405 geared head.

Polar alignment was obtained using the drift method.

Very Wide angle photos taken with 10-22mm lens set on 10mm (Field of view = 107deg) Exposure time 5 minutes

Click on an image to see large version

This view was looking North and mostly is visible from the UK during the Summer Months. E.g. in the lower centre is the coathanger asterism which is upside down compared with the view from the UK.

The centre of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Only the left half of this view can be seen from the UK during the Summer Months

This part of the Milky Way is never visible from the UK. It contains the Southern Cross, the coalsack nebula and the Eta Carina Nebula. See the more detailed pictures below for details. The Large Magellanic cloud visible at the bottom just left of the trees and a bit of the Small Magellanic Cloud can just be seen further left.

Wide angle photos taken with 24-105mm lens set on 24mm (Field of view = 60deg) Exposure time 5 minutes.

This series follows the Milky Way from near Lyra through Sagittarius and Scorpio to Carina

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The bright star to the left of the tree is Vega with the trapezium of Lyra up and right. The coathanger asterism is near the top centre.

The coathanger is centre bottom with Altair just right and below centre

Each image is further South of the previous one. At the bottom just to the left of the dark lane are two clusters IC4756 and NGC6633. At top right the handle of the Sagittarius teapot is just visible and going left and down can be seen M22, M25, M23 & M16 and more. 

The whole of Sagittarius is now visible top right as is the centre of the Galaxy looking like steam coming out of the teapot's spout. The bright object at top left of centre is Jupiter.

To the right of Jupiter is the Pipe Dark Nebula. Near the top centre is the false comet a cluster of stars which to the naked eye resembles a comet. Not far below that is the Cat's Paw (or Bear's Foot) Nebula. Scorpius is above Jupiter with the pipe handle almost pointing towards the star Antares.

This image and the remaining images are upside down compared with the others as the view is now past the zenith. South is now down.

This section is nearly to the Southern Cross. The two bright stars near bottom centre are known as the pointers and they roughly point in the direction of the Southern Cross (just out of picture). The bright object bottom right is Omega Centauri (see picture later).

Below the pointers is the obvious coal sack dark nebula which is itself "touching" the Southern Cross. The Cross is lying on it's side in this view and is to the bottom right of the Coal Sack. Level with the "bottom"and left of the Coal Sack is a dark stripe which has the lovely name of "Dark Doodad" 

Just below mid centre is the glow of the Eta Carina Nebula (see below for larger picture) and finally the Southern Horizon.

To get the most from these images it is worth studying them in conjunction with a star atlas such as Sky & Telescope's Pocket Sky Atlas that we took for identification purposes. I highly recommend it to anyone and is not expensive.

Eta Carina Nebula

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2 x 3 min exposures, 105mm lens

35 x 30s exposures, 200mm lens

20 x 60s exposures, 400mm lens

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Large Magellanic Cloud

Omega Centauri

Zodiacal Light

Satellite galaxy of our own Milky Way. Clearly visible to the naked eye.

The Tarantula Nebula is seen top right of the cloud.

200mm lens 26 x 30s exposure

As seen from the Earth, the biggest and brightest globular cluster. It is visible to the naked eye as a fuzzy star. This picture does not do it justice. I would love to have a go at it with a telescope.

Taken with 400mm lens 5 x 20s exposure

This was seen in the East long before sunrise. It is caused by sunlight reflecting off dust in the plane of our solar system.

10mm wide angle lens 5 minute exposure