It has been 2 years since me and my wife went to Oregon with mom to witness the great American solar eclipse where I had the chance to snap more photos through my telescopes. It was a beautiful night despite the fact I was very rusty in setting my equipment up before getting too dark. I succeeded doing somewhat good polar alignment but I forgot my laptop and I couldn’t use my auto-guider, leaving me with the old traditional manual cranking of adjusting against the drifting.
What was worse I forgot even my battery for powering the telescope but a fellow astronomer in my club lent me his 10 ft. extension cord so I could power myself off my truck.
I made an attempt with the American Nebula (NGC 7000/Caldwell 20) in constellation of Cygnus which relies some 1,500 light years away. My DSLR (Canon EOS 50D) is an unmodified version and on longer exposures it gets really hot and as a result adds some extra noise in the exposures. That made me lower my exposure time from 5 minutes down to 2.5 minutes (which also made the drifting less painful). The image below was just a test image of 5 minutes exposure in ISO 1600 to see how badly I was drifting.
A good thing with NGC 7000 this time of the year (or any other object in the region for that matter), it’s very high up in sky which eliminates the worse part from light pollution and atmospheric distortion due to temperature shifts. Deneb (the 19th brightest star in the night sky) is nearby allowing auto-guiders/guiding much easier in the process.
Unfortunately I couldn’t see the drifting accurately on site since I forgot to bring over my laptop (note some egg-formed stars in zoomed portion of the image to the right). But overall I was pleased with the results on my shorter exposure images and can’t wait to stack them together once I’ve gathered enough light.
Next time I’ll be more prepared of course since this is more of a long term project were I need to gather in total over 150 minutes of exposure in order to do this night sky object some justice. It is definitely one of the most beautiful nebulae out there!
- Date: 10/26/2019
- Start Time: 07:00 PM (PST)
- End Time: 11:10 PM (PST)
- Object: North America Nebula (NGC 7000, Caldwell 20)
- Constellation: Cygnus
- Guiding Star: Deneb
- Location: Henry Grieb Observatory (Blue Canyon Nyack Airfield) – 39°16’30.9″N 120°42’33.7″W
- Seeing: Poor 2/5
- Transparency: Above Average
- Wind (forecast report): NNW (6 m/s)
- Wind (actual): NNW (1 m/s)
- Temperature: 34 F
- Cloud cover: Clear
- Image: 5 minutes, ISO 1600, 5100 K
- Telescope/Equipment: SkyWatcher EQ6 Pro, Megrez 72 APO refractor, Canon EOS 50D (unmodified)
Many times as an amateur astronomer/astrophotographer you’re trying to locate good places with good seeing and local weather to accomodate your needs in astronomical observations. Many amateur astronomers have spotted favorite spots away from modern civilization’s disturbances such as lights, traffic, curious individuals that approach you with headlights in the middle of the night, such as dog owners, hunters, security guards, the local police force, etc.
I’ve met all of these types of people in the middle of the night and believe me sometimes they scare you more than nature wildlife sounds might do. California is rich in wildlife, such as snakes, bears, mountain lions, etc. Animals however always want to keep their distance to your nightly activities and are less curious than human beings on what you’re working on during a photographic session.
There are many stories I can tell you about these meetings, but this blog entry is more about loosing the beauty of nature that once was there protecting you from city and traffic light, dew, and temperatures. The devastating fires in my immediate close area last summer was different. I live with my family very close to California’s most aggressive fires that happened in this state’s history ever before.
The so called Carr fires in Shasta county (including Hirz) then later on the Camp fire in Butte county where the most devastating wildfires that I’ve ever seen. Loosing forests so drastically, not to mention cities and home societies that were wiped out of the map is a weird feeling. You realize how vulnerable we all are against the climate changes and you literally end up loosing everything. At my job we all know someone, either close family relative or a family friend that has lost property and even family members. It feels as if we are in a war zone and you can’t do anything about it. Human lives, wild and domesticated animals, acres of both forest and farming land was lost in matter of a week from the moment those fires started.
Insurance companies are now facing huge issues in trying to pay back all those incoming claims from their insurance policy members which effects everyone financially. Local businesses are lost and people end up moving (migrating) away from the areas. I saw people camping in parking lots and had nowhere to go and no family to take care of them.
It was most noticeable this past November in 2018 when Thankgiving was around the corner when you realized how many people wouldn’t celebrate one of the biggest key holidays in US, freezing cold that night in their cars completely alone from the warm homes that once protected them.
Everyone is making new year’s resolutions about gym, career, health, but I believe my new year’s resolution is to try and bring awareness to people about our nature changes and do my best to document and write more about the climate change and its effects on all of us. There’s a major disbelief that climate change is hoax, but you can’t simply ignore the fact that all these people and animals have died for something we all could have done something about.
While east coast is starting consequentially experiencing annually the wrath of hurricanes and extreme storms here in California we got something called Fire Season… It is unbelievable, you know it’s going to happen again every year and every time with more devastating effects. California’s once proud forests are slowly turning out to its neighboring state Nevada… A Marsian looking desert.
Forests are more than just nature’s lunges… They protect us from landslides, they improve home living from high summer temperatures and people who suffer from medical conditions end up living close to those areas to ride out California’s extreme summer heat, they provide us with knowledge, they improve local businesses and trade by bringing over tourists and campers, they host threatened from extinction animals and insects and many other things.
Let us hope 2019 will be more hopeful with less fires and nature disasters against our natural monuments and our homes.
For my 40th birthday my wife took me to the Lick Observatory. It was in my to-do list a very long time but we never found the right time to just go and visit it. It is resided just 3 hours from where we live, but the road there is very curvy.
Lick Observatory was built 1887 on the top of mountain Hamilton facing San Jose with a breath taking beautiful view. The name of the observatory was in honor of James Lick who founded the building of the the world’s first mountain-top observatory accompanied by the time the world’s largest refractor (lens) telescope.
We had a great time and the observatory is family-friendly. We had the luck to arrive 10 minutes before a guided tour was about to begin. Normally the observatory isn’t open for visits, but around this time of the year they open to public. Much of its funding is done through the gift shop, so if you drop by that’s a great place to make donation to keep the free guided tours alive.
There are many discoveries that have been made by the Lick Observatory, such as the distinction of the several different rings on Saturn, played a key-role in Einstein’s general theory of relativity, the expansion of universe, discovery of exoplanets, among many other successful research discoveries.
Parts of the observatory are still used for science and research with the latest modern equipment. There are other domes that house these aside the infamous Lick telescope dome that occupies the highest point.
At the bottom of their 36-inches Lick telescope is James Lick buried right at its base. I recommend people visit this historically important observatory. There are so many things to look at and read about hanging at its walls and at the exhibition area, such as fragments of meteorites, old generation CCD sensors and cameras and log books from astronomers in the past.
So there was a mysterious smoke clearly visible in north California this evening. It was not the Delta IV rocket scheduled to be launched the very same evening. 4 minutes before the appearance the Delta IV launch was cancelled due to a leak in one of the hydrogen tanks.
From the appearance, this was not an airplane malfunctioning but most likely a meteor.
Tonight Venus and the Moon were in conjunction. A beautiful show that was clearly visible in the Sacramento, CA area despite clouds in the horizon
Camera: Canon EOS 50D – with tripod and remote control
Exposure: 2 secs
Focal Ratio: f/4.5
Focal Length: 96 mm
Original Dimensions: 4752 x 3168 px
Time: 4/17/2018, 7:37 PDT
Location: Sacramento CA, US
Post Processing: Adobe Photoshop CS6
Next astronomical event will be the alignment between the planetary objects Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, Moon and the star Antares.
Take the chance to do a wide field photography or study the planets through either telescopes or binoculars to try and see their features.
The event will happen on March 7th, 2018 at 4 AM (PST) and can also be observable on the 8th of March as well.
Below I’ve labeled all the celestial objects that will line up.
I went off just outside Mather airport and started to set my telescope up. Unfortunately I didn’t have both of my telescopes with me so I couldn’t broadcast live. With me I had my William Optics Megrez 72 APO.
The night was very humid, cold but there wasn’t any wind at all. As the eclipse was progressing the moon was turning more and more red/orange.
- ISO-100 and 200 with Canon EOS 50D
- Exposure Time: See each image for details
- Telescope: William Optics Megrez 72mm f/6 Doublet Apo Refractor
- Mount: Sky Watcher EQ6 Pro
- Date/Time: 1/31/2018, 3:03 to 5:42 AM (PST)
- File Format: RAW (CR2)
- Weather Conditions: Cloud Cover from 40% to 10%, Transparency below average, seeing average 3/5, darkness 4.4 for 0.2 hours and magnitude 4.3 at full eclipse.
- Wind: 6 to 11 mph (Forecast), 0 to 5 mph (Actual)
- Humidity: 85% to 90%
- Temperature: 41° to 50° F (5° to 10° C)
The humidity was the major disrupting factor this night. I had to bring in both telescope and camera twice and put the car heater on to get rid the moisture that was on the lenses causing the images to get worse over time. Unfortunately my telescopes are not equipped with a dew heater so over time they accumulate condensation from the surrounding air.
Despite that set back the night was remarkably beautiful and quiet. Only the airfield lights and street lights kept shining in the distant background. A few curious bypassing cars stopped to see what I was doing in the darkness and took the chance to look at the spectacle themselves. I must say they were very considerate and turned off their beams to not blind me which I appreciated lots. Thank you!
The results are presented below,
To work with lunar eclipse exposure times you can use the following formula in your preparations:
- t = exposure time
- f = focal ratio
- Q = lunar brightness value
- I = ISO #
If you don’t know the focal ratio of your telescope/camera lens you can find that out by calculating f = focal length / aperture. Lunar brightness can be determined through the Danjon scale. More information on exposures and lunar brightness visit Mr Eclipse website here. Fred Espenak’s table breaks it down very straight forward and simple right here.