Sunday, September 30, 2012

Final September Sun

I had forgotten that on my way home from work on Thursday, I noticed a halo around the Sun that persisted long enough for me to arrive at home and grab my camera.  It was quite difficult for me to photograph, given my rank amateur status, but nonetheless at least the image gives you a hint of how neat it was in reality.

Below is an image of the Sun in white light taken at 1626 UT this morning through my TEC 140 and Lunt Herschel Prism.  I am still learning the ropes with Adobe Photoshop and I really need to identify a process that works and stick with it.  Overall, the image is not bad, however, I know that if I had a little more patience in both acquiring and processing the image I would end up with better results.  I guess that is why as much fun as I have dabbling in astrophotography, I'll always be a visual observer at heart.  (Do you hear that Mr. Wiles?)  As always, click to enlarge to full size

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Harvest Moon

This weekend is the full moon- and this particular full moon which occurs nearest the Autumnal Equinox is called the Harvest Moon.  After watching the U of A football team give away a game against Oregon State and realizing that those wasted 3.5 hours of my life are now gone forever, I thought I would take a look at the moon and Uranus.  I had heard that they would be very close tonight and wondered if they would be in the same field of view at this late hour.  Unfortunately they were not, however, the nearly full Harvest Moon was rather pretty in my TEC 140 and I took the image below before heading in for the night.  The picture was taken with my Canon T2i at ISO 100 with an exposure of 1/500 of a second, acquired using BackyardEOS, and processed slightly in Photoshop CS6.

Click to enlarge to full size and remember that if your browser automatically re-sizes images you will have to click it again to achieve the full resolution.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sept. 26 Sun

Another early morning shot of the Sun taken with my Canon T2i through my TEC 140 APO/Lunt Herschel Prism.  Seeing conditions were very good this morning with only a very slight breeze at ground level.  Below is a full disc overview image taken at 1547 UT (8:47 AM MST) as well as a full resolution crops of some of the spot regions.
Click to enlarge to full size

Monday, September 24, 2012

Moon shot

While I do not have much energy to spend time observing tonight, I did roll back the observatory roof and take a picture of the Moon with my Canon T2i and TEC 140.  The picture below was taken at 1/400 of a second ISO 100.  Click to enlarge to full size.

For fun, here is the full resolution of the craters at the upper right (again, click to enlarge)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Space Shuttle Endeavor - Final flight

Yesterday evening rumors began to spread that the Space Shuttle Endeavor would be flying over the University of Arizona mid morning today- and sure enough by 8 PM last night the rumors were confirmed by NASA!  We were going to witness Endeavor on the final leg of her final flight.  Astronaut Commander Mark Kelly (who flew Endeavors final space mission) had requested that NASA fly the shuttle over the University of Arizona in honor of his wife, retired Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who remains part and parcel of our community here in Tucson.  As details began to emerge we learned that the flyby would be at approximately 11:15 AM at an altitude of only1500 ft.

Endeavor on final UA approach
I arrived early to scout out a nice viewpoint and ended up on an outdoor balcony at the Student Union.  Sure enough, right on cue, Space Shuttle Endeavor riding atop a Boeing 747 flew over University Medical Center and the main mall at 11:15 AM.  At left is an image of endeavor in the distance as the 747 banked in for the pass.  Thousands of people...visitors to campus, as well as students and staff lined the mall, outdoor balconies and rooftops as one of the great symbols of 20th century American vision, spirit, and  innovation reminded us that we must venture beyond that which we know...we must go beyond our comfort zone and challenge our perceptions of the world around us.  As Endeavor flew west, leaving the University climbing high up for the final leg to California, the crowd began to cheer and celebrate.  It is worth noting that earlier when scouting a location to take pictures, I ran into a dad who had come to campus with his two daughters, who were positively delighted that they had been pulled out of school for the day.  I mentioned to him how great it was that he pulled his kids out of school to see the final flight of the shuttle, and he remarked to me that he would never have considered passing up this chance to inspire his girls.  Truly, he hit the nail on the head- Inspiration.

Click the image below to enlarge it to full size, and if your browser automatically re-sizes images to fit the window you may need to click it a second time.

Starboard side of Space Shuttle Endeavor
Both of these images were taken with my Canon T2i, and a 200mm lens at f/8 with a shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Live from Mount Lemmon...

...It's Saturday night!  I have not written much lately at all about my job as Director of the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter, however, we are embarking on an exciting project this Saturday night.  We are fortunate to have a graduate NASA Space Grant Fellow with us this year, who has partnered with the Tucson chapter of Inner City Outings (ICO) to pilot overnight youth trips up Mount Lemmon.  These trips are designed to take advantage of the unique Sky Island environment and expose youth to science curriculum in the natural world.  ICO works primarily with under-served and refugee youth, and is a very impressive volunteer run organization. The Mount Lemmon SkyCenter is at its heart an astronomical facility and these trips will culminate with the students making astronomical observations.  Many folks within Steward Observatory have been working to assist us as we prepare for this endeavor.  Staff been hard at work updating technology as well as fine tuning the 20 inch Jamieson Telescope for use with school groups.  I will likely post a report following the weekend, but here are some pictures of the facilities that I took last night with my Canon T2i.  What 8th grader would not want to play with us?!?  Click the images to enlarge them.

Jamieson dome

Jamieson cooling down
 60-inch preparing for work with Catalina SkySurvey

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mid-September Sunspots

It has been quite windy the past few days at the Lost Pleiad Observatory as the last of the summer monsoon moisture is being driven out by a high pressure system.  even though the gusts this morning were around 25 mph, I wanted to grab an image of the Sun as I had not been able to in over a week.  Below is a crop of my image showing active regions 11571 on the left and 11569 on the right.  the image was captured at 9:25 AM MST (1625 UT) with my TEC 140, Lunt Herschel Prism and Canon T2i.  It is a single shot at 1/4000 of a second, ISO 100, captured with the software program BackyardEOS.  Due to the high winds shaking everything it was difficult to obtain sharp focus and the atmosphere was fairly unstable as well.  Click to enlarge to full size.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Harris Hawk revisited

A major shout out to my colleague Adam Block who is attempting to set me on the path to photographic righteousness by teaching me some basic things about Photoshop.  After one short lesson, I decided to try some editing of an image I took of a Harris Hawk up on Mount Lemmon a couple weeks ago...below is the latest iteration of the picture and while the background sky color is not exactly what I wanted, the contrast on the hawk is much improved.   (Don't worry Deena, no harm came to the hawk during the processing of this image.)  Click the image to enlarge to full size

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Photoshop - Baby steps

I finally broke down this week and purchased Adobe Photoshop-  While it is fairly expensive software, I was able to purchase it with an educational discount through the University which eased the pain...slightly.  Already, I can see that it is a very powerful program for manipulating digital images to bring out the maximum amount of detail in a way that is aesthetically pleasing.  I had been using the freeware program Gimp 2.8, however, this most recent version of the program had a difficult time utilizing the RAW images that I was taking with my Canon T2i and trying to work around this issue finally pushed me into the decision to purchase photoshop.  My next step is to find a good tutorial on line for using the program with my pictures, particularly those of the Sun.  Unfortunately an internet search for photoshop tutorials turns up far too may sites for my patience if you know of a particularly good one, drop me a line.

I decided to play around with a shot of second contact from the Venus Transit to start understanding a little of how the program works...believe it or not, even the concept of 'layers' is new to me and I have a steep learning curve ahead.  Below is a processed shot of second contact from the transit, as well as an inverted image which is kind of cool in an artistic way.  Be sure and click the images to enlarge them to full size.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day Sun

Click to enlarge
Happy Labor Day here in the USA!  This marks the third consecutive day that I have been able to observe the Sun in white light and take some close up images of the active regions (AR's).  Both AR 1560 and 1564 are rather picturesque sporting many spots both large and small.  At left is an image of the whole disc taken this morning at 1503 UT (8:03 MST) with my Canon T2i through my TEC 140 and Lunt Herschel Prism.

There is something going on in my imaging over the past couple days in that the disc is not illuminated properly.  While the Solar limb should be darker all the way around, there is an obvious light drop off on the right side of the image.  This was closer to the horizon, but I am skeptical that it is atmospheric extinction...I will try and take an image later today with the Sun high in the sky, just to rule out the atmosphere.  Done!!  See the Edit at the bottom of this post-

Using the 2x Barlow, below are crops of AR 1560 and 1564 taken at 1515 and 1520 UT respectively.

AR 1560 - Click to enlarge

AR 1564 - Click to enlarge

EDIT!  I went out to the observatory a few minutes ago and snapped two pictures of the Sun, at an altitude of 56 degrees above the horizon...and the above "shadow" effect on the whole disc is no longer apparent...maybe it truly was atmospheric extinction!?  Image below from 1741 UT:

Click to enlarge to full size

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Active Region 11560

Another morning of Solar Observing and taking pictures of the Sun in white light.  Seeing conditions were very good this morning allowing for a close up view of the large spot region 11560.  First, here is an image of the southern hemisphere of the to enlarge to full size:

The image was taken at 1531 UT (8:31 AM, MST) through my TEC 140, Lunt Herschel Prism, 2x Barlow combination.  It is a single shot at 1/800 of a second, ISO 100 taken with my Canon T2i.  I have scaled the image down for presentation on the blog, but clicking on the image below will take you to the full resolution of the large active region 11560.  It is a crop from the above image, and one can appreciate how stable the atmosphere was given the level of detail in the spots as well as the solar granulation visible.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

September Sun

Labor Day weekend is upon us which means that weather permitting I should get a fair amount of telescope time. Tonight will be relaxed under a nearly full moon (it didn't look blue last night!) and today's Solar observing will be leisurely.  There is quite a bit of activity today in both Hydrogen Alpha and white light.  I hope to spend a couple hours continuing to observe in Hydrogen Alpha as there are many prominence and active regions to be studied.  In the mean time, I did take a white light picture of the Sun this morning using my TEC 140 APO, Lunt Herschel Prism, and a 2x Barlow.  The image below was captured at 1454 UT- while the eyepiece and camera views are grey scale, I did create a false color version for those who enjoy the yellow.

Click the images to enlarge to full size