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

Eta Aquariid Meteor May 5, 2019

While the web sites had various predictions of the peak of the Eta Aquariid meteor shower, the weather prediction was unambiguous: if I wanted to try to see them, before dawn Sunday May 5 was the time.  So even though we had some light clouds overhead, I got up at 4:30 AM to try to catch some meteors.  I saw one and maybe-saw four more.  Happily, the camera caught one as well.

Meteor20190505

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 1 second exposure, ISO 6400
  •             Sigma 10-20 mm f/4-5.6 lens, set at 10 mm, manual focus
  •             Tripod

Dell City Astrophotography April 2019

Last weekend we took a break and visited 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 and planets.

As the song goes (sing it with me, y’all):

The stars at night

Are big and bright

Deep in the heart of Texas!

It is true!

And I had great fun trying to get some good pictures of the beautiful sky full of stars.  But just like folks buying new telescopes need to be reminded that they won’t get the views that they see in the published pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope, I had to learn that the view from a telephoto lens isn’t the same as the view from an 8-inch telescope.  So the Messier objects, which are nice objects to find in my 8 inch telescope, are mostly fuzz balls with my telephoto lens, even with a sky-tracking camera mount and the ability to take a long picture.

The other thing I had to deal with was an embarrassment of riches – there were so many stars that it was hard to make out the constellations.

I started the evening of April 27 trying to find the two brightest available comets, but they were really too dim to be seen.  I did get familiar with the constellation Leo, and saw a beautiful meteor pass through it – it’s even in my picture, though it’s very faint and you have to zoom in.

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Camera geek info:

  • Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 30 second exposure, ISO 1000
  • Sigma 24-70 mm f/2.8 EX lens, set at 24 mm, manual focus
  • iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  • Tripod

I turned from there to finding Messier objects, and found M13 in Hercules, M4 in Scorpio, and M80 in Scorpio.  Fuzzballs all.

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Here’s a closeup of M4 with the blinking lights of an airplane.  (M4 is the fuzzy one.)

M4AndAirplane

Camera geek info:

  • Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 30 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

Finally, I waited until Jupiter rose to get a picture of it with its line of moons.

JupiterAndMoons20190428

Camera geek info:

  • Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4.5, 30 second exposure, ISO 1000
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 150 mm, manual focus
  • iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  • Tripod

The next evening it was cloudy, so we got up early the following morning for a last view of the stars.  It was totally worth it – we got a lovely view of Sagittarius between Jupiter and Saturn and the Milky Way just before dawn.

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Camera geek info:

  • Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/5, 30 second exposure, ISO 1000
  • Sigma 10-20 mm f/4-5.6 lens, set at 13 mm, manual focus
  • iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  • Tripod

I also was able to zoom in on Jupiter and a couple more Messier objects.

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Camera geek info:

  • Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 30 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

I’ll finish with Venus at sunrise on April 27.

VenusGuadalupeMtns20190427

Camera geek info:

  • Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/7.1, 1/8 second exposure, ISO 100
  • Sigma 24-70 mm f/2.8 EX lens, set at 24 mm, autofocus

I can’t wait to go back and try this again!

 

Super Blood Wolf Moon – Total Lunar Eclipse

Last night was the “Super Blood Wolf Moon” total lunar eclipse, so named because the Moon is currently closer to the Earth (super), it was a total eclipse (blood), in January (wolf).  By the way, my favorite full moon name is “Worm Moon” in March.  I think that would make a great story title.

We just had a cold front come through, so it was cold, but perfectly clear.  This was definitely the best and longest lunar eclipse I have ever seen, and the delightful enthusiasm from my young neighbors across the street added to my enjoyment.

I considered trying to use my intervalometer to make a detailed time lapse, but I knew I’d want to play around with camera settings too much.  So I used a sequence of shots to make a time lapse slideshow.

The full Moon is basically lit like daylight.

fullmoon20190120

Camera geek info:

  •            Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/5.6, 1/800 second exposure, ISO 100
  •            Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 300 mm, manual focus
  •            Tripod
  •            Cable release

When the Moon was mostly eclipsed, it started to turn red.  I could either set the camera to get the detail of the lit side (and lose all the part in shadow), or set it for the shadow.  I thought the shadow picture was more interesting.

eclipsingmoon20190120

Camera geek info:

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

When the Moon was fully eclipsed, it was dark red.  The camera picked up more color with a longer time exposure.  It was harder to focus, though, since the Moon was so dim.

totallunareclipse20190120

Camera geek info:

  •            Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/5.6, 2 second exposure, ISO 100
  •            Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 300 mm, manual focus
  •            Tripod
  •            Cable release

When the Moon was coming out of the eclipse, dew had started to settle on the camera lens, so I got an interesting effect before I went inside to warm up my cold camera. And myself.

uneclipsingmoonwithdew

Camera geek info:

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