July 30th, 2020 was the International Friendship Day and I had the pleasure to meet Maxx, Sunita and their friends by having our own little star party. We had a short walkthrough on the main summer constellations and the ancient Greek tales behind them (the stories behind king Lyacon, Callisto and her son Arcas, Cassiopeia, Andromeda, Medusa, Kraken and Perseus, Hercules and the serpent dragon Draco) We spoke a little bit about the constellation of Scorpio sent by goddess of hunting Artemis that bit Orion.
Planets Saturn (aka Kronos in ancient Greek mythology, son of Uranus and Gaia or Earth) and Jupiter (aka Zeus in ancient Greek mythology) were very prominent and right above the meridian, as well as the moon
Transparency: Transparent (Above Average)
Seeing: Poor 2/5
Darkness: Magnitude 5.0 (Moon altitude 26.5 degrees)
Wind: 0 – 5 mph
Humidity: 40% to 50%
Temperature: 68F to 77F degrees
Elevation: 5283 ft.
We used the cellphones and photographed the moon, Saturn and Jupiter through afocal method by aligning the cell phone cameras in the eyepiece field of view.
Haven’t done the Milky way in a while and this time I’ve chosen with a Canon 50D and a Canon 35mm lens. The settings were AWB, ISO 1600 and 14 seconds of exposure by using the 500-rule (500/lens mm).
The foreground is Henry Grieb Observatory – Nyack Airport in Blue Canyon, CA. Right above the dome Saturn to the left and Jupiter to the right.
I’ve now ordered Canon’s EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM lens which apparently is one of the top 3 Canon lenses for Milky way astrophotography to try and get some better results. The lens I was using for the image above isn’t really suitable for Milky way due to high f-ratio, making it a “slow” lens in allowing faint light coming through. That night was also illuminated by the moon (the moonlight reflection can be seen on the dome itself) which makes things worse for Milky way to become more prominent in the photos.
Below are examples of how higher f-stop/f-ratio allows less light through, thus increasing your exposure time, which introduces noise and other issues such as shaking, star trails, etc.
There’s once in a while a comet coming by and I missed some really good ones in my life… I thought I won’t let this one go by unnoticed … I took light gear with me in the car and off I went to the highest point in Folsom to overlook towards the eastern horizon. Fortunately I scouted a nice little area that is not surrounded by tall buildings around. The photos were taken with my William Optics Megrez 72 FD APO and a Canon EOS 50D camera. Various exposures from 2 to 3 seconds depending how high it was climbing during the sunrise and the sunlight began dominating… ISO settings were varying between 800 to 1600 as I was playing around. Tripod, remote shutter hand controller…
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)
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.
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.
These are the first images now from Sacramento as the eclipse is currently on-going.
I wrote a tutorial for updating the firmware on a Sky-Watcher SynGuider. If you have more questions or feedback please feel free to get in touch with me. I hope this comes to use and helps out people to understand the steps needed for the updates.