Setting Up Field Astrophotography

Telescope Setup at Twilight

Setting up the telescope for lunal viewing as the sun sets

The clear summer skies are upon us it seems, so my nephew and I setup for some viewing and photography last night. For more of a how-to-tutorial I should at some point talk equipment and setup but I’ll save that for another day. The skies were clear last night but the atmospheric conditions were not the best for planetary astrophotography, so we stuck with “night shots” and the Milky Way.

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Jacob: The Limitless Sky Video at the Royal Observatory

Jacob: The Limitless Sky Video  for the Greenwich Royal Observatory

Jacob: The Limitless Sky Video for the Greenwich Royal Observatory

I few months ago the guys from Lonely Leap Films came down from New York City to do a piece on my nephew, Jacob Marchio, for the Greenwich Royal Observatory highlighting his work in astrophotography. This year Jacob competed in the Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest at the Greenwich Royal Observatory in Greenwich England. This video was part of his image being selected from a huge number of entries over the 2012 year (see some of his moon photography here and his astrophotography hereon Flickr). This yearly contest is a really big deal for astrophotographers worldwide, Wired.com even wrote a nice article about the context in Royal Observatory Picks Best Astronomy Photos of the Year.

Obviously being a photographer myself for almost 20 years now I am more than a little excited about one of my nearby relatives taking an interest in photography. I know he is just getting starting in his understanding of telescopes, cameras, and astronomy so I can’t wait to see what’s next. He has already started talking about building his own telescope here on the property so there may be photos of that down the road. For now, please check out the video shot by Lonely Leap Films. They did such a fantastic job (and for you tech junkies out there, they shot this whole thing with 2 Canon 5D Mark II’s, including the audio).

Jacob: the limitless sky from Royal Observatory Greenwich on Vimeo.

If you have a chance to head over to his blog, his updates include everything from astronomy to techniques used in photography to just life in the South. Even after shooting as long as I have he inspires me to want to get out there and shoot the night sky again and again.

Transit of Venus In Front of the Sun :: Photos

Transit of Venus Through the Telescope

Yesterday about 5pm, the Venus Transit across the Sun began. There were so many articles and photos posted from yesterday’s transit, but I think this from National Geographic summed it up the best.

Transits happen when a planet crosses between Earth and the sun. Only Mercury and Venus, which are closer to the sun than our planet, can undergo this unusual alignment.

With its relatively tight orbit, Mercury circles the sun fast enough that we see the innermost planet transit every 13 to 14 years. But transits of Venus are exceedingly rare, due to that world’s tilted orbit: After the 2012 Venus transit, we won’t see another until 2117.

From our vantage point, we were able to see the transit here and there as the cloud cover was typical for a hot afternoon in the south. Clouds came and went, some stayed around for a long time. The shot above is what the transit looked like as the clouds were crossing over the sun. My nephew Jacob has several other shots on his blog post here as well.

All in all it was a fascinating display of the planets, something that was clearly visible with nothing other than some solar eclipse glasses (the 3-D looking glasses). Glad we took time to see it, especially since it won’t be seen again in my lifetime, so the shot above, is literally, a once in a lifetime shot.

Transit of Venus Through the Telescope

Transit of Venus Through Solar Glasses

Transit of Venus Through the Telescope

Transit of Venus Through Solar Glasses

Creation Proclaims the Milky Way Galaxy on the Summer Solstice

As I mentioned in my blog post last night we were going to try to get some shots of the Milky Way Galaxy, and these above are what I ended up with last night. There are so many different aspects of creation but this one always blows my mind. I love how Paul puts it in Romans 8:20-25

…ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

The lights at night out where we live are always interesting. Some nights it’s so dark you really can’t see your hand in front of your face, but most of the time we have a good bit of “glow” from Auburn-Opelika on one side and several other cities on the other side, but they are farther away. The shots of the Milky Way above (the first three) were taken when it was very low in the night sky facing south east. Turn around and you see the difference between the glow facing south and the glow facing Auburn. That last image still shows a good bit of stars, but nothing like the shots from the other side of the sky, and that shot was an entire f-stop longer (in other words the shot in the direction of Auburn let in twice as much light as the shots facing the Milky Way and showed less stars). Still, either way, the number of stars visible is always just amazing to me. Thanks goes to my nephew Jake who stood in and modeled for the first shot and explained to me what I was looking at in the night sky.