Face to face with Meissa

An astroterrestrial photo is one that includes a star field as a background with something in the foreground to provide a subject. It can be a tree, a building, or anything the photographer chooses.

In this case it was James.

James lives in Canberra, and last May, was celebrating the end of the local lockdown with a weekend at Lake Eucumbene with his girlfriend Loz. James normally takes deep-sky nebula photos, so he took a 12" go-to Dobsonian with him, which is quite a task.

His intended targets were the Lagoon and Trifid nebulas, which were rising just after midnight. But setting up, he found that they weren't high enough to be much good. For targets near the horizon, you're looking through the boiling, dust-ridden soup that is the Earth's atmosphere.

It wasn't until 2am that a photo was possible. But at that point, the dew was getting heavy and the secondary mirror on the Dob was starting to fog over. Such is life for the astrophotographer.

The night wasn't a total write-off though. Earlier, Loz had taken this shot of James standing face-to-face with the setting Orion.

And by "face-to-face", I'm being almost literal. Most people recognise the constellation of Orion by the three belt stars and the three sword stars. (In the Southern Hemisphere, people also know this asterism as "the saucepan".) Below the belt and sword, Orion's feet are the two stars Rigel and Saiph. Above the belt, Orion's shoulders are marked by Betelgeuse and Bellatrix. Have a look at the Stellarium diagram here.

What all this means is that Orion's head is traditionally thought as being the star Meissa, and this is what James is looking right at.

For the technically-minded, this is a single 20 second exposure at ISO 3200 using a Canon 200D mk 2 which has been modified to allow near-infrared light from nebulas through.

I'm not sure if the infrared had much of an effect in this image apart from brightening the sunset, but it sure is pleasing. Great result, Loz and James!