Clear Summer Night of Astrophotography at Selkirk PP

Photography with a Canon DSLR Camera through an 80mm telescope

I had the pleasure of spending a clear (almost) moonless night under the stars at Selkirk Provincial Park.  Despite being in the middle of busy season, I was able to book a campsite with open views of the sky.  Because Selkirk Provincial Park is located on the Northern shore of Lake Erie, the light pollution to the south is minimal.  I decided to use my 3" Explore Scientific triplet Apochromatic Refractor to image, as my 8" Orion astrograph has been a bit of a headache for me, but that's another story.

Astro Photography image of the Pelican nebula in the constellation cygnus taken with modified canon DSLR

I was hoping to have clear views directly south from my campsite (Site 85), but I ended up having a larger window to the West than expected.  This changed my imaging target from Sagittarius, to an object high up above in Cygnus.  The wispy nebulosity in NGC7000 - The North America Nebula captured my attention once again.  I settled on an area that included the Pelican Nebula - an object have not yet given a fair attempt at before.

My modified Canon Xsi DSLR did a good job at picking up the bright pink and red nebulosity.  I wonder how many more shutter actuations my old 450d can handle?  That old DSLR has been through every type of outdoor condition you could think of - including being completely covered in ice in the heart of winter. If I had to guess, I would say that this camera has at least a 60,000 actuation shutter count.  Maybe much more!

I assess the light frames in Adobe Bridge before stacking them in Deep Sky Stacker
Assessing the Light Frames from my Imaging Session in Adobe Bridge CC

 As per my usual routine, I shot several exposures (In this case 5 minutes each) at iso 1600.  This is the max-iso for this camera, and does produce a fair amount of noise.  Luckily, most of this noise is cancelled out in the stacking process by using dark frames.  Dark frames are simply exposures of the same length and temperature as "light" frames, but with the lens cap on the camera.  I think of it as - Any data that the camera picks up with the lens cap on, is noise.  There are no photons to collect.  With stacking software (Like Deep Sky Stacker), the isolated noise data is removed from the final image. There are several tutorials online to better describe this process.  I will go over the stacking process and workflow in a future post, for anyone interested.  For now, I will share a link to the software I use Deep 
Sky Stacker It is currently the only program I use, and I am very happy with it.

The Final "Stacked" Image in Deep Sky Stacker - Before Processing in Photoshop CC

 Here are the complete details of the photo:

Telescope: Explore Scientific ED80 with WO Flat III 0.8x FR/FF
Mount: Skywatcher HEQ5 Pro Synscan
Guiding: Meade DSI Pro II and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: Orion Mini 50mm
Camera: Canon EOS 450D (Modified)
ISO: 1600
Total Exposure: 1 hour, 50 Minutes (22 x 300s)
Processing Software: Deep Sky Stacker, Photoshop CC
Support Files: 15 darks

Aurora Borealis on July 10th, 2015 from Selkirk Provincial Park
An amazing surprise we had that night was beautiful pink aurora overhead to the North! apparently it was quite a show around 2am. Rarely do I see the Northern Lights from Southern Ontario, so it is always a treat. A lazy yellow waning crescent moon rose out of the Eastern horizon around 2am, and with that, it was time to get some much needed sleep!

Selkirk Provincial Park is a great place to go camping with your friends and family in the summer.  What attracted me to this park was the dark skies to the South, and the proximity to my home.  It was just over an hour drive from St. Catharines.  This was my second time to the park this year.  Our visit in late May was a very wet experience as their were intense thunderstorms the night we stayed.  This time, however, I got the trip I wanted with warm, clear skies all night long. I hope to do some more astronomy camping before summer is over!

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