These are some Astro Photos I took on the Feb 2007 Travel Quest trip to Costa Rica's La Ensenada Lodge.  TQ runs this trip each year to a site on the Gulf of Nicoya.  It is the cheapest way for someone from the US to see the Southern Milky Way.  It is also an ideal setup to do astronomy. 

I do not normally do Astro Photography.  My main goal of this trip was to use my 10" f/5 scope based on a design by Albert Highe.  I had always wanted to snap some pictures of the southern sky. S&T Editor Gary Seronik brought a barn door mount with him so I tried two sets of photos.  The details of this mount are described in the June 2007 issue of Sky and Telescope.

In all cases the camera was a Canon 20Da with a EFS 18-55 Zoom lens operating at about f 3.5.  The actual zoom is specified below. All are at ISO 800.

Southern Milky Way


The first photo was taken Friday evening on the barn door.  This is a set of  5 unguided  exposures of  2 minutes each processed as Norm Aver by ImagesPlus.  The original was shot at 18mm, but this is severely cropped since the full frame includes the ground. (See the full frame below) A separate dark frame was taken.

a 5x5 Adaptive Richardson-Lucy was used to reduce the noise.

This covers the sky from Centaurus east to the false cross.  This chart from SkyMap Pro shows approximately where this frame is located. Omega Centuri, the Southern Cross, Jewel Box, Eta Carina, are all easily visible. On a closer look you can also pick out Running Chicken Nebula(IC 2944), IC 2602, NGC 3532, NGC 3114, IC 2391, NGC 2516, and probably a couple of other OCs.


Orion is something easily seen from California.  The dark skies of La Ensenada made it a temping target.  Not having a right angle adapter for my camera meant that I had to image while it was low in the sky.

Thumbnail of Orion Image

This is a combination of 3 x 1 minute exposures at 22mm. A separate dark frame was taken.  Several techniques were used to reduce noise and reduce alignment errors.

This photo covers the north portion of Canis Major, Orion, and portions of Taurus.  This chart from SkyMap Pro shows approximately where this frame is located. M41, M42, and M35 are easily visible.  A closer look reveals M50 and  NGC 2024 (Flame Nebula),.

La Ensenada Horizons

I have been asked a couple of times what the horizons are like at La Ensenda.  Here is a full frame of  the 2 minute SWM exposure.  Since the image was taken on a barn door the foreground land is blurred. 

Full Frame South

This was taken about 12:13 AM.  Eta Carina was at Altitude: 19 51' ;Azimuth: 176 49' .  The shot shows the low peninsula across the gulf.  There were some low clouds that night which reflected light from a source to the left of the frame. There are no significant light sources in any other direction.

rjh 5/6/07