Tag: Travel


Last four winters we spent our skiing vacation in the same place – Flims-Laax ski resort. Specifically, in Berghaus Nagens. This small ski hotel is at the end of the gondola at 2200 meters above sea level. This means the nearest street lamps are far away. However, the hotel is surrounded by ski slopes. The slopes need to be prepared by snow groomers, which illuminate the white snow. This spoils a bit otherwise very dark sky. However, the main reason was to enjoy the skiing vacation and the starry nights are just an add-on. Last year I struggled with the battery, which froze after a few minutes outside. I purchased a dedicated astro-battery this year and was fortunate with the weather. 4 cloudless nights in one week – I really didn’t expect that to happen.

The initial plan was to capture the Witch Head Nebula, then some dark nebulae in Taurus, and if time allows Pleiades. It went well, so I am slowly preparing a plan for next year.

LensSony 20 mm f1.8 G @f2.2
CameraSony A7III AstroMod
Exposure8x15s, ISO 3200


If you think of Jordan, probably the first that comes to your mind is the Petra, where Indiana Jones swung his whip, or the Red Sea, where you can snorkel, or the Dead Sea where you can float in extremely salty water. This country is not famous for its dark sky and most tourists do not come there to do the astrophotography. However, I am not a regular tourist. When we decided to visit Jordan, I immediately started to search where is the darkest location in this country. And I found one. In the south, there is a protected area called Wadi Rum. The place is like a different planet. The red sand is surrounded by the mountains. I felt there like on Mars and probably also Matt Damon, because the movie Martian was shot there. And not just this one but many science fiction movies – more on Wikipedia. If you want to spend a few days there, you have to leave the car in the village in front of the protected area and they will lift you to the camp.

Here is a short video from the day trip in Wadi Rum:

After the trip, I grabbed my new camera Sony A7III, and went straight into the darkness. Our accommodation in the tent was the only source of light. The nearest city is 60 km away, so it was pretty dark.

I walked a bit and this scenery was revealed when I looked in the direction of the camp:

On the other side, the Milky Way was already setting down into the light smog caused by the city of Aqaba, but I still managed to capture its core.

LensSony 20 mm f1.8 G @f1.8
CameraSony A7III AstroMod
Exposure20x15s, ISO 3200

Namibia 2023

As I promised last year, we had to return to Namibia, because I have some unsettled business with the Dolphin Nebula. This year was already a post-pandemic year, so there were many guests at Kiripotib astro farm. The program of the day was the same as last time – processing the pictures during the day and photographing during the night. We managed to see the giraffes again just by e-biking a few km from the farm:

As I already mentioned, my primary target was the Dolphin Nebula, but I prepared a detailed plan of what to photograph. Unfortunately, the plan was ruined by the weather. The first 3 days it was cloudy and even stormy.

This was such a surprise because last time we had only clear skies. I rented a Newtonian telescope for 3 nights and two nights were cloudy, so I had to concentrate on high-priority deep space objects. I tried to recapture the Galaxy Centaurus A, but the mount ALT 6 ADN didn’t work well. 50% of the frames were having oblong stars in the RA direction.

So, I had to concentrate on the short focal lengths. Same as last year, I took SharpStar 94 EPDH and for the second rig carried by the iOptron SkyGuider, I chose Samyang 135 mm slowed down to f2.4. In the end, I managed to capture the Vela supernova remnant, the Statue of Liberty Nebula, and many more.

Here is the farm from a distance with Milky Way in the background:

Star trails roughly 3 hours, Canon 6D, iso 400, 87 exposures, each 2 minutes long, Sigma 28 Art f1.4

The chalet, which we rented last time was already booked, so we stayed in a room called “Hangar”, which is a little bit less photogenic compared to a chalet. Canon 6D, iso 1600, 12x15s, Sigma 28 Art f1.4:

Panorama of the Milky Way, Canon 6D, iso 1600, 6 frames, each 8x15s, Sigma 28 Art f1.4:

I even tried astrophotography with GoPro, but it seems this camera needs some light pollution:

After one week at Kiripotib, we rented a car and headed north to Etosha National Park, but before that, we stopped at the Hoba meteorite site, where the largest single-piece meteorite is resting. We were surprised that its 60 tons of weight didn’t cause a gigantic crater. It is assumed that this impact occurred 80,000 years ago, and most probably there was an ocean, so the meteorite just bounced a couple of times, till the kinetic energy was completely dissipated.

We slept one night at a nearby camp and the next day continued to Etosha National Park. Etosha opens the gates early with the sunrise and closes with the sunset. We decided to stay directly inside, so we don’t have to drive every day in and out. There are many camps inside Etosha, Okaukeojo, Namutoni, Halali, and Dolomite. We picked the first one, due to its central location. This allowed us to wake up really early and with the sunrise start to explore nearby water holes, where many animals can be seen.

What is definitely worth doing, is checking every day a log book located at the reception of each camp. People write their observations during the day and you can easily find out where the lions were spotted.

The rhinos can be seen mainly during the night. Therefore, it is an advantage to stay inside the part, because each camp has a water hole. Every evening something interesting happened. The animals just came, drank water, and left.

After a few nights in Etosha, we headed southwest to visit Twyfelfotein, which is a rock formation with ancient engravings. This site is part of UNESCO heritage. Approximately 6000 years ago hunters and gatherers engraved the animals, which they observed. Observing a lion or even a group of lions must have been very dangerous at that time. This makes me wonder, how come they observed such dangerous animals and survived to tell the tail.

From Twyfelfonein we moved to Swakopmund, a beautiful coastal town. On our way there we did a short hike to see The White Lady painting. When we approached Swakopmund the weather changed rapidly and the temperature dropped from 35 °C to only 12 °C. Luckily we had our winter jackets. Swakopmund is a vibrant town full of bars, restaurants clubs, and many touristic attractions. Probably the most exciting is the dune ride – where the desert meets the ocean. We wondered if we should try it with our rented car, but in the end, we decided to hire a guide, which was a very good decision. I was so happy that I don’t have to drive through the ocean.


We had a wonderful time in Namibia again. This time we did less astrophotography and more traveling. Obviously, there is a reason to come back. Next time we would like to take a trip to Caprivi Strip, where the hippos can be seen, and from there it is not far from Victoria Falls. Namibia, we will definitely come back!

Chasing Darkness in Namibia 2022

As a passionate astrophotographer, I have been dreaming about the southern sky. Obviously, the best conditions are in Chile, the home of ESO European Southern Observatory. I read a couple of the travel blogs from Chile and yes this is the place to be with a telescope. However, I live in Central Europe, and getting to Chile is not that straightforward. Once I was browsing through the APOD (astronomy picture of the day) and found a beautiful picture of the Rho Ophiuchi. By reading the credits, I found out that this picture was taken in Namibia, specifically in the Kalahari desert. Well, I was hooked. I found out that astro-tourism is a regular business in Namibia. There are many farms offering telescopes/mounts to rent. The weather in winter (May – September) is basically guaranteed (here is the webpage with records of the cloud cover). Moreover, it’s very dry, so the sky is transparent. In other words, the conditions for astrophotography are excellent. I quickly started to search for accommodation during the next new Moon phase. A couple of farms were already booked out, but I found a place at Kiripotib astro farm. I cannot describe how lucky I was. The farm Kiripotib is run by a couple Hans and Claudia von Hase, very nice and friendly people. Not just them, but their whole stuff – Abigale, Caterina, Mike, and others were excellent hosts. The farm has two seasons. Summer (European winter) is a gliding season. There are two runways directly next to the farm. Winter (European summer) is an astro-season. For this purpose, there are 12 platforms and one roll-off roof observatory roughly 300 m from the farm. The platforms are equipped with 220 V sockets and each has a solid pier, wind protection, a table, and chairs. Basically, all that is required for serious astrophotography. Moreover, there is a wifi coverage there. The signal is not strong, but I was able to download a driver directly from the platform. For each new Moon phase, a guide comes from Germany to take care of the visitors to make sure that the rented equipment will be properly installed. For our stay, Stefan Lenz was our guide. He is a very experienced astrophotographer who won APOD last year.

As you can see, I gave up on the Newtonian portable telescope and replaced it with a refractor. The reason is that I bought a new camera for this trip. Specifically, ZWO ASI 2600MM, which has very small pixels. I was not able to get the stars round at the edges even with a perfectly collimated telescope, no matter which coma corrector I used. I simply gave up and ordered SharpStar 94 EPDH with a focal reducer. I sacrificed the aperture, but the stars are small and round in any corner of an APS-C sensor. I also took the portable refractor WO RedCat 51, combined with ZWO ASI 071MC. I wanted to rent the Newtonian telescope at Kiripotib, but it was already booked, so the only option was to rent Meade 10″ ACF. Stefan helped me to set it up and I used this scope mainly for galaxies like NGC 5128 Centaurus A Galaxy or NGC 6744 Galaxy or the planet Saturn.

A typical day at Kiripotib looks like that: late breakfast at 10:30. After breakfast one can take a nap or try pro process the pictures which were taken the previous day. In the afternoon coffee with a cake is served at 14:00. There are many things to do after the cake. For example, one can hike to the aloe trees:

Or to take a biking trip and meet the wildlife.

The dinner is served at 18:00 and around 19:00 it was already getting dark. A short walk to the platform and the show can start. The Milky Way was rising from the east. Honestly, I haven’t seen such a bright core in my life. It was a stunning view and I managed to capture the whole arc. However, everything didn’t go according to plan. First two nights I was struggling with my new laptop. The default power mode of Windows 11 is set to go to sleep after 20 minutes even if plugged in. Since I was managing 3 mounts, it took me a while to figure it out. Another problem was the polar alignment. In the northern hemisphere, we have Polaris. It is a very bright star, which can be located easily. However, in the southern hemisphere, there is Sigma Octantis, which should serve the purpose. But it is not a bright star and there are many similar stars, having the same brightness. For RST 135 mount I took PoleMaster. With this device it was doable, but it took me an hour to find the pattern. The situation was much more challenging with the iOptron Skyguider Pro. When I looked through the polar scope, I was completely unable to find the Sigma Octantis. The first two nights I was just guessing where the Southern celestial pole is. Hint for anyone who wants to do astrophotography in the Southern hemisphere for the first time: get prepared for the struggle with the polar alignment! Fortunately, I had the old ASIAir with me. There is a simple procedure for the polar alignment by plate solving of two pictures mutually rotated. This was a life-saving feature. The third issue I had was the automatic focuser. I knew that the refractors suffer from a focal drift if the temperature changes. Therefore, I equipped the SharpStar with ZWO electronic focuser. However, one needs to set up how many steps will be used for the focus sweep. I set up too small steps and in some cases, the perfect V-curve was not found, so some pictures were not sharp. I found a tutorial on YouTube on how to set it up properly. After solving all these issues I was finally ready for serious astrophotography. The primary target was obviously the Eta Carina nebula – a highlight of the Southern hemisphere. Secondary targets were NGC 5128 Centaurus A galaxy, NGC 6744 galaxy, NGC 6752 Globular Cluster, IC 2944 Running Chicken Nebula, NGC 5139 Omega Centauri, NGC 292 Small Magellanic Cloud, IC 4628 Prawn Nebula, NGC 2060 Tarantula Nebula, Norma Star Cloud, IC 2602 Southern Pleiades, Vela Supernova Remnant, NGC 6357 Lobster Nebula NGC 6334 Cat’s Paw Nebula, NGC 6188 Rim Nebula. One night I left the tripod with Canon EOS 6D + Samyang 24mm@f2.8 in front of the platform, set iso 1600, exposure 120s, and let it shoot until the battery died. It made 135 photos and by combining them I got such lovely star trails:

It was a very intensive 9 nights not disturbed by the clouds, wind, or light pollution. The conditions significantly exceeded my expectations. I have to admit that I did astrophotography for the first time in the proper place. There are still some deep-space objects on my list, so there is a reason to come back next year.

Final day and packing the rigs. Stefan came to help me 🙂

On the last day, I took a picture of the house where we stayed with the Milky Way in the background:

Namibia is not just an astrotourism, most people visit Namibia for different reasons. There is Etosha Nationalpark in the northern part of Namibia where wild animals can be seen, Fish River Canyon (Southern Namibia) is the largest canyon in Africa. There are definitely many places to visit. Unfortunately, we had only 3 days to travel around, so we decided to hire a car and make a trip to Sossusvlei. It was a very spectacular place. The deep blue color of the sky is mixed with the orange dunes.


There are still some deep space objects in the Southern sky, which I haven’t captured. Moreover, there are many places in Namibia, which I want to visit. We will definitely come back.

Chasing darkness in Switzerland 2021 – Flims Laax

I haven’t been able to photograph the stars for a very long time. I live in a valley where many rivers flow, which brings a lot of moisture into the air. This moisture condenses, which forms either fog or clouds. I was sick of this weather and decided to climb above the clouds and finally take some pictures. Like last year I chose Berghaus Nagens in Flims/Laax ski resort and combine this trip with a skiing vacation. So, how was it? Well, I have bad luck this year. I got only a single cloudless night out of five. Moreover, it was the last one. So, I was not able to photograph the whole night and around midnight I had to pack the gear.

There is a time wrap made by GoPro Hero 8 Black. A view to the south direction. Orion is rising, snowcats are preparing the slopes and the only light pollution comes from city Milan, which is 100 km away.

The primary target was a very difficult one – IC 2118 Witch Head Nebula. This reflection nebula is illuminated by the supergiant star Rigel (right leg of the Orion constellation). The dark skies are the essence and the Askar mini telescope did the job. However, I was surprised how terrible was the chromatic aberration. This can be partially corrected in postprocessing, but not fully. I think I will have to find a better scope.

LensAskar FMA180 F4.5
CameraCanon EOS 6Da
MountiOptron Skyguider Pro
Exposure35x180s, ISO 1600

Before the Orion constellation rose up, I captured the M45 Pleiades. It’s an integration of 63 frames each 2 minutes long. Here, the dark skies reveal some dark nebulae in the visual surroundings of the star cluster. Again, I was quite disappointed by the chromatic aberration of the Askar telescope.

LensAskar FMA180 F4.5
CameraCanon EOS 6Da
MountiOptron Skyguider Pro
Exposure62x120s, ISO 1600

Chasing darkness in Switzerland – Flims Laax

I got a fantastic idea to combine our ski vacation with chasing darkness and creating some spectacular wide-angle astrophotography. I started to search for a hotel, preferably at the top of the mountain, where would be very low light pollution. I found one – Berghaus Nagens in ski resort Flims-Laax. According to the light pollution map, there should be ideal conditions given by the altitude 2000 meters above the sea level, leaving the bright villages in the valley. The hotel has a south-oriented terrace, which should be also optimal to capture the most interesting deep space objects. I knew that to take even the portable telescope together with ski equipment is not feasible, so I took just an astro-modified Canon EOS 6D, two lenses, a tripod, and a portable mount. During our trip to Kythira, I used Baader Nanotracker, which did the job, but I was struggling a lot with polar alignment, so I decided on an upgrade. Specifically, I purchased iOptron Skyguider Pro. It is still very portable, but almost like a real equatorial mount with integrated polar scope.  

So, I booked the hotel, packed ski, previously mentioned astro-equipment, and left for a couple of days towards a new experience. The arrival is quite strict – you have to be at the bottom gondola station between 15:00 and 15:30, to take the lift up. If you miss this gondola, you will not get up. Fortunately, we managed and even first evening we saw few stars in holes between the clouds. The next night the weather improved, but the clouds were still making serious astrophotography nearly impossible. Last two nights the sky cleared and even the Orion arm of the Milky Way was visible by the naked eye. I grabbed a sky quality meter and measured only 21.0, which is not that spectacular. The problem was not caused by the light from the hotel’s restaurant (they switched the lights off at 23:00), but the reason is that we were surrounded by slopes, which have to prepare and the Pistenbullys making the job done have extremely powerful headlights. I can imagine that as soon the ski season is over and the snow melts away, the conditions will be excellent. In the end, I took only two pictures 24 mm and 50 mm of the constellation Orion. Such poor performance can be explained by the extreme weather conditions (freezing -15°C) and my complete tiredness after the whole day of skiing. It’s definitely easier to spend a whole day on the beach and in the evening do some astrophotography because your body is charged by solar power.

Anyway, these few days were mainly about skiing and we enjoined that very much. I cannot imagine a better place for this purpose. One can simply put the ski on at 8:00 be alone on the very well-prepared slopes. Berghaus Nagens is therefore 100% recommendable.

Technical details:

LensSamyang 24 mm f1.4 @ f2.8
CameraCanon EOS 6Da
MountiOptron Skyguider Pro
Exposure46x15s, ISO 1600

Technical details:

LensSigma 50 mm f1.4 Art@ f2.0
CameraCanon EOS 6Da
MountiOptron Skyguider Pro
Exposure44x30s, ISO 1600

Chasing darkness on Fuerteventura

This year was a special year. The pandemic outbreak ruined my first attempt of chasing the darkness on the Canary Islands in May. I didn’t give up and as soon the restrictions were released, I purchased plane tickets to Fuerteventura again. We rented a house via AirBnB on the south side of the island, in the middle of nowhere, where the light pollution was minimal (measured SQM 21.2).

The island lies on the 28th parallel, which makes the core of the Milky Way pretty up in the sky. And this was exactly my primary astrophotographic target. I packed recently astro-modified Canon 6D, nifty-fifty 50 mm f1.8 lens and headed south. The aim was to capture the Antares region together with the core of the Milky Way and in the end, I somehow managed.  However, the lens disappointed me a lot, because it suffers from comatic and chromatic aberrations, combined with astigmatism. The stars in the corners are not round, even if the lens is slowed down to f 3.5. I was trying nearly every evening to recapture the Milky Way, but I was fighting with the weather (it was very windy) and with the equipment (polar alignment, shutter release, drained batteries), but I somehow managed to generate at least one decent picture of the desired target. Lessons learned – I need a better 50 mm lens.

Technical details:

LensCanon EF 50 mm f1.8
Focal length50 mm
MountBaader NanoTracker
CameraCanon EOS 6D Astro modified
Exposure14x20s, ISO 1600

I also packed 150mm Newtonian, together with my new mount Rainbow Astro RS135. This mount is simply excellent and very portable. I still have Avalon M-Zero, but it is significantly heavier, therefore if I travel with Avalon, I have to order a second suitcase and to travel with two suitcases is not that convenient. Rainbow Astro occupies only half of my luggage, so there was a space for some T-shirts. I must say, that the Avalon is a better mount for tracking and there is no need to do a meridian flip, but the portability is for me more important. The primary target was the Lobster nebula, but I managed to capture some DSOs around Antares and in the core of the Milky Way (Lagoon, Trifid, M4, M6, M7, M24, IC4304).

The conclusion: the weather was much better than in La Palma last year. Every night was cloudless, but it was windy. Fortunately not every day, so in the end, it was a quite successful trip.

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

Chasing darkness on La Palma

All of my previous dark-sky expeditions were organized in the 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 a huge part of the Messier catalog. 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 a few days, preferably somewhere south and even more preferably under dark skies. Googling yielded in the brilliant idea – La Palma, Canary Islands. This island belongs to the 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 an altitude nearly 2500 meters above sea level. On the whole island, there are strict rules for 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. The dark sky is probably the same touristic attraction on La Palma as the beaches on the Greek islands.

Theoretically, La Palma should be a paradise for astrophotographers. How was it in the reality? Well, I was not lucky at all with the weather. I got only one clear night out of ten. During the day it was nice and sunny, but nearly every evening the clouds rolled in and I was able to photograph only dark clouds. According to the weather statistics, there should be only one rainy day in May in La Palma. Moreover, cloud cover should be present only 30% of the month, the rest should be sunny. Hmm, probably we hit the 30% spot in the calendar.

On the other hand, the island is beautiful and offers many other activities, like hiking, whale watching, sightseeing, etc. People are friendly, nature breathtaking, food delicious and vine excellent. From this point of view, it was fantastic. In the end, I was able to capture two deep space objects, which have very low southern declination (not far from the horizon) if observed from Central Europe. Specifically, they were M68 globular cluster in constellation Hydra and M83 Southern Pinwheel Galaxy also in constellation Hydra. These two objects were on my “must capture” list, so in the end, it was not so bad.

Roque de los Muchachos
Roque de los Muchachos
The Gran Telescopio Canarias
MAGIC (Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov) telescope
Typical evening weather on La Palma in May
Volcán Teneguía
Volcán Teneguía

Puerto de Sto. Domingo
Salinas de Fuencaliente
Mirador de las Mimbreras

M83 Southern Pinwheel Galaxy

Messier 83 is a spiral galaxy located in constellation Hydra. It is one of the brightest and closest (15 million light-years) galaxies observable from Earth. On the other hand there are much brighter and closer galaxies, for example Andromeda is only 2.5 million light-years away and M33 Triangulum Galaxy is roughly 3 million light-years away.

Due to the fact that the M83 has very low southern declination (rises not far from horizon), thus it is very difficult to capture from light polluted Central Europe, I decided to take a trip to south. Specifically to La Palma (Canary Islands) and tried to photograph it from there. I had only one clear night out of ten, but together with M68 was this galaxy my primary target and I somehow managed. My plan was to capture more deep space objects, but the weather didn’t allow me.

Technical details:

TelescopeNewton 150/600 mm
Aperture150 mm
Focal length630 mm
MountAvalon M-Zero
AutoguidingZWO 174MM, Guidescope 30 mm
CameraZWO 071 Pro @-10°C
CorrectorExplore Scientific HR
FiltersAstronomik L-1 - UV IR Block Filter
Exposure87x300s, Gain 94, bin 1x1,

M41 Open Cluster

In order to complete the Messier Catalogue and capture all of its deep space objects, I have to pack the telescope, mount, camera, cables and batteries and set it up somewhere in the nature with better view. Most of the objects I am able to capture from home, but some of them have very low declination (not far above the horizon) and I cannot see them from my terrace, because there is a hill direction south.

Messier 41, open cluster in constellation Canis Major is one of them.  So, I packed my car and went to collect some photons. At least I got the opportunity to test my new mount Avalon M-Zero, which replaced my previous portable mount iOptron CEM25P. The old portable mount was working well, but due to conventional equatorial design, one needs a counterweight, which was in this case 5 kg. This means 1/3 of the total weight. M-Zero is basically single fork mount, which utilizes the weight of the motors and housing as a counterweight. Moreover, M-Zero uses belts and pulleys, which means zero backlash. I can confirm – it works very well. I can save few kgs in my case during my next travel expedition.

The night was cold and since I don’t do the astrophotography in the nature frequently, I faced some issues. First, the portable telescope lost the collimation and I didn’t have the laser collimator with me. Second, I started to photograph before the telescope reached the thermal equilibrium, therefore there was a focus drift. This is definitely not my best picture, but I can at least check another Messier object from the list.

Technical details

TelescopeNewton 150/600 mm
Aperture150 mm
Focal length630 mm
MountAvalon M-Zero
AutoguidingZWO 174MM, Guidescope 30 mm
CameraZWO 071 Pro @-20°C
CorrectorExplore Scientific HR
FiltersHutech IDAS LPS-D2
Exposure39x60s, Gain 136, bin 1x1,

Chasing darkness in Schwarzwald

My second expedition after the dark skies (this year) led us to Germany, specifically to Black Forest (Schwarzwald) in the state of Baden-Württemberg. We rented a small cabin for a weekend and I took the same equipment which I took to Milos, i.e. telescope newton 150/600 mm, mount iOptron CEM25P and ZWO 071 Pro camera.

As soon got dark, the Milky Way showed up. I measured SQM and it reached 21.1, which is not spectacular, but far better compared what I have at home.

The equipment was working perfectly, but the dew started to form on the secondary mirror, because the cabin is close to river Breg, which means a lot of humidity. I never had dew problems with Newtonian telescope up to now. Lessons learned – I need a dew shield. I managed to capture only M74 Galaxy and M78 Nebula.

Anyway, I also managed to capture wide angle photos with my Pen-F and Fish eye lens.

Here are the star trails – exposure 30x30s:

And here is the Milky Way – exposure 1x30s ISO 3200 f1.8:

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