Did you get a chance to view the Perseid meteor shower this year? It peaked on the evening of August 12-13 but meteors were visible for many days preceding the peak. With the moon just a few days past new and setting early the skies were very dark for optimal viewing. A maximum rate of more than 100 meteors per hour has been reported with this years event. This compares with a more typical maximum rate of about 50-80 per hour. So this was a better than average event with higher numbers as well as very dark skies.
But to make things even better there was a three-way planetary conjunction taking place at the same time. In the western sky after sunset an observer could see the planets Venus, Mars, and Saturn close together along with the crescent moon.
For the meteors, I used a 28mm wide angle lens, ISO 3200, f/4.0, and 30s exposures. I set the camera to continuous shooting mode and let it run until the card filled a few hours later. I then reclined on a lounge chair with a sleeping bag draped over me.
Even though I saw a large number of meteors with my eyes — and some of them were spectacular long-path events with residual debris trails — the camera captured far fewer because the field of view of even a wide angle is not wide enough to view the entire sky
I have been having a lot of fun taking sky images lately. The newer DSLR cameras (and especially the full-frame cameras) can really push the ISO settings making it easier to take astronomy images with short exposures. The short exposure limits the trails that the stars will make and gives an overall sharper appearance.
This image was shot at ISO 6400, 15s, f/4.0, 28mm focal length. At full zoom, there is only a hint of star trails.
The lights along the horizon add interesting texture to the image but even though they were fairly dim the 15s exposure resulted in far too much brightening. After experimenting a bit, I decided to place a credit card in front of the lens blocking the street lights for about 12-13s, then pull it away for the last few seconds. Overall, it did a pretty good job attenuating the street lights but there is also a dark area in the sky just above the lights.
What I should do is get a better neutral density gradient filter that I can slide up and down rather than the screw-on filter that I have now. Then I wouldn’t have to resort to credit card tricks!
Here is another example of what modern DSLR cameras can do. This was taken with the same settings as the image above. Even with a 28-mm wide angle lens, the camera is able to resolve the Andromeda Galaxy which is over 2.5 million light years distant.
Welcome to Flagstaff Altitudes at dblanchard.net/blog
My interests include photography, mountain biking, skiing, trail running, and weather. So that is what I will talk about.
For starters, here is a recent photograph taken mid-evening. Down low on the right is the planet Venus. High up near the top is Mars (reddish orange) next to the star Regulus (blue-white). The streak in the upper left is the still-classified USAF X-37B space plane. It looks a bit like a smaller version of NASA’s Shuttle.