Archives For Astrophoto

Photo: Comet 17P/Holmes by James Guilford

Comet Redux. Reprocessing old images shot through the Stephens Observatory telescope shows Comet 17P/Holmes as it appeared October 28, 2007. The two dots are bright stars shining through the comet’s coma. Photo by James Guilford.

Back in 2007 astronomers were excited by a comet known as 17P/Holmes. What was so exciting was that the seemingly ordinary visitor from distant parts of the Solar System suddenly put on a great show. In October, the usually dim 17P/Holmes changed from an unremarkable telescopic object to become visible to the unaided eye, appearing as a yellow “star” in constellation Perseus. It was briefly the largest object in the Solar System. The outburst was believed to be similar to one that took place in 1892 making it visible to amateur astronomer Edwin Holmes, credited with its discovery on November 6 of that year. The reason for the sudden brightening or outbursts remains unknown.

I used my little Canon Rebel XT digital camera attached to the vintage Cooley Telescope at Stephens and attempted to capture images of the comet. The effort and the camera were pretty primitive compared with what we can do now but I got some images and they were the best I could manage at the time. Comet 17P/Holmes faded from visibility over the next several weeks. The somewhat odd appearance of the comet — no classic head and tail — is the result of our perspective: looking straight down its tail instead of from the side.

Recently I viewed a television show about comets and the strange behavior of 17P/Holmes was discussed. That program reminded me of the 2007 apparition and to look at my old images. There wasn’t much image data to work with but I reprocessed what I have and produced a new image a bit better than my first try; that image, shot through our old telescope, appears above.

The “P” in the comet’s designation stands for periodic, meaning after a period of time 17P will return to loop, once again, around Sun. In March 2014 (a seven-year period) the loop was made without an outburst. The next close approach to our Sun, perihelion, will take place on February 19, 2021. Will we be treated to another show?

— James Guilford

This image is one of the most photogenic examples of the many turbulent stellar nurseries the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has observed during its 30-year lifetime. The portrait features the giant nebula NGC 2014 and its neighbor NGC 2020 which together form part of a vast star-forming region in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, approximately 163,000 light-years away.

Photo: First Quarter Moon, October 5, 2019.

Our First-Quarter Moon on International Observe the Moon Night, as seen through the Stephens telescope at 9:04 PM EDT. iPhone SE at eyepiece.


Our October 5 Open Night was the local event of the International Observe the Moon Night — an annual occurrence meant that encourages observation, appreciation, and understanding of our Moon and its connection to planetary science and exploration. Over the course of the night at Stephens Memorial Observatory some 34 enthusiastic and inquisitive visitors attended and were treated to beautiful and unusual views of Earth’s Moon and planet Saturn.

Unusual? The earliest visitors arrived just as the telescope was set to go … with the sky still bright with twilight. The Moon appeared light and against a power-blue sky background instead of the usual darkness of space. Saturn, invisible to the eye in the bright sky, was also viewed through the telescope in surprising detail.


Zooming in on the previous image: That dot in the center of dark-floored crater Alphonsus is its central peak. Over the course of two hours sun rose over that pinnacle making it brighter, and other features began to emerge as we watched. Alphonsus slightly overlaps the crater Ptolemaeus.

After darkness fell enthusiastic visitors took turns looking at a crater and watching a mountain peak become illuminated at sunrise on the Moon! It was a fine night appreciating a sight too often ignored: the wonder of Luna, our nearest neighbor in space.

Photo: Fireball Meteor, Oct. 20, 2017. Credit: NASA/All-Sky Fireball Network

A Grand Orionid Fireball Meteor Imaged over Hiram Friday, October 20. Credit: NASA/All-Sky Fireball Network

Earth is entering a stream of debris from Halley’s Comet, source of the annual Orionid meteor shower. Thursday night, NASA’s network of all-sky meteor cameras detected 23 Orionid fireballs over the USA –meteors that flare brighter than the planet Venus shines– a result of comet dust hitting the atmosphere at speeds exceeding 65 km/s (145,000 mph). Among several fireballs recorded by the Fireball Network camera on the Hiram campus was the grand meteoric streak pictured above; that fireball was also recorded by the camera located at the Allegheny Observatory in Pittsburgh in the wee hours of Friday morning. Forecasters expect the shower to peak on Oct. 21-22 with as many as 25 meteors per hour. The meteor shower is called “Orionid” because the “falling stars” appear to originate from the vicinity of our sky occupied constellation Orion. Visit for observing tips and sky maps. — From a report by plus local contribution.

Weather conditions may be best for us overnight Friday as the Orionids shower builds towards its peak.

Weather conditions may be best for us overnight Friday as the Orionids shower builds towards its peak.

Photo: Mare Imbrium region of Earth's Moon. Credit: James Guilford/Stephens Memorial Observatory

Mare Imbrium and Crater Copernicus. Credit: James Guilford/Stephens Memorial Observatory

We hosted our September Open Night as scheduled on the 30th with Earth’s Moon as our primary subject. The sky was (for once) completely clear of clouds and full of stars when we opened the dome for the 9:00 start. In all, 19 folks from small children to senior citizens attended and enjoyed spectacular views of our nearest neighbor in space. Two or three individuals attempted smart phone photography of the Moon with varying degrees of success. We also observed the Andromeda Galaxy and the Perseus Double Cluster. The image above was made just before we closed up and has been corrected for the telescope’s optical “flipping” of the image. Camera used was a Canon EOS 7D equipped with a 50mm lens and held to the telescope’s massive eyepiece. We will look at the Moon again October 28 when we celebrate the annual International Observe the Moon Night. See you then?

Photo: The partial solar eclipse reaches its maximum at 2:23 PM EDT as viewed from Hiram College, Hiram, Ohio. Photo by James Guilford.

The partial solar eclipse reaches its maximum at 2:23 PM EDT as viewed from Hiram College, Hiram, Ohio

On Monday, August 21 millions gathered along a thin path crossing the United States to watch a total eclipse of the Sun, the first to cross the continent since June 1918. Those with favorable viewing conditions along the path of totality enjoyed a truly amazing sight and experience; a total solar eclipse is truly awe-inspiring. From Northern Ohio, outside of the eclipse path, 80 percent of the solar disk would be covered by the Moon. Public interest in the event was high and so we hosted the Hiram Eclipse Watch


Photo: People Watching and Waiting for the Big Event - Credit: James Guilford

Watching and Waiting for the Big Event – Credit: James Guilford

We estimate at least 375 people came to the campus lawn to share nature’s show and enjoy the sight together. Some families brought blankets and had picnic lunch in the shade of trees while waiting for the eclipse to begin. Driven by media reports, demand for Sun-safe eclipse viewing glasses was tremendous. Hiram had 300 eclipse viewers available for free distribution and even with restriction to one viewer per family or group, we ran out of glasses long before the eclipse ended. The offer of free eclipse glasses did, however, encourage some of our attendees to come out to Hiram College and discover there was more to enjoy than a giveaway; the view through our telescopes was tremendous.

Photo: Woman watches eclipse through specially-equipped telescope. Credit: Dave Dreimiller

Woman watches eclipse through specially-equipped telescope. Credit: Dave Dreimiller

Three telescopes offered safe views of the eclipsing Sun three different ways. One scope employed a glass filter with metal compounds that absorbed the Sun’s dangerous radiation and presented an orange-tinted image. The largest telescope present, a six-inch refractor, was outfitted with a modern version of the Herschel Wedge; that telescope focussed unfiltered light into the wedge which, in turn, deflected all but a small amount of light with a green tint and offered tack-sharp viewing of the disappearing Sun, sunspots, and granulation texture in the solar atmosphere. A third instrument was a telescope specifically made to view the Sun only hydrogen alpha (Ha) light. Ideally, an Hscope will show details of the solar atmosphere invisible to those using other methods, and include solar prominences — geysers of plasma arcing high above the Sun — but none were seen this day.

Photo: Girl Watching the Eclipse with Safety Glasses - Credit: Dave Dreimiller

Watching the Eclipse with Safety Glasses – Credit: Dave Dreimiller

People of all description came and went during the event though most stayed until the maximum eclipse had been reached and the Moon began to recede from Sun. Lines of folks waited patiently to see the telescopic views, even attempting smart phone photos; there were many repeat views, observing the progress of the eclipse with each fresh look. We estimate at more than 375 people came to the campus lawn to share nature’s show and enjoy the sight together.

Photo: Solar Telescopes Trained on the Eclipse - Credit: Dave Dreimiller

Solar Telescopes Trained on the Eclipse – Credit: Dave Dreimiller

There was learning, and laughter, and a fine day shared under Sun and Moon. It may not have been a total eclipse for those watching from Hiram College, but it was a total pleasure.

Photo: Sun in process of being eclipsed by Moon. August 21, 2017. Photo by James Guilford.

Before Maximum Eclipse – Credit: James Guilford

Cooperative weather plus plenty of happy and excited people made the afternoon a wonderful occasion sharing a fine day featuring a dance by the Sun and Moon.

Photo: Edge of lunar silhouette shows mountains on Moon. Photo by James Guilford.

Before Maximum – Rough Edge. Look closely along the dark curve of the Moon moving over the Sun and note “bumps” along the edge: the silhouettes of craters and mountains on the Moon.

The (Ravenna) Record-Courier made it front-page news!

Image: The Record-Courier - August 22, 2017 -- Page 1

The Record-Courier – August 22, 2017 — Page 1

Photo: A Bright Meteor - a Fireball - Recorded over Hiram April 23, 2017. Image Credit: NASA/MEO

A Bright Meteor – a Fireball – Recorded over Hiram April 23, 2017. Image Credit: NASA/MEO


An exceptionally bright and long-lasting fireball meteor was recorded early Sunday morning by the NASA All-Sky Fireball Network camera situated on the campus of Hiram College. The event took place at 5:09 AM EDT, April 23, the meteor streaking from south to north as it burned up entering Earth’s atmosphere. Several other fireball meteors were also recorded during during the night but this was the brightest of the bunch. A fireball is a meteor that glows brighter than the planet Venus. NASA uses data collected from Hiram’s camera along with that from other systems in the network to learn about micrometeorites and their threat to spacecraft. Fireball Network images and data are available to astronomers and to the general public alike, and are updated daily.  Click here to visit the All-Sky Fireball Network website.

No December open night

StephensAstro —  December 12, 2016 — Leave a comment
Photo: Christmas Tree Cluster

This color image of the region known as NGC 2264 is an area of sky that includes the sparkling blue baubles of the Christmas Tree star cluster and the Cone Nebula. Image Credit: ESO

Well we give up! The skies and the calendar just are not coming into alignment for a December Open Night! Clouds and inclement weather (of various temperatures) are making stargazing impossible and have been plaguing us quite often this season. And there’s no way we would schedule a public event for Christmas Eve!

So we’ll say thanks for your interest and hope more clear skies come our way next year.

Normally at this point we bundle up the telescope for the winter and schedule nothing until March. If, however, the weather presents us with sufficient notice of good observing chances we may just present a “pop-up” Open Night before spring. We would love to show off the Orion Nebula through the old scope! Watch our Twitter feed and/or check back here after the holidays for any surprises.

At any rate, we hope you will have a safe and warm winter and a wonderful new year. For those who observe it, happy Christmas to you!

And for everyone, here is a beautiful image of the Christmas Tree star cluster, provided by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) to help make the season bright. Enjoy!

Two-panel Moon

StephensAstro —  July 18, 2016 — Leave a comment
Photo: Earth's Moon two days short of Full. Photo by James Guilford.

Two-Panel Moon: This photograph of the Moon, our latest experiment using the vintage Cooley Telescope in astrophotography, shows the Moon about two days from Full. Two individual shots were made using a Canon DSLR in place of the telescope’s eyepiece, projecting the lunar image directly upon the camera’s sensor. Exposure: ISO 400, 1/320 second. Adobe Photoshop was used to “photomerge” the individual panels or frames and edit the resulting image. [Click image to enlarge.]

Photo: Moon, Planets, Stars, Observatory. Photo by James Guilford.

Nearly-Full Moon and Stephens Memorial Observatory. In the trees, to right of the Moon, are Saturn (upper), Antares below, and Mars to the right. No, the dome isn’t about to topple – just yet – it’s a fisheye lens effect!
Photo by James Guilford.


We hosted a small group of 16 visitors during the July 16 Open Night but enjoyed the event very much; a group of that size is in the not-too-large and not-too-small range that affords easy conversation and sharing of the observatory experience. I the summertime we usually feature Earth’s Moon. Between summer’s late sunsets, and Daylight Saving Time extending twilight by an hour, the Moon reliably shows up even before the sky is dark! Saturday’s experience was no exception.

Photo: Nearly-full Moon. Photo by James Guilford.

Nearly-Full, Gibbous Moon, captured using an iPhone SE held to the eyepiece of the Cooley Telescope at Stephens Memorial Observatory. Photo by James Guilford.


We viewed the Moon through the Cooley Telescope’s remarkable optics and were rewarded with exciting detail. Moving along as the sky darkened, we turned our attention to Saturn: the planet’s subtle color and distinctive ring system showed good detail, very good at times. We briefly viewed Mars but the Red Planet is rapidly parting company with Earth and has grown small in the telescope’s eyepiece.

Photo: Earth's Moon, featuring crater Tyco. Photo by James Guilford.

Closer View of the Moon, featuring crater Tyco, using a Canon DSLR and the Cooley Telescope at Stephens Memorial Observatory. Photo by James Guilford.


Yes, the “star” of the night was Luna and, once the last visitors departed, we made a few images of our nearest neighbor in space to help illustrate why we love sharing the view!