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Posts tagged “Astrophotography

Comet Ahoy!



I feel a little stupid.   It turns out that I did manage to capture Comet Pan Starrs after all.   After going back and studying a few of the frames I took near the end of last weeks Tuesday night vigil, I saw something.   On any of the exposures 1 second in length or longer, there it was!   I never saw it with the naked eye, but my Sigmas 72mm diameter (approx.)  200mm focal length lens apparently captured enough light for success.   It’s a good thing I wasn’t chewing gum a few minutes ago when I discovered this fact, I might have swallowed it.   Oh yeah, that’s the comet there in the upper left.  See it?  Better late than never I guess.

I got about 3 or 4 frames with the comet and my planned moon/windmill combo, but the composition is off, the comet is very weak, and they just don’t look good.  The image above looks much better, it was one of the last I took while walking back to the car, not even knowing the comet was in there.   Crazy times we live in.

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.


Supermoon No. 2


I had waited about 20 minutes past the actual time of moonrise for it to rise high enough to become visible through distant clouds.  Then there was no time to rest as the sky darkened, and the moon brightened.   The image above is the result of a bracketed set of 5 exposures run through Photomatix.   This is the best it could do with the rapidly expanding dynamic range of the scene- at least with what I gave the program to work with.   I thought this had a rather atmospheric mood,  although it is beginning to creep into the realm of the surreal.   Alright, I confess it was this one that made my wife go “oooooh , That one!” when she saw it, so I figured I better post it.

Supermoon No. 1




As you may have seen in the news, Saturday night’s full moon was extra special.  Our moon’s orbit around the earth is somewhat elliptical, so it is closer to us at certain times.  When those close approaches happen to coincide with the proper alignment with the sun for a full moon, we get a “supermoon”, which appears larger than at other times.    This windmill image was no accident, I used a fantastic app on my iPad called The Photographer’s Ephemeris.   You can stick a pin in the app’s map and it will project lines to show you exactly where the sun and moon will rise and set on the horizon.  I had a couple of ideas on where to position myself for Saturday’s moonrise, the app helped me know exactly where to be to get the image I had in mind.   This app gets the Warped Prism seal of approval!

Once the moon rose high enough to become visible through distant clouds and haze, there was a remarkably short time to work.  This is an HDR image processed through Photomatix, then some tweaks in Lightroom.  I have a small handful of ‘keepers’, but have found it really difficult to choose what to post.




The western sky has been interesting this month.  Once again, we had Venus and Jupiter shining brightly,  this time joined by the crescent moon.   That’s Venus next to the moon, with Jupiter at the bottom of the frame in the image above.   I felt it was my duty to run out and shoot a few frames for the record.  Venus is close to it’s maximum brightness, just incredibly bright in the evening sky.


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.

Rusty Moon Pt. II~Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse


Lunar Eclipse Dec. 21, 2010
Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse


After all of yesterdays talk I decided to set an alarm and venture out to see the eclipse between approximately 1:30am and 2:00am central U.S. time.    As those of you who saw it know, the moon was very high overhead so getting any arty foreground objects in the frame was a problem, at least here in the central U.S.    This was shot with my D700, ISO 3200, 180mm, f/11 at 3.2 seconds.   If you click the image for the larger version you can better see the numerous stars (that were starting to trail even at 3.2 seconds) detected by the camera.  This was early in totality, clouds moved in soon after and spoiled my intent to get the eclipsing  moon and the constellation Orion in the same frame.

By the way, it looked cool!

Rust Colored Moon~Total Lunar Eclipse


Lunar Eclipse

Total Lunar Eclipse

The Warped Prism is back, although perhaps with somewhat less frequent postings for the near future.   It was on an unscheduled hiatus due to health issues with yours truly, but I am now on the mend.

This is a total lunar eclipse from 2007, shot from my front yard.  I used my Nikon D200, which does not have the incredible low light/low noise capabilities of my current D700.   This is more of a documentary shot I suppose, not art.    Hey, I broke the rule of thirds!  There is another lunar eclipse tonight, coinciding with the winter solstice, which hasn’t happened for 456 years if my information source is correct.  I encourage everybody to go out tonight/this morning and photograph the heck out of this thing.   Me, I will likely be asleep.

Everybody should check out the cool moon photo posted at , now that’s good stuff.

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.