Astro Photos by Thomas Beach

Total Solar Eclipse
8-21-2017

This sequence of photos made into an animated GIF was taken near Mount Juliet, Tennessee. I used my Nikon D70 digital SLR with a 200mm zoom lens. It was set to ISO 200 and used f/11 aperture. The exposures ranged from 1/1000 second to 1 second. The star that comes into view on the left in the longer exposures is Regulus (the ring image at the bottom is internal reflection within the lens). A total solar eclipse truly is an amazing sight, and it is well worth traveling to the path of totality.

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Totality sequence 2017

Nova Del 2013
8-16-2013

This picture was taken from White Rock, New Mexico, using a Nikon D90 digital camera mounted on a tripod. The exposure was 30 seconds, f/3.5, ISO 1000. The zoom lens was set for 50 mm focal length. The nova had reached a peak brightness of about 4th magnitude the day before, and was at about 5th magnitude when this picture was taken.

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Nova Del 2013


Comet PANSTARRS
3-13-2013

This picture was taken from White Rock, New Mexico, using a Nikon D90 digital camera mounted on a tripod. The exposure was 2 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 200. The zoom lens was set for 200 mm focal length. Because the camera was just mounted on a tripod and not tracking the sky, you can see that the comet moved down and right a little during the 2-second exposure. To prevent jiggling the camera, the camera's remote control was used to trigger the exposure. The comet was not very bright -- I needed binoculars to find it, but as the sky got darker just before the comet set, I was able to see it naked eye.

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Venus transit 2012


Transit of Venus
6-5-2012

This picture was taken at UNM-LA where we had two telescopes set up for public viewing of the Venus transit across the Sun (one telescope used projection; the other had a solar filter). This picture was taken through the telescope with the solar filter using a handheld digital camera. Venus is the black dot. There are also some sunspots visible, and you can see a cloud starting to move in front of the Sun from below. The transit was still in progress at sunset, and my ASTR 101 students got to see the event (which will not happen again for 105 years).

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Venus transit 2012


Annular Eclipse
5-20-2012

This picture was taken from White Rock, New Mexico, of a projection view of the annular eclipse. The telescope was a 4" refractor. The Moon is completely surrounded by the wider disc of the Sun. Annular eclipses can occur when the Earth and Moon are close to the Sun in Earth's elliptical orbit (making the Sun's disc larger in angular diameter than normal), and the Moon is far from the Earth in its elliptical orbit (making its angular size smaller than normal).

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Annular Eclipse June 20 2012


Daylight Comet

1-14-2007

I took these pictures of Comet McNaught in broad daylight on the afternoon of January 14, 2007. Comets that you can see in the daylight are pretty rare (I know of Comet Ikeya-Seki in 1965, and the Great Comet of 1910 from last century). Admittedly, these pictures don't look like much, but I was amazed that I could see a comet at all in the daylight. The photos were taken with a Nikon CoolPix 8800 digital camera at maximum (10x) zoom. In the top image you can see the comet below a small cloud. The bottom image is greatly enlarged, and you can see the tail off to the left.

The comet was visible to the naked eye, once I found it with binoculars, about 5 degrees left of the sun (I stood alongside my house to block the sun from view). The sky was slightly hazy so the contrast wasn't great. The view through 10x50 binoculars showed a lot more detail than is captured in the image, with the faint tail extending 3 to 4 times farther than is visible here.

I want to thank John Wallin for calling me up and telling me about this surprise view.

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Total Lunar Eclipse

10-27-2004

These images were taken with a Nikon 5700 digital camera at 8x optical plus 4x digital zoom. The images in the top two rows (and the image in the bottom right) were taken at 1/250 second. The images in the bottom two rows were taken at 1 to 2 seconds to show the parts of the Moon within the Earth's shadow.

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Total Lunar Eclipse

Click to see a larger version of the image.


Aurora Borealis over White Rock, NM

3-30-2001

Seeing the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) in New Mexico is uncommon, but I have observed them on a few occasions here since 1988. These pictures were taken around midnight on March 30-31, 2001. The Sun was near the maximum of its 11-year sunspot cycle that year. Eruptions of charged particles stream out from the Sun and hit the Earth's atmosphere at such times (preferentially near the Earth's magnetic poles, which is why seeing aurora this far south is rare), exciting the atoms in the upper atmosphere to glow.

The pictures were taken on ASA 200 print film with a 50mm lens at f/1.7 with exposures of about 2 minutes.

This particular aurora display had shifting streamers and a huge area of red light spanning much of the sky. At the same time I was taking these pictures, my wife was in New Zealand and also observed the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights).

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Aurora Borealis

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Total Lunar Eclipse 1-20-2000

This multiple-exposure of the total lunar eclipse of January 20, 2000, was taken in White Rock, NM, on ASA 200 print film, using a 300 mm lens. The exposures for the partial phases were 1/5 second at f/11. The exposure for the total phase was 2 seconds at f/5.6.

Due to telescope mount tracking errors, the Moon actually drifted downward between the exposures, so the images were repositioned using Photoshop. The dashed circle marks the size of the Earth's shadow. The Moon is moving from right to left.

Photo by Tom Beach and John Wallin.

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Total Lunar Eclipse


Total Solar Eclipse
8-11-1999

This image of the total solar eclipse of August 11, 1999, was made from several photos I took in Hungary on ASA 200 slide film. Exposures ranged from 1/60 to 1 second, 210mm, f/4.5 lens. The slide images were scanned and combined in Photoshop to give a better approximation of the detail visible in the corona to the naked eye (none of the individual exposures could show this range of detail).

This image still isn't nearly as impressive as the real thing. I suggest you go see a total solar eclipse in person (and bring a pair of binoculars to use during totality...the view of the corona is spectacular that way).

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Total Solar Eclipse

Click to see a larger version of the image.


Comets Hale-Bopp and Hyakutake to Scale

The Hyakutake photo was taken on March 26, 1996, at 9:30 pm using ASA 400 slide film, 28 mm f/2.8 lens, 10 min. exposure. The length of the tail can be compared to the size of the Big Dipper in the shot. The inset of Hale-Bopp was a 6 min. exposure on ASA 400 film, at f/2.8. It is shown at the same scale as the Hyakutake image.

Hale-Bopp was a brighter comet with a larger nucleus than Hyakutake, but Hale-Bopp did not come as close to Earth.

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Comet Hale-Bopp


Comet Hale-Bopp
4-5-1997

I took this picture on April 5, 1997, at 7:45 in the evening. ASA 400 film, 135mm lens, f/2.8, 6 minute exposure. Camera was mounted on a telescope clock drive mount.

The blue tail is the plasma or ion tail consisting of gas from the comet which has been excited by sunlight. The solar wind pushes it away from the Sun.

The other tail is the dust tail of the comet. It is made up of dust particles pushed away from the Sun by the radiation pressure of sunlight. The dust particles
slowly move into a larger orbit,
creating the curved tail.

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Comet Hale-Bopp


Comet Hyakutake
March 19-21, 1996

I took these pictures on the 19th, 20th, and 21st of March 1996. ASA 400, f/1.7, 50mm lens, 5 minute exposures.

Comet Hyakutake passed so close to the Earth (about 0.1 AU) that it changed brightness rapidly during the 3-day period shown. The close distance also allows us to see that the tails in the three exposures converge toward a vanishing point. (Cool...I hadn't expected to see that.)

The three exposures were aligned and combined using Photoshop. I fiddled with the color of the images in the process, so don't pay any attention to the different shades of blue.

The bright star at the top of the image is Arcturus.

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Comet Hyakutake


Asteroid Pallas

I accidentally "discovered" the asteroid Pallas while taking pictures of Comet Hyakutake in 1996. While comparing two photos of the comet taken on March 20 and 21, I noticed a dim 'star' that had moved between the two exposures. A little investigation showed it was Pallas, the second largest asteroid.

The pictures were 5 minute exposures on ASA 400 print film using a 50mm lens at f/1.7 aperture. The camera was mounted on a telescope to track the sky. I put the two images together in a little animation to show the motion of Pallas (click on the image to see the animation).

Pallas was actually discovered by H. Wilhelm Olbers on March 28, 1802.

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Asteroid Pallas

Click to see an ANIMATED image.


Crab Nebula Animation

I didn't take these pictures... I just made the animated gif to flip back between them to show the expansion of the nebula created by the supernova explosion observed in 1054 AD.

The first photo was taken in 1942 with the 100-inch telescope on Mt. Wilson. The second was taken in 1976 with the Kitt Peak 158-inch telescope. The third was taken in 1999 by the FORS Team on the ESO 8.2-meter VLT.

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Crab Nebula

CLICK ON THIS IMAGE
to see a larger version of the picture.