Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Crescent Moon and Venus as Celestial Chimney Sweeps

Chris and I saw the setting crescent moon with Venus as we came out of the Target parking lot on Sunday night. I figured by the time I got home the twilight would be gone completely and I'd just get another typical moon with Venus conjunction photo.

I waited a while longer until the pair was closer to the horizon, and I got rewarded with this scene! The waxing crescent moon with Venus on opposite sides of my neighbor's chimney. It was very whimsical. Whimsy is a word I'm learning to detest because in gardening it means throwing crap like ceramic frogs wearing overalls in your garden - but in skywatching, it means feeling transported to a sci-fi fantasy land where celestial chimney sweeps are commonplace.

venus moon with chimney over roof
Single frame, Canon T5i, f/7.1, 1.6 sec, ISO 1600, 125mm
venus moon roof chimney
Single frame, Canon T5i, f/7.1, 2 sec, ISO 1600, 160mm
venus moon above roof
Single frame, Canon T5i, f/7.1, 2 sec, ISO 1600, 75mm
What a happy accident! The above photo turned out to be one of my favorite from the year, and I didn't even plan on photographing the conjunction ahead of time. These suburban rooflines are becoming very handy foreground objects for moon photo.

moon venus and chimney
Single frame, Canon T5i, f/7.1, 1.3 sec, ISO 1600, 300mm

Friday, March 20, 2015

Waning Crescent Moon with Instagram Perpetua Filter

I spotted the waning crescent moon out my kitchen window (have I mentioned how thankful I am that my neighbor's house doesn't completely obscure my view of the eastern sky?) and took my camera outside for a quick shot before work.

crescent moon rise in spring
Single frame, Canon T5i, f/6.3, 1.6 sec, ISO 100, 55mm

I used the new Perpetua filter on Instagram, which made the sky look like it went from aqua to gold. Not that the rising crescent moon with earthshine needed any help to look gorgeous, but it is fun to play around with the colors from time to time.

crescent moon perpetua filter

It also goes to show you that you can never believe what you see online these days because it's insanely easy to manipulate images.

No Northern Lights, But Free Star Trails

On Tuesday, my friend Ryan texted me and asked if I was going to go out and look for the aurora to the north. It was all over the news, and I think one commenter said we might get northern lights visible as far south as Tennessee. Keyword 'might'. I went out to check, and enjoyed some nice clear skies, but didn't see any lights.

I set up my camera to take some longer exposure shots to see if I got anything. I saw some bands of clouds. I've never seen the northern lights before, so I don't even know what to look for exactly (except what I've seen in other photos). I put them on my computer, and when I scroll through them quickly it makes a sort of timelapse video of the clouds, and I noticed they were definitely blowing away in the wind rather than hovering and dancing in one spot like the aurora lights do.

wispy clouds at night
Single frame, Canon T5i, f/5.6, 15 sec, ISO 1600, 18mm
As always, the consolation prize (or constellation prize) is a stack of star trails. Here is the resulting 155 image stack using StarStaX.

star trails canon t5i

And then here is the same photo with some HDR and contrast using the Snapseed app for iPhone.

star trails with snapseed iphone app

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Observing in Slightly Warmer Weather

This Saturday, March 7, I set up the telescope and camera for some slightly warmer weather observing, and to show Chris' uncle, mom, and nephew some views of the moon and Jupiter. The moon was low on the horizon, so the detail wasn't all that impressive, and the moons of Jupiter were obviously just little dots. But still!

We were talking about looking through the telescope on the way home from dinner, and I was keeping an eye on the moonrise time. I knew it would be rising any minute, but Chris' uncle told me he saw it peaking up over the horizon on his drive in. He said at first he thought it was a water tower or something before realizing it was a big orange moon.

I looked outside and sure enough it was just rising behind the houses down the row. I ran to get my camera and tried to set up as fast as I could. I was still on Av mode (aperture priority) and not full manual, but I snapped a few anyway and adjusted as I went. The accidental long exposures actually turned out kinda cool with the over exposed moon looking like a rising sun.

moon that looks like sunrise
Moonrise, single frame, Canon T5i, f/10, ISO 800, 10 sec, 300mm
In the above picture, normally at 300mm for 10 sec you'd see a huge trail but since the moon was still behind the house I guess it still looks pretty round if not a little football shaped I guess.

orange moon rising over house
Single frame, Canon T5i, f/6.3, 1/30 sec, ISO 100, 300mm
orange moon 1/15 sec
Single frame, Canon T5i, f/6.3, 1/15 sec, ISO 100, 300mm
moon iso 100
A little later with the moon higher in the sky, single frame, Canon T5i, f/6.3, 1/250 sec, ISO 100, 300mm
jupiter 150x
Jupiter single frame with iPhone 6 through 6mm eyepiece and Meade 285 refractor (150x), f/2.2, 1/15 sec, ISO 32, 4mm

Visually, I could see 2 orange bands on Jupiter through the 6mm eyepiece, but in the photo I just got a fuzzy ball. This was my first time using the Carson Universal adapter on my telescope. It was easier than trying to hold it in place, and easier than using a medicine bottle, but it wasn't a walk in the park completely. The iPhone 6 is large, and while it definitely held it onto the eyepiece, attaching it bumped my telescope (more my telescope's fault than the adapter). I need to tighten up the mount or get a tracking mount or something. Jupiter is very high in the sky lately, so I hope to try again with some appropriately exposed video to see what I can get.

telescope and camera on porch
I can see the porch again!