Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Another month setback in moon composite photo

I've been working on my moon phase collection since February, and because of hazy overcast conditions it looks like I'm forced to wait another month for the last piece of my puzzle: a 90% waning moon phase.

Final piece eludes me again, I guess I'll try again in 28 days

Waning 90% moon through clouds

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Over-processed Waxing 49 Percent Moon makes Rainbow Pointillism Halo

While trying to spot the Lunar X (I think I was a bit early, or late, not really sure), I made a hazy stack of the 49% moon. The stack didn't turn out like I'd planned, so I maxed out the wavelets in Registax and got a peculiar result that is kinda fun in its own way. The haze turned into a rainbow halo of dots around the moon. It kinda reminds me of something you'd see screen printed on a shirt in the 90's.

Lunar X Predictions for June-December 2013

I was trying to get a shot of the Lunar X last night, but I don't think it happened until after the moon was below the horizon. For future reference, EorEquis from r/Astrophotography provided me with the following predictions from his personal spreadsheet. I thought I'd share them here for posterity and so I know where to look next time I need them!

lunar x predictions

Now I just have to get used to thinking in UTC time, ugh, I'm so Eastern-Time-centric. 

Milky Way Over Slippery Elm Trail, Don't Take Mediocre Dark Skies for Granted

I got a job at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) so I'll be moving to the Indianapolis area in just a few weeks. Because of this, I decided to try my hand at some Milky Way shots to take advantage of my rather rural location here in Bowling Green. I'd hate to get to Indy only to realize I was sitting under halfway decent skies all these years and wasted them. 

I've been waiting for the bright part of the Milky Way to return to the late evening sky later this summer, but I decided not to wait any longer and had to go out at 3:30am to catch the Milky Way high enough above the horizon. By the time the Milky Way is high around 11pm, I'll already be in Indy!

I took the dog out at 3:00am on May 16 and saw a fairly clear sky with some storms about 10-20 miles to the South. I figured there's no time like the present, grabbed my camera, and headed to the Slippery Elm Trail. I know the trail is closed at dark, but I figured I'd risk it since I've never seen anyone patrolling the path.

milky way over ohio
Stack of 10 subs, 5 darks, each at 15 sec, f/4.5, ISO 1600, 18mm

milky way over ohio
Single frame at 15 sec, f/4.5, ISO 1600, 18mm, processed in Photoshop CS5

milky way image processing
The above image, before and after image processing

scorpius constellation label
A fun piece of summer sky! Single frame color corrected in Photoshop

milky way in summer triangle
Stack of 7 subs, 5 darks, each at 15 sec, f/4.5, ISO 1600, 18mm

I got some pretty good results even with just a few subs stacked in Deep Sky Stacker (DSS). I only took 29 shots (15 seconds each) during my entire session because it was so late, I forgot a head lamp, and because I heard a creepy noise in the bushes next to me. Here is the story I told to my friends on our e-mail chain about my experience:

Last night, at 3:30am, I woke up to take the dog out. The night sky was clear overhead, with some very low clouds to the south producing flashes of lightning but no audible thunder. I looked at several weather apps and decided to seize the moment to take some night sky photos. Since I'll be moving to Indy, I don't want to take for granted the fact that I currently live about 5 minutes drive from some decently dark skies.

I slowly drove through the trailer park behind Walmart and parked as far down as I could along the Slippery Elm Trail. I quietly removed my camera bag and tripod from the back seat and shuffled down the trail beyond the reach of trailer park street lights. Under the highway overpass, I heard my footsteps echo as my pace quickened. I reached a suitable area and looked up to see what looked like a pale swath of clouds arching from the south horizon through the Summer Triangle - it was the Milky Way!

After shooting a few dozen photos, and struggling to find focus with no moon as a point of reference, I heard an unexpected noise about 100 yards in the brush to the southeast of my location. It was a short loud "WOO!" almost identical to the high pitched "woo!" sample in the 1988 smash hit "It Takes Two" by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock (

It was loud enough to echo off the mound of the elevated highway overpass, but I didn't think much of it. It could have been a whistle or a wild turkey or a meth-head yelling "woo!" - so I continued shooting. 5 minutes later I heard it again much closer... "WOO!" At 4:00am in the middle of a field surrounded by young pine trees and honeysuckle, what could be making that noise? I froze to listen, and heard interval twigs snapping through tall grass under what could have been footsteps. I pictured an elk charging out of the brush, or a meth zombie eating my face and stealing my camera. Then I realized, it could also be the Ohio grassman sneaking up to see what I was doing out there in the darkness all alone. My eyes watered. I grabbed my camera bag without closing it and didn't wait to fold up my tripod before making an awkward speedwalk getaway toward my car. It was the kind of speedwalk you make after a 3 hour breakfast at Harris, except carrying an open camera bag and looking over your shoulder.

Did I have an encounter with the Ohio grassman? Ooooh probably not. But even though I had a camera on a tripod ready to go, I wasn't going to wait around to find out.

The end.

Waxing 14 Percent Moon Alongside Alhena (γ Geminorum)

The waxing crescent moon was in conjunction with another body on 5/13/2013, but not Jupiter. The third brightest star in Gemini, referred to as Alhena in the Star Walk app, was only a few degrees from the moon.

I took 53 frames of the moon, but only stacked about 30 of them. For some reason the crescent moon is particularly difficult to align in Registax, so it got pretty funky adding more than 30.

14% crescent moon
Stack of about 30 frames, each at 300mm, f/5.6, 1/80 sec, ISO 100
14% crescent moon
Single frame at 300mm, f/5.6, 1.6 sec, ISO 200

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Jupiter and the Crescent Moon over BGSU Rec Center Pond

Play in 1080p 

It's 41º F out right now in Bowling Green, OH. What gives!? I was freezing sitting out by the Rec Center pond for 45 minutes recording a time lapse of the sunset and crescent moon. Here are some photos of my evening...

iphone on tripod over pond
I set my iPhone up on a tripod to record a time lapse of the sunset and crescent moon

jupiter and moon conjunction
Typical Moon-Jupiter conjunction photo
140mm, 1/125 sec, f/5.0, ISO 400

jupiter and moon conjunction
The crescent moon and Jupiter a little closer to the horizon
39mm, 0.5 sec, f/5.0, ISO 100

jupiter and moon conjunction
I like how the water looks in this one!
18mm, 1.6 sec, f/4.5, ISO 100

jupiter and moon conjunction
A nice shot of the Moon-Jupiter conjunction over the pond
30mm, 1.6 sec, f/4.5, ISO 100

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Creating an iPhone time lapse movie of pine cones closing and opening

I put some pine cones in water to watch them close up. It took about 2 hours.

I had to put my tripod in the sink to get a low angle shot. I used the Glif tripod adapter.

I put the iPhone in airplane mode so it wouldn't vibrate.

I put the pine cones under a warm light to try to get them to open. They barely budged after 4 hours. I tried another 4.5 hour time lapse the next morning (about 12 hours after being out of the water).

It's a lot easier to get them to close. Getting them to open up again takes a long time.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Asteroid Vesta flying past Open Cluster M35

32 subs, 10 dark, 10 bias, each at ISO 1600, 1.3 sec, f/5.6, 300mm

Spotted Kosmos 1238 Ukrainian military satellite

Caught Kosmos 1238 out of the corner of my eye tonight, it's one of 25 Ukrainian military radar target satellites. It's a sphere about 2 meters across covered in solar panels. This one has been in orbit since 1981.

Cosmos 1238 Ukrainian military satellite
Caught at ISO 1600, 1.3 sec, f/5.6, 300mm crossing over Gemini

This satellite is a Taifun-1 type, which looks like a beach ball with 4 little antennae sticking out the back. It's crazy to think that this has been orbiting the Earth since before I was born, and it's visible from my apartment complex even though it's only 6 feet in diameter!

Taifun-1A, Credit: Yuzhnoye, from Encyclopedia Astronautica