For months I’ve been waiting for my astronomy gear to arrive from Sweden. I packed everything last summer in 2016 and didn’t get to access my telescopes until January this year. Last weekend we decided to visit our family member who lives in Redding which is a small town near Shasta lake divided by the Sacramento river. He lives in a beautiful place close to nature so we didn’t hesitate for a second to load the trunk with my astronomy gear. It takes around 3 hours to travel from Sacramento to Redding, which is fairly far away from the town to spend time with family.
Saturday evening we went to Whiskeytown Lake and met members from Shasta’s Astronomy Club. A nice bunch of people who took their time to introduce themselves and tell us stories on how often they gather around every week to observe the beauty of the night sky in that area. I was impressed by their telescopes and knowledge and was happy to be among other fellow astronomy enthusiasts, exchanging knowledge about the night sky.
We had a good time with the kids and got to observe Jupiter with its moons, Leo’s triplet and the moon. We will definitely be visiting Redding again, maybe without the kids so we can stay much longer!
Below is the world’s largest sun dial at Turtle Bay Exploration Park
Thank you Shasta astronomy friends!
So begin planning 2017 for one of the rarest life events witnessing a total solar eclipse. Solar eclipses aren’t that rare but are truly hard to access all the times. Consider for a moment that 3 of 4 parts on the earth’s surface is covered by water, leaving only 1/4 for us to wander about.
Now consider also that not every surface on land is accessible. Either for geopolitical reasons (raging wars, corrupted regimes, etc.), but also for natural reasons such as thick impenetrable forests, high rocky mountains, wildlife, deserts, and so forth.
Considering even that not all human beings are able to travel or can afford long trips but also add on top of that the event might occur on a weird corner of a country where flight prices would cost your entire annual income (I have friends who actually took a military plane down to south pole and landed on ice for some years ago).
On top of that we need to consider the weather with unpredictable forecasts and clouds.
So summing all that up, it truly makes solar eclipses one of its kind and a life event for many of us!
The total solar eclipse will happen in August 21st of 2017. The time-and-date and the national eclipse websites include many details (see at the bottom of this blog post for links), offering also a list of places on where to actually observe the totality of the eclipse. Since this event will happen from west to east, I believe that many fellow Americans and also Europeans who are able to travel, experience this!
As the time comes closer, I’m going to provide much more detailed information, distinguish partial with total solar eclipses and their differences, write about safety precautions on how to safely observe and also talk more about the historical importance of solar eclipses throughout the human history.
- The National Eclipse website (A lot of information and a web shop for eclipse glasses)
- For more information click right here.
- NASA page for solar eclipse click here.
- Interactive Google Map with lots of information by Xavier M. Jubier here.
So it was time to head out of the apartment and head for my spot to take a nice shot of the supermoon. I sneaked out as quietly as I could and try to avoid waking up my wife and our baby sleeping still heavily. I left around 4:30 AM and started driving towards the TRACON area (TRACON is responsible for air traffic control for the whole West of US). Once I arrived I turned in their parking lot, but a security guard approached me letting me know I wasn’t allowed to park there but they were kind enough to advice me to park across the street. I thanked them and also asked them if they knew about the supermoon showing up this morning and their response was “Yeah! We’ve been watching it all night”. I left shortly after our short conversation looking at the security guards gazing high up in the night sky all in awe about the brightens of this beautiful full moon.
I couldn’t center the statue I had in mind (a statue of army pilots pointing towards the sky. I thought it would have been awesome to put the moon at their finger tips but that plan and angle didn’t work all too well because of the tree line in the way) and so I changed quickly plans and had the Californian state flag and US flag poles centered in the middle. Fortunately from that angle the trees weren’t in my way.
And here we go, supermoon in all its glory
For you who have missed this event, there’s one more chance the 13th of December. I’ll be back about it and might make a new try again for my perfect shot.
The 14th of November this year the moon’s perigee position and phase (full moon) will offer all the observers a spectacular show. It will appear the biggest in 70 years. So to all my California friends, go up this early morning around 5 AM and take photos. I will try and see if I can find a nice recognizable monument in Sacramento (maybe the tower bridge).
The moon will be already descending towards the West and its declination or angle close to the horizon will cause the moon to appear larger than its actual size. It is actually worthy witnessing this beautiful event, as it will not happen again for another 70 years. There is however one more chance during next full moon in December (12/13/2016) if you happen to miss it. In December you’ll have to look out even for the Geminids Meteor showers, however do not make many hopes as the full moon brightness will make it harder discovering them.
In order to take a nice photo of this event you’ll need to stand far away from an object/monument or building of your choice and use a telescope or a telephoto lens that will magnify enough the size of the moon while keeping your object in focus.
While moving away from that object will reduce its size due to the distance from it, use your telephoto lens to magnify it. That is how you accomplish these images like in the example below (a large moon and a recognizable building/object next or right in front of it).
Unfortunately cell phone cameras will not be able to take any good images as these get worse by using zooming/image enlargement and also over exposed (bright sphere with unrecognizable features). Unless of course you are able to control shutter speeds and ISO values (such as in some Microsoft/Windows phones). For this image you’ll need a tripod and a DSRL/SRL camera with telescope lens to accommodate your needs properly.
- Stellarium – Star chart program completely free and available for all platforms (Windows, Linux, Mac OS)
- Original example image below from National Geographic
Click on the mosaic below for larger images:
So I’m soon done with the visa process while enjoying a wonderful summer in Sacramento, CA with Melissa, little Vanita and waiting soon for our daughter to be born. Right now life is good. We’re starting anew, with exciting opportunities in all areas of life.
While Melissa was enjoying a movie at the theater with her friends, I managed to assemble together my camera and lenses to go out and shoot a few pictures on the moon. I really love the crescent moon as the shadows illuminate the crates in higher contrast then a full moon does.
Here are the results
It has been an awfully long time since I had the chance, the energy and the time to enjoy my hobby. The majority of my time I was occupied with my career and my relationship to Melissa. My astronomy friends and I have felt the same the last few months, when it comes to local weather. It makes you feel giving up sometimes and when you loose interest, you get some beautiful days that are ideal and perfect for astrophotography, but you lack the interest because by the time you’ve lost it entirely or you’re busy with other things.
Recently we had nothern lights observations in south sweden after the big geomagnetic storm caused by the solar mass ejection previously. Some of my astronomy club friends succeeded going out to take a few photos of the auroras. Shortly after we had the solar eclipse that appeared in its totality at Svalbard up in nothern Scandinavia (north of Norway and Sweden). We were less fortunate here at Malmö where I live and work. First of all we had heavy clouds being pulled over us and secondly we had to enjoy the spectacle with just a partial eclipse at around 80% coverage.
Despite these setbacks I went out with my friend Arne and took a few images. If you are the lucky owner of a telescope you can still gather enough light to make a pretty decent observation. So we decided to settle outside the parking at my work and was able to show the eclipse to some of my colleagues.
Below I’m adding a few links in regards to solar eclipse facts and also how it looked like from Svalbard as well.
As we finally enter September month followed by darker and still warm nights, I decided to assemble my telescope during a semi-cloudy day and take a few shots of the sun. To my surprise the surface was covered with several sunspots, more than it has been in a long time.
The image to the left was taken with my Canon EOS 50D at ISO600, shutter speed 1/8000 and a temperature balance 7000K. The sunspots visible here are 1281, 1282, 1283, 1277 and 1279.
The 17th of September we will have our annual celebration of “Kulturnatten” (culture night), which means many institutions at Lund’s university will have open house from morning to night. The physics and astronomy department will offer laser shows, barbecue, exhibitions of light and other experiments, star gazing through telescopes and much more. Everyone is welcome to visit us, regardless of age and of course both food and drink and everything else is for free!
More information about the cultural night in Lund, can be found here:
Astrophotography requires these days a remote location in order to avoid city lights and other sources of light polution originating from suburbs, traffic, illuminated roads, commersial signs, small villages and so on.
The best way to decide wether or not a location is spared from that, is by checking an overview map focusing on the light polution given by sattelite data. There are numerous of sattelites orbiting earth and one of the most popular websites giving you that opportunity to review your local areas situation is the “Night Sky In The World“.
From where I live, the best closest location spared by light polution are the shores of the lake “Krankesjön” 15-20 minutes from where I live by car. Fortunately the area is a nature reserve and some streets are off limits due to military excersises, limiting the traffic. Besides the closest civilization is made of very small villages at a distance of 10 to 20 km from the lake. Occasionally the military police makes a visit during the astrophotography sessions wondering what business we have in the area. Sometimes they’re interested knowing more about astrophotography but most of the times they check your ID number and move on.
Today I went out by car for the second time to investigate this location and find a better spot from where I could assemble my telescope. During my trip I came across a Danish group of bird viewers and exchanged a few words about their cameras and their telephotography techniques.
By night south part of Sweden is very light poluted due to the geography. Small villages and cities are growing by population every year and the situation gets worse as times passes. A map provided by my astronomy society Aquila (ASAK) shows the whole picture on what magnitude stars you can see by naked eye.
The map was created by Lars Lindh, amateur astronomer and astrophotographer and member of the Aquila astronomical society in Kristianstad. His webpage can be found here.
The link bellow shows the location of lake “Krankesjön”.
During 1930:ies there were countless of meetings at the university of Lund regarding the problems in lacking an observatory. The old observatory at the park of Lund was outdated, old and fell victim of the growing city and therefore light polution.
It stood clear that astronomers were in serious need of a new observatory to perform their observations and provide students with a better place. They started investigating local areas outside the suburbs of Lund during 1940 and finally found a hill located near the village of Genarp. The new place was decided to be hosting the new observatory and it was not that far away from the university (30 minutes by car), but far enough to avoid light polution at night time. It wasn’t until September 1965 the university received the telescope mirror and in October 1966 the observatory was finally operating for the first time.
During planing it was decided that the observatory would have two domes, one at west and one east, both having the ability to look south at meridian. The main instrument was a Nasmyth-Cassegrain telescope provided with a spectrograph table, cooling system. The entire system’s weight was estimated to be 3500 kilograms. The main mirror is parabolic and 61 cm in diameter and weights around 98 kilograms. The hyperbolic secondary mirror is 16 cm in diameter and was made of Duran glass with aluminmum surface.
The main goal of the observatory was to study the magnitude of thousents of stars on one single shot through photoelectric photometry. 1973 the telescope had a spectrographer to enable studies in spectrum for individual stars.
As the decades passed by, the cities around Genarp (including Genarp village itself) grew larger. A new era in astronomy started enabling astronomers to either travel out of country to remote locations, or connect to an observatory across the world through internet. Jävan observatory was hard to compete to the new technology and the evergrowing cities around light poluting the skies.
This observatory stopped beeing operable at the late 90:ties. Regardless, for an amateur astronomer the hill location is perfect still for observations. The forest around the hill has grown wild and large pinetrees are covering the low horizon and most of the light polution is hidden behind the forest trees.
A friend of mine and myself went there one night (8th of May 2011) and began observing the night sky together. It was a beautiful night sky full of stars. We tried taking a few pictures on globular clusters towards south, but that night was windy causing pollen to raise in the air and therefore it was far from ideal in regards to astrophotography.