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.

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Attempt at Planetshine

On June 1, 2014, it was predicted to be a clear night. It was also predicted, by my Clear Sky Chart app, that the planets would be aligned just right so that you could see four of the five visible planets in the evening sky. Mercury would  be closest to setting, then Jupiter, then Mars, then Saturn. It would’ve made a nice image. Therefore I went to an elevated area to try and image it.

 

My telescope in the evening sky

My telescope in the evening sky

I had to go through various weeds to get to the right location. However, contrary to the Clear Sky Chart app, there were clouds in the sky blocking my view. It was disheartening to see those clouds in the sky despite a prediction of a clear sky. I stayed a bit to see if the clouds would clear, fighting off mosquitoes at the same time. However, it became apparent to me that the sky wouldn’t clear in time. I then tried to take a few four-minute exposure images of the Moon to get a few moonshine images, however, those images turned out to be a bit unclear and unfocused. That trip turned out to be quite a waste. However, I didn’t want to call it a night yet.

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The Moon at dusk

Later that night, the sky cleared up, and I decided to take a few long exposure images of the Moon to try and get the planetshine effect on the Moon. In a crescent Moon, the the majority of the Moon is dark, due to its position relative to the sun. However, it is not completely dark. If someone aimed a camera at the moon and collect enough light, one could see the darkened side of the Moon. That is because the Earth reflects sunlight as well. The light collected from reflected light from the Earth is called Planetshine or Earthshine in the case of Earth. It can make for a unique picture of the Moon. I was able to take a few pictures of the Moon with the Earthshine visible. However, I have yet to stack the images. Here are two image I took:

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Crescent Moon

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Earthshine visible on the Moon.

 

After I got those photoes, I decided to finally call it a night. I brought all my equipment inside and got some rest. While I have been taking potentially great photoes, I have yet to co-add them and see the final result. In order to move forward, I need to find an effective way to co-add images, convert RAW image files to TIFF or JPG files, and produce phenomenal images. Once I can master that, then I can move forward. I hope I can do that one day. Until then, I will keep doing what I do. Wish me luck!