Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Wildlife, as Ian sees it

Sorry to steal the tag line from Canon, but the truth is that Ian took these pictures with my Canon T2i, while we were on our recent 2 week camping trip to Colorado.  I still plan to write up a blog post, but in the mean time, click on the pictures below and see a few of our friends.  We also saw a couple herds of elk, bald and golden eagles, beavers, and a host of deer...but no pictures, only memories!

Sharing our vittles with the locals

Wild Burro families in South Park, Colorado

Pronghorn eyeing us carefully near Hartsel, CO (enlarge this to see her eyelashes)

Dinosaur tracks (OK, geese, if you must know the truth)

A white pelican that somehow migrated to 11 mile Reservoir and never left

Ian and his friend Henry with one of the Crayfish they were capturing (and releasing)

A cute young burro pulling on mama's ear

Sunday, July 29, 2012

July 29 Sun

Quite humid today here in Tucson, which is a good sign for our parched desert.  Hopefully we will see some thunderstorm action at the Lost Pleiad Observatory this afternoon to cool things off make the desert tortoise (and me) happy.  I have just returned from a great two week camping trip with Ian in the Colorado Rockies and hope to post a brief trip report and pictures later today...or maybe tomorrow...I did however head outside this morning and take a quick picture of the Sun in white light.  My image is first, and a labelled comparison image from SDO is below.  The SDO image was taken about 28 minutes prior to my image.  Click the images to enlarge them and remember that if your browser automatically re-sizes images you may need to click it a second time to enlarge it to full size.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

White light Sun 10 July

Click to enlarge
I woke early this morning hoping to get a chance to see the Venus-Jupiter conjunction in the East, but unfortunately there were clouds hugging the Rincon mountains east of Tucson and I was out of luck.  Fortunes changed, however, as the clouds disappeared with the Sun and I was able observe the Sun in white light this morning.  There is a massive active region in the southern hemisphere that has been popping off flares the past few days, and the region did not disappoint.  The image at left is from SOHO, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, and you can see the NOAA active region numbers.  Compare the size of Region 11520 (they leave off the first '1') to the Earth and Jupiter scale in the lower right of the image and you can get a sense of how massive this group is.  Taken together, the three groups clustered in the southeast are easily naked eye sunspots and can be seen safely with only eclipse glasses.  (And of course, DO NOT LOOK AT THE SUN WITHOUT A SPECIALIZED FILTER DESIGNED FOR THIS PURPOSE!!)

Below is my image of the Sun, taken at 7:11 AM this morning (1411 UT).  Click to enlarge to full size.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Venus Transit part two

If you read my previous posts leading up to and including the Venus Transit, you know that I purchased my first digital DSLR camera 6 days in advance of the Tranist. things worked out fairly well and I captured some memorable pictures of this once in a lifetime event. When I was taking images, I had the camera set to record both JPEG and RAW files with each exposure. You can see the JPEG pictures posted here. For the minimal processing that I have been doing with digital pictures, I have been using the freeware program GIMP. In fact, I have not yet been able to even preview the RAW files.  This morning, I decided to search and see if digital RAW files could be viewed and manipulated using GIMP. I discovered that they can, to an extent, by using a secondary program called UFRAW. (If you decide to try UFRAW, you must have GIMP installed first).

Well, to cut to the chase, I decided to open one of my RAW images from the Venus Transit to see the difference...and HOLY DETAILS BATMAN! Below is the only image I have opened so far and needless to say I am now motivated to get to work on the rest of the images from the Transit of Venus. Be sure to click and enlarge the image (and if your browser automatically re-sizes the picture to fit your window, click it again to bring it up to full size).

Again, this was 1/4000 of a second at ISO 100.  Keep in mind that this image has been cropped and converted to JPEG format for presentation here, so there is actually more data than one can see in the above image.  In the hands of a skilled image processor, the results could be even more spectacular.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Aphelion! July 5th Solar image

Of note, earlier today (Universal time) the Earth was at aphelion; the farthest point from the Sun in its elliptical orbit. This actually happened at 0500 UT, which translates to 10:00 PM July 4th here in Tucson (last night). At that time, the Sun was 152,092,424 km away...regardless, on to the main event...

Lets get ready to rumble....In the Earth corner, it's me and the Canon T2i shooting through the TEC 140 and our atmosphere. In the Space corner it is the Solar Dynamics Observatory shooting through no atmosphere...

The winner by unanimous decision (one judge - me!), is me! Seriously, when everything comes together this camera is capable of taking some fantastic images. I am really having a great time using the Canon T2i and when my pictures look like the image below it is very rewarding. This image was taken with my TEC 140 using my Discmount DM-6 Alt-Az mount (no tracking) so I was having to re-center the Sun between each shot. I turned on the mirror lock-up feature of the camera and used the two second shutter delay to allow for any vibrations I was inducing into the system to settle before the image picture was taken. Keep in mind that this is a single shot; not a mosaic or even an integration of several images. The only processing done was slight sharpening and adjustment of the brightness and contrast. Technology is amazing...I have virtually no experience in astrophotography and the camera has allowed me to easily take pictures such as of today's Sun. Anyway, without further ado, the champ!
Click to enlarge

And for reference, here is the image taken from SDO, about 8 minutes later than my image at 1400 UT:
Click to enlarge