Picture of the Month - February 2020

Wonderful picture of the Centre of the Milky Way by Rafael Schmall

A wonderful and special astrophotography image each month by Hungarian astrophotographers.
Expedition to the Southern Hemisphere

In this image you can see the central region of our galaxy, The Milky Way. It was taken during our astrophotography expedition to Namibia in 2018. It is also visible from Hungary in a short period of the summer, really low above the southern horizon. On the other hand, over the southern hemisphere, the galactic center rises to zenith and becomes a great target for astrophotographers, who can take a wonderful image of it at just about any focal length.

The experience of a lifetime at the Khomas Highland

The location of the Namibian expedition, the Khomas Highland has an ideal climate. Its 1700 meters of elevation, dry and clear air are paired with the complete absence of light pollution thus granting an excellent opportunity to capture the deep-sky objects of the southern sky.  Because this expedition was an interesting opportunity in my life, I tried to use all my astrophotography equipment and all of the available time frame, and also to process captured raw images thoroughly and thought through, even years afterwards.

The equipment

The raw images were captured with the smaller of the two setups I brought to the expedition. This light, portable setup consisted of a Canon EOS1100D and a Samyang 24mm f1.4 lens, mounted on a Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer travel mount as a star tracker. It was guided on one of the axes with the Lacerta M-gen standalone autoguider. The lens was stopped down to f4, turned towards the galactic center and classic 5 minute exposures were used at ISO 800, 50 in total. There was no need for more exposure, thanks to the excellent quality skies.

Wonderful details of the Milky Way

When I composed this shot, I shifted the central region down a bit to reveal the Rho Ophiuchi and Antares regions beside it thus creating a strong contrast of light and darkness. The image shows many details of the Milky Way Core, for example the distinctly contoured dark dust cloud complexes,  pink tone star forming regions and an unimaginable amount of little stars, which together give our galaxy’s central region a warm yellow glow.