Modine-Benstead Observatory, Union Grove, Wisconsin

Modine-Benstead Observatory

June 25, 2016

This is the Modine-Benstead Observatory in Union Grove, Wisconsin. Many thanks to the Racine Astronomical Society for their hospitality and warm welcome, giving us a tour of the observatory and allowing us to shoot some night photography from the grounds when we crashed a member’s night meeting unannounced. I was in Wisconsin on family vacation and my cousin, Steve Gauthier, and I decided to do some impromptu night photography with Shane & Gabriella Brossman and Alexander Cummings. Looking for the darkest skies we could find within a half hour drive or so, we wound up at the observatory and were very happy to be welcomed by other night sky enthusiasts!

There are two domed telescopes at the observatory: a 16-inch Newtonian-Cassegrain reflecting telescope designed and built by club members on a custom German equatorial mount with an attached 6-inch refractor as a guide scope, and a 14-inch Celestron Schmitt Cassegrain reflecting telescope on a Lomansdy German equatorial mount. The larger telescope weighs 2 tons and was fabricated by local industries and manufacturers. You can read more about the history of the observatory on the club’s website:

Click the photo to explore the 360° panorama

Modine-Benstead Observatory

This 360 panorama was taken from the roof. The Milky Way is faintly visible over the red glow of club members observing Mars and Saturn through their personal telescopes.

Camera settings: 10.5mm, f/4, ISO 2500, 30 seconds.

Stitching data: 1 row of 8 images plus a dedicated zenith shot of the sky.

Equipment used: Nikon D810, Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8 fisheye, MeFOTO RoadTrip tripod, and Really Right Stuff MPR nodal slide. Edited with Lightroom. Stitched with PTGui Pro. Dark frame subtraction via Pixel Fixer.

This 4K timelapse consists of 417 frames while we were shooting the night sky and observing a storm front approaching from 12:24 AM to 02:22 AM. A 67% moon rose at exactly midnight behind the camera’s perspective and lit the foreground.

Camera settings: 14mm, f/2.8, ISO 2500, 15 seconds.

Equipment used: Nikon D810, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, MeFOTO RoadTrip tripod. Edited with Lightroom and LRTimelapse. Rendered with After Effects and Premiere Pro. Dark frame subtraction via Pixel Fixer.

Modine-Benstead Observatory, Union Grove, Wisconsin

This is a stack of 195 frames from the above timelapse, from 00:24 – 01:19. I started out with a median stack mode of all 195 frames in Photoshop to remove people, car headlights, lightning bugs, etc. for a base layer with no noise. This also created a very clean sky with nothing but Polaris or the North Star. Next I masked in 6 frames of lightning in the distance from a thunderstorm passing through. On top of that I masked in a layer of star trails and moving clouds in lighten mode, stacked with Advanced Stacker Plus. Finally, I masked back in three frames of people and tripods.

Enjoy the rest of the photos in the gallery below!

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