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

Lunar Halo

lunarhalo20190117

Last night I spotted a beautiful lunar halo.  Time for some astrophotography!

Lunar halos are caused by ice crystals in high cirrus clouds. Since those high-cloud ice crystals can precede low-pressure systems, they sometimes mean rain is coming.  And, in fact, that is what the weatherman predicts.

BTW, these halos are quite large, 22 degrees in radius, as my use of my widest angle lens might suggest.

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 4 second exposure, ISO 400
  •             Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 lens, set at 10 mm, manual focus at infinity
  •             Tripod

Quadrantid Meteors 2019

stars20190104

Last night was the peak of the quadrantid meteor shower. The peak actually happened over the UK, but I hoped there would still be some quadrantids visible here in Texas. The moon hadn’t risen, a cold front had come through, and the sky was clear and beautiful.  I sat outside and stared up into the sky.  I saw one bright meteor and a handful of dim ones.  One crossed the bowl of the Big Dipper, which was neat.

My camera didn’t catch any meteors, but I did get some lovely pictures of the stars and a plane (the blinking lights on a plane make a dashed line).  There’s always something good to see, even if it wasn’t what I had planned.

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 13 second exposure, ISO 500
  •             Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 lens, set at 10 mm, manual focus at infinity
  •             Tripod
  •             Intervalometer

Comet 46P/Wirtanen

Comet46P-Wirtanen-20181216-1AM-acubedsf

I was excited to learn that there was a comet that might be visible to the naked eye this month.  I went out Tuesday night and was not able to see it, but was able to spot it in my pictures.  Unfortunately, the pictures were poor.

And then it rained.

And now it is clear again, and Comet 46P/Wirtanen is visible in binoculars, but still not obvious naked eye.  I got out all my tools to try to get a decent picture.

It’s right next to the Pleiades – a gorgeous site in themselves.

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4.5, 20 second exposure, ISO 500
  •             Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 150 mm, manual focus
  •             iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  •             Tripod
  •             Cable Release

Have you been able to spot it?

Moon and Venus

MoonAndVenus20180615

Last night, as we exited the movie theater, we saw a beautiful conjunction of the Moon and Venus, with a bright Venus floating above a crescent moon.  The cell phone pictures did not do it justice, nor did my hastily set up picture shot from the car window.

MoonAndVenus20180616

So I prepared to take pictures tonight.  The Moon had moved!  Still a beautiful conjunction, yes?

Moon20180616

And since I had the tripod set up, I captured a picture of the Moon as well.  It would be fun to explore its cratered surface.

Camera geek info:

Moon and Venus 6/15/18

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 1/25 second exposure, ISO 800
  •             Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 70 mm, autofocus on moon

Moon and Venus 6/16/18

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4.5, 1/5 second exposure, ISO 320
  •             Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 112 mm, manual focus on moon
  •             Tripod

Moon 6/16/18

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