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For your consideration, the constellation Orion taken on a dark night in January. I was fortunate enough to be able to execute a fine exposure revealing not only the faint Ha nebulae throughout the region, but also the blue nebulae that exists in the western portions, including the well known Witch Head nebulae NW of Rigel.

Pentax 67 165mm @ f/4.8 75 minutes exposure Kodak E200 - Normal E-6 Processing.

Scanned on Epson V600 imported into PS and edited and cropped slightly.

Compare to my digital rendition of the same area, but somewhat wider view:


I like them both and each method provides a different rendition, but my own personal aesthetics prefer this film version, which is a dying art practiced by the few with the commitment to the craft and access to dark skies. I hope to keep at it as long as I am able.

Thank you for looking.


Orion by Nightfly Photography, on Flickr

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It's a fantastic image, and I also prefer this to the digital version from an aesthetic point of view.

Film is far from dead, providing far better than HD resolution, but there are increasingly few technical reasons to use it over digital. Film will stick around for a long time largely because it fills an aesthetic niche - a technically superior image is not necessarily a more pleasing one to look at. Astro-photography is particularly challenging for film, as the most sensitive films can't match the sensitivity of a CCD.

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I think I prefer the film version as well- It has a distintcly different look to it. Nice to see the Witch Head showing through- that requires dark skies to image well. What latitude are you? Orion is quite low down for me at 51 degrees North, would be nice if it was higher in the sky.

I'm also interested in your coment regarding sky brightness and the solar cycle. Do you think it really is less dark right now? One of my recent wide field shots showed a green band of airglow on the southern horizon.

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I'm also interested in your coment regarding sky brightness and the solar cycle. Do you think it really is less dark right now? One of my recent wide field shots showed a green band of airglow on the southern horizon.

Yes, it has been well documented that increase in solar activity (we are currently near the peak of cycle 24) increases night sky brightness. Airglow is the brightest component and is caused by oxygen atoms glowing in the upper atmosphere which are excited by solar ultraviolet radiation. Airglow, as you have recorded recently, gets worse at solar maximum.

It is difficult to notice these changes unless you are viewing from a truly dark sky site. This means that not only are the zodiacal light visible, but also the zodiacal band and Gegenschein are visible as well as skyglow. My site is also a monitoring station of the night sky brightness and I have noticed a large amount of change since Solar Minima in 2008-2009. Zenith readings on average of 21.60 (with no Milky Way overhead) in 2008 versus the average in 2012 of 21.30. This may not seem like a huge difference, but it is under a dark sky. The effect is perhaps not even noticeable under Bortle 4 or higher sky. My sky is a solid Bortle 3, but often has characteristics of a Bortle 2. Not perfect, but very good.

Seasonal variations occur as well with periods of low humidity offering the best transparency. My naked eye limit record occurred in the early morning sky of March 11, 2008 with a zenith NEL of 7.85 . It was Nirvana and one of the true Bortle 2 occasions I have had the pleasure to view under. Messier 92 was an easy object held with direct vision and Jupiter created a "light dome" on the SE horizon. Dark nebulae in southern Ophiuchus appeared as in photographs. Zenith sky brightness was 21.65 mags/sq-arc-sec. The "glass ceiling" for sky brightness is generally agreed to be ~22.0 mags/sq-arc-sec.

Recent observations reveal a brighter sky and I cannot wait until solar minima sometime around 2020.

I'll have to go back and sift through my astrophotos and compare recorded sky brightness on equivalent exposures. I do miss how dark the sky was then.

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