You Can See The Dark Side from Here

On January 22, 2015, the sky was very clear, and I saw a beautiful, thin, crescent Moon. In contrast with the surrounding sky, you could also see an outline of the whole moon, despite the fact it is mostly unilluminated. I imaged it using my father’s Telephoto lens, and the images turned out really well.

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2 Day old Crescent Moon 1/400″ exposure, f/5.6, ISO 1600

 

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2 Day old Crescent Moon. Old Moon in New Moon’s Cradle. 1/3″ exposure, f/5.6, ISO 1600

The image was so good, I wanted to take my telescope out and image it using that. The results were very good:

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2 Day Old Crescent Moon 1/30″ exposure, f/10, ISO 1600

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Is this a Dim Moon???

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Nope! It’s a 2 Day old Moon. Old Moon in New Moon’s Cradle. 1.6″ exposure, f/10, ISO 1600

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4.3″ exposure, f/10, ISO 1600

The resulting images were a great improvement compared to my earlier images. It was a sight to see the Moon so thin like that. However, something else caught my eye. A red star close to the Moon. I slewed to it, and took a few images:

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A don’t know what the star is beside it, but the red star looks like Mars. 10.1″ exposure, f/10, ISO 1600

After some time, after asking my father for help identifying it, my father told me that it was Mars. I was surprised to see Mars at this time. It was so far from Earth, that you wouldn’t be able to see anything from it. Nevertheless, it was a good image.

Sadly, the clouds started rolling in, and the Moon and Mars became obscured by a thick cloud, which ended my astronomy session. All this was in preparation for January 23/24’s event when Jupiter will do a triple-transit, and two of it’s Moon’s shadows merge. I still need to process the photos, so stay tuned.

A light polluted timelapse.

On January 20, 2015, the sky was clear. RASC had a plan for a star party at Long Sault Conservation park, but I had to get up early the next morning. Therefore, I had to miss it. Thankfully, I did not let the night go to waste. I took my camera and my father’s wide-angle lens and set the intervalometer to make a timelapse image. I would later make it into a star trails image.

Since my home is in a light polluted area, I had to expose for a shorter amount of time to compensate for the amount of light there is. I set the exposure for 5 seconds, at f/4, and ISO 1600. I left it out there for two hours and obtained over 719 frames for my image. The resulting image turned out to be a major success. The lines were crisp and clear, there were a few satellites and airplanes, and a beautiful set of stars trailing along the houses.

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Startrails Image: 693 frames 5″ exposure, f/5, ISO 1600

That was the only thing I did that night unfortunately. Nevertheless, I will continue exploring and imaging the night sky.

 

Attempts at Comet Lovejoy: The RASC Party

On January 19, 2015, RASC hosted a star party at Glen Major Forest, and since it would be my last chance at imaging the comet before starting my new job, I decided to take advantage of the party and go there.

My goal at that party would be to image the comet with its tail. When I arrived, there were many people already there. There were new members, and veteran members. More people would’ve come, but seeing as it was very cold, it was understandable.

After saying hi to everyone, and looking at the comet through a friend of mine’s binoculars, I quickly set up my telescope, and aligned it to Betelgeuse and Polaris, with the help of one of my friends.

After asking the host to show me where the comet is, I tried finding it with my telescope. After a lot of help from my friends, I eventually found it, and set my telescope to take multiple one minute exposures. The result were very shaky, but there were a few photos that turned out well.

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Comet Lovejoy 61.2″ exposure, f/10, ISO 1600

 

While the camera was capturing the photos, I went around and saw what everyone else was doing. They were all looking at very cool celestial objects. However, there were bright lights that came during the night from the North-East. It was troubling. My friends told us that it was from a nearby ski resort. Hopefully, the lights don’t ruin any future RASC events at Glen Major forest.

Soon enough, the clouds came in, and we all packed up. I was the second-last to leave, while the host left the last. It was a successful night. I was able to get a good image of the comet, but I didn’t get the tail like I wanted to. This would probably be my last chance at imaging the comet. The next day was predicted to be clear, but I have to get up early the day after for work. Thankfully, I do not let that day go to waste. See the next blog post.

Keep Looking Up. There is always something up there.

01/23/2015 – Jupiter will experience three simultaneous total solar eclipses tonight!

There will be a rare celestial dance in the cosmic ballet tonight. In Canada, the forecast is up in the air, but nevertheless, get yourself ready for an amazing imaging and observing opportunity, TONIGHT!

Bob Moler's Ephemeris Blog

Total solar eclipses on Jupiter are nearly a daily occurrence on Jupiter.  However what we’ll see is the shadows of the moons crossing the face of the planet.  Shadows of the Jovian moons on the fave of Jupiter are difficult to see with small telescopes.  The look like tiny inky black dots.

Another way to watch the event is via Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.  The link is here.  Their event starts at 11:30 p.m. EST because Jupiter rises later there.  The email I received from them says the next triple shadow event on Jupiter won’t occur until 2032,

Here’s the schedule:  Moons:  I = Io, II = Europa, IV = Callisto; SHA = Shadow,  Tra = Transit (a moon crossing disk of Jupiter)

Moon Event UT Date hh:mm EST Date Time IV: Sha start: 24 Jan 2015 3:11 23 Jan 2015 10:11 p.m. I: Sha start: 24 Jan…

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Attempts at Comet Lovejoy: A timelapse

On January 16/17, 2015, I went to Glen Major again, and set up my telescope the same way.

I tried looking for the comet using my camera at 300 mm zoom, but to no avail. The comet was nowhere to be seen. It was frustrating for me to not see the comet, but it wasn’t meant to be. Therefore, I decided to let my camera image a number of frames of the sky and back home, I would combine them together to create a startrails image.

At this time, I wanted to try finding the comet using the wide-angle lens, but I wan’t finding it and the clouds were coming over. Therefore, I decided to pack up and go home. Just before I left, I looked up again, and saw that the sky cleared up again. It was unfortunate, but I was ready to leave.

The session was successful. I got a timelapse image, but I didn’t get image the comet like I wanted to. Hopefully, I get a second chance at it. For now, here is the image, and the videos that came from it.

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139 frames: 20″, f/4, ISO 1600

 

Keep Looking Up. You never know what you will find up there.

 

Attempts at Comet Lovejoy: At Glen Major again.

On January 12, I went up to Glen Major again to try my hand at imaging the comet again.

It was cold as always, but that didn’t stop me. I quickly assembled and aligned my telescope to my two favorite stars, Betelgeuse and Polaris. Before I tried imaging the comet again, I decided to take 10 images of the Orion Nebula to stack back home. The result was not good. The images turned out to be blurry, and unfocused. It’s disappointing. In the future, I need to figure out why it is so unfocused. Maybe the telescope needs to acclimatize to the ambient temperature (-20 C :P). Maybe there is a problem with the mirrors. Whatever the case, I need to find a solution.

I then began searching for the comet using my camera. I started taking pictures of the sky to try and find the comet, but I noticed the pictures displaying signs of trailing, which meant that the mount became too cold to operate properly, which led me to pack up and go back home.

Before going home, I was able to image the cityscape on the road to Clairemont. It was beautiful, but imaging it was difficult. After that, I went back home.

I may have not captured any good image that day, but on January 14th, I was able to image a close approach of Venus and Mercury from my bedroom. Here is the picture below. Venus is snuggling beside the tree, and Mercury is a step away from the tree.

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Venus and Mercury between a tree: 20″, f/5.6, ISO 1600

Keep Looking Up. You never know what you will find.

 

Attempts at Comet Lovejoy: Up on Cold Creek

On January 10, 2015, New Eyes Old Skies hosted an event at the Cold Creek Conservation Park. DDO Defenders astronomers and Ian Shelton and Tuba Koktay, in a heated building, presented to all the participants an overview of what to expect in the night sky during the month of January, and it was interesting. This month featured a visible Jupiter moving up the night sky; Venus, and Mercury coming close to each other; and a bright comet called Comet Lovejoy flying through the sky, getting better and better until the Moon comes back. The presentation successfully piqued the interest of many participants.

Before I arrived at Cold Creek Conservation Park, I drove up a hill in Markham where all of Markham was visible. There, I was able to image Venus and Mercury, although not in the same frame.

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Venus after Sunset. 1/125″ exp, f/10, ISO 1600

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Mercury after sunset. 1/15″ exp, f/10, ISO 1600

Coming into the park, it was completely overcast. By the end of Ian’s presentation, the sky cleared up enough to reveal the night sky. There were a few scattered clouds in the sky, but they quickly moved out of our way. Since the temperature was -9 C, I had to set up and image very quickly lest the telescope freezes again. Taking what I learned from my previous astronomy session in Glen Major Forest, I aligned my telescope to Betelgeuse and Polaris using the Two Star Alignment method. When it was ready, I let everyone know inside, and many came out to see me image the night sky.

That night, I got lucky with good images of Comet Lovejoy.

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Comet Lovejoy: 75mm focal length: 10″ exp, f/4, ISO 1600

I had taken 10 x 30 second exposure images to stack, but when I checked them, only one was good enough to share. The rest suffered from camera shake. Here it is below:

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Comet Lovejoy: 255mm focal length: 30″ exposure, f/5.6, and ISO 1600.

I wanted to find the comet using my telescope, but my battery was low on energy and finally died. Disappointed, but satisfied with my work, I packed up my scope and made my way home. It was a successful night. I got the chance to image the comet again, and get better pictures. I didn’t get the tail like I wanted, but I guess there is always next time.

Thank You for reading everyone. I hope you are all enjoying these stories. I wanted to mention that the presenters, Ian and Tuba offer a number of classes for the general public, most notably their “Introduction to Astrophotography” class. The courses are full of useful information, and are very well presented. I have taken these courses, and I learned a lot from them. I recommended them to everyone interested in astrophotography. The link is here.  They also have a lecture series called, ‘Search for Extraterrestrials: Life Originating Elsewhere in the Universe.’ The link is here. Keep looking up! You never know what you will find up there.

 

Attempts at Comet Lovejoy: Failure at Glen Major

On January 9/10, 2015, my father and I decided to go to Glen Major Forest to image the comet.

It was -13 C that night, with windchill making it worse. Within a few minutes of arriving, we started setting up the telescope outside. We quickly aligned the telescope to the Moon, and we saw the majesty of the Moon up close. We tested the mount’s tracking capabilites by letting the telescope track the Moon, and it was successful. We decided to move towards Jupiter next, and we stayed there. However, it started to drift greatly. This gave us the theory that the planetary alignment is only good as long as the telescope doesn’t move around. It was a revelation. We then begin to realign using the Two Star Alignment method.

We aligned the scope to Betelgeuse, and Polaris, but the mount started to slow down at top speed. Having been exposed to the cold for over an hour, the motor started to freeze, and soon enough froze all together. Luckily, we brought two telescope mounts with us, and we debated whether to switch out the mounts. Eventually we did, but when it came time to align the telescope, the mount did not respond to my commands. It was heartbreaking for me. Our second chance at imaging the night sky failed for some reason.

After that, I took a few random pictures, and then we quickly packed up and left. That session went really badly. I didn’t get any good pictures that night. The only thing I took away from that night is that Solar System Alignment is only good for planetary observing. The next time I go outside, I will not make that mistake again.

Attempts at Comet Lovejoy: From my backyard

This new year gifted us with many great opportunities to see something truly unique. It’s called C/2014 Q2, also known as, Comet Lovejoy.

Comet Lovejoy was first discovered by Terry Lovejoy in Australia in August 2014. Ever since that time, it has brightened significantly, and has now crossed the celestial equator becoming visible for the Northern Hemisphere. Since the start of the new year, I’ve been trying to image the comet. The next few posts will chronicle my attempts to image the comet.

 

My First Attempt

On January 6, 2015, I started my journey on my front yard, freezing myself in sub-zero temperatures. I opted to use my tripod instead of my telescope. I started taking pictures of the full moon. It was magnificent!

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The Full Moon

After capturing a number of good images, I went on to image the Orion Nebula. That took more effort, but it was all for naught, as my images were not focused enough. It was heartbreaking but there was no point sulking on it.

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Orion Nebula Out of Focus

 

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Cropped_Orion_Nebula

I then decided to try my hand at imaging the comet, and I was dealt a good hand. Using my father’s telephoto lens, I was able to image the comet near Orion. I took a number of two second exposures of the image, adjusting the image to get the comet at the center of the frame each time until it was just right. I was able to stack them together to reduce the noise. The final image was dim, but I have, indeed, caught a comet.

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Comet Lovejoy – Highlighted

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Comet_Cropped

My camera’s memory was filling up, and I decided to end the session with a few images of the Pleiades. Those were one of the best images I had captured that night. The seven sisters were shining beautifully that night with all their grace.

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M45/The Pleiades

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The Pleiades_Cropped

That night was a successful night. I was able to image many celestial objects. It served as the start of my journey to image the comet, and other Deep Sky Objects. I continued my journey in the next few days.

 

End of Inner Planet Missions

Another year, another set of missions to monitor, and launch. However, we will be bidding adieu to two missions currently orbiting the inner planets Venus, and Mercury.

 

Venus Express needs a gas station

For those who don’t know, the Venus Express is a mission sent by the European Space Agency (ESA). The mission was sent to study the atmosphere, clouds, the plasma environment and the surface of Venus from orbit.

The mission was designed to last for 500 days, but the mission was extended 3 times.It lasted for eight years in orbit, completed all its scientific goals, and performed a dangerous aerobraking maneuver, which gradually brought the orbiter down 130 km above the surface. Unfortunately, On November 28, 2014, things took a turn for the bad as the ESA lost contact with the craft.

They did regain contact with the craft, but are receiving only little bits of information. Sadly, they discovered that it most likely ran out of fuel. On December 16, 2014, the ESA ended the mission leaving the probe to kiss the atmosphere until it burns up. That is expected to happen early January.This spacecraft provided a lot of information from its actions, and discoveries, which will be applied to the next generation of spacecrafts. The same fate is also going to happen to another inner planet mission, but unlike Venus Express, it got more time than expected.

 

MESSENGER propelled by coolant.

For those who don’t know, MESSENGER is a spacecraft sent to Mercury by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). It was launched into space on August 3, 2004. This mission is unique, because it is the second spacecraft to fly-by Mercury, and the first to orbit Mercury! It started collecting data on April 11, 2011, and finished its main goals in March 17, 2012. It completed its mapping of Mercury on March 6, 2013, and also completed its two extended missions.

After 10 years of being in space, travelling over 8 billion miles, taking over 255,858+ images, and completing 3,308 orbits of Mercury, its fuel is finally exhausted and is poised to impact Mercury early this year. Luckily, some engineering ingenuity gave it more time.

All its propellant is used up, and will eventually collide with Mercury, but its helium supply, used to pressurize the propellant, can be used to adjust its trajectory, delaying its fate by over a month. Despite its fate, it revealed to us many topics of interest.

Water ice was found in some of Mercury’s permanently shadowed craters. The atmosphere and weak magnetic field lines are influenced by the Sun. There is a lot more to discover, and that will be the job of future missions.

 

These missions have worked hard to provide data for us back on Earth, but with the conclusion of these missions means that the inner planets will no longer have any active orbiters present in their vicinity. The inner planets will not be monitored up close anymore. Hopefully, NASA, ESA, or any other space agency will soon launch another mission to Venus or Mercury to collect more data, and make more discoveries on these planets.

 

Keep Looking Up!

 

WORKS CITED

http://sci.esa.int/venus-express/55141-venus-express-goes-gently-into-the-night/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_Express

http://blogs.esa.int/rocketscience/2014/05/16/surfing-an-alien-atmosphere/

http://www.universetoday.com/117312/venus-express-out-of-gas-mission-concludes-spacecraft-on-death-watch/

http://space.io9.com/venus-express-isnt-dead-yet-1607083367

http://sci.esa.int/venus-express/54915-venturing-into-the-upper-atmosphere-of-venus/

http://www.universetoday.com/117737/mercury-spacecrafts-2015-death-watch-could-go-one-more-month/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MESSENGER

http://www.nasa.gov/content/nasa-s-messenger-spacecraft-10-years-in-space/#.VKZXzSvF98E

 

 

WORKS CONSULTED

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA

http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/messenger/main/#.VKZVrivF98E