Throwback Thursday – Comet Hale-Bopp! April 7, 1997

I was looking through an old photo album and found a picture of Comet Hale-Bopp.  I knew from the trees (and memory, actually), that it had been to the NW of my driveway.  Using GoSkyWatch on my phone, I was able to determine the date the picture was taken – April 7, 1997 – by matching the comet’s position relative to the stars.  Interestingly, the position in the app is not exactly where it is in the photograph, but this is the closest match.  The app, by the way, gives the comet’s magnitude on that date as -1.6.

Since this is a scanned picture from film, I don’t have any camera setting or equipment info for this one.  But I can tell I must have used a long exposure and a tripod from the length of the star trails.

Comet NEOWISE – Photobombers!

It’s been clear the last few nights, so I’ve been out every night to capture Comet NEOWISE as it moves across the sky.  My pictures have been photobombed by an airplane (alternating red and green lights are the airplane give-away) and a satellite!  My satellite tracking tool suggests the satellite photobomber was Orbiting Astronomical Observatory (OAO) 2.

Camera Geek Info (airplane photobomb, comet in upper right)

  • Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/5.6, 15 second exposure, ISO 1000
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 300 mm, manual focus
  • Cable release
  • iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  • Tripod

Camera Geek Info (satellite photobomb, comet in-line with satellite, below and to the left)

  • Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 6 second exposure, ISO 1000
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 70 mm, manual focus
  • Cable release
  • iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  • Tripod

Comet NEOWISE – August 5, 2020

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After my failed attempt earlier this week, I was ready to spot NEOWISE and knew what the surrounding star patterns looked like.

It is a much dimmer object now than it was two weeks ago, and in my camera, it no longer has a tail.  But it was a good chance to test the “how dim an object can I see?” question.  Fuzzy green NEOWISE is visible at magnitude 6.9; fuzzy M53 is visible at magnitude 8.3.  The stars around them range from magnitude 6.1 to 9.9.

A friend suggested I look into the white balance for my astrophotography pictures, so I did a little research on good settings.  The top picture used a custom white balance of 3500K.  I like that the sky is blue instead of gray-pink-yellow, but I may do more experimenting to find the best color.  What do you think?

Camera Geek Info (both)

  • Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/5.6, 2 second exposure, ISO 6400
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 300 mm, manual focus
  • Cable release
  • Tripod

Comet NEOWISE Failure – August 3, 2020

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We’ve had a lot of rain recently, so I haven’t gotten a chance to see Comet NEOWISE in a while.  It was finally clear earlier this week, so I went out for a look.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t familiar with the part of the sky it was in, so I didn’t quite get it.  Lesson learned: study the sky beforehand!

Happily, it looks like the weather might cooperate this week and give me another chance.

Camera Geek Info

  • Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 2 second exposure, ISO 3200
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 70 mm, manual focus
  • Cable release
  • Tripod

Comet Neowise – July 21, 2020

CometNeowise20200721-3

My husband and I drove to our favorite spot to view the horizon twice in the last two weeks to look for Comet Neowise C/2020 F3, with no luck finding it.  It was too low to the horizon in the direction of the bright lights of Houston.

On our one clear night this past week, I tried to spot it from our driveway.  Success!  I could not spy it naked eye.  With binoculars, it is a fuzzy green blob.  With the camera, it has a lovely tail.

As it moves away from us, it is getting higher in the sky, but dimmer.  I am looking forward to trying to spot it again the next time we don’t have clouds.

Camera Geek Info (image above)

  • Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 4 second exposure, ISO 6400
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 70 mm, manual focus
  • Cable release
  • Tripod

 

CometNeowise20200721-1

Camera Geek Info

  • Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 3.2 second exposure, ISO 6400
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 70 mm, manual focus
  • Cable release
  • Tripod

CometNeowise20200721-2

Camera Geek Info

  • Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/5.6, 3.2 second exposure, ISO 6400
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 300 mm, manual focus
  • Cable release
  • Tripod

Comet Neowise – July 10, 2020

CometNeowise20200710-1-largeCometNeowise20200710-3-medCometNeowise20200710-2-small

My husband and I got up at 4:15 AM (!) on Friday to drive to our favorite spot with a good view towards the horizon to try to spot Comet Neowise C/2020 F3.  We were not disappointed!  While not naked eye visible, the comet and its tail were easily visible in binoculars and through the camera lens.  We enjoyed a good look at it and the planets – Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn were all visible – until the sky started to grow light.  Then we enjoyed driving through McDonald’s for what my father-in-law would call a “naughty breakfast” (not on the diet!).

The comet should now be visible in the night sky, and we’re going out to take another look!

If you want to try to find it, too, you can find a sky map here.  Happy hunting!

Camera Geek Info (comet and horizon)

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 1 second exposure, ISO 640
  •             Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 100 mm, manual focus
  •             Cable release
  •             Tripod

Camera Geek Info (comet and clouds)

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 1 second exposure, ISO 1000
  •             Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 70 mm, manual focus
  •             Cable release
  •             Tripod

Camera Geek Info (close up)

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/5.6, 1 second exposure, ISO 3200
  •             Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 300 mm, manual focus
  •             Cable release
  •             Tripod

Mercury in Gemini – June 12, 2020

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Mercury has been in Gemini this month, and I got the picture above a few weeks ago.  A nice conjunction of Mercury, the crescent Moon, and a comet (too dim to be seen with the other two, but there) was predicted for June 21, and my husband and I had scouted out the best view to the West in our neighborhood during one of our evening walks.  Alas, the rain clouds did not cooperate.  But there is always sometime to see when you look up!  Which I’m looking forward to doing again once our skies clear here.

Camera Geek Info

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 1 second exposure, ISO 800
  •             Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 70 mm, manual focus
  •             Tripod

What Magnitude Stars Can You See?

While we’ve been at home for the Great Distancing, I have been experimenting with what I can see from my suburban driveway.

I know that I can’t see the Milky Way from my driveway.  A long time ago, when I went to a star party in a rural area, I learned that Messier objects that are easily seen with my telescope with dark skies couldn’t be seen from my driveway.  But I can see the bright planets and the major constellations from my driveway.

I’ve been trying to figure out the limit on what I can see by going out with a sky map on my phone (I’m using GoSkyWatch), and looking at constellations and trying to find the dimmest star I can see.  With a quarter-full moon not in my field of view, I can see stars as dim as magnitude 3.5.  With no moon, I can see stars as dim as magnitude 4.

My next steps are to figure out the dimmest object I can see with the finder scope on my telescope, with the telescope itself, and with my camera.

What’s the dimmest star you can see in your skies?

Mercury and Venus – May 22, 2020

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Friday was another day when, because we didn’t get the predicted rain, I was able to enjoy some astrophotography: in this case, a conjunction of Venus and Mercury.  (A conjunction is when two objects appear near each other in the sky.)  Note that, even in the picture, you can see that Venus is a crescent.  Like the Moon, Venus has phases, depending upon how much of its sunlit side we can see.  In fact, it is even more of a crescent than it looks in the picture – only about 5.3% illuminated – as you can see in this neat animation.  If you zoom in, you can see that Mercury is also not a circle – it is 67% illuminated.  The two are different because they’re in different parts of their orbits relative to the Earth.  Venus is close to passing between the Earth and the Sun, so we see very little of its sunlit side.  The lines between Mercury and the Sun and the Earth and the Sun are almost perpendicular, so we see a much larger percentage of its sunlit side.

I have rarely seen Mercury, so this was a real treat.  It’ll be visible for a few more weeks in the evening sky, so if the clouds stay away, I’ll have another look.

Camera Geek Info

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/5.6, 1/30 second exposure, ISO 800
  •             Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 300 mm, manual focus
  •             Tripod

Moon and Venus – April 26, 2020

TaurusMoonVenus 20200426

Sunday evening the Moon moved closer to Venus in a lovely spot in Taurus.

Camera Geek Info (Moon and Venus in Taurus)

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4.5, 1 second exposure, ISO 6400
  •             Sigma 24-70 mm f/2.8 EX lens, set at 42 mm, manual focus
  •             Tripod

MoonVenus 20200426

Camera Geek Info (Moon and Venus)

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4.5, 1/25 second exposure, ISO 500
  •             Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 135 mm, manual focus
  •             Tripod

Moon 20200426

Camera Geek Info (Crescent Moon)

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4.5, 1/320 second exposure, ISO 500
  •             Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 135 mm, manual focus
  •             Tripod