M81, M82, the Integrated Flux Nebula and Comet ATLAS. (Daniel Posey)

Daniel Posey shoots M81, M82 — and a comet, too

Daniel Posey’s gorgeous shot of M81, M82, the IFN and Comet ATLAS wins this Photo of the Week.

Daniel Posey wasn’t aiming to capture Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) when he turned his lens toward M81, M82 and the nearby integrated flux nebula.

But luck was with him that night. The timeliness, timelessness and sheer beauty of his shot put it in the first-place position, winning him the Photo of the Week title for April 3, 2020.

M81, M82, the Integrated Flux Nebula and Comet ATLAS. (Daniel Posey)

One judge noted Posey’s experience showed in the quality of the image, especially given that the exposure is not that long. Another judge said he thought Posey’s image was “first class.”

Posey said he took advantage of the high-quality clear night forecast for Friday, March 20 and captured a wide-field of Messier 81 and 82 trying to chase down the IFN in the area.

“I was shooting from the grounds of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory near Victoria, B.C., and the brightest areas of the IFN have been measured around 25th magnitude,” he wrote in an email.

“Given the light pollution, I didn’t have high hopes. I will also admit that being focused on the project I didn’t realise there was a comet in the field at the time, but based on the hue and date of capture it looks like the Comet ATLAS made an appearance on the lower portion of the frame.”

Posey said he took 1h50m (220 x 30 seconds) of exposures with a Sigma 105mm lens at f/1.4, using a Canon Ra set at ISO 400.

“I calibrated with bias and flat frames, and stacked/processed in PixInsight,” he stated. “I didn’t use any filtration for light pollution, but was lucky to be shooting near the zenith.”

The very honourable mention for this week goes to Debra Ceravolo for her shot of star trails with SpaceX’s satellite constellation Starlink moving through.

SpaceX’s satellite constellation Starlink moving through the night sky. (Debra Ceravolo)

Shooting from her backyard in the southern interior of British Columbia on March 16, she said she used a Canon 6D to take 50 shots at 13 seconds each, setting the ISO at 400, f-stop at 1.4 and lens at 20mm.

“Every time I do any astrophotography now, these things contaminate my images,” she wrote, noting that SpaceX has plans to launch tens of thousands more, along with Amazon. She also referred to OneWeb, which had launched dozens of satellites over the course of a year. The company filed for bankruptcy March 27.

Ceravolo wrote that she believes satellite constellations threaten all forms of astrophotography and astronomy, and even humanity.

“This image contains only a small fraction of of satellites out there now,” she wrote. “Imagine if there were 100 times more. These satellites can never come back, they will orbit around the Earth forever. There is no cleaning up the pollution once they are launched. We are about to lose our sky.”