Monday, November 10, 2014

Heart Of America Star Party 2014

Another great Heart Of America Star Party has come and gone. Check out the website at This yearly star party has been a great success for the Astronomical Society of Kansas City ever since it started in 2007. This year I did something I've been wanting to do for a while. I created a time lapse video of the event. On Thursday the night was too cloudy to shoot, but we got some great nights on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Here is the video, which is best seen on a big monitor, full screen, speakers on and at the high resolution of 1080p (click on the little gear icon at the lower right of the video to change the resolution):

My good friend, and astrophotographer, John Reed, also shot a time lapse and I have included it into the video. John is a member of the Central Arkansas Astronomical Society and has some really nice images taken with fairly simple equipment.  You can see his work here: Photography In The Dark.

On Saturday night, the clearest night of all three, I ran into a humidity problem. Anyone who gets into this hobby runs into this right away, especially if they live in the Mid West. Practically every night, the dew gets everything soaking wet. To keep the moisture off the lens of my camera, I use a heating strap that I made from a few resistors, wrapped in velcro. The dew heater gets its power from a 12 volt, 28 amp battery, which also gives power to my camera and time lapse rail by Dynamic Perception. As you can see in the video for the night of Oct 25, humidity crept in and started fogging the images. Unknown to me, the dew heater around my lens was not working (broken wire). Even so, what would normally be a bunch of deleted pictures, I decided to keep them and create the video anyway. I was pleasantly surprised with the soft quality it gives to the show. I replaced the broken dew heater with another one for the the next night.

On Sunday night, most everyone had gone home, since the star party was officially over. I decided to stay since it was supposed to be clear. I set up my time lapse equipment next to Master Observer Scott Kranz with his scope in the foreground, hoping to get him in action. But Scott was no where to be seen and you can see his telescope covered up in the video. Never the less, a nice crescent moon was a treat during the very windy twilight hours. The Milky Way set in the West just before clouds came in and ruined the rest of the night.

Our hobby is somewhat like fishing. We set up our telescopes in hopes of a good catch of starlight on a clear night, but sometimes we catch nothing because of clouds.


  1. Another great timelapse, Tom. Did you use the 8mm for this? I just acquired a Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 for my APS-C sensor Canon, and am going to start taking some ultra-wide field shots. I really like the ultra-wide field perspective with foreground objects.

    1. Thanks Gene. The lens that I used was a Canon zoom 10-22 mm f/3.5 at 10 mm. The depth of field is enormous. Focusing to 6 feet will put everything between 3.5 feet and infinity in focus! Amazing. Check out this for depht of field for your lenses.

  2. Thanks for the link Tom. It looks like 11mm at f2.8 plugged into the equation means that I would focus on an object at 8 feet to make everything in focus all the way to infinity, right?. So I would focus on an object at 8 feet rather than trying to focus on the sky? This will be my first attempt at ultra-wide angle imaging, so any advice would be great.

  3. The type of camera size of sensor makes a difference on the exact measurements. For my Canon T4i the numbers for an 11 mm f/2.8 lens at the focus distance of 7.42 ft, the near limit is 3.71 ft and the far limit is infinity. So everything beyond 4 feet will be in focus. The greatest depth of field is when you focus at the hyperfocal distance, which in this case is 7.42 ft.