Celestron's Capture the Universe 2010 Astrophoto winners!

By Phil Plait | December 1, 2010 8:44 am

Use the arrows next to the filmstrip to navigate, and click the thumbnails to see bigger versions of all these magnificent pictures! You can also click the big picture to advance to the next one.


Comments (28)

Links to this Post

  1. Astronews Daily Extended Edition (2455533) | December 2, 2010
  2. Links und Video der Woche (2010/48) :: cimddwc | December 5, 2010
  1. Kullat Nunu

    Geez, those Jupiter photos look much better than the pre-service mission Hubble photos!

  2. Sorry, but I question the value of this kind of contest.

    “Take a picture using an expensive piece of equipment by company ‘x’, and win an expensive piece of equipment by company ‘x’.”

    I don’t have an expensive Celestron telescope. I have a positively ancient (but well loved,) no-name telescope. I also don’t have a fancy camera mount. All of my astronomy pictures are either no-telescope tripod pictures, or “hold the camera up to the eyepeice, take 50 pictures, and hope one turns out” pictures.

    Maybe next year, you can convince them to make it a “take an interesting picture WITHOUT a telescope to win a telescope” contest…

  3. AliCali

    @2 Ed H: I was thinking the same thing. The winner already has a nice telescope, so he wins another! Still, it’s Celestron’s contest, so they can do what they want.

    I like the double-cluster photo as well. It reminds me of why that’s such a nice cluster. During public and school star parties, I show this to people in urban skies, and it’s not nearly as good. The city lights take out most of the fainter stars. When you remove a lot of stars, many clusters tend to look like a few extra stars, and not the wonder of an open cluster (although M6 is a noted exception).

    The moon plus Antares photo really looks like one of those artist renditions of an extrasolar planet, especially with the glow around the moon and the coloring and shape of the clouds. I didn’t think it was real at first.

  4. In the pelican nebula, there’s something with glowing blue eyes, everything but its head hidden in its burrow. It sure ain’t a pelican.

    BTW, here’s what happens when Firefox loads a page with an image gallery on it (this is true for at least all image galleries on Discover Magazine). First, it loads the images. Second, it flips a coin. Third, if heads, it displays the gallery correctly, but if tails, it hides the entire gallery completely.

    In this case, it threw two tails and then a head.

  5. Lila

    Wow. Wow. And wow. So beautiful.

    I would love a dress made out of a screen print of the Pelican Nebula image. Those are my colors, after all. How freaking cool would that be?

  6. I wonder if the “little” storms on Jupiter were a precursor to the “missing” band reappearing recently?


    The moon plus Antares photo really looks like one of those artist renditions of an extrasolar planet, especially with the glow around the moon and the coloring and shape of the clouds. I didn’t think it was real at first.

    It’s obviously a fake, since you can’t see any stars! Oh, wait… Never mind. :-)

    Adrian Morgan:

    BTW, here’s what happens when Firefox loads a page with an image gallery on it (this is true for at least all image galleries on Discover Magazine)

    For my Firefox (3.6 on Windows), first you see all the text captions as a horrible jumbled mess, then all of the images are loaded and visible. Finally, all that disappears and you see the image gallery as designed.


    I would love a dress made out of a screen print of the Pelican Nebula image

    I saw on the 1-Sept-2010 Hubblecast (“Hubble in popular culture”) that someone had taken Hubble images and used them to do just that. I don’t recall which image(s), however.

  7. Pete Jackson

    It’s amazing how amateurs can now take better pictures (at least on bright objects) than the largest observatories could when I was first learning astronomy in the 1950s and 1960s. A lot of it is due to the CCD chips and the personal computers that run them.

  8. AtomicTommy

    Wow. All the photos presented were awesome. I especially loved that shot of the Pelican Nebula. I wish I had a telescope to do something like that. But alas, my wallet prevents me from doing so. :(

  9. Why is the limb of Venus brighter in IR (and to a lesser extend, in red) than the rest of the planet? Very unusual effect… it would mean the atmosphere radiates more laterally than it does vertically. Is that so?

  10. Joseph G

    This really makes me want to get into amateur astronomy. I bought a small 50/100x refractor telescope recently, but it’s pretty lousy. I can’t even see the moons of Jupiter. I shouldn’t be surprised, it was on super-duper sale for $19.95 😛

    Does anyone here have any suggestions to the uber-newb set regarding relatively affordable telescopes? And yes, I do realize that “relatively affordable” in this case probably means several hundred dollars :)

  11. AliCali

    @10 Joseph G

    I get asked a lot about beginner telescopes. Here is what I believe is the proper order, assuming you’re new to the night sky:

    1. Buy a simple planisphere that shows the constellations on a particular night and time. Learn how to identify the major constellations. This gives you a nice map of the sky.

    2. If you still like going outside and looking up, then use binoculars that you might already have. They’re the easiest and most portable, although I have a hard time holding them steady. The moon looks nice, and depending upon the light pollution, you can see many of the brighter M objects (although they won’t look like the pictures).

    3. If you still like going outside and looking up, then go for a telescope. First, go online and figure out the type and features you want. For instance, I wanted a large telescope for little money, and didn’t care about motor drives or photography. That was a Reflector (I ended up with an 8″ Reflector from Zhumell for less than $400). This has no features (no computer, no motor drive, not good for photography), but the 8 inches bring in a lot of the sky even from Los Angeles.

    Note that the wonderful pictures you see on this site will not be what you’ll see in a telescope. Planets and the moon look cool, and open star clusters and double stars are really nice, but nebulas, galaxies, are basically fuzzy spots. I still like looking for those fuzzy spots, as I imagine I’m Messier or some early telescope user seeing those spots for the first time.

    People who own telescopes love talking about them. You should find no shortage of guides and helpful advice. You should also be able to find star parties where people let others look through their telescope and you can ask any questions you’d like.

    My other advice when using a telescope: dress warmly and have patience. I knew the night sky pretty well before buying a telescope, and it still took me several tries before I got the hang of aiming the scope and finding what I want. Like anything, it takes a little practice.

  12. Proportion Wheel

    Per #10: Celestron and many other manufacturers make decent small newtonians for $200 – $500 — or consider making your own! See http://www.stellafane.org for plenty of info and a multitude of links. Also, AliCali’s advice is sound.

  13. AtomicTommy

    @ #10&11…Just to add to the conversation on telescopes, I found this guys site and it helped me out and has great advice for beginners…


    He even has a page with suggestions of first telescopes. The guys whole website is great and has lots of good information, especially for astronomy newbs like myself…anyway, I hope that helps out… :)

  14. Sorry, that shot of the “ISS” transiting the sun is mislabeled. It should be captioned (in all caps and exclamation points):


  15. Joseph G

    Thanks much for the advice, AliCali!
    I can recognize a few major constellations and planets, and I have a nifty sky-map app on my phone that works extremely well for sky scanning (one thing I love about it is that you can even find objects that aren’t above the horizon yet, and then see how the sky will look at x time).

    And I spent a good 3 hours yesterday hunting around with my cheapo scope, so I know I’m cold-tolerant and patient/fanatical enough to do more observing :) I only went inside because Venus, Mars and the moon were all below the horizon.

    So yeah, I think I’m at about step 3. Eventually I’d love a motor-drive rig with all the gizmos, but for right now, the kind of scope you describe sounds right up my alley. Mostly I want something that I can see Jovian (and possibly Saturnian – is that the right word?) moons with.

    The scope I have seems to have an odd habit of “rainbow-izing” the things I’m observing. Is this because it’s ridiculously cheap, or is this a problem with refracting scopes (or both)?

  16. Jon Hanford

    Great to see wonderful images taken with relatively modest equipment. Makes me wish I still had my Celestron Schmidt (5.5″ f/1.65). I see several comments on the Pelican Nebula shot, but no one’s noted it’s been mirror flipped (left-to-right). Here’s how it should look: http://heavens-voice.com/images/Raw%20Images/IC5070.jpg

    Note – The Pelican Nebula is to the right of “the eyes”.

  17. Thanks all of you!

    I also want to thank Phil and Celestron for the opportunity! Funny thing, in a Cloudy Nights forum post about the contest announcement I posted: “I have a feeling in this year’s contest, two of the images he will include (will probably be a tie for one of the places)… 1) Comet Hartley passing by the Pacman nebula and 2) Hartley passing by the double cluster.”

    I was clouded in when the comet passed by the Pacman nebula, but I was lucky enough that the weather was perfect the night it passed by the Double Cluster.

    For those who would like to get into astrophotography, it *doesn’t* need to be expensive. Two and half years ago I had never owned a telescope. I decided to get one for visual use, and ended up with this one: http://www.celestron.com/c3/product.php?ProdID=41 . I found one online for sale for $250 shipped. Over the next two years, I have upgraded some bits and pieces but learned a lot along the way.

  18. AliCali

    @15 Joseph G

    I’m not an expert on refracting telescopes, but I understand that they could have issues with color. I think it’s called aberration, where the light colors don’t quite line up.

    In your case, I’m betting it’s the $19.99 scope. I’m glad it didn’t frustrate you so much that you quit.

  19. Joseph G

    @ProportionWheel and AtomicTommy: Thanks for the links/input. I knew this was the right place to start asking these questions :)

    @19 AliCali: I WAS actually quite happy with the view of the Pleiades that I got. It was very cool to see them “up close” to where you can see that the blue color is quite real (as opposed to an illusion caused by earth’s atmosphere or something).
    I kinda learned by doing (and failing) quite a bit, so it was actually a useful experience. For instance, I got to encounter the thermal stabilization problem (bringing the scope outside and watching everything go blurry as it cooled down). I also learned how NOT to set up a tripod, how reflections of your eye in the eyepiece (damn streetlights) can look a lot like a blurry star, how important correct usage of the spotting scope is, and why it’s a bad idea to adjust the position of the scope with the eyepiece 😛 I’ll probably do some viewing of the moon with it when I can, then assume I got my money’s worth and take it to the thrift store or something.

  20. @2 and @3:

    Its not necessary to use expensive equipment to take great pictures. Some of the best ones I’ve seen are taking with surprisingly modest (and relatively inexpensive) equipment. I take decent ones, not nearly as good as the ones above, with equipment that cost me a grand total of about $2000 mostly purchased used and modified on the cheap for my own nefarious purposes. Cheaper than a boat by a long shot. The only difference between the pictures I take and the pictures that won is more due to the photographer having a great deal of patience and skill (as with all things). Me, not so much… Yes they may use expensive equipment, but have no doubt that given a lower budget they would be taking pictures just as good

  21. Messier Tidy Upper

    Magnificent images. 😀

    My favourites from there are the winning one of Hartley 2 passing through the double cluster, the Moon meets Antares ethereal beauty with cloudscape and the star trailed Comet Hartley 2 one.

    Incidentally, I presume that’s the same comet Hartley-2 that was encountered last month by the Deep Impact spaceprobe?

    Capturing images of that comet like these :






    After all, how many comet Hartley 2’s can there be! I wonder if any telescope – even the Hubble space observatory – could’ve imaged the Deep Impact spacecraft passing the comet at or near that celestial rendezvous? :-)

    I somehow doubt that the EPOXI team could’ve been eligiable for claiming the Celestron prize however! 😉

  22. @ rick burke:

    Its not necessary to use expensive equipment to take great pictures.

    Hear hear.

    “Great” is also in the eye of the beholder. I’ve never managed to pull off an astro photo of high enough quality that I would share it with anyone, let alone enter a contest, but several of them continue to make me smile and swell up a bit (in the chest, I hasten to add).

    It’s kind of like taping your kids’ art to the fridge. It may not be worthy of the Louvre, but…

  23. Thanks for the comments, all! And thanks, Phil. I’m honored that you and Celestron viewers enjoyed my Jupiter image… but I’m just as happy that you mentioned the image of Venus, too! That was the pinnacle of my imaging for 2010, to be honest, as I’d never been able to capture an RGB image of Venus that wasn’t completely featureless in the past.

    Also, my FirstScope arrived late last week and it’s already spent a night entertaining a group of 9 year olds who watched the young crescent moon set. Likely the first of many, as I intend for it to find its way into the collection of school’s astronomy club. It’s a great little scope for giving people their first peek at the night sky… through a telescope that isn’t at all intimidating because of its size, cost, or complexity :)



  24. Your welcome, WayneJ, but thank you for taking such a lovely picture! I’m glad folks like you are out there taking such nice shots of the night sky. And congrats again!

  25. monsieurracs

    I’m a biology lover and I also love astronomy, one of my eyes is on the microbic world, and the other one is on the sky! I hope I won’t be cross-eyed! (: well, I saw a picture of Mauna Kea one or two weeks ago, it was taken by michael Connelley (University of Hawaii) from the top of the mountain, up above the clouds… Actually I have acrophobia, but I dreamed to be on the top there, up above the clouds, and take some pictures of the sky! I would take many many pictures of the sky every day and night!
    How a good work Wayne, thank you so much and bravo! (: And thank you too Phil Plait, I’m following you on twitter and thanks to you,I see this page. Take care everybody! I’ll share with my friends immediately! (;


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