Aug 022013

On the weekend of July 7th, I traveled with my friend Mike to his cottage in Haliburton.  We were both looking forward to some observing under dark northern skies and for that purpose we packed up his SUV with two big telescopes, heavy duty mounts and other related equipment.  Under dark skies, this bevvy of astronomy hardware would surely show off the evening’s stellar wonders with shock and awe.

I honestly wish I could say that packing up all that gear and setting it up was going to reward us with a fine evening of astronomy.  Ha!  No chance!  We waited for the sun to set and dark skies to emerge.  By the time darkness fell, the humidity was incredibly thick, so the telescopes and mounts were literally dripping wet.  This level of humidity means mediocre viewing at best.  Adding to this frustration was a jihadist army of mosquitoes seemingly immune to insect repellant and cigars.  My blind faith in Muskol has been destroyed.  I did my best to calibrate the equatorial telescope mount, but to no avail.  The necessary guide stars to calibrate the mount and autoguider were either behind the treeline or difficult to find in the soupy night sky.

The clouds eventually rolled in and terminated an all too brief observing session.  Good thing we had lots of alcohol and food on hand.  I managed to take a few long exposure shots with my camera.   So, a few pretty stars are offered up here.  If there had been less humidity, fog and clouds, these photos would have looked like diamonds on a black velvet surface.  My faith in Muskol may have also remained intact.

The Milky Way with Sky Glow

The Milky Way with Sky Glow

Trees and Stars

Trees and Stars

Soupy skies, clouds and fireflies

Soupy skies, clouds and fire flies




Mar 132012

Tonight was a rare clear night and I decided to photograph the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus.  The actual conjunction occurs on March 15, 2012, when these two planets have the same right ascension.  However, in true Southern Ontario form, it will likely be a cloudy night March 15.  Throughout the month of March, they will appear close together in the Western horizon.

As it turns out, getting a shot was not so easy to do on a whim.  My first attempt using an Orion EON f/7.5 120mm APO refractor with a 900mm focal length failed.  There was too much magnification to show both planets.  So, I quickly swapped out the Orion for a Meade 80mm f/6 APO refractor with a shorter focal length of 480mm.  However, that did not work as well as the planets were still too far apart to fit in the frame.  So, I grabbed an  f/6.3 focal reducer which is normally used for a Schmidt-Cassegrain  telescope and jerry rigged it with some spare hardware to make it work with the Meade 80mm.  It was not possible to get exact focus, furthermore, there would be some astigmatism.  Nonetheless, it was good enough to take some shots.

I also tried to take some shots with a DSLR on a tripod using a telephoto zoom, but they did not turn out so well.  Setting the correct exposure is another problem.  If you expose for Venus, then you lose Jupiter and its moons.  If you try to expose for Jupiter’s surface, you lose its moons and Venus will be a huge overexposed white blob.  I’m sure with multiple exposures and layering, one could make a much better shot.

The image below was taken using the Meade 80mm APO refractor, a Celestron f/6.3 focal reducer and a Pentax K-5 DSLR.

You can see Jupiter’s largest moons: Ganymede, Callisto, Io and Europa.

Feb 062012

It was a busy weekend as I built a new machine for my web server and changed my network architecture.  Through it all, I was able to add the first galleries to the Astrophotography page.   I also added more galleries to the Road Trips, Street, Macro, Assorted and Animals pages.   More to come as I scour through all my photos in Adobe Lightroom.