Stan’s Obligatory Blog


The Main Event

Filed under: — stan @ 8:03 pm

So, after two volcanoes, some sloths, thousands of tiny salmon, and dinner with Aunt Karen, it was finally time for the real reason for the whole trip. The total eclipse, and we had good front-row seats in the back yard of Kathleen’s brother Johnny’s house in Salem, Oregon.

We got stupendously lucky with the weather. It was a perfect, clear blue sky when we woke up. I set up my telescope with the camera on a little portable workbench on the back patio. With the clock drive going, the telescope tracked the sun as it rose.

I snapped a few pictures of the sun through the solar filter just to see what it looked like, and to get the camera settings right. I’d used the filter before for the transit of Venus, and also a partial eclipse in 2012. But since I’d never seen a total eclipse before, I knew that I’d be guessing about the settings when that time came.

First contact was about 9:00AM or so, and it looked just like every other partial eclipse I’ve seen over the years. We just watched as the Moon slowly marched across the face of the Sun. It wasn’t until it was probably 90% covered that we could really notice that the light was getting dim, and right at the end, it got cold, too. But then, when the actual moment of totality came, it was like a switch was flipped, and I suddenly realized just why people travel all over the world to chase eclipses. It was really quite spectacular.

I pulled the filter off the telescope, and took some photos. I’d set the camera for ISO 800, and started with a guess of about 1/60 second exposure. Then I increased the exposure on each shot, just to see what it would look like. Because I’d forgotten the remote shutter-release thingy at home, I had to set the camera on a 2-second timer. That way, for each picture, I’d press the button by hand, and then the telescope and camera had two seconds to stop wiggling before the shutter tripped. For a last-minute workaround, it worked reasonably well. And besides, the enforced wait between pictures gave me some time to just look up a the sky, slack-jawed at the sight of the solar corona.

As the Sun started to reappear, I snapped a couple more pictures, and by sheer luck, I got a reasonably good picture of the ‘Diamond ring’ effect right at the end of totality. All told, it was a good time, and was easily the thing that made the whole trip worthwhile.


Keep watching the skies

Filed under: — stan @ 10:51 pm

Tonight was a close conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter. I had heard about this, but didn’t really pay attention until I saw a picture of it posted by Dave Palmer, who does some nice photography. So I went outside to see if I could get a picture of it. I’ve tried to photograph things in the sky before, and it’s always an interesting exercise.

I put the 300mm zoom lens on the camera, and I mounted it on a tripod with a remote shutter release. I set it on manual mode and started playing with the settings. I had to go back inside to consult the manual to find out how to change the f-stop. Since I was having to focus manually, I thought that stopping down the lens might help to make the focus a bit sharper, since there was plenty of light to work with. I tried a lot of different exposures to see what gave the nicest balance of gray shading on the Moon. I ended up with f16, 1/15 second exposure on 200 iso, and it came out pretty well for just experimenting on on the driveway.


More adventures in duct-tape astrophotography

Filed under: — stan @ 10:40 pm

Today was the transit of Venus, and I was ready with my small telescope and solar filter. I was home most of the day because the big oak tree in my back yard was being trimmed. That took a good part of the day, and by the time they were done, it was just about time for the show. So I set the telescope up on the driveway and settled in.

My astrophotography rig, such as it is, consists of my Canon A570 camera attached to the eyepiece of the telescope with some packing tape. It’s pretty simple, but it works. The first photo shows the Sun just before the start of the transit. The second was taken when Venus was fully in front of the Sun, which was about 30 minutes in. The other photos were just taken at random times along the way. Sunset was just after the mid-point of the transit, so the last photo was taken just about the mid-point. And of course, while I was doing this, the neighbors were stopping by to look at it, and I even had some people who just happened to be passing by stop for a look.

All told, it made for a fun afternoon. And that’s a good thing, since it won’t happen again until the year 2117.


More comet

Filed under: — stan @ 6:26 am

I snapped a few more pictures of Comet Holmes last night. It’s a bit dimmer now. The first picture is a 10-second exposure on ISO 400. I finally figured out how to set the camera for long shutter times. Compare the second picture today with the second picture yesterday. Both are 1-second exposures on ISO 800. They look pretty similar, but for some reason, it looked a lot dimmer to the eye.

Just for the record, the telescope was a Celestron C-8 with a 32mm eyepiece, giving about 60x. The photos were all cropped and then scaled down by a factor of 1.9, so they are all showing the same size field. The camera is a Canon A560, and most importantly, it was attached to the telescope with Scotch® brand packing tape.


More duct-tape astrophotography

Filed under: — stan @ 10:19 pm

Today I heard about Comet Holmes, so I wanted to go out for a look. And it’s nice and bright. It should make for a good show on Wednesday when I do candy-and-telescopes for the neighborhood kids.

It was bright enough that I thought I’d try to photograph it. I’ve done duct-tape astrophotography before. So I got some packing tape and attached my new camera to the eyepiece. Then I set it on manual, no flash, 10-second timer and shot some pictures. The top one is with it set on ISO1600, which came out pretty grainy. The lower one is on ISO800, and it’s a bit cleaner, but doesn’t show the dust cloud around the comet as well. Still, it’s pretty remarkable as these things go. And it’s a bit more spectacular than the last time I tried to photograph a comet. Anyway, I think it’s not bad for a basic point-and-shoot camera taped to the eyepiece.


Venus and Mercury

Filed under: — stan @ 9:01 pm

Tonight I went outside and had a look at Venus and Mercury. They are very close together, and I figured that they would probably fit within one eyepiece field on my telescope. So I got out the telescope and set it up in the front yard. I was able to see both planets at the same time, so I thought I’d try some more duct tape astrophotography. I taped the camera directly to the eyepiece and set it on no-flash mode. Then I set it on a ten-second delay and just shot a few pictures to see what would happen. And here it is.

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