Desktop Project Part 13: Backyard Orion

The entire universe in blog form
April 7 2012 11:00 AM

Desktop Project Part 13: Backyard Orion

[This is another in a series of posts I'm doing to help me clear off the zillions of cool astronomy pictures I have sitting on my computer desktop. The difference this time? I took this one!]

On Friday night, February 24, 2012, the Moon, Venus, and Jupiter made a pretty line in the sky. I took some pictures as they were setting to the west, but there was a show to the south, too: the constellation of Orion was standing straight and tall over the roof of my house, so I took a quick shot of that, as well:

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  


[Click to enhunternate.]

Not bad, eh? That's a 13 second exposure with my point-and-shoot camera mounted on a tripod. I just aimed it and took this one picture (right after I took this we had to get dinner started, and the kitchen light illuminates my back yard so I couldn't shoot any more). Sometimes astrophotography is pretty easy! Now, I wouldn't submit this shot to a professional site or anything, but given how least-effort it was I'm happy to post it here.

And it's not terrible. In the bigger version you can see star colors -- Betelgeuse (Orion's right shoulder) and Aldebaran (to the upper right) are both clearly orange, and you can see the blue in Rigel. Look below Orion's belt; in his, um, dagger you can see the fuzzy Orion Nebula, shining slightly pink. Look to the lower left: there's Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, peeking through the trees.

It doesn't take crazy fancy expensive equipment to take pictures that you can enjoy. Sure, I'd love to have a $4000 camera with telephoto and pro tripod, but even with a modest camera it's not impossible to capture the skies. And with Venus still shining madly in the west right now after sunset, even folks in big cities can get interesting pictures of it. If you have a camera, give it a shot!

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