Wandering through the realms of the cosmos, pondering its huge vastness

My First Image of our very own Milky Way Galaxy!

Last April, I was invited along with some fellow UP AstroSoc members to join the 2011 Philippine Messier Marathon organized by the Astronomical League of the Philippines (ALP). The event was held on the shore of Lake Caliraya at the Eco Saddle Campsite in Laguna.

It was a really nice opportunity for an amateur astronomer like me to be part of an event like this –  a trip away from the light polluted city to observe in perfectly dark skies. However, I found it hard to decide whether or not to join the observation because I was also supposed to attend the General Assembly of Student Councils (GASC) in Davao City. My heart was torn between my obligation and mission as a student leader and my love for the heavens.

Fortunately, the circumstances changed just in time for me to be able to join in the overnight observation.

I would finally see the Milky Way for the first time  in all its grandeur.

And I DID! :)

My image of the Milky Way Galaxy :) Camera used: Canon EOS 1000D DSLR on a tripod. 90-second exposure at 1600 ISO. Using a powered motor equatorial (tracking) mount of some kind is necessary to compensate for the earth’s rotation when doing long-exposure photography. This is to avoid producing star trails and blurs just like those in the image above.

I was lucky to have with me a borrowed DSLR camera to capture images of the mesmerizing dark skies above Lake Caliraya. From the northern hemisphere, the best views of the Milky Way are in the summer -with the brightest parts in the southern sky.

It was a very cold and windy night by the lake. Dew kept forming on my laptop, and every gust of wind threatened to topple my camera and tripod. Nevertheless,  I stayed in the cold to take images. Such is the life of an amateur astronomer but it is always worth the effort. :)

Since I cannot take a single picture showing the expanse of the Milky Way, what I did was I took several shots of it and stitched those images together in Photoshop to produce a wide field photo.

Stitching Pictures Together with Photoshop's Photomerge Tool - This panoramic (sort of) view of the Summer Milky Way was created by merging 12 individual shots (all taken at 90 sec. exposure) of the Milky Way (spanning from the northeast to southwest). Click on image to enlarge.

I must admit that I still lack the skill in doing long-exposure photography. It was my first time to do that, haha. Every image that I took was a product of trial-and-error attempts, but thanks to the incredibly dark skies of Caliraya, my fellow orgmate’s useful tips, and the opportunity that God gave me, that I was able to produce my first images of our home galaxy. :)

I probably have to practice more on astrophotography and read tutorials to prepare for the next opportunity of taking pictures of the Milky Way. Hopefully, I could have my own DSLR camera (plus some real decent astro equipment) by that time. *I still have to save a lot of money for this.* :P

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8 responses

  1. iam pugeda

    Hi!

    Wow seeing the pictures make me want to try this as well!

    Can I ask a few things about the activity?

    1) Lake Caliraya at the Eco Saddle Campsite in Laguna – does this accept walk in or do we need to set up an appointment?
    2) To get to the campsite, is there a hiking of some sort involved?
    3) Any contact number of the place? So I can call if I have more inquiries.
    4) What are the best times to view the Milky Way Galaxy here in the Philippines?

    Thanks!
    Miriam

    May 27, 2011 at 10:48 am

    • Hi Iam,

      I’m not so sure if they accept walk-ins. But I guess they were already expecting us when we came. We were the only group there that night. Entrance fee is 80php per person. You can drive directly to the place and park your car there. Regarding the contact info, sorry but I don’t have any.

      The Milky Way is best seen on clear, moonless, summer nights, when it appears as a luminous, irregular band circling the sky from the northeastern to the southeastern horizon. Start looking for a hazy patch or band in the eastern sky around 10 PM. It reaches the zenith (point directly overhead) by around 2AM. On each succeeding night, it will appear to shift towards the west.

      Hope that helps. :) Clear skies!

      May 28, 2011 at 6:51 pm

  2. Michael

    Looks more like trial-and-success! Great job, and I always appreciate the many times you’ve acknowledged God in your comments.

    May 25, 2011 at 9:08 am

    • Thanks for the compliment. :) I could have never done that without the opportunity that God has provided.

      God is really great.

      Cheers!

      May 26, 2011 at 9:16 pm

      • Michael

        If it’s OK with you, I’d like to use some pictures you and your friends have made for a project I’m doing. I’m preparing to present a few “astronomy evenings” in which I use projected transparencies and other creative methods to introduce people to the skies (including actual telescopic viewing when weather permits). I’m hoping to “take the show on the road” with presentations in community education classes, churches, etc. Three sessions I’m working on include focuses (foci?!) on the Moon, Planets, and on “Faith and Science,” learning from the ancient Hebrew skygazer who wrote Psalms 8 and 19.

        Anyway, I’ll be using many of my own photos as well as some from NASA, but I also had in mind this Milky Way photo as well as a recent photo you posted of the Moon and four planets, your Lunar montage, the multiple-exposure photo of the rising eclipsed Moon last December, and perhaps a few others. Let me know when you can, thanks!

        May 26, 2011 at 11:17 pm

        • That looks great.

          Of course, you may use the pictures. :) My pleasure.

          Good luck on that activity.

          May 28, 2011 at 3:17 pm

  3. norman

    Wow! Galing naman, first attempt pa yan ha! Ako rin, sana my equipment na.hehe
    Keep it up!

    May 23, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    • Thanks :) Oo nga e, iba kasi talaga ‘pag may sarili kang equipment.

      May 23, 2011 at 3:40 pm

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