Milky Way and a Fisheye Lens

I have taken countless photographs of the Milky Way using anything from ultrawide to telephoto lenses. But I have never taken a photograph of the Milky Way with a fisheye lens until now.

The Milky Way along with bands of airglow stretch across the eastern sky.
The Milky Way along with bands of airglow stretch across the eastern sky.

I like the result because it shows a large part of the Milky Way from south of the Galactic Center northward almost–but not quite–to Cassiopeia. Cygnus can be seen in the center.

As a bonus there is some banded airglow along the eastern horizon.

SpaceX/Falcon 9 De-Orbit Burn–III

Here are a few more SpaceX Falcon 9 deorbit burns observed over Arizona during the latter half of May.

SpaceX Falcon 9 second-stage deorbit burn on 31 May 2024.
SpaceX Falcon 9 second-stage deorbit burn on 31 May 2024.

SpaceX has launched frequently during this time period and many of the flights pass over the southwest United States and Arizona. The timing of the deorbit burn is fortuitous as it occurs just as the 2nd stage of the rocket appears above the western horizon and continues until it is near the zenith. This results in very favorable conditions for taking photographs and video of the event.

SpaceX Falcon 9 second-stage deorbit burn on 23 May 2024.
SpaceX Falcon 9 second-stage deorbit burn on 23 May 2024.
SpaceX Falcon 9 second-stage deorbit burn on 22 May 2024. This is a 1-second exposure with 80mm telephoto lens.
SpaceX Falcon 9 second-stage deorbit burn on 22 May 2024. This is a 1-second exposure with 80mm telephoto lens.
SpaceX Falcon 9 second-stage deorbit burn on 22 May 2024.
SpaceX Falcon 9 second-stage deorbit burn on 22 May 2024.

I have used both ultra-wide angle and fisheye lenses and really like the result from the latter as it is able to capture the lake reflections as well as the entire burn even as it passes overhead. One time I used a short telephoto (80mm); I may try this again.

Some of the images use 30-second exposures while others use a very short 2-second exposure which is useful for creating time-lapse video.

Time lapse video (2-second exposures) of the SpaceX Falcon 9 deorbit burn.

It’s interesting how all the image and videos show a burn that ends as it approaches the zenith followed by a splash of color as it moves overhead and leaving a circular red patch in the sky. It’s possible that the red is from the chemical reaction of the exhaust gases with the ionized air in the ionosphere. This red coloring of the ionosphere has been noted before with launches ascending into orbit so it is possible that the same chemical reaction takes place on descent.

Additional images of SpaceX Falcon 9 deorbit burns: 13 April 2024;  02 May 2024.

Moonrise and Cathedral Rock–May 2024

We are now in the season for capturing the nearly-full Moon as it rises behind Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona. The best time to capture this is a day (or two) before the actual full Moon so that late afternoon sunlight still illuminates Cathedral Rock. As always, The Photographers Ephemeris greatly aides in determining the best location to capture this event.

The nearly-full Moon rises behind Cathedral Rock and Oak Creek near Sedona, Arizona.
The nearly-full Moon rises behind Cathedral Rock and Oak Creek near Sedona, Arizona.

The timing on this Moonrise was late enough that the Sun would already be partially obscured by mountains and ridges to the west. So one photograph was made when the light on Cathedral Rock was most dramatic and about ten minutes later the Moon photograph was taken as it rose above Cathedral Rock. The two photographs were then combined to create this composite image.

A short time earlier there were several people on the rocks in the creek including a portrait photographer. Thankfully they got their shots and left before it was time for us to take our photographs.

Bonus: a few days earlier I shot this image of the waxing gibbous Moon using a 500mm telephoto.

Waxing gibbous Moon on 17 May 2024.
Waxing gibbous Moon on 17 May 2024.

 

The Great Aurora Storm of May10-13, 2024

The beginning of a strong substorm of actiivity. Some of the best and brightest colors occurred at this time.
The beginning of a strong substorm of actiivity. Some of the best and brightest colors occurred at this time.

It has been called the Great Aurora Storm of 2024 and it occurred on May 10–13 with the peak occurring on May 10–11. It was seen across high, middle, and even low latitudes and it was the strongest geomagnetic storm in decades. From the NASA science site:

May 2024 has already proven to be a particularly stormy month for our Sun. During the first full week of May, a barrage of large solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) launched clouds of charged particles and magnetic fields toward Earth, creating the strongest solar storm to reach Earth in two decades — and possibly one of the strongest displays of auroras on record in the past 500 years.

At its most intense the event was classified as a G5-class geomagnetic storm (Kp = 9).

Time-lapse video of the aurora substorm. Images at 30-second intervals.

Was not trying for a panorama--but these three shots about 1-2 minutes apart still sort of work.
Was not trying for a panorama–but these three shots about 1-2 minutes apart still sort of work.
The aurora begin to move higher in the sky towards the zenith.
The aurora begin to move higher in the sky towards the zenith.
Higher still and almost reaching the zenith.
Higher still and almost reaching the zenith.
Aurora at the zenith.
Aurora at the zenith.

We were in Colorado at the time visiting family and I only carried a Sony RX10, a camera with a 24–200mm zoom at constant f/2.8 aperture. It’s a good camera but doing long exposures at high ISO at night is not its strong point. Well, you’ve probably heard the saying: “the best camera is the one you have with you.”

Looking to the south as the aurora reached and passed the zenith. The rapid motion in the aurora was fantastic.
Looking to the south as the aurora reached and passed the zenith. The rapid motion in the aurora was fantastic.
Looking north as the substorm began to subside and the aurora retreated to the north.
Looking north as the substorm began to subside and the aurora retreated to the north.

So I used what I had with me. The results were mixed. Some of the images are noisy at high ISO settings. Some of the long-exposure images show tripod shake resulting in streaky stars. And so on.

There have been some amazing photographs published on social media sites–including a shot that I have been trying to get for the past few years of increasing auroral activity.

Ah, well. We still haven’t hit the solar max which is expected between late 2024 and early 2026 so there will be other opportunities.

So here are some photographs taken from our location in northeast Colorado.

SpaceX/Falcon 9 De-Orbit Burn–II

A few weeks ago I posted some photographs of the 2nd stage of a Falcon 9 performing a de-orbit burn as it moved over the southwestern states. I recently had another chance to view a de-orbit burn and, as suggested in the previous post, used it as an opportunity to try some different things.

De-orbit burn of the Falcon 9 second stage as it moves over the southwestern United. States. Note the red glow as water vapor from the expelled exhaust briefly deionizes the ionosphere.
De-orbit burn of the Falcon 9 second stage as it moves over the southwestern United. States. Note the red glow as water vapor from the expelled exhaust briefly deionizes the ionosphere.

I wanted to use a telephoto lens this time and chose the Nikon 80–200mm f/4 zoom lens. This lens has manual focus and, more importantly, has a hard stop at infinity focus. This makes it very easy to focus in the dark.

30-second exposure using the 200mm lens showing both the bright burn and the expelled gases.
30-second exposure using the 200mm lens showing both the bright burn and the expelled gases.
A 2-second exposure using the 200mm lens showing the expelled gases.
A 2-second exposure using the 200mm lens showing the expelled gases.
An 8-second exposure using the telephoto showing the red glow of the ionosphere.
An 8-second exposure using the telephoto showing the red glow of the ionosphere.

My choice for a second camera was originally going to be shooting video. But the launch was delayed and the reentry was not going to happen during twilight. The video might have been difficult in those conditions. Instead, I decided to use my ultra-wide 12mm lens and mounted it on my older Nikon D700 camera.

Everything worked out well including the expected time of the burn. I was surprised when the burn ended and it became difficult to keep track of the rocket. Suddenly, it lit up a second time overhead and slightly behind me. This lasted only a few tens of seconds. And, once again, I was unable to pivot the telephoto lens around. But the ultra-wide angle lens managed to capture it.

The image of the de-orbit burn is great but watching it as it occurred was really spectacular.

There are two de-orbit burns scheduled in a few days but these will occur during daylight hours. I wonder if I will be able to see the burn?

See this article for information on ionosphere holes and red glow.