Bright Objects in the Night Sky—May 2018

The past two weeks have offered several opportunities for photographing the moon in the evening sky. Beginning on May 16, we had a crescent Moon with just 3.7% of the disk illuminated by the sun. During the months of May, June, and July, the thin crescent Moon lines up with the long axis of Upper Lake Mary. This results in nice reflections of the Moon on the waters of the lake—but only if there is little or no wind. The first two images were taken in the early evening with some reflections over portions of the lake. The image also shows the unlit part of the crescent Moon illuminated with Earthshine, also known as Da Vinci Glow. Yes, that Leonardo Da Vinci. Quite an amazing bit of scientific deduction on his part.

A thin crescent Moon above Lake Mary.
A thin crescent Moon above Lake Mary.
Crescent Moon with reflections on Lake Mary.
Crescent Moon with reflections on Lake Mary.

The following evening the Moon was located near the planet Venus. Capturing both of these objects and getting reflections in the water was a bit more difficult as they were higher in the sky.

Moon and Venus above Lake Mary.
Moon and Venus above Lake Mary.

Next up was the day-before-the-full-Moon in Sedona. Using The Photographers Ephemeris it’s not very difficult to determine at what time and in which location to find the Moon rising between the spires of Cathedral Rock. I’ve done this shot before but never get tired of traveling to Sedona to see it happen again. Not surprisingly, I often run into other photographers and friends with the same idea so it becomes a bit of a social gathering as well.

Moonrise above Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona.
Moonrise above Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona.
Moonrise above Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona.
Moonrise above Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Arizona.
A couple watches the Moon rise from Cathedral Rock.
A couple watches the Moon rise from Cathedral Rock.

The first image shows the Moon having just risen into the left gap. The second image is a crop and closeup of the Moon. The third was taken several minutes later after adjusting my position a bit to capture the Moon in the middle gap. A couple can be seen in silhouette gazing at the rising Moon.

The International Space Station cross the sky.
The International Space Station cross the sky.
The ISS and OA-9 Cygnus move across the sky.
The ISS and OA-9 Cygnus move across the sky.

Finally, there was a transit of the International Space Station (ISS) and the resupply ship OA-9 Cygnus—both moving near the North Star. The transit is a 5-minute sequence of images while the star trails is a 30-minute sequence. The second image shows the bright ISS with the faint OA-9 Cygnus following behind. A day later, the OA-9 docked with the ISS.

Star trails and moonrise at Cathedral Rock

A few days ago I headed down to Sedona to try getting another set of images of Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy. Although I did get the images, I was unable to create a final product that showed the stars and the comet well. I suspect there was too much light pollution and it overwhelmed the delicate tail.

Star trails above Cathedral Rock, Sedona, Arizona.
Star trails above Cathedral Rock, Sedona, Arizona.

I also shot star trails with the camera pointed toward Cathedral Rock. The moon was still below the horizon when I started the sequence of images but rose above the horizon and illuminated the rock at the end. The result, after stacking and compositing the images was pretty good. But I was interested in trying out a popular technique of making the star trails look more like, well, comets. There is software available to do this but I was willing to do it the old-fashioned way using manual labor—at least this one time. The result came out well. If only the night sky actually looked like this!

Bright Objects in the Night Sky

It’s been a productive few days for taking nighttime images of bright objects in the night sky including planets, stars and satellites.

On June 1, 2014, a check of the ephemeris for satellite passages noted that the International Space Station (ISS) would pass very close to Polaris (i.e., the “North Star”) at 2204 MST, followed by an Iridium flare at 2231 MST. I set up the camera to take 30s exposures from 2202-2232 MST so I could get a set of star trails with the ISS arcing across the northern sky. Two satellite flares can be seen in the lower right — the one I was expecting plus a bonus flare.

 

Star trails with the International Space Station.
Star trails with the International Space Station.

 

Venus and Iridium flare.
Venus and Iridium flare.

A few days later, on June 5, 2014, for just a few seconds the planet Venus (mag. -4.0) was only the second brightest object (rather than the brightest) in the eastern twilight sky as an Iridium flare brightened to magnitude -5.7.

Four days in Death Valley National Park

Although Death Valley National Park is only a six-hour drive from Flagstaff I have never visited the park. That finally changed the first week of January when we made a four-day visit. We left Flagstaff well before sunrise so that we could arrive in the park around noon time and then spend the afternoon visiting sites and hiking.

One of our first stops was the well-known Zabriskie Point. Many photographs have been taken here—as well as a movie by the same name—and these images should look familiar as a result. From there we went to the visitors center to get some ideas for the afternoon. We ended up on Artists Drive—known for its multicolored rocks.

Zabriskie Point.
Zabriskie Point.

 

Artist's Drive.
Artist’s Drive.

 

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