Thursday, August 30, 2012

Blue Moon (almost) over BGSU men's soccer game

I've been learning more about the Rebel XT, and trying my hand at some sports photography. The BGSU men's soccer team has been an excellent subject for my experiments with camera settings in changing light.

Night games start at 7pm when the sun is low and golden orange, creating long shadows of the bleachers across the field. It seems that each passing minute the light changes again and I have to check my results along the way. By 8pm the sun is below the trees and the stadium lights are on, providing just enough light for photos but with a much slower shutter (relatively slow, still up around 1/2000th of a second).

I'm resisting the urge to turn this blog into an "Eric experiments with cameras" blog, and trying to remain loyal to my initial topic.

With that in mind, here are some shots of the moon rising over Doyt Perry Stadium as seen from Cochrane Soccer Stadium on Wednesday, August 29.

blue moon over bgsu men soccer game bowling green

blue moon over bgsu men soccer game bowling green
Blue Moon 97% full on 8-29-2012, 300mm, 100% crop, tweaked in PS
The second full moon in any calendar month is known as a Blue Moon. The moon on Wednesday was only 97% full, and won't reach its peak until Friday, August 31. Actually, I just read that the whole naming tradition was founded on a mistake in the first place... oh well. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Exact settings for star circles on Canon Powershot A3100 IS

I've seen some hits coming through my site as a result of Google searches with questions about the exact settings to use for star circles with a point and shoot camera. While most sites will give information on ISO and shutter speed, I though I would try to make it even easier for people to take their own star circle photos on their very first try.

Nothing can replace reading your camera manual, and a healthy amount of trial and error. However, if you have a point and shoot camera like mine, these setting guidelines should allow you to step outside and immediately start taking star circle photos!

Here are the major steps in order:

star trail camera settings

  1. Set the camera to SCN mode
  2. Make sure flash is off
  3. Set length of exposure (in this case 15 seconds)
  4. Set focus to infinity
  5. Set functions to ISO 400 or 800, and Continuous shooting
  6. Tape down the shutter button when you area ready to begin 
  7. Open StarStaX software and open files
  8. Select files and click the stack icon
  9. Be sure to un-check the first photo that you probably ruined by messing with the tape, click save and you're done!
Ok, so footnotes... the resulting camera home screen should look like this:

canon powershot star trail settings

Obviously you're going to need to download StarStaX to stack the images. There are a lot of other software options out there, but this one is very simple and also free.

TimeLapse: BGSU Late Night @ the Rec

3.5 hours sped up 50x shows a mob of students gathering on the dance floor at BGSU's Opening Weekend event Late Night @ the Rec on August 17, 2012. Filmed on iPhone using Time Lapse app ().

Monday, August 6, 2012

Stargazing at Slippery Elm Trail in Bowling Green

I took some advice from other bloggers and scouted a location during the day that I would return to later that night. Bowling Green, Ohio is surrounded by corn and soybean fields. These large flat areas away from city lights would be ideal, but all are private property with plenty of No Trespassing signs posted.

Another option would be to pull over on the side of a country road and set up my tripod there. This way I wouldn't be trespassing, but I would be running the risk of car headlights ruining shots, or getting hit by a car doing 90 mph in the middle of nowhere.

bowling green slippery elm trail
Mile marker along the Slippery Elm Trail
The best solution appears to be the Slippery Elm Trail. The paved bike path is a renovated railroad route that cuts through fields and under highways. It seems to be the best way to get into the middle of nowhere without trespassing - the only drawback is that the park officially closes an hour after sunset.
bowling green slippery elm trail

The location delivered, and I ended up getting some decent photos with both the Canon Rebel XT that I'm borrowing, and my own Canon Powershot A3100IS. My best Powershot images are below.

star trails over bowling green

canon powershot iso 1600
15sec at ISO 1600, possible Milky Way light or just clouds
The sky was much darker than it appears in the image. I think the low haze catches the light to make it appear brighter than it really is. I think on a night without haze this will be a pretty stellar location!

My first image of Sidus Ludoviciana alongside Mizar and Alcor

The famous double-star in the handle of the Big Dipper asterism, Mizar and Alcor, is one of my favorite targets in the sky because it lets me test my focus and the limits of my equipment.

Sidus Ludoviciana alongside Mizar and Alcor
2sec exposure at 300mm zoom with Canon Rebel XT
Previously, I was able to image the double star as a blurry streak, followed by my best point-and-shoot image that shows distinct round objects. Sidus Ludoviciana is only a magnitude 8 star which is pretty exciting to see for the first time!

"GALE CRATER I AM IN YOU!!!" and other highlights from the successful Curiosity rover landing

This is what my desktop looked like during the Mars Science Laboratory 'Curiosity' rover landing. I had NASA live on Ustream, a live simulated visualization from NASA's Eyes on the Solar System, a live G+ hangout hosted by, and of course Twitter.

"Pale blue dot" image looking over MSL's shoulder
The Eyes on the Solar System simulation was amazing, and I was impressed that everything in the visualization was to scale - the relative speeds, sizes, and distances between objects were all accurate. This visualization really reminded me that the solar system is mostly empty space, and that objects that we consider pretty significant (like entire planets) are just little specks orbiting a larger speck.

"NASA mohawk guy" was also an interesting addition to the live coverage. Not only is Bobak Ferdowsi young, edgy, and super smart - he's also mildly famous after becoming an internet sensation during the live feed. 

In the end, the successful landing was obviously the highlight of the night. The first image back was a 64x64 pixel thumbnail from a rear ground camera - something that could be transmitted quickly and could prove that the rover was working and on solid ground. The next images were larger but still low res until the 'real' cameras can be fired up. 

One of my favorite parts of the night (I loled) was the very first tweet sent out by @MarsCuriosity after landing. It was retweeted nearly 50,000 times in under an hour! Not exactly 'one small step' but equally memorable and also hilarious:


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mars, Saturn, and Spica form a triangle hours before Curiosity landing

mars saturn spica triangle

Tonight, just after sunset, Mars was visible in the west forming a triangle with Saturn and Spica. This picture came out blurry, which actually makes it easier to see the color difference between the objects.

Mars is reddish, Saturn is yellow, and Spica is blue.

Mars 300mm zoom
Saturn 300mm zoom
These are my first close-up shots of planets with the 300mm zoom lens. I think they came out a little blurry, meh. No, those aren't moons circling the planets, those are other stars in the background.

And right now, screaming toward Mars at thousands of miles per hour, the Mars Science Laboratory mission with the Curiosity rover is on approach. I'll be tuning in tonight at 11:30pm for live coverage on Ustream up until the landing at 1:31am ET. Unfortunately, I've heard that 2:30am ET is the earliest anyone will expect to hear news from Curiosity on the ground.

camera at twilight after sunset

mars saturn spica triangle

Friday, August 3, 2012

Proud spectator of science

I was just made aware that the article "Putting together a plasma membrane NADH oxidase: A tale of three laboratories," from The International Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, was just released online.

editing and revising a scientific manuscript

I'm pleased because I helped proofread the paper, provided technical assistance in getting it submitted, and created the figure for publication based on drawings by my grandpa, Dr. Frederick L. Crane.

hand drawn biochemistry figure

In return, I scored myself a mention in the acknowledgements of a scientific paper! I feel like a contributor to science, even though I only understand about 10% of the content.

Cardio sunset via iPhone

The pond behind the Student Rec Center is my favorite place to snap pics while doing some evening cardio. There is a 1/3 mile running trail all the way around the pond, it's a delight!

There has been no shortage of beautiful Ohio sunsets this summer. Here is a before-and-after sequence as I ran the photo through a filter on Instagram.

iphone sunset picture reflection in pond

iphone sunset picture reflection in pond

ISS returns to evening sky in Ohio

iss flyover pass time visible in Ohio
Evening ISS predictions for NW Ohio
In Ohio, the International Space Station hasn't been visible in the evening since June 28, 2012. From my location, the ISS went into hiding from June 28 until July 19 - after which it was only visible after 2:00am (Source: Heavens Above)

August 5 at 10:46pm the ISS will soar into the evening sky over Ohio, with its first visible pass before midnight in over a month! Between Sunday, August 5 - Friday, August 10 the Midwest will be treated to several spectacular passes, with some approaching the visual magnitude of Venus.

Check your local listings (haha) for the exact time, altitude, and azimuth of the pass. Here are the numbers for Bowling Green, Ohio.
Sunday, Aug. 5: -1.1 mag, 16° alt, 22:46 ET 
Monday, Aug. 6: -2.7 mag, 34° alt, 21:53 ET
Monday, Aug. 6: -1.3 mag, 27° alt, 23:30 ET 
Tuesday, Aug. 7: -2.6 mag, 53° alt, 22:36 ET 
Wednesday, Aug. 8: -3.4 mag, 82° alt, 21:43 ET 
Thursday, Aug. 9: -1.1 mag, 28° alt, 22:27 ET 
Friday, Aug. 10: -2.2 mag, 45° alt, 21:33 ET