Thursday, July 30, 2015

Night Skies

While visiting up the Bruce Peninsula last week we discovered that there was an astronomy night, so we headed down to the beach to see what it was all about.  Thinking there would be a lot of standing around to take turns at telescopes, I took along my own camera and tripod to try out.

This was a fascinating astronomy program, with some serious telescopes!  We got to take turns looking through both of these, seeing a close-up of the moon, Saturn's rings, and several other interesting stars.  With these telescopes you can key in known coordinates of stars or planets and the telescopes move themselves to line up!

This is the 'Bayside Astronomy Program', run by the Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association.  It extends 8 weeks, and provides three telescopes with experts to show you the skies, 4 days of the week, in 4 different locations.  Each week a different short talk is provided, and a chance to look at different celestial objects. 

I was right about standing around to take turns, so I practised getting some sky shots myself.  I've always been fascinated with the constellations, and managed to capture three of them.  This is the Big Dipper, with the North Start off to the right.

And this is Cassiopeia, or the 'Big W', though it's a slightly lopsided 'W'.  It was my father who got me watching constellations.  He taught navigation by the stars for the Air Force during WWII.

This one is a little more complicated.  The three bright stars in lower right, top and left form the Summer Triangle.  Respectively the stars are Altair, Vega, and Deneb - three of the easiest stars in the sky to see.  But within them the four stars on the left plus a faint one to the right of those form a cross, known as the Northern Cross, within the constellation Cygnus, the Swan.  The two lower left of these line up to point to the North Star, an alternate way to find direction for navigators (like the better known two right hand stars of the Big Dipper above).

I tried again at home the other night, and did successfully get pictures of Cassiopeia (above), and the Big Dipper (below), in spite of wispy cloud cover.

I found it quite a challenge to get these photos so the stars showed up, and there were a lot of discards!  They were all 30 second exposures on a tripod.  I'm going to have to practice a lot more to get images I'm happy with!

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22 comments:

  1. Nice job on the star photos! Now see if you can get one of the Milky Way.

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  2. Fantastic photos and what a fun thing to do.

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  3. those are some serious telescopes!!! and what a very cool way to spend an evening. I'd love to do something like this. I have not even dived into night/sky photographing yet, but this makes me want to get busy trying!! I can't imagine what a thrill it would be to actually shoot the Big Dipper. amazing.

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  4. This would be an interesting visit. With the full moon, I wished I could figure out how to make my camera work to photograph it. The moon stays fascinating no matter how old I become.

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  5. What an interesting way to spend an evening. I've never tried nighttime star shots before. Maybe next time I'm out camping I'll have to try.

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  6. I have done some nightime photography but I need more practice. I like September nights it is cooler and no bugs: Although August is the month for the Persids:)

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  7. look at those massive telescopes, serious stuff indeed. Was this area a fair way from city lights?

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    1. Yes, the area we were in is an official 'Dark Sky Preserve'.

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  8. The astronomy department at Cambridge University occasionally hold events like this but I've never managed to attend. Maybe now I will.

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  9. I have struggled with pictures of the moon...never the stars!! Your reach does not exceed your desire it seems.

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  10. I was lucky enough to visit the observatory in Sydney on a really clear night. They have a modern telescope (well, this was 1993/4) and one from 100 years before. What an amazing difference and most interesting to compare. We saw the rings of Saturn, Orion's Sword and the Pleiades.

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  11. Gorgeous captures of the night sky, I love the stars! Have a happy day and weekend!

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  12. I have always looked for the big and little dipper since I was a child. That is one big telescope.

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  13. Have often wished we had an Astronomy club in our area. I would have enjoyed seeing all those telescopes & looking through them. Astronomy is another interest of mine & I know where many of the constellations & prominent stars are. Night photography is something I'm hoping to get into shortly as well & am looking forward to shorter days & earlier evenings without mosquitos. Looks like you have a good start on your night sky photos.

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  14. Astronomy's always fascinated me. Beautiful shots!

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  15. I miss my 8" telescope with polar mount and clock drive. These days, I may use binoculars and I'm satisfied with that.

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  16. Try this for moon shots
    • Put your camera on manual focus.
    • Put your exposure on manual.
    • Put your ISO on 200 for starters.
    • Put your shutter speed on 500th of a second.
    • Put your f-stop on f5.6 or so.
    • Use the longest lens you have or zoom in as far as you can with whatever lens you have. Even then the moon will look shockingly small through the viewfinder.
    • Shoot the largest files that your camera can shoot. You are going to crop into the picture quite dramatically to see those craters, so you need all the information you can get.
    • If you own a tripod use it. Even at a 500th or 250th of a second you want the camera to be really still. When you crop way in the slightest blur starts to show up.
    • Shoot RAW if you know how.

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    1. Thanks for the suggestions. I'll try it.

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  17. That is some serious telescope there. Glad you enjoyed the night. It is fun to get out and about with other enthusiasts.

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  18. Excellent photographs of the stars -- they make me want to try it.

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  19. Great photos! I love looking at the night sky...and those telescopes set up were so cool to let people have a better look than we normally get!

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