Orion Nebula

OrionNebula 20191011

The Orion Nebula has long been one of my favorite night sky objects – it’s easy to find in the Orion constellation (it’s the middle “star” in Orion’s sword) and interesting to look at.  Because it’s a fuzzy object, it’s on Messier’s list of not-comets as M42.  It’s a large region of hot gas and dust that is a stellar nursery – new stars are being created there!

While we were enjoying the dark skies in Dell City last month, I took this picture of it.  I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out, and it’s inspired me to try to get images of more nebulas.  Stay tuned!

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/5.6, 30.0 second exposure, ISO 2000
  •             Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 300 mm, manual focus
  •             iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  •             Tripod

Dell City Astrophotography October 2019

BandBwithISS 20191010

Last month we took a break and returned to Dell City, Texas, where we stayed in a lovely B&B, enjoyed gorgeous sunsets and sunrises over the Guadalupe and Cornudas Mountains, and enjoyed seeing the stars, planets, and the Milky Way.

The picture above shows our B&B with the International Space Station starting an overhead pass (white line in center-right of picture).

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 30.0 second exposure, ISO 100
  •             Sigma 10-20 mm f/4-5.6 lens, set at 10 mm, manual focus
  •             iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  •             Tripod

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The picture above shows our B&B with the Milky Way, Jupiter, and Saturn.

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 30.0 second exposure, ISO 640
  •             Sigma 10-20 mm f/4-5.6 lens, set at 10 mm, manual focus
  •             iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  •             Tripod

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Jupiter and Saturn surround the constellation Sagittarius, home to many beautiful deep sky objects, including a number of Messier objects, the brightest of which are labeled here.

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 15.0 second exposure, ISO 1000
  •             Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 70 mm, manual focus
  •             iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  •             Tripod

MilkyWay 20191011

One of the great treats of going somewhere with dark skies is getting to see the Milky Way.  We could see it over our B&B, and we also saw it when we drove out to a darker spot to try to spot a comet at sunrise.  The comet was too close to the sun to see, but the Milky Way before dawn was beautiful.

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 30.0 second exposure, ISO 4000
  •             Sigma 10-20 mm f/4-5.6 lens, set at 10 mm, manual focus
  •             iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  •             Tripod

MoonriseWithBunny 20191012

Local wildlife joined me for some of my astrophotography.  One night a skunk walked right past me.  Another night, a bunny watched the moonrise with me.  I didn’t get a picture of the skunk, but the picture above includes the bunny (its tail is the white spot below and just to the right of the moon).

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/11, 1/40 second exposure, ISO 800
  •             Sigma 24-70 mm f/2.8 EX lens, set at 70 mm

Another of the great treats of visiting Dell City is getting to experience sunrises and sunsets that fill the sky.  Here are two of my favorite shots from this trip.

Camera geek info (mountains):

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/6.3, 1/30 second exposure, ISO 800
  •             Sigma 24-70 mm f/2.8 EX lens, set at 45 mm

Camera geek info (church):

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/6.3, 1/100 second exposure, ISO 800
  •             Sigma 24-70 mm f/2.8 EX lens, set at 24 mm

Trick or Telescope

HalloweenTelescopePumpkin 20191031

I was hoping we would get a clear night for Halloween, so I carved my pumpkin with an owl sitting on a telescope.

As predicted, the cold front blew through last night, and we got a cold but clear night for Halloween.  So I set up my telescope as an extra Halloween visitor treat!  Great views of the Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn.  Saturn’s rings looked especially great.

I tried taking some pictures through the telescope eyepiece with both my phone and my camera.  Neither turned out nearly as good as the view in person.  Oddly, the moon picture came out better on the phone, but the Saturn picture came out better with the camera.  On the other hand, I could get a much better Moon picture with the camera without the telescope, but haven’t managed to get nearly as good a picture of Saturn with the camera solo.

Camera geek info (Saturn):

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/2.8, 1/40 second exposure, ISO 4000
  •             Sigma 24-70 mm f/2.8 EX lens, set at 70 mm, manual focus
  •             Celestron 8″ Dobsonian Telescope
  •             Teleview 15mm Wide Field Eyepiece

Fact and Fiction in “The Annual Argument at the Deextinction Board Meeting”

I hope you’ve had a chance to read my hard science fiction story about deextinction in the latest Analog.  Most of the story is based on my research, but I did make a few parts up.  Here’s the lowdown on fact and fiction in the story:

Is there a single board where people pitch deextinction plans to get funding?

Not to my knowledge, and in general that’s not how research funding works (there are lots of independent groups deciding what research to do, so there might be boards but not one single board).  I made that part up.

Is deextinction a real science?

Yes, it is.  There are groups currently working on deextincting the Wooly Mammoth, Passenger pigeons, and other creatures.

Are there people trying to determine which species to deextinct?

Yes, there are people making lists.

Was the Irish Elk a real animal and is it on the lists?

Yes, it was and is.

Are there people studying the ethics of deextinction?

Yes, there are.  There are groups arguing against it and groups arguing for it.  There are also people studying the ethics to produce guidelines on what species to deextinct.

Is Pleistocene Park a real place?

Yes it is.

Did the Neanderthal Y chromosome really not make it into the human genome?

According to one study, it did not.  The paper speculates that homo sapiens could not carry male fetuses with Neanderthal Y chromosomes to term.

Do the Irish Elk have the same issue with the Y chromosome?

Not to my knowledge.  I made that bit up.

Is the genus name for saber-toothed cats really smilodon?

Yes!  Smilodon fatalis.  Isn’t it a great name?

Was there really a saber-toothed salmon, and is its genus name really smilodon?

Yes, there was.  Alas, it has apparently been renamed.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour through deextinction links! I enjoyed doing all the research that went into this story.

Corkscrew Meteor – 5 September 2019

Corkscrew Meteor 20190905

Recently, when I’ve tried to photograph meteor showers, I’ve taken hundreds of (automated) shots and have been lucky to get one or two nice meteors.  Last night, I took 36 pictures, mostly trying to find a comet, and I ended up with three. I especially like this shot of a corkscrew meteor, which I think is the neatest I’ve ever taken.

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 5.0 second exposure, ISO 1000
  •             Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 100 mm, manual focus
  •             iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  •             Tripod

Meteor 1 20190905

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/5, 10.0 second exposure, ISO 1000
  •             Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 70 mm, manual focus
  •             iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  •             Tripod

Meteor 2 20190905

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 5.0 second exposure, ISO 500
  •             Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 70 mm, manual focus
  •             iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  •             Tripod

Jupiter and the Moon – 5 Sept 2019

 

Moon-Jupiter 20190905 v2

Moon-Jupiter 20190905 v1

 

The sky was clear last night, so I went out to get a lovely shot of the conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter.  I also searched for comet SOHO P/2008 Y12, but was unable to find it. It should be getting gradually brighter, though, so I’m going to try again!

Without resorting to neutral density filters, I could either pick up the detail in the Moon or Jupiter’s Moons.  Which do you like better?

Camera geek info (lunar detail):

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 1/20 second exposure, ISO 100
  •             Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 100 mm, manual focus
  •             iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  •             Tripod

Camera geek info (Jupiter with moons):

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/5, 0.5 second exposure, ISO 500
  •             Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 160 mm, manual focus
  •             iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  •             Tripod