Don't fret, it's just Charles Ford's photography blog.

Posts tagged “Astronomy

In Search Of Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS)




I had a plan last night.   I had my location selected, with an interesting foreground object (windmill).   The previsualized shot would be windmill silhouette,  comet Pan Starrs, and the almost new 1%-2% illuminated sliver of the moon, hanging there like a cosmic smiley face.    It would have been glorious!  Alas, although the moon became visible as expected, where expected, the comet did not.   I was unable to see it, even with my small binoculars.   I had noticed a high thin layer of hazy clouds as the light dimmed, I suspect those were the reason the comet was not visible.   Even though the sky looks clear in these photos, I could see through the binoculars there was a high haze.  I should also note that in my original camera position, the trees you see here were not obscuring my view.

As I was walking back to my car, I noticed a fair amount of earthshine becoming visible on the moon, so grabbed a couple of moody shots of that.  (Earthshine is sunlight reflected from the earth back to the night side of the moon. )   It was fun to be out shooting, even if the comet was a no show.   Online this morning, I’ve seen several images similar to the one I envisioned, not everyone struck out last night.


Here’s a second moody moonset-with-earthshine image:






And finally, here’s a photo taken shortly after the first image posted.    I cropped it tighter to show you….what is that streak near the moon?   Could it be….is that the comet?!





No, sorry, its just the contrail of a high flying jet aircraft.   I thought about trying to pass it off as the comet but figured the astrophotography police would bust me for it right away.  I’m thinking of trying for a comet shot again tonight or at least sometime this week.   The windmill will still be there.


Venus & Jupiter Sittin’ In A Tree



This week, for various astronomical reasons, Venus and Jupiter appear unusually close together in the western sky after sunset.  This is known as a conjunction.  While interesting and lovely, especially for astronomy enthusiasts, this does not necessarily lend itself to spectacular photography.   On this one, I found myself more interested in how the sycamore tree looked in this several second exposure, illuminated by a light on the garage nearby.   Yes, I would like to claim this is some intricately planned multi-flash operation, but no.  Just a tree, illuminated by a garage light, along with two planets as the icing on the cake.



I am not an astrophotographer, although I hope to get into it someday in the future.   While shooting outdoor Christmas light displays in a small northern Kansas town, I snuck a few frames of the sky.  Away from the light pollution of Wichita, the stars were beautiful.  This is the constellation Orion.  Even though there were many stars visible, the camera was able to image many more than were seen with the naked eye.  This was shot on my D700, at ISO 1100,  f/2.8 for six seconds.   You can clearly see the bright glowing pinkish gases of the Orion Nebula (a.k.a. The Great Nebula, a.k.a. M42)   in Orion’s sword.  This was shot at 58mm, I would like to experiment with longer focal lengths.   My time was limited on this excursion but it only makes me want to try this again.   This is just the camera on a tripod, no fancy piggyback telescope mount or anything like that – but that sure would be fun!   I’m pretty sure the oddball colors on the tree branches are due to the Christmas light displays below, not some color temperature wackiness or other factor.

Photographing Jupiter Without A Telescope-A Quick Experiment

I’ve always been interested in astronomy as well as photography, but never really tried much astrophotography.   The other night, when I found out Jupiter was making it’s closest approach to earth in decades, I went out to take a look.   As is my custom when seeing something cool, I try and figure out if it can be photographed.   I tried a few shots with my D700 & super sharp 24mm-70mm Nikkor lens.  Although this lens gave very little magnification, when examining the images on the computer I was amazed that I could both see Jupiter was clearly a disk (not just a point of light), and a hint of what looked to be the four brightest moons.    Now I’m fully aware that all this is visible in normal binoculars, but for some reason I had not expected it to be so obvious with my camera.

Swapping out the nikkor with my Sigma 70mm-200mm I went back out.   With this longer lens zoomed into 180mm or so you can actually see the four Galilean moons of Jupiter. (Ganymede, Callisto, Europa, and Io.)   Yes, they’re just little dots of light, and Jupiter itself is way overexposed, but I thought it was really interesting that I could go out with just my camera and some normal-ish lenses, and capture this.   I’m sure there are many thousands of astrophotographers out there to whom this is no big revelation, but I was impressed.  I can see how this could be  an interesting hobby.

Jupiter at 180mm on a D700. Click for larger version.