Crete is a marvelous place for holidays. You will find here both crowded places to meet people, but also very remote locations, where beaches are mostly empty and quiet. You will be also surrounded by a large piece of history – if your interests are oriented in this direction. There are also quite high mountains in the center of the island, deep valleys, scary canyons, and a lot of dark places, especially in the southern part of Crete. I mean – literally dark, so the astronomy observations are very rewarding.

This year we found such a location near the Triopetra, about 250 meters above sea level. The night sky there was very dark, maybe not as dark as in the remote high mountains, but sky brightness measured with ASTAP near the zenith was usually in the range of 21.2-21.5 mag/arcsec2. Milky Way was an amazing view, a bit faded only close to the horizon, probably due to the moisture from the sea.

I picked up my astrophotography travel setup for the holidays in Triopetra. It contains an Askar FMA230 small refractor, QHY268M camera with filter wheel, StarAdventurer GTi mount, and AstroLink 4 Pi to control all these components. I planned to spend most of the astrophotography-enabled nights imaging beautiful southern Milky Way targets, but I missed the season a bit. The Scorpius and Sagittarius area set already pretty early in August, and I was not able to collect as much data as I wanted to. The first region that hid quickly below the horizon was the famous Rho Ophiuchi nebula. I planned to do a two-panel mosaic, but unfortunately, I was forced to collect only one panel, and also the amount of data was not as significant as I expected.

Rho Ophiuchi complex
Rho Ophiuchi complex

Being so far to the south (Crete is the southernmost part of Europe) I could not forget about the Lagoon and Trifid nebulae. My setup spent quite a lot of time watching this area via different filters and here are the outcomes – both in the classic RGB palette, but also in narrowband.

As I already mentioned the sky in this region of Crete was quite dark, and also the moisture was not a problem. The problem, however, during most of the nights was quite strong wind. StarAdventurer GTi is not a rock-solid construction and wind gusts were a significant problem for the guiding. After a few nights, I built a windshield from two tables and since then the quality of the frames improved a lot. I have been told that wind in southern Crete is quite common during summer, so if you plan your astronomy-related activities here, consider this factor as well.

The last image is not a southern sky target at all – the Iris nebula is an easy catch and rises high in the sky. However, the dark sky tempted me to collect this target as well, and here it is.

Dark clouds in Cepheus
Dark clouds in Cepheus

I did not see many clouds during my two-week stay in Crete, and also the temperature was a comfortable 30-32C in the day and around 24C during the night. But when I visit Crete again with astrophotography plans, I will definitely try to do it maybe in May, so the most interesting targets will be longer and higher in the sky.

Clear skies!

Image technical data:

Date: August 2023
Location: Triopetra, Crete
Telescope: Askar FMA230
Camera: QHY268M
Mount: StarAdventurer GTi
Guiding: ASI290MM + 30mm guidescope
Rho Ophiuchi: LRGB 90:60:60:60 minutes
Iris: LRGB 300:60:60:60 minutes
Lagoon: LRGB 90:60:60:60 minutes, HSO 90:90:90 minutes
Conditions: Bortle 7, transparency medium-good, seeing medium