Saturday, August 17, 2013

Nova Delphini and the Moon

A nova was discovered by Koichi Itagaki of Yamagata, Japan, on August 14. Because of clouds, I couldn't get it's picture until August 16. The above image shows the nova in the constellation Delphinus. Another constellation, Sagitta (the Arrow) appropriately points to the new star.

A nova is usually a White Dwarf that has a close orbiting companion star that is dumping hydrogen onto the surface of the White Dwarf. After many layers of hydrogen accumulate, the bottom layer explodes in a runaway hydrogen-fusion reaction.

I used my Canon 4ti at ISO 800 and my 70-200mm f/2.8 Canon lens set at 70mm. Twenty exposures, each 15 seconds long. Tracking was done with my new iOptron SkyTracker.

I couldn't help but to take an image of the gibbous moon sitting close by the nova. The same equipment was used, but the exposure was much shorter and I zoomed the lens up to 200mm. Exposure was 1/200 at f/8, ISO 200.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

What Satellite Is This?

The image above is of a very bright satellite (not a meteor). This is usually called a satellite flare, and most satellite flares this bright are Iridium Flares. They are named after the Iridium communication satellites that produce this events. Most Iridium flares last for 10 or 15 seconds. What is strange about this flare is that it lasted for about 1 1/2 minutes. I know this because the image you see is from a combination of 3 images, each 30 seconds long (taken from the Milky Way time lapse video). The other odd thing is that I cannot find which satellite did this. I used an App called "Satellite Safari", which seems to be pretty accurate, since I can find much fainter satellites on other images. If anyone can figure out what satellite did this, please let me know. Here are the facts about the image:

Camera is facing South
Date and time: July 6, 2012 between 4:45:05 and 4:46:41
Field of view is about 95 degrees wide by 73 degrees high
Traveling from right to left through the constellation Pisces

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Green Spiraling Meteor

Click on the image for a larger view

While looking at the thousands of images I shot for the Milky Way time lapse I came across one with a fairly bright green meteor. One thing very cool is that I can see that it has a waviness to it instead of the normal straight line.  Apparently the tiny pebble was oddly shaped causing it to spiral and vaporize as it hit the upper atmosphere at an extreme speed.

I have searched for other images of spiraling meteors but have not been able to find one. Apparently these are very rare. I found several sources of visual reports, but no photos. The earliest report was from a 1949 article in  Popular Astronomy Journal.

Surely this can't be the only image of a spiraling meteor!

The Milky Way Timelapse and How I Created It

The Video can be viewed at various resolutions. Once the video is running, choose them by clicking on the symbol that looks like the Sun at the lower right of the video. If you have a fast internet connection, it is best seen at 1080p and on a big monitor (Full Screen).

Here is a time lapse video from 3 nights in early July, 2013, of over 2000 images of the Milky Way. Shooting these was fairly straight forward. I set my Canon t4i with my 10-22mm f/3.5 lens on a tripod (the lens was set to 10mm at f/3.5). I used an intervalometer to shoot 30 second RAW exposures, all night long (about 7 hours each night), with a 2 second delay to allow the camera to file the image to the 32 Gig card. I also used an AC adapter so I wouldn't have to worry about a battery dying in the middle of the night and I used a dew heater around the lens to keep the dew off. The dew heater is a home made heater made from resistors and powered from a 12 volt power supply.

On the last night of shooting, I used a  new toy that had just arrived in the mail. Between the tripod and the camera, I placed an iOptron SkyTracker. Normally, the SkyTracker is polar aligned and will follow the sky as tracks from East to West allowing me to take longer exposures with no star trails. Instead of polar aligning, however, I pointed the polar axis straight up. This allowed the camera to follow the Milky Way in azimuth, that is, horizontally from left to right. I didn't know if this would work, but I was pleasantly surprised. It worked better than I thought it would.

Once I had the images, I improved their look by working on them in Canon's Digital Professional software. It allows me to make adjustments to one image, then the software makes the same adjustment to the rest automatically. I converted the RAW images from high resolution images to much smaller, and workable, JPG images. To make the time lapse video I used ProShow Producer. It is normally used to make slide show type videos, but I figured out how to make it produce a time lapse sequence. This was done by telling the software to run each frame for zero time with an interval of .1 seconds between each frame. ProShow allowed me to add music and text to the video. Finally, Proshow has a menu choice for YouTube videos. It makes the video then uploads it.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.