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)
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
I must say this was one of the best gifts I got for my birthday by my wife. It is a Condition 1 – Airtight/Watertight Case #839 with Foam. I absolutely needed one for my EQ6 Pro mount! For years I’ve been transporting and wrapping this mount in bed sheets and thick bed covers to provide safe transportation to and from my observation sites.
The mount was also transferred by sea all the way from Sweden intact. I had to pay lots for insurance so that all optics could be replaced if something happened.
This is a-must-have if you don’t know how to provide a safe casing for your telescope mounts that are originally shipped inside cardboard boxes from vendors.
My wife got this case from Amazon for just $93.60 ($103.37 if you’re not an Amazon Prime customer). Needless to say, this is just as nice as a Pelican case without the Pelican price. A real Pelican case would cost nearly double the price $176.28 for an equivalent type of case.
The interior dimensions for the Condition 1 case are, 21.91 x 16.96 x 8.41 inches.
So a big thank you goes to wifey for being very thoughtful about my hobby!
Three days after this magnificent eclipse I managed to process through some more photos out of my camera’s memory card. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to capture the diamond ring before the totality, just the one the came afterwards. Regardless, I am happy the sun got sunspots 2671 and 2672 clearly visible. It made the job a whole lot easier.
All images were photographed with a Canon EOS 50D, DSLR camera on prime focus method on a William Optics 110mm FLT APO f/7.0 telescope. While the live video on Youtube at the day of the eclipse was a Samsung Galaxy S7 phone with afocal method on a 32 mm ocular attached on a William Optics Megrez 72mm FD f/6.0.
The camera settings were, ISO-500, shutter speed at 1/3200 sec., 6000 K and the wheel setting was on M (manual mode).
Below is a composite image of all the solar eclipse phases that are displayed individually on the slideshow above. Click on the image below to expand it to its full size.
This is the first portion of photos me and my wife took during the American Solar Eclipse, August 21st, 2017 at Corvallis in Oregon. I’ll keep posting more photos as time goes and as I find more time in order to process them from their original format in my cameras.
Here are some of the total solar eclipse photos. To the left is the diamond ring while on the right is the totality. Note a couple of prominences (fire flares) showing in the edges of the sun on the top but also the moon’s surface doesn’t appear to be perfect round because of the mountains and valleys in its surface.
We met many interesting and friendly people from Kenya (the country), Phoenix Arizona, San Fransisco bay area, Arkansas, Texas and other cities in California. If you guys read this please comment or send me an email with your names so I can add you here!
Among all of them we also had Jodie Smalley coming up to us, asking if we could take some photos while she breathed fire during the totality of the eclipse. My wife went off with her at a place without grass to record that awesome idea she had (watch the fire breathing video below were Melissa talks also about the shadows on the ground).
Below you’ll find some of our videos and photos while we were preparing to start documenting this amazing event!
To my surprise Youtube has stopped offering the ability to add annotations in your videos anymore, as mobile devices don’t support them. Annoying as you can’t add corrections or additional comments to the narrative sound in the background. But according to Google 60% of the users are using mobile devices to watch these videos, which is quite remarkable. However, just before the eclipse I shouted “ring of fire” which is the wrong technical term. Obviously, I meant to say “diamond ring” instead.
A ring of fire is the maximum of an annular eclipse. Now, annular eclipses are the ones when the moon is further away from the earth hence it doesn’t cover the entire sun. An annular eclipse is around the corner and will happen October 14, 2023 and you can see it from northern California.
After the 2023 annular eclipse and If you’ve also missed the 2017 total eclipse, there’s one more chance in 2024 in Texas.
Here are some photos from my friend and colleague Akash Garg who was in Sacramento, California at our work area. Even though the eclipse was partial in Sacramento, he could still see the crescent-shaped shadows on the ground from trees and other objects.
It’s settled now. We’ve booked ourselves for Oregon and will be camping the weekend prior the American Solar Eclipse. We’ll be meeting up my old astronomy friends from Tycho Brahe Astronomy Society in Lund, Sweden as well!
Long time I’ve been wishing to share live stream with a fairly good quality on several of the events I’ve been attending, sharing my experiences to friends who are either unable to attend, or due to time differences are unable to watch. So on the 21st of August, I’m going to stream live here and on my Facebook profile. It will be set to public so anyone who wishes can watch.
I’ll do my best to answer on comments while the live streaming is going on. If I miss any question please keep repeating it until my eyes catch it.
The stuff I’ve got now recently are, cell phone adapter for live streaming purposes that will be attached to one of my telescopes, Solar Finder and lots of souvenir paper glasses with sun filter aimed for solar eclipses.