A Gallery of Astronomical Images by RAS Members and Friends


Image of Messier 101, the Pinwheel Galaxy, in Ursa Major by Mearl Balmer with assistance from his grandson, Grayson on July 8, 2018.  The image shows M101 in the upper right and another spiral galaxy,  NGC5474.  The Pinwheel Galaxy is much larger than our Milky Way Galaxy and over 25 million light years away.

Mearl reports that Grayson was a big help aligning the computer-controlled scope to several stars, as he struggled to look through the finder Telrad on a night with much glare from the Hopewell factories.  They also identified a star in that galaxy that was the remnant of a supernova explosion long ago.

The image is a composite of 22 five minute exposures.  Mearl uses a remote WiFi system to control his system after initial manual setup.

Three of the Jupiter’s Galilean moons captured by Colin Grace in February 2018.
In addition to some skilled imagers in our group, RAS also has some “astro-sketchers” as well. Randy Tatum created this sketch from film images of a total solar eclipse that he traveled to Bolivia to see in 1994.
After a number of scrubs due to weather and other issues, a sounding rocket was successfully launched at 4:25 AM on June 29 from NASA Wallops, near Chincoteague, Virginia.  Stuart Squier captured this image of the rocket’s vapor cloud deployment from Oregon Inlet Campground in Nags Head, North Carolina.  A video of the launch and deployment posted by NASA Wallops is here.
An image of the Antennae Galaxies by Madhup Rathi.  These galaxies are some 60 million light-years away in the southerly constellation Corvus.  The two large galaxies are colliding, leaving a long tail of their remnant spiral arms. Spanning about 500 thousand light-years, the stars in the two galaxies, cataloged as NGC 4038 and NGC 4039, very rarely collide directly in the course of this merger, but their large clouds of molecular gas and dust often do, triggering furious episodes of star formation near the center of the cosmic wreckage.

Madhup captured this image over 11.5 hours. (13 luminance images of 30 minutes each and 15 color images (5 each of RGB) of 20 minutes each.

A view of our Moon captured in April 2017 along with the imaging apparatus used by Nikul Suthar in northern Arizona.  The imaging train consists of an Explore Scientific 127 ED APO Triplet Refractor, Celestron AVX mount and Canon EOS Rebel T3i.
Image of Jupiter and its moon Europa captured by Chris Conley captured at James River State Park on video and processed to create a single stacked image.
Messier Galaxies 65 and 65 by Mearl Balmer.  This is a composite of one 10 minute exposure and seven 5 min exposures with a Canon 550 on a Meade LX8 scope with a wedge; no dark or flat images, processed with PixInsight software.
The Cigar Galaxy (Messier 82) by Madhup Rathi. Evidence indicates that this reddish hydrogen area of ionized hydrogen near the center is being driven out by the combined emerging particle winds of many stars, together creating a galactic superwind. The filaments extend for over 10,000 light years. The 12-million light-year distant Cigar Galaxy is the brightest galaxy in the sky in infrared light, and can be seen in visible light with a small telescope towards the constellation of the Great Bear (Ursa Major).  This image is a composite of 15 luminance images at 30 minutes each with color RGB data of 6 images at 20 minutes each and with 9 images using a hydrogen alpha filter at 30 minutes each.
Tyler Hutchison took this image of the ISS at 6:01 AM on January 19, 2017 with 48.4s of exposure at ISO 200 and f/3.5. Jupiter is visible just to the right of the Moon, and the bright star Spica just below that. The International Space Station appears to fly right through the Moon’s “halo”, an optical phenomena that occurs when hexagonal ice crystals refract moonlight in a certain way. If you look closely, you can see a smaller halo within the larger one, but unfortunately both are slightly challenging to see.
The Cone Nebula by Madhup Rathi.  This nebula is so named because of its apparent shape.  It consists of a dark absorption nebula of cold molecular hydrogen and dust in front of a faint emission nebula containing hydrogen ionized by S Monocerotis, the brightest star in the image. The faint nebula is approximately seven light-years long (with an apparent length of 10 arc minutes), and is 2,700 light-years away from Earth. Madhup captured this image over 8.5 hours (Luminance 12 images of 30 minutes each and 5×3 RGB color images of 20 minutes each).
Irregular dwarf galaxy IC1613 by Madhup Rathi. IC 1613 is an irregular dwarf galaxy, visible in the constellation Cetus near the star 26 Ceti. It is approaching Earth at 234 km/s and is one of the closest galaxies to us at approximately 2.38 million light year. It is closer to us than the nearest large galaxy Andromeda galaxy and is substantially smaller. Madhup captured this image over 6.5 hours with 8 luminance images of 30 minutes each and 5 images each of RGB color of 20 minutes each.
Composite image of Abell 85 (also known as CTB1) by Dwight Talley consisting of 18 hours of exposure time (27 x 20 minute images through a hydrogen-alpha filter, 27 x 20 minute images through an oxygen III filter, using an AT65EDQ telescope and QSI 660 camera).
Dwight Talley captured this image of Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova from New Mexico. The timing was early in the comet’s latest approach to Earth with the comet very low in the western sky at sunset. Dwight’s image is a composite of 5 images, each at 2 minutes exposure using a TEC 140 telescope and STF8300C camera.
Star trails around Polaris – by Rebecca Browder

Star trails captured in a sequence of 320 30-second exposures at ISO 6400 on December 30, 2016.  The individual images were combined into one composite using Startrails software.  A video showing the image accumulation/compositing is at

The Andromeda Galaxy – by Tyler Hutchison

A wide-field view captured at Belmead December 30, 2016.  Composed of 28 frames of 25 seconds exposure each.

The Horsehead Nebula in hydrogen-alpha light – by Dwight Talley

Imaging in a very narrow wavelength of light emitted by excited hydrogen atoms allows capture of exceptional detail in this image of the Horsehead and Flame Nebulae.  Image details:  15 x 20 minute subs.  AT65EDQ scope with a QSI 660 camera.  Stacked in PixInsight, processed in Photoshop and Lightroom.

Orion rising over Belmead – by Tyler Hutchison

A wide field image captured on December 29, 2016 showing the winter constellation Orion rising over the tree line at Belmead.

Orbital pass of the International Space Station – by Crystal Gabriel

Pass of the ISS captured near sunrise on December 31, 2016 with the Expedition 50 crew of five astronauts on board traveling in an orbit about 250 miles above Earth’s surface.

Reflection Nebula in Orion – M78 – by Madhup Rathi

M78, in the center of this image, covers an area north of Orion’s belt. At a distance of about 1,500 light-years, the bluish nebula itself is about 5 light-years across. Its blue tint is due to dust reflecting the blue light of hot, young stars in the region. (14 luminance images at 30 minutes & 6 images each of RGB color of 20 minutes each.)

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The Rosette Nebula imaged in hydrogen alpha and oxygen III light by Dwight Talley.

15 x 20 minutes Ha, 15 x 20 minutes OIII, AT65EDQ and QSI 660 camera, processed in Pixinsight and Photoshop.

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The Triangulum Galaxy, M33, imaged by Mearl Balmer from James River State Park.

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The Milky Way captured by Bill Dickinson from Belmead with RAS observers below.  Sometimes a picture really captures a moment.  Bill captured the feel of observing under a dark sky in this spectacular image.




The Double Cluster in the constellation Perseus by Bryan Hartley, captured at Belmead.  The Double Cluster is a beautiful and easy-to-find pair of objects using a telescope or binoculars.  It appears as a faint haze to the unaided eye in a dark sky not far from the “W” of the constellation Cassiopeia.

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View through an image intensifier of the Dumbell Nebula, M27, by John Raymond.  Click on the image to see a video version.  This was captured from a live view through the image intensifier using a handheld camera.




Serpentine ridge on the moon captured and assembled as a composite by Randy Tatum.




A near last-quarter moon captured by Tyler Hutchison on a partly cloudy night.

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The Crescent Moon and the planet Venus by Stuart Squier captured in a clear blue sky over Richmond on December 2, 2016 just after sunset.  The old Central Fidelity building appears in the left of the frame.