Determining the winners of this contest is no easy task, but it continues to be a distinct pleasure for our five-member judging panel, as the quality of submissions steadily escalates each year. Astro-imaging is now a major component of amateur astronomy for two reasons: digital imaging equipment is better than ever and is available at increasingly competitive prices. And here’s a tip: If you want to break in to astrophotography, try the tripod-mounted unguided category. Typically, a 20-second exposure with a normal DSLR camera takes the category first prize.
Winner: From his observatory in Saint-Roch-de-l’Achigan, Quebec, Daniel Borcard imaged a remarkable sequence of portraits of Jupiter over more than three hours, recording the transit of the planet’s moon Io and the passage of its shadow across the Jovian clouds. In particular, the middle horizontal row shows Io to the left of its shadow as it passes just above the famous Red Spot, appearing light pink in front of a dark belt and copper-hued when crossing the white gap between the spot and the belt — just as seen visually. The judges noted exceptional detail and colour evident throughout the sequence, usually associated with a telescope larger than Borcard’s 9.25-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain. A Tele Vue 2.5x Powermate and a DBK 21AU618 CCD camera were used. Each individual image is a stack of 400 to 600 individual frames. Universal times on November 15, 2012, are given.
Grand Prize: MallinCam Universe CCD imager
Best Deep-Sky With Digital SLR Or Webcam-Type Imager
Winner: The annual Geminid meteor shower in December is often the most active meteor display of the year. Ottawa’s Pierre Martin travels to wherever he needs to be to record the best meteor shower. For the 2012 Geminids, on the night of December 13-14, he arranged to use the Cincinnati Astronomical Society’s dark sky site near Peebles, Ohio, to shoot hundreds of images (30-second exposures for meteors; 4.5 minutes for star background). This digital stack of 98 Geminids was captured between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Canon 7D with 17mm f/2.8 at ISO 400.
Prize: Sky-Watcher 127mm Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope with AllView mount
Honourable Mention: Last October, Adam Moncrieff of Kanata, Ontario, drove to the Lennox & Addington Dark Sky Viewing Area to shoot a Milky Way panorama. This image of the Cygnus region is one of the frames, a 2-minute exposure with a Canon 60Da, 35mm lens at f/2.8, ISO 2000.
Honourable Mention: Mark Viol of Huntsville, Ontario, used a Celestron 11-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain with an f/6.3 reducer to record the pencil-thin edge-on spiral galaxy NGC7814 with a filter-modified Canon T1i. Stack of ten 5-minute exposures at ISO 1600.
Best Digital-Camera Photo: Lunar and Planetary
Winner: During what turned out to be a cloudier than normal October last year, Daniel Borcard waited for a mostly cloudless day (October 17) to, as he says, “steal about two sunny hours” to image the Sun in Hydrogen-alpha light from his observatory near Saint-Roch-de-l’Achigan, Quebec. He used a Lunt LS60THa solar telescope and a DMK 31AF03 camera. In this five-image mosaic, each layer is the result of a stack of 421 frames. The monochrome image was inverted and colourized, with the prominences left in grey.
Prize: iOptron iEQ30 German equatorial mount
Honourable Mention: This fine solar image by Roberto Serri of Bois-des-Filion, Quebec, shows a close-up view on June 5, 2012, during the last transit of Venus this century. Equipment: Meade 10-inch LX200-ACF, DMK 21AU04 CCD camera, Baader solar filters.
Honourable Mention: This multiple exposure of a moonrise over Edmonton was taken on the evening of January 27, 2013. Using carefully judged exposures as cloud banks blocked portions of the full Moon, Alister Ling created this time-lapse effect of the Moon’s trajectory. Camera: Canon 10D, f/6.3, ISO 200, 105mm lens.
Best Deep-Sky Digital High-Resolution Imagery
Winner: More than 12 hours of imaging over seven nights from his observatory in the Okanagan region of British Columbia rewarded Howard Trottier with data to produce this outstanding image of the reflection nebula NGC7129, in Cepheus. He used a PlaneWave 17 -inch Corrected Dall-Kirkham telescope and an Apogee U16M CCD camera.
Prize: Celestron NexStar 8SE telescope
Honourable Mention: The North America Nebula (NGC7000) and adjacent Pelican Nebula (IC5070), in the constellation Cygnus, were imaged from Quebec City by Jean Guimond using an SBIG STL-11000M CCD camera on a Takahashi FSQ 106mm apo refractor focal reduced to f/3.6.
Honourable Mention: Popularly called the Jellyfish Nebula, IC443 (lower right)—a supernova remnant in Gemini—is another Jean Guimond image taken with the same CCD camera, this time on a Takahashi 150mm apo refractor at f/5.6. To its right is the larger Sh2-249, an unrelated and somewhat more distant nebula.
Best Tripod-Mounted Unguided Photo
Winner: Along with some local RASC members, Shannon Bileski drove to Patricia Beach Provincial Park, on the shore of Manitoba’s Lake Winnipeg, on April 30 to see a predicted aurora. “While waiting for the aurora to erupt,” she says, “I took a few shots and got quite a surprise. We saw a bright flash with green explosions — it was a bolide meteor! I was lucky enough to catch the whole thing on camera.” It was a perfect case of being at the right place at the right moment. Nikon D800 with 24mm lens at f/3.2, ISO 800, 8-second exposure.
Prize: Meade Series 5000 24mm ultrawide eyepiece
Honourable Mention: An abandoned prairie homestead east of Edmonton is a haunting presence in this aurora portrait taken by Warren Finlay of Edmonton. Nikon D7000, 14mm lens, ISO 1600, f/2.8, 20-second exposure with flash fill.
Honourable Mention: On Thanksgiving evening, October 8, 2012, Stan Cholak captured a classic multi-curtain aurora display from near Willingdon, Alberta. He used a Nikon D3S with a 15mm wide-angle lens and a 6-second exposure at f/2.8, ISO 1250.