Every March, the Astronomical Society of Victoria hosts a 'Messier Star Party' at its Leon Mow Dark Sky Site near Heathcote, to celebrate and observe the famous catalogue of deep sky objects that Charles Messier originally recorded as nuisance objects that confused him in his hunt for comets in 18th century Paris.
If you've never heard of a 'Star Party' before, this video will give you a better idea, music and all :-). I recommend enjoying it in full screen glory via philhart.smugmug.com.
The astro-photography field at the site was also busy on the weekend. Having got over most of the teething issues, I had set myself a challenge to go for a *very* long exposure with my new-ish QHY9 CCD camera, to get a nice and deep exposure. I shot the same object, the Pencil Nebula (NGC2736, aka Herschels Ray) for five hours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
Only problem was, that my collimation was not so great on Thursday, but after fixing that I didn't realise until I got home that the filter wheel had not been operating correctly the next two nights so all my exposures had been taken through a Red filter (instead of primarily through a 'Luminance' filter) so largely wasting ten hours of otherwise cloud free and carefully focused and guided exposures.. Doh! Anyway, here is what just five hours looked like through the Takahashi Epsilon (530mm f3.3):
My trusty cooled Astro 40D Canon DSLR was much more reliable. I shot the same region at a wider focal length of 200mm over around 10 hours:
And in the wee morning hours, also with the Astro 40D and Canon 200mm lens, I shot the Antares/Rho Ophiuchi region in the constellation Scorpius, largely as a test for a longer attempt at this region when it rises higher over the next few months. Total around 3 hours over three mornings (after throwing out a lot of cloud affected exposures):