Tag: Astrophotography

Chasing darkness on La Palma

All of my previous dark-sky expeditions were organized in summer-autumn part of the year. At this part of the year shines the galactic core of the Milky Way during the night (only if the sky is dark enough) and there are many deep space objects available. During my expedition to Milos I managed to capture huge part of the Messier catalogue. However, there are some deep space objects, which are badly visible from my home and which have to be captured in the spring. I was researching where can I spend few days, preferably somewhere south and even more preferably under dark skies. Googling yielded in brilliant idea – La Palma, Canary Islands. This island belongs to three most prominent spots on Earth for astronomy (together with Mauna Kea in Hawaii and European Southern Observatory in Chile). The observatory on La Palma is called Roque de los Muchachos and currently there is the largest optical, single aperture telescope on this Planet (The Gran Telescopio Canarias). The observatory is built on the highest mountain of the island at altitude nearly 2500 meters above the sea level. On the whole island there are strict rules for the street illumination, therefore the dark skies are not the privilege of the highest mountains, but nearly everywhere are the conditions great, maybe except two big towns – Santa Cruz de La Palma and Los Llanos. Dark sky is probably the same touristic attraction on La Palma like the beaches on Greek islands.

Messier Catalog

Charles Messier was a French astronomer, who lived long time ago (1730 – 1817). He neither invented a telescope, nor was the first who pointed it towards the night skies. However he is still one of the most famous astronomers. He gained his glory by compiling the first catalogue of deep space objects, known as Messier catalogue.

He made his discoveries in Paris down town, which is nowadays completely unthinkable, because of light pollution. Back in 18th century there were no street lamps, and as soon people extinguished the candles after the dinner, it was completely dark even in city center of Paris. Messier used for his observations and cataloguing quite small telescope, specifically 100 mm refractor, which is not so optimal telescope for deep space objects. The bigger the aperture, the more light it collects and this is probably the reason why the Messier Catalogue has only 110 members. There are other, newer catalogues of deep space objects. For instance New General Catalogue contains 7840, but the gentlemen who compiled it used significantly larger telescopes. Anyway, it doesn’t change the fact, that the Messier Catalogue was the first one.

The story of the first catalogue of deep space objects started by a mistake. Messier considered himself more as a comet hunter. Once he discovered “a comet” in constellation Taurus. But when he repeated the observation few days later, he found out that “the comet” is still on the same spot, thus it cannot be “a comet”. This day the first object of Messier catalogue was discovered and designated Messier 1, nowadays called Crab Nebula.

My intention is to capture all of the Messier’s deep space objects. I started at 2014 and I hope next year (2019) it will be over.

Update August 2019: the day has come and after few years I managed to capture all the objects. It was a long way full of frustrations, but the results were worth of the struggle.