Continuing a trend established with our first annual photo contest, we receive more impressive entries each year. The only minor downside to this situation is the difficult task facing our editorial judging panel. As always, careful consideration is given not only to the aesthetic and technical qualities of each image but also to the degree of difficulty considering the subject matter and the equipment used. And beginners please note: The winning entries in the tripod-mounted unguided category are always taken with off-the-shelf camera gear. Composition and an eye for the unusual are paramount.
Best Deep-Sky With Digital SLR or Webcam-Type Imager
Winner: Shawn Nielsen, Kitchener, Ontario, for this superb portrait of M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, the nearest spiral galaxy similar in size to our home galaxy, the Milky Way. This spectacular celestial image was obtained with a modified Canon Digital Rebel XT (composite of 32 five-minute exposures) using a Sky-Watcher Equinox 80mm f/6.3 apo refractor coupled with a William Optics 0.8x reducer. The refractor was piggybacked on a Celestron CPC 800, Milburn Wedge-mounted for tracking. Guided with an Orion StarShoot AutoGuider and PHD. Acquisition, calibration and align/stack were done in Nebulosity, and the image was processed in Photoshop CS5.
Prize: Meade Deep Sky Imager DSI Pro II (colour or monochrome, winner’s choice).
Honourable mention: Sanjeev Sivarulrasa, Ottawa, Ontario, for this wide-field view of Orion’s three-star belt and environs. The famous Horsehead Nebula is at centre; the Orion Nebula is at lower right. The long, smoky nebulosity at left is a section of Barnard’s Loop. This two-frame composite image was taken with a Hutech-modified Canon 40D DSLR with a 135mm f/2 lens at f/3.2.
Best Digital-Camera Photo: Lunar and Planetary
Winner: David DeVries, Brampton, Ontario, for this imaginative multiple exposure of the complete total and partial phases of the lunar eclipse on December 21, 2010. A Canon 50D DSLR was used to take shots of widely varying exposures every five minutes through a Sky-Watcher 10-inch f/4.7 Newtonian reflector during the 2.6-hour event.
Prize: Complete Sky-Watcher Black Diamond ED 80mm OTA package with aluminum case and focal reducer.
Honourable mention: Jim Chung, Toronto, Ontario, captured this pair of beautifully sharp portraits of Jupiter during a few days of excellent seeing over the big metropolis last October. Taken with a Point Grey Research Flea CCD camera on a Sky-Watcher 12-inch collapsible Dobonsian reflector, these outstanding shots show remarkable detail on nearly opposite sides of the giant planet.
Best Deep-Sky Digital High-Resolution Imagery
Winner: Lynn Hilborn, Grafton, Ontario, used a TEC 140mm apo refractor with an FLI ML8300 CCD camera for this winning 6-hour exposure of the Leo Triplet group of galaxies. The SkyNews judging panel noted the exceptional detail revealed in each galaxy in this image – remarkable for this aperture instrument. The galaxies are, left to right: edge-on spiral NGC3628, spiral M65 and barred spiral M66. The trio is about 36 million light-years distant.
Prize: Celestron NexStar 8SE telescope.
Honourable mention: Pierre Tremblay, Quebec City, took this image (12-hour total exposure) of the Dumbbell Nebula (M27) with a QSI 583wsg CCD camera using Astrodon RGB plus Hydrogen-alpha filters on a Takahashi 212mm Newtonian with a Tele Vue Paracorr corrector. The Dumbbell, near the head of Sagitta the arrow, is a planetary nebula, the remnant of a dying star.
Best Tripod-Mounted Unguided Photo
Winner: Martin Bernier, Saint-Liboire, Quebec, used a Canon 300D with an 18mm lens at f/4 for this 25-second shot of . . .an unusual aurora? No, this is a cluster of light pillars created by ice crystals shaped like tiny domino pieces that remain horizontal in perfectly still air. The reflected light is from individual bright lights in Saint-Hyacinthe, the source of the overall light pollution.
Prize: TheSkyX Professional advanced astronomy software from Software Bisque.
Honourable mention: Brian W. Allan, Bergen, Alberta, took this scenic landscape of the Moon over the Rockies from his front yard overlooking Misty Valley Ranch on the morning of December 23, 2010. It was 9:30 a.m., and although sunlight illuminated the mountains, it had yet to reach into the valley. The camera (a Canon 60D) was handheld; 120mm lens at f/8 at ISO 100.