Fall Starfest: An Astrophotographer’s Report

After a grueling 2-hour drive from the UES to The Evergreens Cemetery, I am happy to report that Fall Starfest went off without a hitch. We got lucky with about 90 minutes of clear skies from 8-9:30pm, despite what looked like a total bust earlier in the day. 

A Starfest Moon. Credit: Winn Koster

The observing location at The Evergreens Cemetery is not bad for astrophotographers, as you can park and literally put your scope right next to your car and have a decent open sky. Sure, we are under the NYC light dome, but as I hope by now we all in this group can appreciate modern CMOS cameras and software really did help cut through the muck.

I set up with my Celestron CPC11 and ASIAir Pro. I was intending on shooting with my 72mm EvoStar piggyback refractor telescope for a wide angle, and then using my CPC 11” SCT which I was barlow-ing 1.5x (4200mm focal length!) for Jupiter and Saturn. 

Unfortunately, the bouncing around in the car misaligned the CPC 11” SCT from the finder and I did not want to waste all night trying to re-align them, so I used old fashioned eyepieces on the CPC 11” SCT. I had my ADC in the imaging train, so we got some really spectacular views of Jupiter (with Callisto’s shadow) and Saturn too, with the Cassini division easily spotted by even the young kids who looked through. I did briefly snag Messier 57 in the smaller scope with 5-second exposures and stacked in ASIAir Pro, but the crowd did not seem to care much to see the teeny-tiny speck of the Ring Nebula, so we went back to the planets and moon.

Overall, I had fun and I think many of the observers also appreciated the opportunity to take a peek. My favorite comment of the night was from one young woman who quipped on Saturn, ‘oh wow! It looks just like clip art!’.