Neighbor Clifton, Chief of Astronomical Research for the Bernal Aeronautics and Space Administration (BASA), recently acquired some new gear which significantly expands his ability to explore the far reaches of the universe from the safety and comfort of the Bernal Heights Observatory.
This new space-travel technology is called a “light pollution filter,” and it cancels out the brightness of the urban sky to reveal the secrets of the heavens hiding in space above us. It also allows Neighbor Clifton to pursue his caffeine addiction and his passion for astronomy at the exact same time:
Absolutely tickled that I’m able to pull off some astro imaging from home. It’s nice to sitting at my kitchen table sipping coffee while collecting data. Adding a light pollution filter to the camera has made a stunning difference at what the camera can see in a densely populated urban environment. I’ve been focusing on open clusters while I experiment with longer subs from my back deck.
So what has Bernal’s intrepid space explorer discovered while staring at the night sky with his fancy new gizmo? Neighbor Clifton reports:
Bernal Heights was treated to spectacularly clear skies and astronomical “seeing” for the Thanksgiving holiday. Your humble BASA astronomer was busy doing a survey of open clusters adorning the skies above Bernalwood. The Bernal Heights Observatory has just acquired a light pollution filter for its imaging equipment, making surveys of dimmer and more distant objects possible.
Our imaging team’s first survey was of Cluster M35 which is prominently placed at the foot of Gemini, The Twins. The constellation Gemini is a Winter favorite with its two bright stars, Castor and Pollux forming the head of the twins. You’ll notice a rich star field in this part of the sky because it’s looking right into the heart of Milky Way, which does indeed exist above Bernal Heights beyond our rather powerful urban light dome:
Tweaking the focus and tracking a bit, our second object, open cluster M37 is in the constellation Auriga and is another example of an image in the Milky Way. Open Clusters are young loosely packed star forming regions, as opposed to Globular clusters which are densely packed swarms of stars. Globular clusters are more ancient:
Both of these objects are relatively easy binocular targets, however, it takes the photon accumulation power of a camera, now filtered with proper light pollution subtraction, to see the richness of the Milky Way from our urban observation site. Both of these exposures exceeded 30 minutes.
For you armchair explorers at home, I’m also including a star map, which is a simulation of the Bernalwood night sky around 10:00 PM. This should be good through December, if you would like to locate these objects yourself (once the rain and fog go away):
IMAGES: Top, M43, Orion Nebula, photographed from Bernal Heights. All photos by Clifton Reed.