Sunday, May 26, 2013

Dance Planets Dance!

The Dance of the Planets is underway and the skies have been more or less cooperating, for a change.  Venus, Jupiter, and Mercury are snuggling right up to each other and following the Sun down in the western sky.  On May 31st they will line up vertically, equally apart, before continuing their slow separation. Fingers crossed for clear skies.

Here's last nights show. Venus is lowest, top left is Jupiter, right is Mercury.
50mm, f8, 1sec, ISO100

This telephoto image shows the Galilean Moons, from left to right: Callisto, Ganymede, Europa, and Io.
300mm, f7.1, 1.6sec, ISO200

Tonight was less clear but I perservered.  Jupiter had swooped  in closer to make a tighter, nearly equilateral triangle.
50mm, f5.3, 5sec, ISO100

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cloudy with a chance of fireballs

The Clear Sky Charts said the skies would be clear for at least a couple hours on Friday night....They lied.
So what are three astrophotographers to do but play with light and a little bit of fire.  These shots may be reproduced when the skies are clear, it would be awesome to have the Milky Way in the sky.

The first is just the three of us spinning flashlights for a 2 min exposure.  The last shots are of me spinning a whisk packed with steel wool on fire.  Don't worry, the field was very dewy and I was wearing a hat.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Age of Aquarids

Last weekend had beautiful clear skies and was pretty close to the peak of the Eta-Aquarid meteor shower so I spend the night at the Observatory at Bisbee Hill.  My astro-buddy Jim had a spanking new Canon 60D he was chomping at the bit to try out on the scope.  After resolving a bit of alignment as well as PC issues we decided to shoot a couple galaxies I've been wanting to hit.  These three images were processed with out darks subtracted because Randy wasn't there to remind us (it's all your fault, Randy).  I may reprocess them with darks later to see if it can improve anything.

We started with the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51), that's always a favorite lying in the constellation Canes Venatici (Bo├Âtes' hunting dogs).  This shot is 29 frames stacked and processed with Deep Sky Stacker then touched up a tad in Photoshop.  The focus could be admittedly better but not bad for the virgin astrophoto on the new DSLR.

We then moved on to the Black Eye Galaxy (M64).  Quite an interesting little (or unfathomably huge depending on your perspective) gem lying in the constellation Coma Berenices. This image is 29 stacked frames.


Coma Berenices is apparently a satellite superhighway because we captured 4 of them traveling through our tiny window on the sky.  Kinda nifty.

The Sunflower Galaxy(M63) is another found in Canes Venatici.  It was pretty bleh in the individual images, I almost didn't bother processing them but after stacking it really popped (I guess that's the point though, isn't it?).

While we were shooting with the scope I had my camera shooting a time lapse of the Eta-Aquarid meteors. The radiant is in the constellation Aquarius and specifically the star Eta-Aquarii, "Eta" being the 7th brightest star of the constellation.  Aquarius was set to rise in the east around 2:30 so I decided a "Milky Way rise" time lapse was in order.  I set up my camera with a wide lens and intervalometer set at 45 sec and started shooting around 11:30pm until my battery died at 4:05am.  I hoped I could make it until the Moon rose over the treeline but apparently I need to invest in a battery grip to double my power.  I captured at least three meteors towards the end of the night.  The local farm kids were having quite a party in the woods at the bottom of the video.  At one point they decided it would be fun to drive a truck up to the observatory, but when we gave them the international sign for cut the lights (or maybe they thought we were threatening to cut their throats?) they quickly returned to their bonfire.  This is my best time lapse to date, definitely something to improve on, I've got much more to learn.