Leo with Planets, Orion and ISS

   The three morning planets this morning at 6 am CDT. Compare the separation between Mars and Regulus this morning with my pictures from 2 days ago and you can get an idea of how much Mars moves daily as it orbits the Sun.
   Camera settings were 18mm; ISO 1600; f5.0; 6 seconds.

   This morning was also special as the International Space Station was going to pass over my part of the world at about the same time. The path the ISS followed took it from the west-northwest to the southeast and it reached a brightness that outshone one of the brighter stars of Orion, Rigel, and also the brightest night time star, Sirius.
   Camera settings were 18mm; ISO 1600; f5.0; 4 seconds. This is a stacked picture using 3 separate pictures.

   
   
   
   

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

One Perseid Down – Many to Go?

   Between 2 and 3 am CDT I took approximately 300 pictures of the sky around the constellation Perseus. During that time I set the camera on Burst mode with the shutter set to a 10 second exposure time at f4.0; ISO 1600, 18mm focal length, and captured what it was like watching the sky for about 25 minutes in a sequence of 152 pictures.
click on animated graphic to see it full size (1040x693)   These were then put into a short animated Gif so I could share the excitement of watching clouds drift across the sky! My viewing luck usually includes clouds as you can see. Toward the end a bright Perseid Meteor streaks above the treetops and at the very end of the sequence the stars start to fade out as dew collects on the camera lens.

  Using the Freeware StarTrails software I stacked the 152 pictures so they would show the effect of Earth rotation. The North Celestial Pole is toward the left side so the star trails are a bit more circular in shape then those toward the right side of the picture.

Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Leo and a Comet

Click on picture to see it full size.

Click on picture to see it full size.

   I read on the Space Weather website last night that Comet ISON was now bright enough to be seen with binoculars, but presumably still in dark skies. So around 5 am CST this morning I went outside to see if I could capture a picture of the comet. I took a series of pictures with various ISO settings (800-3200) and exposure times (6 seconds to 13 seconds). The comet was not visible in any the pictures but I did manage to catch an airplane as it flew across Leo from the tail to the head of the lion.
   How did I get that gap between the plane lights? I actually caught the plane in two consecutive pictures and then used the Freeware program, Deep Sky Stacker to register and stack these two pictures along with 8 other pictures taken at about the same time into one picture. The two ‘airplane lights’ pictures were taken with the same settings (F3.5, ISO 1600) except for the exposure times which were 13 and 15 seconds respectively.

Click on picture to see it full size.

Click on picture to see it full size.

   I did have some excitement in thinking I had a picture of the comet just above some trees. I had changed the aim of the camera upwards a little more to better get pictures of the area around Mars and Denebola. This picture is one of a series with varying ISO and shutter speed settings. The banner picture at the top of the page is the original, while this one I ‘Photoshopped’ to brighten. This picture is cropped from the original that was taken at 5:56 am CST with the camera settings of: F3.5; 10 seconds; ISO 400.

   
   
Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

Morning Sky Views

Click on picture to see it full size.

Click on picture to see it full size.

   Didn’t work today so while waiting for the phone to ring, just in case a sub position opened up, I started making arrangements to do some more photo experimentation of various constellations and planets, and then ending with an Iridium Satellite Flare just before 7 am CDT. For the flare I knew where to look, just slightly northeast and at an altitude of 57 degrees. This would put the flare above and to the right of the North Star Polaris as I face north looking over the roof of my house. This picture used a 3-second shutter speed with the 18mm lens set to F5.7 and the ISO at 1600.
   So I aimed my camera and took a few test shots hoping to be able to frame the stars of the Big Dipper and Little Dipper – which I was able to do as the picture above shows. However by the time the Iridium Satellite did its thing the sky was too bright for the ‘dipper’ stars to be visible as the (banner picture) shows. This picture used a 1-second shutter speed with the 18mm lens set to F8, and the ISO 200.

The Pleiades

The Pleiades

   Before my encounter with the Iridium 3 Satellite I spent about an hour taking pictures of Mars and the backward question mark shape of Leo; Jupiter and the Gemini Twins stars; Orion, and the Orion Nebula. These pictures were taken with a 55mm lens set to various exposure times and ISO settings. I was curious about how long of an exposure or shutter speed I could use without getting ‘star trails’, or a streak of light from each star as the Earth rotates. The picture of the Pleiades used a 55mm lens set for an 8-second shutter speed and there are noticeable ‘star trails’. This more or less confirmed what I had suspected and that a 6-second shutter speed was probably ideal – at least for my camera. So, while I was changing the shutter speed I also played around with the ISO setting and the aperture setting. Each of these had an effect that bears looking into further. Somewhere I’ll find the right mix of ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. But then the sky transparency is never the same so that right mix setting may be an elusive thing.

Orion

Orion: 43mm; 4-Sec.; F5.6; ISO 1600

   
Mars and Leo

Mars and Leo: 55mm; 6-Sec.; F5.6; ISO 3200

Jupiter

Jupiter and Twins: 55mm; 6-Sec.; F5.6; ISO 1600

   Click here to read about and see additional pictures of the ISS and Iridium flares.

               Click on each of these thumbnails to see it full size.

   
   
   Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.