Sunday, August 30, 2015

Quick Moongazing and iPhone Digiscoping

We had a nice clear view of a 95% waxing gibbous moon on Thursday evening (8/27/2015), and our friend Kenny said he wanted to check out my telescope. I usually jump all over those suggestions because I loving sharing this hobby! I told him to grab the binoculars first while I got my scope out of the office [side note: I think I'm going to start referring to our third bedroom office as my 'study' because it sounds super sophisticated and intellectual].

observing the moon

We looked through my Meade 285 refractor for a little bit with both my go-to Meade MA 25mm eyepiece, and my more powerful Orion 6mm Expanse eyepiece. I think Kenny was surprised with how quickly the moon appeared to move through the field of view, and I showed him how I had to adjust the scope to compensate since it doesn't have a motor drive. We saw craters along the terminator, and Kenny thought it would be so creepy if we saw lights flashing back at us.

moon with iphone through 6mm eyepiecegrimaldi crater iphone

iphone moon crater 6mm eyepieceiphone moon crater labels

backyard moongazing

white meade 285 telescope

white meade 285 telescope

I took a video of how hard it is to keep an iPhone centered over the eyepiece just right in order to look through the telescope. Yes, I do have an adapter that could have made my life easier, but I was trying to do it quick because we were being eaten alive by mosquitoes! I think I got 5 mosquito bites in the short time we were outside - thanks to our record-setting June rainfall.

A video posted by Eric Teske (@ericteske) on

Monday, August 24, 2015

September 27-28 Total Lunar Eclipse in Eastern Time

September 2015 total lunar eclipse visible in eastern time
Eastern Daylight Times for 2015 September 27-28 total lunar eclipse visible from North America. Moon images are from the October 8, 2014 lunar eclipse and are only visual approximations of what to expect. Times converted to EDT from NASA eclipse information PDF.

The total lunar eclipse of September 28, 2015 occurs the night of Sept 27-28 in North America. The entire continental United States will get a view of the total eclipse. Out west, the moon will be entering the Earth's umbra (darkest shadow) while the moon is rising. Everyone east of Missouri will get to see the entire eclipse process from start to finish. It's the LAST total lunar eclipse visible from Indiana until January 21, 2019!

lunar eclipse october 2014
My composite photo of the lunar eclipse from October 8, 2014 - the second in the tetrad of 4 total eclipses between 2014-2015. This photo is hanging on my living room wall!
The composite photo above is from the 2nd total lunar eclipse in the tetrad. A tetrad is literally a "group of four" and is often used to refer to the series of consecutive lunar eclipses in this relatively short period between 2014-2015.

The above photo shows essentially the first half of a full eclipse progression, as the moon enters the Earth's penumbra (lighter shadow) it begins to dim. This part isn't all that impressive to the casual observer but it does show up in photos.

Next, the moon enters the Earth's umbra (darker shadow) and this is when the moon looks like it is being eaten. This is the most dramatic part to watch for observers.

Finally, when the eclipse becomes total when the moon is entirely inside the Earth's umbra. To observers, the moon will look very dark and eerie - a cool and unique sight to see. It really only gets that rusty red color in photographs that have the ability to collect more light than your eyes can.

In October 2014, the moon set before it came all the way out of the Earth's shadow - but this time, on the night of September 27-28 it will be visible for the entire process from start to finish.

partial lunar eclipse april 2015
One of my photos from the 3rd lunar eclipse in the tetrad on April 4, 2015. In Indiana, this one set before going into total eclipse.
I'm really looking forward to this total lunar eclipse to start on September 27. Here are just a few of the reasons:
  • It lasts from 8:11pm to 1:22am so it's not too late at night!
  • The moon will be high in the sky during the total eclipse, which means clearer photos with less distortion from the atmosphere.
  • It's happening in September so we won't have to deal with mosquitoes or sub-zero temperatures.
  • It's the LAST total lunar eclipse of the 2014-2015 tetrad. 
  • It's the LAST total lunar eclipse visible from Indiana until January 21, 2019.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Back in Action with 8 Perseids Caught on Camera

My star gazing sabbatical is over, and I'm once again borrowing my mother-in-law's DSLR lenses. I actually had a co-worker ask me the other day why I stopped posting night sky photos! Chris' brother dropped the lenses off last week, just in time for the tail end of the Perseid meteor shower. I put my camera out in my (now fenced-in) back yard with a shutter lock taking 15 sec exposures until the battery died.

I got 550 shots and started sifting through them on Friday morning before work. I found a total of 8 confirmed Perseid meteors originating from the radiant, all with javelin shape, and no light trails in the frames before or after (eliminating other satellites and planes). I also saw 2 other anomalies that are either non-Perseid meteors, or some other kind of flare.

2015 perseid meteors
Canon T5i, Composite, 8 Perseid meteors and 2 others, 15 sec, ISO 800, f/4.0, 18mm

I made a rushed composite before work, planning to come home and fix it later. When I tried, I ran into a lot of problems. The light changed over the course of the night with a very thin haze, so layering the brightest pixels from my other images into one composite wasn't very straight forward. Trying to match the background color led to some very faint fuzzy halos around the meteor streaks where you can tell I cut them out. I'm not sure how to get rid of them without dimming the already faint meteors.

perseid meteors

At least I got one meteor that stands on its own, this bright one that starts out greenish. A nice catch!

2015 perseid meteor

2015 perseid meteor

As always, the bonus prize after a night of meteor watching is a nice batch for star trails (in addition to 5 bug bites). I took the time to remove airplanes in this one by simply painting over them with black. Since the black isn't counted when each light pixel is added, it doesn't need to be blended or clean at all. Removing the planes really turned this decent star trail into probably my best, longest north-facing trails. It makes me think of a time warp! I still need to add more foreground objects to compose my photos better, but it's good to be back!

star trails with perseid meteor
Canon T5i, 522 images stacked in StarStaX, planes removed in Photoshop before stacking with brush tool, each at ISO 800, f/4.0, 18mm, 15 sec, do dark frames, bright Perseid visible in bottom right