Friday, October 24, 2014

That time I got to see Neil deGrasse Tyson speak for free at UIndy

A free lecture by Neil deGrasse Tyson was announced to be held at the University of Indianapolis, and was open to the public! I went online the moment tickets became available and jumped all over it! I got 2 free tickets and planned to take my less than enthusiastic partner :)

neil degrasse tyson program

When we got to the campus at UIndy, we drove around the athletic fields and couldn't find where to go. Then we saw a sign with an arrow that said "campus event" and assumed it had to be the only big campus event that night. Big was an understatement, when we pulled up in front of the basketball arena, Nicoson Hall, we saw a line down the street. It was a general seating event, and tons of people showed up to get good seats. We were an hour and a half early and still had thousands of people in front of us. 

line for neil degrasse tyson

line for neil degrasse tyson

Residents in on-campus housing were poking their heads out of their residence halls in shock, some asked what the heck was going on. On a campus of 5000 students, the additional 4000 attendants was clearly shocking. Cell phone reception was lousy as the masses flooded the small community. 

neil degrasse tyson uindy

We got inside and were handed gorgeous programs for the lecture, it was so nice to read about the lecture series and I was really impressed that such a small campus was able to book Dr. Tyson. Apparently they had been working on this event for more than a year. The sunken octagon arena had permanent bleachers around the perimeter, and folding chairs down front. We were in the bleachers opposite the stage, and I felt sorry for the people trying to watch from the side or even behind the stage. 

neil degrasse tyson lecture university of indianapolis

The lecture was fun, but nothing really "new" that I hadn't already read about on or photographed myself. I think the real draw is the chance to see a science celebrity and to celebrate astronomy publicly. I came away with some new factoids, and it was fun to hear about events in the news from an expert with a charismatic and humorous delivery. This is starting to sound like a review, which it's not intended to be. I'll just say if you are already an astronomy buff and plan to see him speak in a lecture marketed to the average Joe, to expect fun commentary on very topical astronomy related news and not expect a science lecture. 

The event went over by 20 before we left, and we didn't even stay for the Q&A - it's really more than a lecture it's like a night with Neil Tyson. Lots of fun, fun people watching, and great to see enthusiasm for science right here in Indy! The UIndy campus was also AMAZING, I had no idea. There is this little canal park in the middle with bald cypress and river birch surrounding a big oval green space. I loved it!

My Slimmest Crescent Moon at 2% Illumination

This is my slimmest moon yet, at just 2.1% illuminated. I saw it while pulling out of my driveway on the way to work, and I put the car in park to run back inside and grab my camera. Photos are from the morning of October 22, 2014 at 7:22am. My previous slimmest moon was in February at 3% illuminated. I guess technically an eclipse is about the "newest" a moon can possibly be, but the slimmest crescent is still a fun achievement to track. 

very slim crescent moon
Single frame Canon T5i, ISO 100, 300mm, f/5.6, 1 sec
very slim crescent moon
Single frame with Canon T5i, ISO 100, 300mm, f/5.6, 1/10 sec

very slim crescent moon
Single frame with Canon T5i, ISO 100, 300mm, f/5.6, 1/3 sec

very slim crescent moon
Single frame with Canon T5i, ISO 100, 120mm, f/5.6, 1.3 sec

October 23 Partial Solar Eclipse from Indiana and AR12192

We had clear skies all day and then got clouded out right before sunset. I had my camera set up in my office with a west-facing window, and planned to snap some pics before a 7:00pm meeting. I got a few through the clouds, and a chance to spot the huge sunspot (active region) AR12192, which is now the biggest since November 1990.

October 23 Partial Solar Eclipse
Single frame with Canon T5i, 6:06pm, ISO 100, 300mm, f/7.1, 1 sec, exposure adjust in Lightroom

October 23 Partial Solar Eclipse
Single frame with Canon T5i, 5:58pm, ISO 200, 300mm, f/7.1, 1/20 sec

October 23 Partial Solar Eclipse
Single frame with Canon T5i, 6:06pm, ISO 100, 300mm, f/7.1, 1 sec

October 23 Partial Solar Eclipse
Single frame with Canon T5i, 5:58pm, ISO 1600, 300mm, f/7.1, 1/25 sec

October 23 Partial Solar Eclipse
Single frame with Canon T5i, 5:59pm, ISO 200, 300mm, f/7.1, 1/15 sec
sunspot AR12192 october 23
Single frame with Canon T5i, 5:08pm, ISO 100, 300mm, f/7.1, 1/25 sec

indiana sky october 23
Sky conditions during the solar eclipse... what the heck!

sun photo canon t5i
Shooting the sun from my office

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Huge Sunspot October 21, 2014

sunspot 300mm canon
Single frame with Canon T5i, 300mm, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/30 sec
I tried stacking my sunspots again and I was actually more pleased with the clarity of single frames rather than the stacking result. I did some developing in Lightroom, which included turning down the contrast (brings out the lighter area around the sunspot) and turning down the shadow (similar to decreasing contrast) and turning up the clarity (just a bit). Next I brought the brightness down a little bit and was pretty pleased.

This is a gigantic sunspot! I can't wait to see if it is still in view during the partial solar eclipse on Thursday. I'm bringing my camera with solar filter to work with me on Thursday, and I'm also hoping to get a shot with some foreground - which I'm learning uses much different settings compared to the shots through the filter. Check out my home made DSLR solar filter shoutout on Universe Today!

sunspot october 21
Single frame with Canon T5i, 300mm, ISO 100, f/7.1, 1/30 sec

Sunday, October 19, 2014

DSLR Solar Observing Test and Sunspots October 19, 2014

Using my home made solar filter attachment for my DSLR, I did my first solar observing test today. I couldn't have asked for anything more for a first try! How exciting! Not only do I have a ballpark set of numbers camera settings to use on the partial eclipse, but I was able to observe and identify sunspots for the first time ever!

canon T5i sun photo
Canon T5i, stack of 15 frames each at ISO 100, 300mm, f/7.1, 1/15 sec

sunspots DSLR 300mm
Same as above with sunspot active regions labeled. 2192 recently produced a large solar flare (link).
So this solar observing test also prompted me to learn a little more about sunspot naming or labeling. It turns out, "There is no naming or numbering system for sunspots. There is a system for numbering active regions, however. An active region can contain one or more spots. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) numbers active regions consecutively as they are observed on the Sun" (source).

During this test, the sky wasn't totally clear - but I was still able to observe sunspots. Can't wait to try it again when the sky is perfectly blue.

observing conditions
Sky conditions during my solar observing test
I looked up the sunspot active regions on the SOHO website and easily compared it to my photos. Here is a side by side version. I had to rotate my sun to match the orientation of the SDO image.

sunspots and active regions
Comparing my photo to the SDO image at the same time, you can clearly see the two large active regions, and faintly make out the two tiny ones in between. They are more apparent if I crank the contrast but it ruins the look of the image. 

I learned a lot about taking photos in the daytime. It was really difficult trying to focus on the sun, but I used the live view method of zooming in and manually adjusting while looking at the large LCD screen. The reflection on the screen was so bad, I had to cover myself and the back of the camera with a jacket in order to see it clearly. I felt like one of those old-timey photographers with the hood over the back of the camera.

taking photos of the sun
Whatever gets the job done!

Also, in case you were wondering what the photos look like straight out of the camera, here is an untouched shot prior to stacking and cropping. It still has a pleasing orange color because I'm using black polymer instead of Mylar. To compare, I think the telescopes had Mylar filters for the transit of Venus event that I photographed with my iPhone through the eyepiece.

sunspots DSLR at 300mm
Single frame straight from Canon T5i, ISO 100, 300mm, f/7.1, 1/15 sec

home made solar filter or DSLR
Here's another look at my home made solar filter, it looks pretty good in the daylight

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