Moon and Venus at Sunset, August 13th, 2021

August 13th, 2021, 8:22 p.m. local time

Earlier this week, I intentionally rerouted my evening walk so I could get a better perspective on both the Moon and Venus.  This picture is framed by a school and trees which begin to mark the residential area.  You can see that even with a spattering of clouds, the second and third-brightest objects in the sky were clearly visible.

I did more post-processing on this picture than I normally do, as I wanted to ensure Venus was properly shown relative to the darkening sky and Moon’s brightness.  A best-guess approximation, you may call it.

Pictures taken with my iPhone and post-processed in PaintShop Pro.

Clear Skies (as in, no smoke) – August 2nd, 2021

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August 2nd, 2021, 7:40 p.m. local time

On the same day I took my recent Saturn and Jupiter images, approximately 18 hours afterward, I went for an evening stroll.  The Sun was just starting to clip the limits of the sky, and combined with the incoming clouds, made for impressive views.  These pictures also show how the sky overall was still extremely clear, specifically no smoke from the ongoing continental wildfires.  We’ve been lucky in my area that the smoke is staying West of us, for now.

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Pictures taken with my iPhone and briefly post-processed in PaintShop Pro.

Early Sunset, July 2020

Click for full-sized image.

July 5th, 2020, 7:33 p.m. local time

The picture may fool a bit, as this scene of a descending Sun overshadowed by incoming Western clouds gives no indication of how hot the day was, even within hour prior to Sunset.  The sunbeams and their highlights within the clouds are almost good enough for an oil painting.

Taken with my iPhone with minor edits in PaintShop Pro.

Sun in April, 2020

Click for full-sized image.

April 2nd, 2020, 12:50 p.m. local time

It has been a while since I looked at the Sun through a telescope.  This mildly-warm Spring day with few clouds seemed like the perfect opportunity to see what the fireball in the sky was up to.

This was a somewhat rush job, as technically I needed to get back to my job.  But all in all in turned out ok, I think.  I could see two extremely small sunspots together in the upper quadrant.  If you look at the full-sized image, you may be able to find them as a small black smudge.

Equipment Used:

  • 254mm Mak-Cass telescope
  • 23mm eyepiece
  • Orange eyepiece filter
  • Solar filter for telescope lens
  • iPhone XS
  • Smartphone telescope eyepiece adapter
  • Nightcap app on iPhone with settings:
    • f/1.8
    • 1/300 s exposure
    • ISO 24
    • 4 mm focal length

Merry Winter Solstice

Click for full-sized image.

December 21st, 2019, 02:50 p.m. local time

I always say, don’t point your camera at the Sun.  But I figured if you’re going to do it, might as well be done on the shortest daylight day of the year.

Solar Reflections

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October 1st, 2019, 06:55 a.m. local time

Welcome to October.  This morning showcased interesting cloud formations highlighted by reflections from the rising Sun.  Taken with NightCap on my iPhone, post-processed in PaintShop Pro.

Celestial Swampland

Picture of the constellations Gemini and Auriga, along with the planet Mercury. Trust me! Click for full-sized image.

July 31st, 2019, 07:01 a.m. local time

There is a saying, at least here in America, that if you believe a far-fetched notion/idea/something, then I have some prime swampland in Florida to sell you.

Today’s picture via my iPhone was taken with not a cloud in the sky, perfect for celestial viewing.  You can catch a glimpse of the Sun’s radiance behind the depot roof (I was waiting for the next train).  Framed in the center is the constellation Gemini with its two bright stars, Castor and Pollux.  Mercury is there as well, near the bottom.  Above Gemini you’ll find Auriga, which contains several impressive deep sky objects.  And it may be difficult to tell, but you can also see a bit of the constellation Taurus in the upper right and the top of Orion near the lower bottom.

And as an added bonus, the young Moon and Venus are present as well, though they hug close to the Sun right now.

For your benefit, I masked via a curves layer most of the Sun’s glare, which hopefully has allowed you to admire all these astronomical wonders.  Wait, still can’t see them?  Check again in six months and it should be fine.

Don’t Try This at Home

Click for full-sized image.

November 15th, 2018, 4:20 p.m. local time

Today’s picture is something I would normally not recommend doing, taking a picture directly of the Sun.  It has a chance to damage your camera’s optics.  But as I should be refreshing my smartphone very soon, I decided that the risk was justified if only this once.

Possibly the worst characteristic of our Sun is that it is so bright.  At a magnitude of 26+, it drowns out visibility of everything in the Cosmos, with exceptions of our Moon and sometimes Venus.  This is the unfortunate reason why stars and constellations are seasonal.  Orion would not be a “Winter” constellation if Rigel and Betelgeuse didn’t have to contend with the brightness of the nearest star to Earth.  I’d give up a lot to be able to observe Orion on a Summer afternoon in the middle of July, though I doubt much of the rest of our planet would concur.

Easy Target

In case you have not heard, the Moon passed in front of the Sun yesterday.  In the grand scheme of astrophotography, this was a sub par event.  The Sun is very near and big and bright, so it doesn’t pose much of a challenge to photograph.  The biggest hurdle for me yesterday was dealing with mostly cloudy skies.  This made positioning of my telescopes very hard, as the normal method for aligning to the Sun is by leveraging the telescope’s shadow.  Fortunately, I had a wide-field refractor nearby which made the task a bit simpler over the narrow view from my 127mm Mak-Cass.  Once the refractor was aligned, troublesome as that was through dense clouds, it gave me cues for aligning the imaging scope.

And no, I did not miss the eclipse by fiddling with my equipment.  As alluded to above, imaging the Sun is kind of boring, even with clouds, so it was not hard to do a few things at once.

Here are the image highlights, in order and taken from a ~88% max coverage location.  Click on each image to enlarge.

This was was taken in Pro mode of my camera. Rest were in Auto mode.