Jupiter and Mercury – January 13, 2021

This past week, Jupiter and Saturn were close to Mercury in the sky.  On Wednesday January 13, the one day there was a break in the clouds, there was also a new Moon, so we drove out to our favorite high spot with a view West.  The new Moon and Saturn ended up being in the bright sunset, so we never spotted them.  We did find Jupiter and Mercury. Mercury is the higher of the two bright dots in the sky.

Camera Geek Info 

  • Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4.5, 1 second exposure, ISO 100, sunlight white balance
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 108 mm, manual focus
  • Tripod

The Christmas Star: A Reminder of Hope

Since I’ve taken a sequence of pictures of Jupiter and Saturn together, I thought they would make a nice, though late, Christmas card, and I like having a message of hope.

Here are the dates for the planet pictures, from top to bottom:

  • December 21, 2020 (Day of conjunction) Jupiter – Saturn
  • December 22, 2020 (1 day after conjunction) Jupiter – Saturn
  • December 19, 2020 (2 days before conjunction) Saturn – Jupiter
  • December 17, 2020 (4 days before conjunction) Saturn – Jupiter
  • December 26, 2020 (5 days after conjunction) Jupiter – Saturn
  • December 27, 2020 (6 days after conjunction) Jupiter – Saturn

One of the things that is the most amazing to me is how much Jupiter’s moons (the 3 – 4 small dots around the more circular planet) move in just one day.

Camera Geek Info

  • Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/5.6, custom white balance 3500K
    • December 21, 2020: ISO 2000, 1/10 second exposure
    • December 22, 2020: ISO 100, 6 second exposure
    • December 19, 2020: ISO 800, 1/10 second exposure
    • December 17, 2020: ISO 800, 2 second exposure
    • December 26, 2020: ISO 100, 2 second exposure
    • December 27, 2020: ISO 100, 4 second exposure
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 300 mm, manual focus
  • Cable release
  • Tripod

Processing Geek Info

  • Rotated so Jupiter’s moons were on the x-axis, shifted to black and white, and histogram adjusted in Photos
  • Selected a region exactly 1200 pixels x 280 pixels in Preview
  • Imported to PowerPoint and made transparent over green and blue background
  • Saved as JPEG
  • Histogram adjusted in Preview

Great Conjunction with the Moon – December 16, 2020

Conjunction-Moon-20201216

Every cloud-free evening this month, I’ve been outside viewing and taking pictures of Jupiter and Saturn as they’ve gotten closer and closer in the sky.  Now I’m working on processing the results.  Here the two planets are with the crescent moon.

Camera Geek Info 

  • Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 1/8 second exposure, ISO 2000, custom white balance 3500K
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens, set at 70 mm, manual focus
  • Cable release
  • Tripod

December Astrophotography Project

This December, Jupiter and Saturn are visually approaching each other in a Great Conjunction.  I am trying to take a picture of them every night (weather permitting) so I can make a short time lapse video of the event.  It’s neat to see Jupiter’s Moons’ positions change from night to night.

Tonight, just after I finished photographing planets, I was treated to the sight of a bright meteor (alas, the camera was not on).

And I was also treated to the sight of an equally bright overhead pass of the International Space Station, which visually passed by Mars (the bright red object).  I did have the camera on for that!

Camera Geek Info (ISS and Mars)

  • Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/8, 30 second exposure, ISO 250, custom white balance 3500K
  • Sigma 10-20 mm f/4-5.6 lens, set at 10 mm, manual focus
  • Intervalometer
  • Tripod

More ISS Passes – November 18 and 19, 2020

iss-20201118-1-1

November 18, 2020 – ISS rises from the trees

iss-20201118-2-1

November 18, 2020 ISS passes out of view

iss-20201119-1-1

November 19, 2020 ISS rises above the trees next to the Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn

iss-20201119-2

November 19, 2020 ISS on a long overhead pass

iss-20201119-3

November 19, 2020 ISS sets, with airplane photobomber

I had so much fun seeing Dragon chase the International Space Station that I decided to do some experiments with long-exposure satellite photography.  The International Space Station, as the brightest of the satellites, is a good subject, and we had some more good passes this week.

On Wednesday, November 18, 2020, the now-docked Dragon and Space Station passed to the side of a crescent Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn.  I tried two minute long exposures to catch a long pass.

On Thursday, November 19, 2020, the now-docked Dragon and Space Station flew almost overhead, but at twilight.  The sky was much too bright to use a 2 minute exposure, so I dialed it back to one minute.  And, because the long pass went almost directly overhead, I had to turn the camera around in the middle.  As the Space Station was setting, an airplane (seen as a line of pairs of lights) flew in front of it and their paths crossed in the photograph.  They almost, but not quite, were in the same direction at the same time.

Note that with the long exposures, the lovely crescent Moon turned into a starburst.  Note also the change in the Moon’s position relative to Jupiter and Saturn in one day.

When I try this again, I think I will use my sky-tracking mount so there aren’t star trails.

Camera Geek Info Wednesday November 18

  • Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/8, 119 second exposure (1) and 103 second exposure (2), ISO 250, custom white balance 3500K
  • Sigma 10-20 mm f/4-5.6 lens, set at 10 mm, manual focus
  • Intervalometer with bulb at 2 minutes, intervals at 2 minutes and 1 second
  • Tripod

Camera Geek Info Thursday November 18

  • Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/16, 59 second exposure, ISO 100, custom white balance 3500K
  • Sigma 10-20 mm f/4-5.6 lens, set at 10 mm, manual focus
  • Intervalometer with bulb at 1 minute, intervals at 1 minute and 1 second
  • Tripod

ISS and SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience

The International Space Station and the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience flew overhead this evening.  The Crew-1 Dragon vehicle is chasing the ISS, catching up to dock later this evening.  I was so delighted that I could actually see one vehicle following the other that I forgot to keep taking pictures.  But in this shot you can see Mars, the bright line of ISS and Dragon (one overlays the other, so they appear as one line), Saturn, and Jupiter.  

I love their motto: “All for One, and Crew-1 for All!”

Camera Geek Info 

  • Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4.5, 20.0 second exposure, ISO 400, custom white balance 3500K
  • Sigma 10-20 mm f/4-5.6 lens, set at 10 mm, manual focus
  • Tripod

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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