Daylight Moon with Venus

May 22nd, 2017, 9:20 p.m. local time

Normally I complain about my blocked view of the East sky, due to all my trees and neighbors’ houses in the way.  But sometimes the setup has its benefits.  Today this barrier sufficiently shielded the Sun so that I could find the late stage Waning Moon.

And I thought I was only shooting the Moon, but after reviewing the wider images I noticed that Venus was also picked up!  It may be hard to see, but look above and to the right of the Moon.  The planet was not visible to the eye alone, but was still available with the right camera exposure.

Here is a different, closer view, focused on the Moon:

This last picture, a wide view, approximates what this Moon phase actually looks like when the Sun is out:

Looking ahead, the weather forecast is miserable through the Memorial Day weekend.  Rain and clouds.  This morning it is very bright with no clouds, but as always seems the case, thunderstorms are predicted an hour after sunset.

Jupiter and Two Moons

Io (left), Europa (middle), Jupiter (right). Taken on May 7th, 2017.

May 7th, 2017, 10:25 p.m. local time

Apparently it is possible to get Jupiter and its moons into the same picture.  You just have to increase the ISO setting.  For the above picture of Io, Europa, and Jupiter, I cranked up my digital camera’s ISO to 1600.  Normally I have it at 400 or 800 for Jupiter.  It leaves Jupiter slightly overexposed, but I think it is a good trade-off given the objective.

In case you are wondering, Callisto and Ganymede were much further out from Jupiter at this time, one on either side.  I have a special treat for later on to show this from another perspective.

Moon Closeup on May 7th

Click to enlarge.

May 7th, 2017, 9:50 p.m. local time

This night produced a bunch of astrophotography goodies: a near Full Moon, Jupiter, Jupiter’s moon, some separate, some together, and at different detail levels.  I will be sorting through all my source images throughout the week.  To start, here is a closeup of the Moon through my 10″ Dobsonian taken with my smartphone, post-processed to bring out additional sharpness and contrast.

I am not sure if it was just the atmosphere or the special brightness of this month (must be that Full Flower Moon) but I was surprised and a little alarmed at how the sky was brightened.  There seemed to be a higher-than-usual glare from this Moon that washed out most stars.  It felt like I was living in the city again.

Where Have All the Sunspots Gone?

May 7th, 2017, 11:40 a.m. local time

On this pleasant, bright blue morning, I took my 127mm telescope’s solar filter out of hibernation to get some views of the Sun.  If you have been following news reporting over the last couple years, you know that the Sun’s activity has been very low.  There are hardly any sunspots.  My observations and photos prove out this current state.

I scanned the Sun for a good 10 minutes with my eye and found two sunspots.  Just two!  And barely visible both.  The larger one is near the 10 o’clock position and the second is very tiny around the center’s top.  Here is the same above image with those sunspots circled:

Realizing this compressed image makes it difficult to see the middle sunspot, here is a closeup you can click on for a better look at the areas in question:

Click to enlarge.

If you can see any more sunspots, then I applaud your observation skills.

Great Red Spot Makes a Cameo

May 6th, 2017, 9:30 p.m. local time

Using my 10″ Dobsonian with DSLR camera and x5 Barlow, I clearly saw Jupiter’s Great Red Spot on the camera’s view screen.  The end image seems pretty good.  This was a “quick” session with only ~23 seconds of video.  With a manual Dobsonian and x5 Barlow, the image moves through the field of view very fast.

I am learning techniques to compensate for these quick windows.  First, I need to align the camera’s orientation such that Jupiter moves through the field view at a plane horizontal to the camera.  Not easy to do when you only have seconds to finagle the camera before the planet moves too far out of sight.  My second learning experience is how to quickly stop the video, slide the telescope just a enough, and continue shooting with a refreshed view (PIPP easily joins multiple videos).

The real challenge with Jupiter is caused by its fast rotation.  A continuous video cannot go past 90-120 seconds before you have to too much motion blur.  Having to stop, adjust, and restart the video manually means I am lucky to get 60 seconds.  I read about astrophotographers taking five or more minutes of video, but I think they chop off the sphere’s edges to some degree.

Late Afternoon Moon

May 5th, 2017, 5:00 p.m. local time

We usually never see a late afternoon Moon.  Likely, we are ending our work days then and more concerned with getting home or elsewhere.  And even when we may be inclined to look up, it will either be too cloudy or too bright from the Sun’s glare to scan the sky.

I noticed the Waxing Gibbous Moon on this unusually clear and blue day.  The angle of the Moon is one we rarely see, with the terminator line pointing down to the East.

This picture was taken with my Canon EOS Rebel SL1, 300mm, 1/1600 exposure, f/14.

Jupiter in Prime Focus, Testing My New x5 Barlow

Click to enlarge.

April 17th, 2017, 12:15 a.m. local time

After my first attempt at Jupiter in prime focus, I decided to splurge and get a Tele Vue Powermate x5.  Finally on Easter Sunday evening with a nice break in the neverending clouds, I took my 127mm Mak-Cass outside, set up the camera, and went to work.

I should note before proceeding that my first 2017 Jupiter was done with my homemade 10″ Dobsonian and a standard x2 Barlow lens.  The above picture was with my 5″ Orion StarSeeker IV and the new Tele Vue Powermate x5.  In both sessions I used my Baader Neodymium filter and Canon EOS Rebel SL1.  So today’s picture was done with a lot less aperture but a much better Barlow lens, both in magnification and grade.  I used the smaller scope tonight only because it was a bit quicker to set up and has GoTo tracking, though the tracking did not help much.

I still have about a dozen videos to process, but this is my first post-processed image from stacked video (x1.5 Drizzle).  I am pleased with this first result, and a bit surprised the small 127mm scope worked so well.  It was an added bonus to have the Great Red Spot framed nicely.

In hindsight, as I am still learning to use both my DSLR camera for telescope astrophotography as well as this new magnifying lens, there is much room for improvement.  I hope the skies are clear again tonight to give it around go!

If any of my other Jupiters from tonight turn out good, I will post them later.

Nearly Full Moon, Waning – April 2017

ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/640 exposure, 55mm. Very minor post-processing in Adobe Photoshop Elements.

April 11th, 2017, 11:40 p.m. local time

It was bright, as expected.

Moon, Jupiter, and Spica – April 2017

ISO 1600, f/4, 4s exposure, 55mm

April 11th, 2017, 11:30 p.m. local time

Tonight’s session was mostly about me fighting with my tripod and my manual lens focusing.  I think this came out Ok, though.