There is a new player in town for locating the Milky Way and it turns out to be an old friend.
My usual approach to night-time photography begins with a determination of the time of the moon's rise and set, its location and phase using the remarkable Photographer's Ephemeris (TPE). The usual hot times for night photography are around the full moon and when the new moon leaves the sky dark for deep space observations. It is great fun to move my pin around the map looking for locations that will place the rising or setting moon behind interesting foregrounds.
Recently I have depended on a different application to find the position of the Milky Way. In addition to the moon, our galactic disk is the other major attraction of the night sky and the Photopills App does a nice job showing the arc of the Milky Way and the position and elevation of the impressive Galactic Center. The location of the Milky Way is portrayed with a series of balls with their position representing the orientation and elevation above the horizon. As the time line is shifted the "galactic Balls" move across the sky. The balls increase in size as they approach the galactic center. It works well to predict the best time and location to shoot the Milky Way, when the galactic Center is in the best position. It is a little awkward to jump between TPE and Photopills, but the new version of the Photographer's Ephemeris brings these two functions together.
The Photographer's Ephemeris 3.4
|The Photographer's Ephemeris|
The Photographer's Ephemeris' latest version 3.4 is for devices running iOS 8.1 or higher. The App has a new night mode which shows the location of the Milky Way with a user interface essentially identical to Photopills. The Galactic balls are given an attractive 3 dimensional feel and the sky includes a few of the major constellations, but the overall UI seems based on the same concept. I'm happy that I don't have to learn a new system, but seriously, does TPE own Photopills or did they license the UI. Anyway, it's not my problem and I'm thrill that my favorite photo app now makes it easier to plan my night-time shoots all in one place.
|Milky Way over the Connecticut|
A few days ago I used my upgraded TPE to find a viewing spot in Walpole for this month's optimal Galaxy viewing around the new moon. I found a spot on a bridge crossing the Connecticut River that had a nice view to the south. I was hoping that the trip further north would reduce the light pollution from Brattleboro Vermont and I was pleased that the horizon glow was a bit reduced.
Don't Try This at Home
|At 10:30 pm the shoulder looks smaller|
Two Galaxys For the Price of One
|Andromeda in the Northern Sky|
The Oval is Mine-Duh
|Ancient Light - Coming at You|
|Andromeda Galaxy - Slightly Better View - A Telescope Still Helps|
Anyway, I'm excited about the night features in TPE. Version 3.4 of the Photographer's Ephemeris is available for free download and works for users running iOS 8.1 or greater. I reluctantly had to upgrade my iPad, but it was worth the hassle. For those unwilling to upgrade or who are running Android, Photopills is still a great option and has other features and nifty tools not available in TPE. For me, The Photographer's Ephemeris' interface is cleaner and easier to use, but perhaps Photopills will come up with new features that will blow TPE out of the water. Don't you just love the free market system? It's all good, and the software choices are infinitely better than those available just a couple of years ago.