Sunday, May 15, 2016

Multiple Images of the Mercury Transit

Perry Arts submitted an image he did on May 9th over a span of almost four hours, from 8:30am to 12:15pm. Before his imaging run the sun was too low and obstructed and after he finished it became too cloudy.
His multiple shots were taken 15 minutes apart from Branchburg, NJ, USA
Perry's equipment included his Celestron C1100 Edge on a Paramount MX+ using an AstroZap white light solar filter. He imaged with a Fuji Finepix S5 Pro and processed with Fuji Utility Studio and Photoshop CS5.
Great idea Perry ~ thanks

Friday, May 13, 2016

Sierra Nevada's night sky

Over the last couple years I was able to visit Sierra Nevada's mountains in California. Even if one is not remotely interested in the night sky and the insane amounts of days of excellent seeing conditions, I would still not hesitate and recommend it to anyone. The granite peaks, the fresh air, the crystal clear lakes, the remoteness of wilderness is very much worth of a visit. However, if one is coming from east coast where dark skies is such a rarity, the Sierra Nevada night sky becomes an exotic that I wish anyone could experience and see for themselves.

Next two images were taken at Sequoia National Park at more than 7,000 ft of altitude. One of the first things you notice is that stars don't flicker much. At high altitude, so much of dense air is beneath you and stars appear brighter and steadier. It was so dark and so steady that it did seem that you are on a rock in space and you are in this galaxy that you see all around you from horizon to horizon.

In this image I was 20 min away from Yosemite National Park, at the Mono Lake. During that trip, it was (shocking!) raining during most of the week and I only had few hours to take pics of Milky Way from dark location. I got up at 2am in Lee Vining and went to the location I visited a day before, which is Tufa formations at Mono Lake. It was me, coupe other photographers from LA area and a couple of screaming coyotes.

If one loves nature and night skies, you can't go wrong if you visit Sierra Nevada range. There is nothing like that available on the east coast. 

Some of the equipment I used: Canon 6D. Rokinon 24 mm 1.4 lens. Shot at high ISO, around 5000. I stopped down lens at F2.0. Regular tripod (make sure it is very steady, use weights if necessary).


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Tim Schott was recently in Hawaii

Here are the shots Tim got while under the Hawaiian clear dark sky at an altitude of only 120 feet above sea level...
Equipment used: 
Nikon D7000
Tamron 10 - 24mm f/3.5 -4.5 lens
White Bal set at 5000k
ISO 2000 - 5000
Exposure times 20 - 30 sec
Very nice work, Tim.... they look great with the foreground in your shots for depth.

Our blog is now available encrypted

Our HTTPS settings have changed, so now all our visitors will be able to view our blog over an encrypted connection by visiting:

This blog is being watched....

The NJAA AstroPhotography blog is watched by many people.... over 5,ooo  viewers have seen what our members can do since this blog was started. Interestingly, almost half of our viewers come from Russia, also, Germany, Poland, Ukraine and the U.K. represents groups of viewers so I want to welcome them and all the others that have watched our postings. 
I know Tim, Vlad, Jim R, Les, Perry, Judson and other members have been imaging, so let's start letting people see our work. You can take images from anywhere, on your personal equipment or the clubs... it doesn't matter. Just send in your image to me or post it yourself.... but let's get going!

I should have mentioned in my last post that the Eta Aquariid meteor shower peaked on May 6th ~ during the time I was in Arizona. Luckily the comet stream continues with various success through May 26th ~ Find a dark sky and LOOK UP!!! 
Unfortunately, I left Sedona and travelled to Scottsdale the day before and so seeing them was hindered because of the city lights. But as you can see in my photos, there often is a meteor in the shot.  Because of the dark sky near Sedona, I saw meteors or satellites almost every time I looked up from the camera! 
It was wonderful to see the myriad of dim to bright streaks so easily there. 
And wouldn't you know that right after I took a photo of Mars and Saturn (and while I waited patiently for the camera to finish saving the data), a very bright green meteor fell right between both planets.

A plane competes with two meteors:
Coincidentally, the brighter meteor streaking between Mars and Saturn is almost exactly in the same position that the green  fireball fell. The green fireball was travelling in the opposite direction though.
The next fairly strong meteor shower will be the Delta Aquariids peaking  July 28 - 29th 2016. They will be a southern hemisphere shower but the northern latitudes will still be able to see some. They predictably are a bit fainter than the Eta stream.
Then of course, the Perseids will peak August 11 - 12th which ~ this shower often has a larger viewing due to more people being outside.

The Night Sky at Sedona, Arizona May 2016

While I was on vacation in Sedona last week I tried my hand at photographing the Milky Way, which I never did before for some reason. 
I arose at three AM and drove to a desolate dark site. My plan was to go to an open parking space some miles away from a local town that I saw during a day hike into the hills..... but even after my second trial car trip to find some landmarks that would help me locate the site, I failed.

It is VERY dark out in the desert during the early morning!! So dark that I couldn't find a single landmark. I decided not to waste any more time so I went back toward town where I knew of a couple open sites just outside of town . On the way I discovered an open parking lot next to an electric substation, so I pulled in and set up for some southerly shots that included Mars and Saturn. I was literally 200 yards from the main road but there was very little traffic. Even with decent lighting restrictions there is still quite a lot of ambient light coming from the towns ~ most of it doesn't go up into the sky though but it is surprising how far it travels laterally.

Mars is spectacularly bright and very orange and Saturn is also very noticeable in such a dark sky. 
Unfortunately by the time I started getting fairly good exposures it was approaching Nautical then Civil Twilight with it's deep blue sky creeping into my shots. I did trial and error for a while before I remembered that my camera is an APS sensor so I kept getting streaks until I figured out what I was doing wrong ~ to photograph the night sky, the 500 Rule states that you take 500 and divide your lens focal length to get the exposure time. As I was using an 18mm fl lens that would give me about 27 seconds.... opps! Then I calculated the 1.5x that my APS sensor required and I found that I should really be exposing at only 18 seconds! BIG difference and it shows.

Here's the image of my first try of Mars at 27 seconds at ISO 1600:

         Then I got it at 15 seconds, rounding down to be safe with the shot below:
             I don't like the ambient light color     But black & white shows the subtleties
         Note how this city's lights are yellow while the closer town is redder below

Here I annotated the image taken later as twilight grew:

In this twilight image below you can easily see the red color of the town lights on the Courthouse Butte and beyond. The town was a few miles away from it and my eyes couldn't see any of that light at all.
I am not happy with the low light results from this Nikon D300 camera but to be fair I may have to try to set it differently:

The Big Dipper visible to the upper right of Cathedral Butte and again the red light from the town:

So now, after this first attempt I think I will adjust my camera for less noise and try again ~ I still need to improve my results.
What spectacular clear and dark skies. I can't stop thinking about what I could do with my telescope there.

Mercury's Transit of the Sun on May 9, 2016

Mercury was captured Monday May 9th, 2016 transiting the surface of the Sun by members Tim Benko and Vladimir Alexandrov.
Vlad used the club's Coronado 60mm Ha scope at the observatory with the set up help by members Bruce Pierson and Jonathan Morgan. 
 He stacked 500 of the best frames that he got with the club's (amazing) Point Grey CCD camera at 120 fps.
Tim took the white light image using the club's Canon T2i  at prime focus on his Orion 120ST 120mm/f5 600mm FL refractor with minimal adjustments in Photoshop.
I really like the detail in the sun as little Mercury whizzes by. They both had to try for a single shot as clouds covered much of the sky. 
Excellent work guys.... hopefully some of our other members also captured the event as well and will post on our blog soon because the next transit will be November 11, 2019.

Image by Vladimir Alexandrov

Image by Tim Benko