Dell City Astrophotography October 2019

BandBwithISS 20191010

Last month we took a break and returned to 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, planets, and the Milky Way.

The picture above shows our B&B with the International Space Station starting an overhead pass (white line in center-right of picture).

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 30.0 second exposure, ISO 100
  •             Sigma 10-20 mm f/4-5.6 lens, set at 10 mm, manual focus
  •             iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  •             Tripod

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The picture above shows our B&B with the Milky Way, Jupiter, and Saturn.

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 30.0 second exposure, ISO 640
  •             Sigma 10-20 mm f/4-5.6 lens, set at 10 mm, manual focus
  •             iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  •             Tripod

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Jupiter and Saturn surround the constellation Sagittarius, home to many beautiful deep sky objects, including a number of Messier objects, the brightest of which are labeled here.

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 15.0 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

MilkyWay 20191011

One of the great treats of going somewhere with dark skies is getting to see the Milky Way.  We could see it over our B&B, and we also saw it when we drove out to a darker spot to try to spot a comet at sunrise.  The comet was too close to the sun to see, but the Milky Way before dawn was beautiful.

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/4, 30.0 second exposure, ISO 4000
  •             Sigma 10-20 mm f/4-5.6 lens, set at 10 mm, manual focus
  •             iOptron SkyTracker with ballhead
  •             Tripod

MoonriseWithBunny 20191012

Local wildlife joined me for some of my astrophotography.  One night a skunk walked right past me.  Another night, a bunny watched the moonrise with me.  I didn’t get a picture of the skunk, but the picture above includes the bunny (its tail is the white spot below and just to the right of the moon).

Camera geek info:

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/11, 1/40 second exposure, ISO 800
  •             Sigma 24-70 mm f/2.8 EX lens, set at 70 mm

Another of the great treats of visiting Dell City is getting to experience sunrises and sunsets that fill the sky.  Here are two of my favorite shots from this trip.

Camera geek info (mountains):

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/6.3, 1/30 second exposure, ISO 800
  •             Sigma 24-70 mm f/2.8 EX lens, set at 45 mm

Camera geek info (church):

  •             Canon EOS 60D in manual mode set at f/6.3, 1/100 second exposure, ISO 800
  •             Sigma 24-70 mm f/2.8 EX lens, set at 24 mm

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

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

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

Saturn hovers over Mercury

MercurySaturn20131127Med

As Murphy would have it, we’ve had heavy clouds and rain this week, so we weren’t able to look for Comet ISON.  The clouds finally blew away this morning, so we braved the cold morning to see if we could spot the comet through the colors of the sunrise.  We didn’t spot the comet, but we did see Saturn hovering above Mercury.  It was quite striking, don’t you think?