Scorpio with Planets

Scorpio20160808

Well, it’s hotter ‘n hell and the tree frogs are singing, so it must be time for … goin’ outside and doin’ some astrophotography! Because, seriously, this view of Scorpio with Mars and Saturn is beautiful. Go out and take a look!

Camera geek info:

Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/2.8, 30 second exposure, ISO 100
Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX lens, set at 34 mm, manual focus at infinity
iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
Tripod

Driving Home From My Daughter’s Graduation

MoonAndStoplight20160522

I was happily driving home from my daughter’s high school graduation, loaded with camera gear, and I spotted this interesting juxtaposition of the Moon and a stoplight. Of course, I took a picture. And, for the first time in years, I decided to write a poem.

Driving Home From My Daughter’s Graduation

Stopped at a red light
I think of daughter’s future
Brighter than the moon

Comet Catalina

CometCatalina20160118

Can you spot the comet?  (Hint: it’s kinda green.  And kinda fuzzy.)

I braved the cold last night to play with a new toy: an iOptron SkyTracker. It’s a camera mount that tracks the rotation of the sky so you can take longer exposure pictures. Neat!

I have a sky-tracking telescope, but I rarely get it out because it is so heavy and hard to move. The SkyTracker is extremely portable and I expect I’ll be getting it out a lot more.

This was my first night out with it, and I must admit I hadn’t practiced using it, so I don’t think I had it set up as well as I could. Even with my poor setup, I could take 30 second exposures with no star trails. And with a low ISO, I got some nice colors.

I’m hoping for clear skies tonight so I can get it out again.

Camera geek info:

Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/1.8, 30 second exposure, ISO 100

Canon EF 85 mm f/1.8 lens, manual focus at infinity

iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead

Tripod

Comet Lovejoy and the Pleiades

Comet Lovejoy and the Pleiades

CometLovejoyPleiades20150118

Comet Lovejoy – Change in Position in One Day

CometLovejoy20150118

CometLovejoy20150119

Sunday and Monday evening it was clear, so it was time to find Comet Lovejoy again. This time it was near the beautiful Pleiades. Of course, that is worth a picture.

I thought it would also be fun to see how much the comet had moved over one day – the change is quite visible. I was hoping to go for a three-day comparison, but now it’s cloudy again.

Camera geek info:

  •            Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4.0, 3.2 second exposure, ISO 6400
  •            Canon EF 70 – 200 mm f/4L lens, set at 94 mm for Pleiades and comet and 200 mm for comet, manual focus at infinity
  •            Tripod
  •            Cable release

In choosing which picture is the best, I find that I am using the following criteria: good focus (automatic toss for out of focus picture unless happen upon cool “artistic” effect), no visible star trails (stars should look like a point, not a line), visibility of comet, color of objects, color of sky, and noise of sky. While I have pictures with darker, less noisy sky, they don’t show the comet as well.

I am also finding that the image quality is far better when I zoom to my desired field of view instead of cropping in post-processing to get there.

Astrophotography – Planets

Conjunction of Moon and Saturn
MoonAndSaturn20150116

Saturn (“One of the These Things is Not Like the Others”)
Saturn20150116

Jupiter and four Galilean Moons
JupiterAndMoons20150116

You know you enjoy a hobby when you get up early and go out into the dark cold for it. This morning there was a conjunction of the Moon and Saturn, so I got up and went out. And while I was at it, I took some pictures of Jupiter and its moons, too. I checked – yes all four moons were on the same side of Jupiter this morning. I think it would be fun to make a time lapse of their motion. Might have to try it.

I learned a new astrophotography trick last night. I knew I needed to manually focus for star pictures, but it’s hard to do with dim sources and a camera designed for autofocus. But my camera has a nifty real-time view on the LCD screen with a 10x view … so I could zoom in on the moon or a planet and use the real-time view to help me manually focus. Neat! And *much* sharper pictures.

The real-time view also showed me that, in spite of the solid tripod, the 200 mm is actually quite shaky if I want to crop further in. So I get out my cable release so I could watch the image settle down on the 10x screen and then trigger the camera without actually touching it.

I also already knew that although I could easily see both the Moon and Saturn, Saturn would disappear or the Moon would wash out without some filtering. Graduated neutral density filters to the rescue! I used two (wish I had more and stronger ones) to dim down the Moon so you can see both bodies in the same photo.

Camera geek info:

  •            Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4.0, 1/60 second exposure for Moon and Saturn, 1/13 second exposure for Jupiter, ISO 2000
  •             Canon EF 70 – 200 mm f/4L lens, set at 200 mm, manual focus at infinity
  •             Singh-Ray Galen Rowell Filter ND-1G-SS + ND-2G-SS for Moon
  •             Tripod
  •             Cable release

Comet Lovejoy – Take 2

CometLovejoy20150115-2

Zooming out this time:

CometLovejoy20150115-1

After over a week of dreary gray weather, we finally got (partly) clear skies. Comet Lovejoy was still not naked eye visible from the suburbs (the patchy clouds did not help), but I could find it with the camera! I’m hoping to get pictures two nights in a row so I can get pictures of it moving across the sky. It was certainly in a much different place this week than last week, and I had to re-learn how to find it.

Camera geek info:

  •            Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4.0, 2 second exposure, ISO 5000
  •            Canon EF 70 – 200 mm f/4L lens, set at 200 mm, manual focus at infinity
  •            Tripod