Early Night Conjunction

On Sunday August 31, 2014, early in the evening, Earth’s Moon and two planets were positioned just right to form a conjunction. This conjunction was made up of the Moon, Mars, and Saturn. The moon was past its first quarter phase, but Saturn and Mars were past opposition and were starting to set earlier.

At home, I borrowed my dad’s DSLR camera, and his tripod to take pictures of the conjunction. I had to act fast as the conjunction was setting very quickly. I quickly took the pictures, using a mid-level exposure rate, with the f/stop at maximum, and the ISO level at 1600. I was satisfied with the images I took.


Conjunction of the Moon, Mars, and Saturn. Mars is at the bottom, Saturn is on the Far Right, and the Moon is near the center of the image.

While I was taking the images, two of my neighbours, who were walking down the street noticed what I was doing. I showed them what is going on, the pictures that I took, and told them where to find a few tools to get started on their own. They were very intrigued by my stargazing. They soon went back to walking, talking about what I showed them.

Soon after, the conjunction was too low in the sky to image anymore. The western sky at my house was obstructed by my neighbours’ houses. Therefore, I decided to take a few pictures of the Moon. The first few pictures were very overexposed, but after adjusting the settings a bit, I got a good clear image of the Moon. I had to expose it for 1/800th of a second to get a good picture.


The Moon exposed to show planetshine. The light on the left of the Moon is called “ghosting” It’s when the flipped light of the image that is reflected onto the CCD Chip is also captured. Notice how the moon and the ghost moon are mirror opposites.


The Moon.

I soon had the idea to follow the movement of the Moon. I decided to take many pictures of the Moon, as it was moving across the night sky. It gave me a new perspective on the movement of the Moon, the solar system, and our own movement in the cosmic scale.

After taking those images, I decided to take a few 30 second exposures of the sky. The images were trailing, but it looked good after stacking them together. I also made a very quick video of the star trails moving across the night sky.

IMG4713-6-Startrails IMG4713-6-Startrails2


Once I got the pictures I wanted, I packed up, and went back inside. It was a successful night of imaging. I got a few pictures of the Moon, the conjunction, and the star trailing. I also was able to make a video using those images. Hopefully, I can capture better images next time. Until then, Happy Observing!


Fishing for Dim Objects

August 26, 2014 was a good night to observe the skies.Not only were the skies clear, the Moon was at its new phase. That meant the sky would be extra dark that night.

Taking advantage of that, my dad and I went to a dark area to observe it. That dark area was all right. The western sky is completely blocked with light pollution, but the eastern sky was perfect. There were various insects flying around, making noise, and biting us. In the distance, we could hear howling of an unknown animal; probably a dog. Despite all those distractions, we decided to park there, and do astronomy.

This time, since all the major planets were setting and the Moon was below the horizon, I decided to align my telescope using its skyalign feature of my telescope. Since it uses three anchor points to align the telescope with the sky, it should be more accurate than the Solar System align, which uses only one anchor point. I aligned my telescope, with expert precision, and we began looking for our first target, Comet Jacque.

Comet Jacque is located North West of the constellation Cassiopeia. I read online that, if you start from the center star, and move North-West of that, you will find Comet Jacque. I followed the instructions, like they said. Looking at the sky, I found what looked like a star north west of the star. It was more north, than west, but it might’ve been the comet. I slewed my telescope to the bright star. Then my dad and I took many long exposure images of the picture, using various exposure times. When we did that, we got a variety of images, but not only was the object not a comet, the images were displaying star trails. This meant that the tracking feature of my telescope was not fixed. This was a major problem for my dad and me, because all the hard work we put into fixing it did not pay off. We were disappointed.

We kept looking for a while more, but to no avail. We moved on and began looking for Uranus. We had trouble finding it as well. One reason is that we disagreed that both of our Skyview apps were showing different positions of the planets. Later on, my dad found out his phone thought they were in Italy. Despite our best efforts, we were unable to find Uranus.

We decided to pack it in and go back home. Before we packed up our equipment, we spent some time looking at the constellation of the night sky. My dad talked about how he would find Cassiopeia using the Big Dipper and Polaris. It was an interesting way to find Polaris. We then found the constellation, Boötes. It was interesting to be able to find and see that constellation. It’s not an ecliptic, nor a northern constellation, which is why it was cool for me to see it. Hopefully, I can find more constellations in the near future.

After that, we packed up and went back home. It wasn’t a completely successful night of astronomy, but we did learn some more about the telescope and the night sky. Tracking isn’t working at all, therefore we need to fix it; comets and dim planets are harder to find than normal, but we saw the constellation Boötes, Cassiopeia, Big Dipper, and the Little Dipper. Hopefully we can fix these problems, and come back to do better astronomy in the future.

Astronomical Events for September 2014

Hello everybody,

Here are the astronomical events occurring in the month of September: (All times are given in UTC format)

       Astronomical Events

  • September 5: Venus passes 0.7 degrees from Regulus.
  • September 9: The last supermoon of the year will occur that day at 1:39 UTC, 22 hours after passing its perigee.
  • September 15: Comet C/2013 V5 Oukaimeden might reach 5.5 magnitude for observers in the southern hemisphere.
  • September 20: Mercury will pass 0.5 degrees south of Spica at 21:00 UTC.
  • September 21: Mercury will reach its greatest elongation, being 26.4 degrees east of the Sun. It will shine at Magnitude 0, in the dawn sky. The best view of this will be for southern hemisphere observers.
  • September 23: The Autumnal Equinox will occur at 2:29 UTC. At this point, the Northern and Southern hemispheres will have exactly 12 hours in their day. Here is a video that shows the Earth through one year. http://youtu.be/FmCJqykN2J0
  • September 23: GEO Satellites eclipse seasons occur. This is when the Geosynchronous Satellites will enter the Earth’s shadow and, just like a lunar eclipse, becomes darkened for a few minutes.
  • September 28: The Moon will occult Saturn at approximately 4:25 UTC. The Moon will also occult minor planets 1 Ceres and 4 Vesta at the same day.

Enjoy and Happy Observing!