Tag: Greece

M22 Great Sagittarius Cluster

Messier 22, sometimes called Great Sagittarius Cluster is a globular cluster, visually located very close to the galactic core of the Milky Way. If we look in this direction by a telescope, the surrounding of this cluster is filled with many stars. The cluster itself contains approximately 100 000 stars and it has roughly 97 light-years in diameter. The region of the sky where is this cluster located is poorly visible from my home, therefore every time I travel south with my portable telescope, I capture some deep space objects in this region. This picture was taken under the dark skies of Kythira.

TelescopeNewton 150/600 mm
Aperture150 mm
Focal length570 mm
MountRainbow Astro RST 135
AutoguidingZWO 174MM, Guidescope 30 mm
CameraZWO 071 Pro @-0°C
CorrectorTS MaxField
Exposure59x180s, Gain 94, bin 1x1,

Chasing darkness in Greece – Karpathos

Like every summer, I packed the telescope, mount, camera and many accessories and flew to Greece. This time we went to Karpathos, the island not spoiled by massive tourism and light pollution. Long story short, the skies were amazing, but every single night, except one, was extremely windy. It was a torture – to see millions of stars and not be able to photograph them. There is no surprise that Karpathos is beloved by windsurfers and kite surfers. In the end I captured only the Iris Nebula and the Double Cluster. I talked to locals and they told me that the wind should stop at the end of September, so probably I picked the wrong time.

On the other hand I was able to do a wide angle astrophotography of the Milky Way. SQM reached 21.5, galactic core was so bright and I think the photos of the Milky Way are quite decent. This time I changed the setup and purchased Canon EOS 6D, which is one of the best cameras for this purpose. Moreover, there are many second hand 6Ds, because mirrorless mania arrived. 6D combined with Samyang 14 mm f2.8 offers excellent performance for this purpose.

Karpathos offers other beauties, for example very beautiful beaches, mountains, delicious food friendly people and many more.

Our house Elaeon with remarkable dark skies – SQM 21.5
Apela beach
Avalon M-Zero and TS 6" Newtonian
Avalon M-Zero and TS 6″ Newtonian at Elaeon

Double Cluster NGC869 and NGC884

Two clusters visually close to each other can be located between constellations Perseus and Cassiopeia.  The clusters are relatively young (12 million years) and they are 2700 light-years far from Earth.

The picture was captured during my travel to Karpathos where I had only single wind free night.

I know, the composition should be turned by 90°. I just simply forgot to twist the camera.

Technical details:

TelescopeNewton 150/600 mm
Aperture150 mm
Focal length630 mm
MountAvalon M-Zero
AutoguidingZWO 174MM, Guidescope 30 mm
CameraZWO 071 Pro @-5°C
CorrectorExplore Scientific HR
FiltersAstronomik L-1 - UV IR Block Filter
Exposure28x180s, Gain 94, bin 1x1,

Chasing darkness in Greece – Milos

My second expedition after dark skies led us to beautiful island Milos. It’s mid-size island in Aegean see and it belongs to group of islands called Cyclades. The port and whole night life (bars, restaurants, discotheques) are located on the northern part of the island. We stayed on the other part of the island, where are empty, not organized beaches and mainly very low light pollution. To travel there is not straight forward, because Milos has very small airport. Therefore we had to fly to Santorini Island and from there take a ferry to Milos.

We found very lovely small house called Vila Kipos (AirBnB link) at remote part of the island. The place was decent for astrophotography. I measured SQM and it reached 21.3, which is not fully perfect, because the property is next to a road, and there are street lamps. However, it’s significantly better than what I have at home (SQM 19.9 – 20.4). There are much darker places on the island, but it would require batteries and to spend whole night in the nature. To photograph deep space directly next to the house, in which you stay, has significant advantages – electricity is available and the rig can photograph outside whole night and you can sleep inside.

The weather was excellent. Only two days out of 16 was windy or cloudy. Literarily, I had a deep space harvest. I managed to capture in two weeks as many pictures as during the whole last year. Initially I was bit afraid of these wires, which are in the south direction, but fortunately all the objects of my interest were above. I didn’t expect that I will manage to capture nearly all Messier’s summer objects in southern skies. Specifically, I captured M4, M6, M7, M8, M9, M17, M18, M19, M20, M21, M22, M23, M24, M25, M28, M30, M31, M33, M45, M54, M55, M56, M62, M69, M70, M73, M75, M80 and M107. Moreover, I captured NGC6822, NGC6871, NGC6888, NGC6939, NGC6946, NGC7000, NGC7293IC5146, IC1396 and B347.

We took a short walk 1 km direction west, the street lamps disappeared and SQM reached 21.5. The Milky Way was so bright that it nearly casted shadows. These are the optimal conditions to test my new fish eye lens (Olympus Zuiko 8mm F1.8 ED PRO). Focused on Mars, ISO 800, Exposure 25s.

The nearest source of light pollution direction south is Crete, which is 120 km away. Anyway, the picture could have been better and probably I should have used higher ISO. Therefore it is not going to beat the Milky Way picture from last year.

Well, it was not just about taking astrophotos, but also about nice and empty beaches, snorkeling in crystal clear water, very delicious food and in general relaxing and charging our human batteries. I miss the Greece already and I cannot wait till I will go there again.

Kleftiko beach

Kipos beach

Sarakiniko beach

M6 Butterfly cluster

M6 is an open cluster located in constellation Scorpius. Visually it’s located not far from horizon, at least from Central Europe; therefore it’s hard to capture this deep space object. The observing/capturing conditions change significantly if you travel to Southern Europe. From there the cluster is visible by naked eye. The stars from similar shape to butterfly, therefore  it got its name. On the bottom side of the cluster is nicely visible red giant (orange star) called BM Scorpii. The background illuminates the Milky Way.

The picture was taken during chasing darkness on Greek island Milos and in total was taken 30 pictures having exposure 180 seconds, i.e. total 90 minutes of integration.

Technical details:

Telescope:Newton 150/600 mm
Aperture:150 mm
Focal length:660 mm
MountiOptron CEM25P
AutoguidingQHYCCD miniGuideScope 130 mm f/4.3, ZWO 174 MM
Camera:ZWO 071 Pro @-10C
Corrector:Explore Scientific HR coma corrector
Filters:Astronomik L-1 - UV IR Block Filter
Exposure30x180s, Gain 134, bin 1x1,


Chasing darkness in Greece on small island Gavdos

I was always dreaming about dark skies because I live in a suburban area with relatively strong light pollution. Two friends returned from Gavdos where they spent their summer vacation and told me that they had never seen so many stars in the sky – at that moment I was tempted. One year later I decided to combine our summer vacation (mid-September) with chasing the dark skies. Swimming, snorkeling, hiking during the day, and photographing, observing during the night.

We have been to Greece already, so we knew what to expect – beautiful beaches, people with great hospitality, and tourists everywhere. But Gavdos is something different. It is a small island south of Crete. The island is the southernmost point of the entire European continent, which is optimal for astrophotography, because the deep space objects, which are near to the horizon in Switzerland, are 12° upper in the sky. Only a few people live on Gavdos, which means there is no light pollution compared to other Greek islands. There are neither big hotels, discotheques nor organized beaches. On the other hand, there are places where you can sleep and there are many taverns where you can get something delicious. Moreover in all taverns is Wi-Fi. Electricity is mostly produced by solar panels and stored in batteries and some taverns use generators, so there is electricity available the whole night. This means you don’t have to carry heavy batteries to power the mount or camera cooling with you.

It’s not so straightforward to get there. We flew to Heraklion (Crete capital), hired a car, and drove to Paleiochora. Crete is quite a big island and it took us 3-4 hours to drive from Heraklion to Paleiochora. From there we took a 6-hour ferry to Gavdos. The ferry arrives at Karaves – a small harbor, where there is a tavern and mini-market. Some info about the accommodation on Gavdos can be found here. We stayed at Metochi – a small house with a restaurant. The owner Maria was an excellent host and she was always smiling and charged with positive energy. Every evening, when we were returning from the restaurant back to our house, we saw millions of stars. The Milky Way was so bright! I have never seen so many stars in my life. It was something spectacular.

I was thinking a lot about what equipment I take with me to Gavdos. The telescope must be portable and has to fit in my backpack, so the Newtonian is not a good option. Refractors with slightly bigger aperture are long, therefore also not so suitable. I did the research and found an interesting small reflector – 6″ (150 mm) Ritchey-Chrétien. It’s small and when I removed the focuser, it fit in my Lowepro Pro Trekker 450 AW bag even with the camera, finder, autoguider, and with all the cables. It has only one disadvantage – it’s quite slow with a focal ratio of f9. This can be improved with the focal reducer Astro Physics CCDT67. The focal ratio drops from f9 to acceptable f6. It’s still not as fast as my Newtonians, but the main thing is that it’s portable and inexpensive. Some reviews of this telescope can be found here or here.

The second part is the camera. My Moravian G2-8300 is an excellent camera, but together with the filter wheel, it has 2.5 kg, thus not optimal for traveling. I was searching for something lighter, with the same size of the chip and, of course, with the cooling. I found the ZWO Color CMOS Camera ASI 1600MC-Cool. This camera has approximately the same quantum efficiency, but it has only 400 grams!

The last part of the gear is the mount. Here it was quite simple to decide and I purchased iOptron CEM25P lightweight equatorial mount with low periodic error and suitable payload capacity.

So, I had in my hand luggage 13 kg (fortunately they never checked the weight of the hand luggage) and my suitcase had 31 kg and I managed to pass all security checks.

Back to Gavdos, I placed my portable astrophotographical equipment behind the house and took some pictures. Unfortunately, the weather was not so optimal. The skies were clear every night, but most of the time was very windy and I mean really very windy. I was able to photograph only 3 nights. This was quite disappointing, but I managed to capture Helix and Trifid Nebula.

Since we had a car, it was easy to travel around and every day we visited new beaches. Some of them are not accessible by car, so you have to hike for an hour or two. But it’s worth it. For instance, beach Potamos is one of the nicest beaches I have visited in my life and we were nearly alone there.

Beach Lakoudi is also nice and there we were completely alone.

Beach Tripiti is the southernmost place in Europe

The beaches are beautiful, but they were not the main reason why we traveled to Gavdos. To be under such clear skies and not to take a picture of the Milky Way would be a shame. At the highest point of the island, there is a lighthouse – Faros. The lighthouse is not functioning anymore, but there is a museum and tavern. So, one can with a glass of wine or beer enjoy a beautiful sunset.

If you stay a bit longer, the Milky Way shows its beauty. The conditions are excellent for such wide-angle photography because 200 km south there is nothing but the sea.

The picture was taken by Olympus PEN-F, lens Olympus ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO @ 12 mm, f/2.8, ISO 1600, exposure 20s. The crop factor is 2, which means that the equivalent focal length for the full-frame sensor is 24 mm. This focal length is not so great for the Milky Way, but the optical quality is remarkable. Comatic aberration is gently visible in the upper left corner and there is no chromatic aberration. Well done Olympus! One of the main advantages of this camera is the weight. The camera with the lens has only 0.8 kg, which is exactly half of the weight compared to my previous setup Canon EOS 40D with Tokina 11-20 F/2.8.

Just to conclude the post, we really loved Gavdos and we would definitely come back. The island has its own magic. It was pure relaxation there and I miss it. I can only recommend to everyone to go to Gavdos, not just due to the clear and not polluted skies, but also due to the specific atmosphere of unspoiled nature.

On our way back we stayed a couple of nights on Crete. The Moon started to shine, so I decided to take a picture of this white monster with my portable setup. Ritchey-Chrétien telescopes are not so great for the Moon or planets, due to a big central obstruction caused by the secondary mirror. Some say these telescopes are not suitable at all for this purpose. However, the picture is very sharp. I must say that it’s much better compared to pictures I made in Switzerland with significantly bigger telescopes and smaller central obstruction. This is caused by the seeing – in Greece, the atmosphere is more steady compared to Swiss skies. Conclusions – it always doesn’t depend on your equipment, nature has to cooperate as well.