A decade of space exploration

  For thousands of years, human beings have witnessed the stars, explored the sun and the moon, and have been asking about the origin of the universe and life.
  Attracted by the magnificence of the starry sky, photographer Wang Haiyan constantly explores astrophotography, chasing the moon and the sun in the severe cold and heat, and recording the deep space at the observatory he built… just to show the romance of the universe to the world.

On the left page, the night view of Yinshan Lake in Suzhou, after nightfall, photographers often observe the stars here. The upper image on the right page shows the total lunar eclipse on December 10, 2011; the lower image is a true-color image of the moon rendered by LRGB color moon technology. Astrophotography involves a wide range of knowledge. It needs to know astronomy, understand physics, dabble in optical principles, and be familiar with astronomical equipment, photography technology, image processing, computer technology, etc.

  When I hugged my daughter and looked at the stars in the community, she excitedly pointed to the sky and said, “There is one here, there is another one there, wow! It’s so beautiful!” I looked at the few stars in the sky, and suddenly thought of the The starry sky is not what it is now.
  When I was a child, on countless sunny nights, the sky was full of stars. I lay on the roof and looked at the Milky Way and counted the stars. The deep mystery of the night sky is deeply imprinted in my mind. I found that I didn’t know when I started to fall in love with the universe. Now it seems that my passion for astrophotography stems from fond memories of my childhood.
  Love is the most powerful internal drive. I started to buy telescopes, cameras, and equatorial mounts, and then recorded the stars I saw one by one, and kept learning and exploring, which has lasted for more than ten years.
“Colorful Moon”, taking into account the lunar color and details “stitching”, simulates astronauts looking at the moon up close

  Just as mass photography can be divided into landscapes, portraits, humanities, macros, etc., astrophotography can also be divided into three categories: sun, moon, planets, star fields, and deep space according to the subjects. The areas I often photograph are the sun, moon, planets and deep space.
  Sun Moon Planet, as the name suggests, is to photograph the moon, sun and planets. And lunar photography is one of the most basic fields, because the moon is the easiest celestial object to find at night. It is large and bright, and can be captured with a small telescope, so the shooting threshold is low and easy to get started.
  The easiest equipment to shoot the moon is to add a telephoto lens to a SLR camera and shoot a single frame. It is best to have a tripod to stabilize the camera. More professional, you need to use astronomical telescopes, equatorial mounts and professional planetary cameras (commonly known as planetary three-piece).
  The celestial objects are not as diverse as the flowers on the earth. Their colors are dull and single, so the saturation must be strongly increased when shooting to achieve a pleasing effect. The same is true for shooting the moon, astrophotographers often use the “LRGB color moon” technology to shoot. Photographers generally know that any picture can be divided into three color channels of RGB (red, green and blue), and “LRGB color moon” is based on the inverse principle of the three primary colors.
  When shooting, I use two auxiliary equipment: LRGB filter and filter wheel. LRGB filters include lightness filter, red filter, green filter, and blue filter. The lightness filter is different from the three color filters. It just removes the color and only retains the light and dark channels. The filter wheel is a device that automatically changes filters. I photographed the moon in different colors through filters, and finally synthesized a true-color image of the moon, which takes into account the details and colors, and is more familiar to the public than the images of the moon captured by other technologies.
  In addition to the colorful moon, lunar mosaic stitching is also a commonly used technique. In simple terms, it is to take images of different areas of the moon to obtain images, and then stitch them into a complete moon photo. Last year, I had a rare encounter with a very stable weather – less atmospheric jitter, which was great for focusing. So I used the C11HD telescope, AZEQ6 equatorial mount and Neptune-M camera to divide the moon into 27 areas for shooting, and completed the clearest lunar mosaic in ten years. In the mosaic, the craters (circular craters) and lunar seas (low-lying plains) on the lunar surface are clearly displayed. Looking at the photos, you can imagine the appearance of the moon as seen by astronauts through the spacecraft at close range.
  There are some strange terrains on the moon. If you have a telescope with a diameter of 254mm or larger, you can take them very clearly and study them carefully. For example, Gassandi crater is relatively old, with many cracks in the center; Tycho crater is very worth photographing, it is the most splendid crater on the entire moon. Dust falls to form bands) that can stretch for thousands of kilometers.

The second picture on the right page shows 27 mosaics of the gibbous moon, taken by the C11HD telescope, the AZEQ6 equatorial mount, and the Neptune-M camera. The large picture on the left page is a partial image of the mosaic of the gibbous moon, and the first picture on the right page is the Copernicus crater on the lunar surface, taken by a 16-inch DOB+2.5x+Neptune-M.

  In my opinion, the best thing to see in lunar photography is a total lunar eclipse. It occurs once every year or two on average, but it is difficult to observe due to factors such as region, climate, and equipment. Only when the sky is clear. So in the ten years of photographing astronomy, I have only photographed 3 total lunar eclipses. One of the shooting experiences I will never forget. It was December 10, 2011. The weather in Shanghai was cold. I was wrapped in a quilt and shivered on the balcony of my house. In such an environment, I persisted for 4 hours and recorded the entire lunar eclipse using the most “primitive” method of telescope and SLR camera.

Observing the trajectories of the planets, standing on the earth, watching the conjunction of earth and earth, and the opposition of Mars

  More difficult than the moon is planetary photography. First of all, confirming the position of the planet is an unavoidable hurdle, but even if the position is determined, shooting is still difficult. Because compared to the distance between the moon and the earth, the planet is so far away that it is only a star point in the sky when seen with the naked eye. Getting a star point to have a distinct disc shape and surface detail is like walking a tightrope in the sky.
  Equipment is the most important, and a large aperture telescope is essential. The two telescopes I commonly use now, one is the C11HD Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope with a diameter of 280MM; the other is a Newtonian reflector telescope with a diameter of 400MM, which is equipped with an electric tracking equatorial mount and theodolite respectively. Secondly, a lot of accessories are needed, such as a Barrow extender to further magnify the target; ADC to calibrate atmospheric dispersion problems; black and white planetary camera to record images, etc. In addition, a laptop is required to operate the camera and record the shot data.
  With the basic equipment, it is also necessary to determine different shooting methods according to the surface characteristics of each planet. For example, Jupiter, its rotation speed is the fastest among all the planets in the solar system, so when shooting, it is necessary to constantly use equipment to correct the effect of rotation; there is also the most special Venus, which is wrapped in a thick atmosphere, Visible light has no details, so we use its atmosphere to capture the cloud banding features in the infrared and ultraviolet.
  I have photographed individual planets and put them in the same photo as a collection, which is quite spectacular, and I have also photographed special celestial phenomena of planets that meet once in decades or even hundreds of years. At the winter solstice in 2020, I had the honor to record a “conjunction of civil and natural resources”. Saturn and Jupiter gravitate toward each other, eventually overlapping almost completely, the closest they’ve come in nearly 400 years. Although the two are separated by a distance in the photo, we are on Earth and it is difficult to distinguish them with the naked eye.
  Compared with planetary conjunctions, “planetary opposition” is more common. This is the celestial phenomenon when the planet and the sun are 180 degrees apart in the ecliptic longitude. At that time, the planet and the sun are on either side of the earth, so a certain planet can be observed all night. The trajectory of a planet. 2018 coincides with the opposition of Mars, and it is still a “big opposition”, that is, perigee (here, Mars is in the orbit around the earth, the closest point to the earth) opposed to the sun. I observed that Mars is only more than 50 million kilometers away from the earth. The apogee is 100 million kilometers away from the sun. From Earth, Mars is twice as big as usual.

The picture above on the right page shows the “big opposition” of Mars observed in 2018. At that time, the sun, the earth, and Mars were in a straight line, and Mars was about 50 million kilometers away from the earth. The picture below is a collection of planets, from bottom to top, Venus and Mars. , Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, photographed by the C11HD telescope and Mars-M (IMX290) camera in the picture below on the left page.

Fluffy flames and rising prominences 1200 kilometers, just to chase a two-minute solar eclipse

  In the field of astrophotography, relatively few photographers “study” solar photography. There are both expensive equipment and low solar activity in the past few years, so there is very little content worth taking. However, starting in April 2020, solar activity entered its 25th cycle, and there was even a burst of solar activity across the equatorial belt, which was enough to set off a wave of photographing the sun.
  I usually use a refracting telescope with a Budd’s membrane or Herschel prism to “safely” observe the solar photosphere, the surface of the sun as we see it with the naked eye. The reason why I say “safe” is because the sunlight is extremely dazzling, and the light reduction effect of Budd film and Herschel prism is thousands of times stronger than that of sunglasses. range.
  When photographing the photosphere, features of the sun’s surface, such as sunspots, white flares, and cell-like solar granules, can be seen at a glance. Looking at the sun from afar, I have the feeling of observing some kind of creature with a microscope. In the scenery I see every day, there is actually a new and wonderful world.
  The outer layer of the sun’s atmosphere, the photosphere, is called the chromosphere. Photographing the chromosphere is the most interesting aspect of solar photography. Because it changes all the time, even if there is a difference of half an hour, the same area will be significantly different. The light emitted by the sun itself is black and white, but with the help of a prominence mirror, it can be photographed as a flaming fireball, with plasma erupting everywhere. and the great rising prominence.
  In 2020, I chased a solar eclipse. One day in June, I drove 17 hours from Suzhou to Xiamen with equipment weighing 50 kilograms, covering 1,200 kilometers just to photograph the solar eclipse. That day, it was unbearably hot in Xiamen. I was waiting in the yard of the B&B, almost getting heatstroke. However, when I saw the golden ring shining in the sky above Xiamen, I suddenly felt that all the efforts were worth it, even if the golden ring only lasted for 2 minutes.

The top picture on the left page is the solar chromosphere, which was taken by the first device on the right page: LXY80APO refractor, AZEQ6 equatorial mount, QUARK prominence mirror, and Apollo-M MAX camera; the bottom picture is the sunspot group and solar granule organization of the photosphere. , taken by the second device on the right page ES127APO telescope, Herschel prism, Apollo-M MINI camera. In the upper picture on the right page, the golden halo is a highlight of the 2020 annular solar eclipse; in the lower picture, under the prominence mirror, the sun is like a burning fireball.

Bringing together the glimmer of deep space to record those romantic nebulae, galaxies and star clusters

  My shooting target is not limited to the solar system, but is constantly turning to the farther Milky Way, and even extragalactic galaxies. Gradually, I devoted more time to photographing deep space, capturing the glimmer of nebulae, galaxies, and star clusters. At this time, I deeply felt that I was standing on the scale of light-years, recording the entire universe, and enjoying a visual feast that spanned time and space.
  Deep space photography is extremely time-consuming. If you want to shoot a world-shattering masterpiece of deep space, you need to accumulate more than 20 hours of exposure time. Some people may ask, how is 20 hours possible? It only takes 8 hours from sunset to sunrise. In fact, a deep space work is often shot on the same target over several nights. The position of the target is automatically locked by the photographic equipment, and the error does not exceed 50 pixels. At the same time, it is necessary to automatically track and correct the error throughout the process. A single photo is exposed for 5-10 minutes, and then a lot of shots are taken continuously. The exposure time of a single photo is multiplied by the number of shots to accumulate, and finally the exposure time of up to 20 hours is obtained.

On the left page is the Orion Nebula on the top and the Christmas Tree Cluster on the bottom. On the right page is the Western Veil Nebula, itself an expanding debris cloud from the death explosion of a massive star, with hydrogen (red) and oxygen (blue-green) gases forming a filamentous cloud.

  In September 2019, I realized my biggest dream since I got into astrophotography – building my own remote observatory. After the establishment of the observatory, my first target was the famous M33 Triangulum galaxy, which is a spiral galaxy located in the northern constellation Triangulum, about 3 million light-years away from the earth. Out of the galactic disk (the main body of the galaxy). I have challenged twice in Tianhuangping, Anji. The first time I used a small-diameter telescope, and the second time I used a black hole Niuban (a high-end deep space telescope) to shoot the optical axis, but the results were not ideal. This time, I used the same equipment to shoot in a different environment. I didn’t expect the results to be impressive. It perfectly reflects the powerful resolution of the telescope and the excellent night sky environment. The potential of the remote observatory has been confirmed, which amazes me.
  For the next few months, I would set up my telescope to shoot every sunny day, and even plan to shoot 2-3 targets a night. Of course there are also failures. At that time, I was preparing to photograph the second target M31 Andromeda Galaxy, also known as the Andromeda Nebula. It is the largest galaxy in the Local Group, with a diameter of 220,000 light-years (the Milky Way is about 100,000 light-years in diameter) and 2.54 million light-years from Earth. However, when I photographed this galaxy, it was difficult to get a complete picture of it due to the limited field of view of the telescope. Later, the same was true when photographing the Rosette Nebula. The Rosette Nebula is so large in diameter that it exceeds my camera’s field of view… I only get to capture the center of it, but I can still appreciate its charm.
  I also photographed the Western Veil Nebula NGC6960. Two contrasting colors of blue and red appeared in the picture at the same time, making the nebula look like a dyed colored veil. The brightest 4th-magnitude star, HIP70467, is like a gem set on this veil.

On the left page is the Rose Nebula, the overall outline of which is like a blooming rose, ranking one of the top ten love flowers in the universe. On the right page is the Andromeda Galaxy on the top and the Fish Head Nebula on the bottom. Today, urban light pollution is becoming more and more serious, which has a great impact on deep-sky photography. In the future, astronomical observatories can be established in certain areas of Tibet and Yunnan. Those places are higher in altitude, sparsely populated, and have an excellent night sky environment. They are good places for astronomical observation. The two small pictures in the upper right corner of the right page are remote observatories.

  For me, the biggest charm of deep space photography is this – from the perspective of the earth, distant nebula galaxies can only emit faint light, but after long-term cumulative exposure, the faint light is collected again and again, and finally Set against the backdrop of the universe, present their unique silhouettes and brilliant colors.
  Astrophotography takes a long time to learn, practice, and summarize, and ten years is far from enough. Whenever I compare photos taken a few years apart, I can see how my photography has improved. I enjoy every shooting, the excitement of recording the most beautiful moments of every star, and the pure state of mind under the stars every time I wait… All kinds of experiences have become my spiritual wealth, providing a steady stream of resources for the continuous exploration of the universe and starry sky. power!

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