Category Solar System

Imaging the April 2014 Lunar Eclipse

Blood Moon

Luckily, this time around, the Lunar Eclipse was West Coast friendly and started around 11pm so I could stay awake for the entire event, until the clouds obscured my view.  This was my first time viewing a total Lunar Eclipse as the last eclipse I caught back in June 2012 was a partial.  This was also the first time I watched the moon turn a very nice strawberry color towards the end of the eclipse.  I put together a montage of phases of the Eclipse.

Lunar Eclipse Phases April 2014

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Imaging Comet ISON C/2012 S1 with an SBIG ST-10XME

Comet ISON C/2012 S1

Going off of a tip from seasoned astrophotographer, Michael Caligiuri, Comet ISON (C/2012 S1) was in a great position to capture this ancient relic of the solar system in October.  Comet ISON, at this moment, is not visible to the unaided eye.  Starting its journey 10,000 years ago when it broke away from the Oort Cloud out past Neptune, this is its first trip to our inner Solar System. If this comet survives its trip around the Sun, there’s a good chance that it will be incredibly bright and easily visible with the naked eye in the Northern Hemisphere. In early December, it will be seen in the morning, low on the horizon to the east-southeast. In late December and early January, it will be visible all night long.  The image above was captured with an SBIG ST-10XME in the wee hours of the morning on October 17th 2013 and represents a 20 minute total exposure through the Luminance, Red, Green, and Blue Astrodon Gen 2 filters.  Mars (to the right) and Regulus (to the left) made this comet a tricky one to capture with a highly sensitive CCD.  Although the composite image is supposed to produce color, I chose to convert the capture into a monochrome image to preserve the details of the comet.

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Supermoon over Danville California 5-24-2013

Rising Supermoon 8:18pm

Rising Supermoon 8:18pm

Rising Supermoon 8:19pm

Rising Supermoon 8:19pm

Rising Supermoon 8:20pm

Rising Supermoon 8:20pm

Rising Supermoon 8:21pm

Rising Supermoon 8:21pm

Rising Supermoon 8:22pm

Rising Supermoon 8:22pm

Rising Supermoon 8:24pm

Rising Supermoon 8:24pm

Rising Supermoon 8:28pm

Rising Supermoon 8:28pm

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Earthshine and Jupiter

Earthshine is a soft, faint glow on the shadowed part of the moon caused by the reflection of sunlight from the Earth.  Tonight, the Moon and Jupiter were in close proximity of each other.

Earthshine

Earthshine

Earthshine and Jupiter

Earthshine and Jupiter

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The Transit of Venus Revisted

Processed vs. Raw Image of the Transit of Venus

Processed vs. Raw Image of the Transit of Venus

I recently acquired a copy of Photoshop CS6 and boy what a difference it has made in the quality of the images from a post processing standpoint.  Post processing using tools like Photoshop really help bring out the detail that is hiding in your photo.  Take the above images of the Transit of Venus, for example.  The image on the right is the Raw Image that the camera produces and you will notice that you can’t really see the planet Venus very much as the sun is drowning out the planet.  In the photo on the left, I adjusted the Red, Green, and Blue sliders in Photoshop to bring out the color of the sun and the shadow of the planet.  Zooming in on the processed image, you will also see that sun spots, which are caused by intense magnetic activity, are revealed on the Sun’s surface.

Transit of Venus Sun Spots

Transit of Venus Sun Spots

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Holding a 4.5 Billion Year Old Meteorite, Creating a Comet, and the Rachel Telescope

Last night, our Cub Scout Pack visited the Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, CA for a special workshop and tour.  On the tour, we attended a workshop where the kids in the pack got a chance to create a Comet and identify space rocks!  The comet creation process was really a once in a lifetime opportunity and the scouts got a chance to cook one up by following a recipe with the following ingrediants:

  • Water (H2O)
  • Iron and Magnesium
  • Silicone and Calcium
  • Sugar
  • Nitrogen
  • CO2

Each of the scouts was given a task to add the elements into a bowl (Blake added the Sugar)

After the ingrediants were added to the bowl, the scouts crushed the Dry Ice (CO2) into a fine powder and then added it to the mixture.  After shaping the comet, the end result looked like a dirty snowball of ice, gas, and dust, just like a real comet!

Another part of workshop had the scouts identify earth rocks from space rocks.  Each box contained 3 rocks from space.  I held one of the meteorites in the box and it felt really heavy.  Then it dawned on me that I was literally holding a piece of history as this rock has been around since the birth of our solar system over 4.5 billion years ago.  You can see some of metal in rock reflecting in the photo.

The experience at Chabot was amazing!  To top off the night we got a chance to have a private viewing through thier telescopes...

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Jupiter Opposition and Seeing the Planet with My Own Eyes

Back on December 2nd, the largest planet in our Solar System, Jupiter, reached opposition.  This means that Jupiter’s orbit is the closest it is going to be to earth, which happens every 12 years.  You can pick out Juptier with the unaided eye as it is the brightest and largest point of light in the sky (besides the Moon of course).  On this night, I took out my telescope to view the planet with my own eyes and I must say it was breathtaking.  I could see the cloud bands and the 4 moons (Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto).  Here are the photos I took of this amazing gas giant:

Juptier as it appeared in the night sky

Juptier as it appeared in the night sky (taken with a Nikon D7000 on a tripod)

Jupiter and its 4 Moons (Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto)

Jupiter and its 4 Moons (Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto)

Jupiter imaged from my TAK Sky 90II Telescope (Nikon D7000 through 2x Barlow and a 20mm eyepiece)

Jupiter imaged from my TAK Sky 90II Telescope (Nikon D7000 through 2x Barlow and a 20mm eyepiece)

 

 

 

 

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Draconid Meteor Shower

A meteor shower is a celestial event in which a number of meteors are observed to radiate from one point in the night sky.  Over the last couple nights, the Draconid Meteors rained down on Earth, sparking in upwards of 1000 meteors per hour.  According to spaceweather.com, an outburst of over 1,000 meteors per hour, which was detected by the Canadian Meteor Orbit Radar (CMOR).

I sat outside after sunset and set up my Nikon D7000 on a tripod and waited for the meteors (waiting being the operative word).  I thought with a 1000 meteors an hour, I was sure to see at least one of them.  According to sources, the meteors were very dim so I did not observe any with my own eyes on the 7th but my camera lens did!  As I was reviewing my images from the couple hours I spent outside, I caught a glimpse of a meteor that I caught on film.  I went out again on the 8th of October and saw 5 visible meteors in an hour and a half and that was good enough for me.  It was nice to spend some time outside admiring the wonders of the Universe hoping to get a glimpse of the elusive Draconid meteors.

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The Man in the Moon Graces the Night Sky

The desert sky in Rancho Mirage, California creates a beautiful backdrop to photograph the Moon and tonight, the Moon was hiding until it peaked over the clouds, creating cool effects.  The way the clouds were dispersed in the sky, it gave the illusion that the Man in the Moon was winking over the clouds.

The Man in the Moon

The Man in the Moon

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How the Moon was Formed

How The Moon Was Formed (Image Courtesy of NASA)

How The Moon Was Formed (Image Courtesy of NASA)

How was the Moon formed?  These are the questions that either keep me up at night or I think about during the day.  When gazing at the night sky, it is very easy to get lost in the beauty of the constellations, stars, and planets.  One of the most familiar objects in the sky, our Moon, has captivated people for centuries but it is hard to believe that Earth once existed without its little satellite.

There are several theories on how the Moon came to be.  The one that has caught my attention, as well as many astrophysicists, is the Giant Impact Theory, which purports that the Moon was formed from a Mars sized object (referred to as Theia) that collided with Earth approximately 4.5 billion years ago.  The debris from the collision coalesced into what we know today as our Moon.  I found it fascinating that this theory did not come to fruition until the year 1975 when by Drs. William K. Hartmann and Donald R. Davis proposed this new idea.  Analysis of the Moon’s surface and rocks supported this hypothesis as the Moon’s material is made of some of the same minerals found on Earth.  To  illustrate what scientists believed happened, I came across a video

embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube Direkt

I thought this was pretty cool so I dug up some fun facts about the Moon:

  • The Moon is moving away from Earth at a rate of 3.8 centimeters per year
  • When the Moon was formed, it was about 14,000 miles from Earth but is now on average ...
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