Friday, August 12, 2016

Perseids 2016

This morning was the peak of the 2016 Perseid meteor shower. A friend who watched from out of town observed 164 meteors between 2:30 and 3:30 am. That was the same time window in which I took these photos, but from by backyard. Some sky glow, hazy conditions, and a field of view limited by my house and trees reduced my count to around 20, however, I did capture five meteors with my camera, four of which are worth showing:

Composite of 4 photos, each at 30-second exposure

The following are cropped close-ups of each:

The Perseids are known for their fireballs and green trails. The green is evident in each of these.


Friday, July 8, 2016

My best photos continue to be accidents

In March 2016 I was photographing the constellation Orion and got this:

Obviously, the camera moved during the photo, its movement is hard to create. The movement was fast at first, creating thin, faint streaks, and then slowed creating ever thicker and finally stopped points. The motion was caused my the clutch on my camera mount slipping, but the slipping action was sudden followed by increasing braking. I'm not sure how to get my mount to slip and brake like this again for other photos, but I think cold weather will play apart.

Another accident from this trip is catching the morning sunrise through a stunning orographic cloud:

"Klaatu Barada Nikto," as they would say in The Day the Earth Stood Still.

And of course, catching meteors are always accidents. This one is from April 8:


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Circum-horizon Arc

On April 8, 2016 a nice circum-horizon arc appeared. I had seen a similar arc a month earlier, but only had my cell phone to photograph it. I tried a photograph with my phone but couldn't see the arc in the picture, so I took off my glasses to get a closer look at the image.  I was wearing a set of polarized clip-on sunglasses over my corrective lenses and realized that when removed, I couldn't see the arc in the sky either.  I put the sunglasses back on, and there was the arc again. Next, I tried photographing the arc through my sunglasses. The polarized photos were noticeably better at capturing the perceived color. So when I saw a much brighter arc, one that was visible without polarized sunglasses, I took photos with my Canon digital rebel camera with and without my sunglasses over the lens.

Circum-horizon arc with polarizing sunglasses over the lens

Circum-horizon arc using the camera's kit lens as is.

A more professional photographer would probably buy polarizing filters for all his lenses.


Fog bow

I saw fog bow on May 16, 2016. A fog bow is the same effect as a rainbow but the sunlight is being refracted by fog droplets instead of rain. The result is a bow that is white but of the same angular size as a rainbow.

This fog bow sighting followed a night of star gazing at Palomar Observatory Campground, the first Explore the Stars event for 2016:

Meteor in Delphinius

Milky Way in late spring


Dishing It Out

On Jan 5, 2016, I noticed a bit of light on my horizon that I believe to be the sun's reflection off of a dish antennae:

Apparently, near sunset on January 5, my home is in the right place to catch the reflection off of a tower. Assuming nothing moves the tower or its dish, I expect this to occur next January, give or take a day because of the leap year adjustment.

Here's a closeup:

This reflection will be one my yearly calendar markers. It will also me to test how much of a difference a day will make in the recurrence this event.

It's also like having my own fixed Irridium Satellite Flare:
Image: Flare of sunlight caused by the reflective
dish antennae of a satellite in the Irridium Satellite system. 
This one occurred near Polaris as viewed from my backyard on Sept. 1, 2012


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Big sunspot possibly visible to the properly shielded naked eye

As of 13 April 2016, there's an exceptional sunspot visible. The usual caveats apply: never look at the sun without a proper sun filter over your eyes, binoculars, or telescope, but if you see the sun rise or sun set naturally shielded by fog, you may get a glimpse of the sunspot. Do so only if the sun is very dim.

Here are some photos taken with a 3-inch telescope with a white light solar filter:

Here's a close-up from the above photo. I sharpened the image in Photoshop. It looks like a heart or a silhouette of an affectionate embrace. Through the eyepiece, where the image was flipped in one axis, it looked like the British Isles.

I did try for an unfiltered shot of the sun yesterday when the fog was allowing for naked-eye views. But the trees dominated and gave the sun what looks to me like the face of a lion:


Friday, February 12, 2016

What's Up February and March 2016 for the Orange County Astronomers

It's been a while since I've presented a What's Up presentation for the Orange County Astronomers, and even longer since I've blogged about it. Friday, 12 February 2016, I'm doing the What's Up and I've included here many of the illustrations I'll be sharing in this presentation. I'm especially grateful that a leap day is added to our calendar on my watch, and so I have some illustrations of the long term effects of leap days on the timing of the calendar.

The sun has some activity. A week ago, I took this photo and expected the sunspots to be gone by this weekend, but more have emerged, making this weekend a fine time to view sunspots with the appropriate safety filter:

Most of our planets are near the sun making for this comparison between our view of the ecliptic between morning and evening. Notice that this time of year the ecliptic is at a low angle in the morning while at a high angle in the evening.

Jupiter is at opposition, meaning it rises shortly after sunset and is up all night. March 8 is the time of true opposition, a time when Jupiter will be closest and easiest to see well in a telescope. The bright object in this photo is Jupiter being jumped over by Leo the Lion:

Looking North in the early evening, we have Cassiopeia forming an M shape. Just above true north, the constellation Camelopardalis hosts the faint comet Catalina: 

Comet Catalina is too faint to see in binoculars or wide field photographs. This object requires a telescope and is likely to appear as no more than a faint smudge.

Go left from Cassiopeia and you'll find Pegasus, which you can use to find the approximate location of Uranus and the asteroid Vesta:

Left from Pegasus takes you to Orion and Taurus:

Southwest you find Orion confronting Taurus and backed by his faith dog Canis Major

Sirius and M41 in a 105 mm telephoto lens:

Note that the green splotch just left of the M41 star cluster is a camera artifact. It appears in a few of my photos and moved relative to the camera's field of view only when I moved the camera, suggesting some contaminant was on the camera's imaging chip. Tracing the most logical source of this splotch provided at 15-minutes of entertainment.

Overhead or Auriga, Gemini and an area rich in star clusters.

Star clusters M36, M37 and M38 taken with a 105mm lens:

Star cluster M35 taken with a 105 mm lens:

During my presentation, I did a little sidetrack into the effect that leap years have on shifting our calendar relative to the seasons. I'll develop this topic further in a separate post that I'm planning to make into a presentation. A member of the Orange County Astronomers offered me a nice topic name: Shift Happens.