Planets Crossing Paths

I was at work when this event took place. Thankfully, I was able to take my break at a time where I could image the phenomenon.

My break began at 6:30 pm. The sun had already set and the sky had turned a dark blue. The air was a freezing -14 C, with  a slight breeze coming from the south. It was not intense, but could shake the camera. Streetlights illuminate the parking lot at my workplace. Thankfully, the streetlights won’t cause me any problems.

I started my car, and assembled the tri-pod. I quickly took my camera to the tripod, and set it to image the event, a conjunction of Venus, Mars, and a thin crescent moon.

I set my camera to image the conjunction at various exposures, keeping the aperture, and sensitivity constant. The exposure ranged from 2″ to 1/6″ exposures.

After 134 shots, at 6:55 pm, my break was nearing the end. Therefore, I packed up my camera, and went back inside at 7 pm. This brief, 30 minutes of imaging was a great success yielding a variety of images. Some were shaky, and slightly unfocused, but a few crisp images came through. Here they are:

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1/5″ exposure, f/5.6, ISO-800

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1/4″ exposure, f/5.6, ISO-800

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1″ exposure, f/5.6, ISO-800

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1/6″ exposure, f/5.6, ISO-800

Keep looking up, you never know what you will find.

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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.

Astronomy with Araz

It was a semi-cloudy night on Friday, July 25, 2014. That night, I met my friend, Araz Boghossian, who is a photographer, electrical engineer, and amateur astronomer, in King City. Using his vehicle, we went to a lake near his house. Before we parked, a man that was there questioned why we were there at this location. We explained to him why we were there, and was all right with it.

We quickly unpacked all our equipment and got it assembled. It was a good location, but since it was near a lake, it was infested with large mosquitoes, hungry for human blood. I had a mosquito repellent clip-on, but it didn’t work (I later learned I didn’t set it up right.) There, I was able to use my new equipment, such as my new flip mirror, which allows me to connect two devices into my telescope, such as an eyepiece or a camera; and my DC adapter, which lets me connect the telescope to a car adapter to run the telescope off its power supply.

We did a lot of astronomy there. We first aimed at Mars. Since it is moving away from opposition, it didn’t give us much detail, and we quickly moved onto Saturn, swatting mosquitoes at the same time. Once we had Saturn in view, we had a look at the beautiful, ringed Saturn. When Araz saw Saturn, he was awestruck by its beauty. We kept looking at it, and we noticed three of its moons glowing dimly in the telescope. It was quite amazing and surprising that we were able to see three of its moons.

Using Araz’s camera, we decided to take a few pictures of Saturn. Araz, fighting the bugs around him, quickly got his Nikon DSLR camera, switched his lens with his T-ring so that he can put it in my telescope. Once it was firmly attached, I flipped the mirror. Initially, there was no image, however, we quickly realized that it wasn’t focused properly to the camera. The eyepiece and the camera require different focusing, which meant we couldn’t see using the eyepiece and the camera at the same time. Fortunately, we were able to get Saturn in view of the camera. Once Saturn was centered in the camera, we were able to take many photos. The first few were relatively blurry, but as we played with the focusing, the clarity improved. Eventually, we were able to get a great set of images of Saturn, which clearly showed the gap between the planet and the ring. It was beautiful.

After a good imaging session, we decided to move onto M51, a galaxy I have yet to find. After, unsuccessfully, trying to find it among a sea of stars, we decided to try taking some images of the night sky itself. Therefore, Araz removed his camera from my telescope, replaced the T-Ring with his 18 mm lens, and left the shutter open for a long time. He was able to take some star trail images, which meant that the camera wasn’t moving with the Earth’s rotation, as a result, it captured the movement of the stars in the night sky. He showed me the pictures, and the images were well captured. At the same time, I was still looking at Saturn, and it was still shining beautifully.

After his long exposure images, we decided to try and take a long exposure image on my telescope’s piggyback mount. We tried to take a picture of the Big Dipper, which didn’t turn out as we hoped. The image we took was more of a star trail image than an image of the Big Dipper. This meant that my telescope wasn’t properly tracking the night sky. I would need to get my telescope repaired.

After that, we decided to call it a night. We packed up our equipment and headed back home. It was a great night. The sky was clear enough to view the planets and the stars with. Waking up the next day, I was covered in mosquito bites. Nevertheless, it was a great experience. Hopefully, the next time Araz and I meet, we will have more targets to search for, and my equipment will finally begin to work better.

Until then, happy observing!

Conjunctions and Neighbours

On June 7, 2014, Mars and the Moon were in conjunction with each other being only two degrees away from each other. According to my Clear Sky Charts app, it would be clear before 1 am, therefore I decided to quickly image the conjunction using a camera with a telephoto lens.

I was able to take a lot of images of the conjunction. There was light cloud cover, but it didn’t overtly obstruct the Moon and Mars. I used a variety of exposure settings, and sensitivity settings to try and get the best image. When I found a good set of settings for the image, I took a few frames and their corresponding dark frames to stack them later on. Here are a few pictures I took:

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Moon and Mars conjunction. They are two degrees apart from each other.

 

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The Moon. It was a split-second shot. The amount of light captured was enough to see the Moon only. Mars was too dim to be captured at that setting.

I set myself up on the driveway, which meant that I attracted the attention of many onlookers driving through the neighbourhood. It was nice that people had an interest in what I was doing. However, one of the most notable moments was when my next door neighbours noticed me looking into my telescope. Two of my neighbours noticed what I was doing, and approached me. I told them about tonight’s conjunction of the Moon and Mars, and what I was doing to image it. I let them look into my telescope to see the Moon and Mars for themselves. They were quite surprised at what they saw. They asked me many questions, relating to imaging these celestial objects, the telescope quality and price, the effects of doing astronomy in the city, and other questions. It was a great conversation. It felt good to show them what I do as an amateur astronomer. After a while, they went back inside. I continued to stay outside and image the sky.

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Mars and Moon conjunction. 30 second exposure.

However, I didn’t stay out much longer. As the night went by the cloud cover become more intense, actually blocking my view of Mars. When I couldn’t see Mars anymore, that is when I decided to pack up and go back inside.

It was a really good night. I saw the conjunction of two celestial objects and I showed what I do as an amateur astronomer to my neighbours. It felt good to do that. Hopefully, I can do it again the next clear night.

Family Night at the Observatory

On Saturday, May 31, 2014, the David Dunlap Observatory (DDO) hosted a family night where families could come and tour the DDO, learn about astronomy, and have a great time. As a member of RASC, I went to this event as a volunteer.

The DDO Big Dome

The event started at 9 pm. I was assigned to work at the DDO Big Dome with two other people. My assignment was to explain how the star finder worked, and what each image was on the wall. During the event, I was able to explain to visitors how the star finder worked, and talked to them about the exhibits that were on the observatory’s wall, and was able to answer any astronomy-related questions.

One of the most fulfilling moments during my time there was when I talked to a guest and the group of kids about what’s the best scope to use, and answered questions about the planets, movement of the stars, and other questions. It felt good to help them get interested in astronomy.

After the family night ended, the RASC members were invited to look at the planets with the big telescope. We saw Mars and Saturn using that scope. It was incredible to see planets on a telescope that has been used in a variety of research projects during its 79 year lifetime. Note that the images taken are not the same as when you actually look through it.

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Mars through the Big Scope

 

 

 

 

 

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Saturn through the Big Scope

 

After looking at the telescope, I decided to call it a night. Before I left, I looked at another RASC member’s telescope. It was a refactor with 330x zoom. Looking at Saturn, it was so close compared to my telescope. I was astounded by the zoom of his telescope.

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It was a great night, but it’s not going to be the only Family Night that RASC will host. RASC will host another one on June 14, 2014. Hopefully, you will all be there.

Back in Action

I had telescope troubles earlier this year. As a result, I was out of commission for a large part of the year. Earlier, this week, my dad was able to resolve one of those troubles, and On Friday, May 16, 2014, I took the newly resolved telescope on a test run.

Once I brought everything out, I decided to align my telescope to Mars. My biggest worry in the repairs is that the tracking ability of my telescope would not work. After aligning it to Mars, I left it pointed at Mars for a while. When I returned to Mars, it hadn’t drifted from its position. This is a good sign that tracking is still working in the fixed scope.

After checking it a few times, it had drifted but not enough that tracking failed completely. I was happy with the results I was seeing. To see if tracking works away from the alignment object, I slewed my telescope to a random star. Leaving it for a while, the star did drift, but not far enough to conclude that tracking is not working. As far as I am concerned, tracking was working. I was really happy with the results I was seeing.

My next test took place in the opposite part of the sky. There was a dim star in the Western part of the sky, which I pointed my scope at. I looked at it for a while. I had to readjust my scope a couple of times, but it didn’t drift fast enough to conclude that tracking was failing. I was really impressed with the great job my dad did in resolving the issues in my telescope.

Lastly, aligned to Mars, I decided to point my scope at Saturn. There, it drifted a great distance, which concerned me. If it didn’t track with Saturn, then what is the problem? Has the gear burnt out? Has the software failed? Luckily, there was no problem. Saturn was able to stay inside the field of view of my telescope for a long time after readjusting it back to the center of my field of view. This confirmed the results that I had received, that my telescope troubles were over at last.

Happy with the results of my test run, I decided to pack up my telescope, and bring it inside. However, I wasn’t done. Before packing, I saw the rising of the moon through dense trees. This gave me the idea of watching the Moon rise. Therefore, after packing up and bringing all my equipment inside, I decided to head to a dark spot where the moon can be easily observed. Sadly, the moon had already risen, but it was no less beautiful. With my tripod and camera, I was able to compose a number of images of the scene with the moon in the background. It was very nice. A short while later, when it started to get too cold. I packed up and headed home. I was very happy with the results of that night, and with my telescope troubles officially over, I can continue to observe and image in the near future.