Click to see the full-sized hi-res image!
A few days after I searched for Pluto, I chose to forgo my telescopes for one clear evening and play with my digital camera. The Summer Triangle is straight up in the evening sky right now for several hours after sunset. As Jack Horkheimer used to say, “Keep looking up.” This time, take his advice literally and you will see the magnificent asterism defined by the stars Altair, Deneb, and Vega.
This image was taken in a similar fashion to my prior wide-field constellation pictures, like Leo, where I took dozens of light, dark, and bias frames and then created a composite in DeepSkyStacker. For this new image, though, I went a step further. I have been searching for a way to accentuate the stars based on their brightness, short of manually blowing them up. I believe I have uncovered a technique to get the desired effect. You can easily make out the three main stars along with other stars/patterns in descending order from their apparent magnitudes.
I must admit that I was mildly shocked at how many stars are shown. Are those really stars, or image noise? As the images were taken straight up, to the darkest part of the sky, it seemed plausible. Also, the Milky Way runs right through the Summer Triangle. You cannot see the Milky Way in my picture, as I don’t think it is possible to capture in my light-polluted area without longer exposures and an equatorial mount.
In checking as many detailed online star charts as seemed reasonable, I do believe those dots are all stars!
Remember that an asterism is a pattern of stars, versus a constellation, which is a generally accepted “official” pattern. The Summer Triangle is an asterism (a triangle, duh) but it has several constellations in and around it. How many constellations can you see and name in this picture?