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.

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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.

 

Timelapse of the Moon

On October, 9, 2014, I decided to image the waning gibbous Moon. My main motivation was to capture the Moon at close to the full phase for a friend of mine, but I also took the opportunity to make a time lapse video of the Moon’s movement.

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Waning Gibbous Moon. Exposure at 1/160 seconds, f/5.6, ISO 100

I first imaged the Moon exposing it for 1/160 of a second, at f/5.6 and with an ISO of 100. After looking at it, I reduced the exposure time to 1/200 of a second, and stopped down the aperture to f/8, which gave me an image with better contrast between the mariae and mountainous areas.

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Waning Gibbous Moon. Exposure at 1/200 seconds, f/8, and ISO 100

After I got good shots of the Moon, I activated the camera’s intervalometer and left it to shoot the Moon. The video below is made up of 184 frames at 15 fps. Each frame was taken 15 seconds apart. It took the camera a while to get all the shots, therefore, I passed the time by raking the lawn. It was fun, and it was great exercise. Once I got all the frames I needed, I packed up and went back inside. The next day, I made the video using a program downloaded from Startrails.de. Here is the video:

I had a great and productive time that night. I got a lot of pictures of the Moon, and I have another timelapse video to share. I hope to have more productive nights like this in the future.

 

Keep looking up! You never know what you’ll find up there.

The Lunar Eclipse

On October 8, 2014, a lunar eclipse occurred in North America, and Oceania. This eclipse is the second of four consecutive total lunar eclipses occurring in 2014-2015.

I missed the first eclipse because that night in Toronto was overcast with a thick cloud. On that night, the forecast looked bleak with clouds clearing only around 6-7 am, when the eclipse was underway. Some forecasts say that it would remain cloudy for the whole night. Despite the high probability of cloud, I decided to go and observe anyway.

I arrived at the bus depot near the Markham Fairgrounds at 5:00 am. It was completely overcast, although there was a break in the clouds at that time. In that break, I believe I saw the beginning of the eclipse at that time, but I am uncertain about that. After I captured a few shots of the Moon, the clouds covered the night sky.

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Partial Phase of the Lunar Eclipse. 5:59 AM

After waiting a while for the clouds to clear, I elected to leave that area and come back in 30 minutes, once the clouds cleared up a bit more. However, on the road back home, I saw a significant break in the clouds and I drove back to the spot. When I arrived there, the clouds opened up slightly to reveal some of the stars. In the distance, I saw a sort of divide between the clouds and what I assumed was another set of clouds. As the clouds moved eastward, I noticed that the divide was an opening between the clouds and the sky.

Eventually, the clouds moved far enough that the eclipsing moon became visible. I soon began imaging it playing around with the settings, experimenting with what created a great image and what created a flawed image. It was an amazing experience to not only capture but to view a lunar eclipse.

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Partial Lunar Eclipse Phase. 6:26 AM

As the Moon descended towards the atmosphere, I decided to get a clearer view of the horizon. I grabbed the camera and headed into the Bus Depot. There, I got a clearer view of the horizon, and the eclipse as well.

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Lunar Eclipse 6:39 AM

The eclipse lasted for many hours until sunrise. As the Moon descended deeper into totality, the sun starts to rise, which obstructed the view of the Moon in totality. At around 7:05 pm, I couldn’t see the Moon anymore. At that time, I decided to go back home.

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Lunar Eclipse in Totality 6:52 AM

Looking at the photographs, I also realized that I may have imaged Uranus as well. I compared the image I took with Starry Nights planetarium software, and I couldn’t confirm whether I imaged a star or Uranus with the reddening Moon. I then compared my image with another person’s image, and I saw that there was a blue star near the moon in a similar position to the other person’s image. There were other stars, but they were not a sky blue. I suspect it is Uranus, but I cannot be sure.

EDIT: A friend of mine confirmed that the dot is indeed Uranus. 😀

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6:26 AM with Uranus circled.

Whoever saw the eclipse, in Toronto, were lucky that the clouds cleared up. I had a great time imaging the eclipse. I invite anyone who saw the eclipse to share their experience on the comments section below.

 

Keep Looking Up!

Early Morning Conjunction

On August 18, 2014, I learned that there would a conjunction of two very bright planets, Venus, and Jupiter. Luckily, it was a clear night, and I decided to stay awake until morning to observe that event.

Around 2 am, I looked around the viewing location, but I wasn’t able to find a good place to view the conjunction. Despite that, I decided to try and observe the event.

At 4:40 am, I began to take my telescopic equipment outside and I prepared my telescope to view the conjunction. I quickly aligned to the Moon, and got it ready to observe.

Looking at the Moon, I see it is a waning crescent, past the last quarter. After that, I noticed that the Pleiades were visible, and I aimed my telescope at it. It was great to see it again with and without my telescope. This deep sky object has an interesting mythology associated with them.

In the most famous myth, there were seven daughters of Atlas and the ocean nymph Pleione: Maia, Electra, Alcyone, Taygete, Asterope, Celaeno, and Merope. They were minding their own business, when Orion the hunter saw them and started chasing them. Luckily, Zeus intervened and turned the seven sisters into stars. Unfortunately, Zeus did the same for Orion, allowing Orion to chase the seven sisters until the end of time. That is why the Pleiades are also called the seven sisters.

After observing that deep sky object, I started to look for the spot where the conjunction will rise. Looking at at the horizon, and comparing it to the image on my phone, I realized that the conjunction will not be visible from where I was. I looked at another location, and I saw both planets rising above the horizon, through the trees. I quickly brought my telescope to that location and looked around for the planets. After a lot of fidgeting, trying to find it through the trees, I saw two dots in my telescope. I took a picture of it, but I wasn’t sure if it was the conjunction. Moving the telescope around, I was able to see both dots clear enough to reveal one of the dots moons. This confirmed that I was, in fact, seeing the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter.

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Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. The planet with the Moons is Jupiter.

It felt great to be able to see a unique event such as this meeting of two planets. I took many pictures of that event using my point and shoot camera. If anyone wants to see a conjunction as well, it’s not too late. There will be two more conjunctions, and both conjunctions will feature three celestial objects.

On August 23, 5:30 am, it will be the best time to see the conjunction of Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon. Here is an image of what it should like provided you have a clear view of the horizon. VJM conjunction Aug 23 2014

One week later, on August 31, at 9:20 pm, Saturn, Mars and the Moon will also meet up really close to each other. Here is an image of what it should like provided you have a clear view of the horizon. SMM Conjunction Aug 31, 2014

It is definitely worth viewing, especially if you can view the sun at the horizon. After I finished imaging the conjunction, I decided to pack up my scope and bring it inside. Once that was done, I decided to stay up and watch the sunrise.

With a foldable chair in hand, I went to a small cliff near my house, where there was a clearer view of the conjunction, and the night sky. It was beautiful. The factories beyond the cliff were covered in fog, and the rest of the cliff had a stream of fog surrounding it. It felt surreal. I spent an hour there watching the fog come and go, watching the planets hide behind a brightening sky, and watching the sun rise. It was worth staying up to see. After watching the sun rise, I went back home and soon after went to bed.photo 2

photo 4photo 5It was a wonderful night. I was able to see the late night Moon, a mythical set of stars, and the close encounter of two notable and bright planets. As a bonus, I saw the sun rise above the horizon, and bring an end to the night. I encourage anyone that wants to try and observe these night sky objects and events to do so. If you have any questions for me, please let me know in the contact form at: https://jolyastronomy.com/contact-me/

Good Luck and Happy Observing!

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!

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.