David Elmore, a world class astrophotographer, recently spent ten nights at Dark Sky New Mexico. He summarized this project in a recent electronic discussion before returning to his home near Boulder, Colorado.
“The galaxy has many molecular clouds that appear over a range of angular scales from the ‘Great Rift’ obvious by eye extending along the northern Milky Way to small globules seen in Hubble images, but this field of view approximately 10° by 6° seems especially well-suited to show off these clouds and was a theme of my recent observing run. The first image is a region of the Milky Way just north of the North America Nebula composed of numerous Lynds Dark Nebulae the ensemble of which I call the ’Squashed Bug’ nebula. The dark molecular clouds here obscure stars in the background. A bright star cloud dominates the second image, but it is better described as a gap in the obscuring dark molecular material allowing us to peer deeper within the galaxy to see the dense field of stars beyond. It is interesting to try to look at this field as a window. When a molecular cloud is illuminated by a bright star such as in the third image, it can glow. In this case the bright star is Rigel in Orion and the cloud is known as the Witch Head. The night this image was recorded there was some smoke in the sky from California forest fires. The consequence was an accentuated flaring of light coming our way from Rigel emphasizing its distant role illuminating the molecular cloud. Were it not for this particularly dark site ground light reflected off the smoke would have washed out the scene rather than causing this effect.” – David Elmore
All images were recorded using a Borg 55FL 200mm focal length F/3.6 astro-graph, a Canon 6D (modified), and an IDAS NGS1 filter (to suppress air glow). These were guided images on an iOptron iEQ45 mount and created from several dozen 4-minute exposures at ISO 2500. Calibration, co-adding, and background correction in AstroPixelProcessor.