This is a new feature I’m starting on my site as I’ve decided to get back into astronomy. As a young boy I was given my first telescope when I was 10. Throughout my teens I observed, when I could, and enjoyed it. Some of my fondest memories are from viewing at our home on the West Island of Montreal looking at Orion or Saturn in the frigid winter months with the crisp clear air. But then, as is the case with many people who don’t make astronomy their careers, you move on to other things that dominate your life.
And it’s kind of ironic that I’ve started to get back into astronomy. After all I run a media company that covers the space sector!
Anyway, this is my first observation log, subsequent ones won’t contain the intro.
Observation Log: Monday, September 24, 2012
Location: Napanee Dark Sky Viewing Area
44° 33′ 33.8″ N
77° 07′ 01.4″ W
Elevation: ~100 meters
Time Zone: GMT -4
Equipment:William Optics ZenithStar 70mm on a standard Manfrotto tripod with a Nikon D5100 camera. I also had a 50mm and 10-24mm Nikkor lenses.
The weather during the day was very nice but towards the late afternoon clouds were rolling in. I was told they would clear up eventually and they did around 9:45 pm. The evening was cool and by the time I left it was about 8C.
Notes: For my first foray back into observing I couldn’t have picked a better location than the Napanee Dark Sky Viewing area in southeast Ontario. The idea originated with well known author and astronomer Terrence Dickinson who lives in the area. He approached Lennox and Addington County who endorsed the idea and with help of many other locals they created this wonderful viewing location.
I decided to try it out as I had a week off and was heading to Montreal. I’m glad I did as it gave me an opportunity to test out the Williams Optics ZenithStar 70mm telescope I had recently purchased on sale. It was a discontinued model so I got it at nice reduced price. It’s a great little scope both for viewing and astrophotography.
Unfortunately I had no lenses or a telescope tracking mount! What did have was my handy Manfrotto camera tripod and my Nikon D5100 camera. Since I’m really interested in astrophotography my setup was just fine for a ‘newbie’. I’m not really a newbie to astronomy but it’s been so long since I was active.
Observations: (Click on each image for larger versions)
The Moon: Tonight the moon was not quite full, about 3/4, what is called a gibbous moon. I setup around 6:45 but sightings of the moon were fleeting until about 9:45 when the sky cleared completely for about 2 1/2 hours.
Here’s a picture I took at 9:55 pm with the camera attached to the telescope. Settings were ISO 1600, shutter speed 1/1000.
And here’s the full size:
In reviewing my notes I see that at 10:12 I saw a meteor coming from the southwest to the northeast. It was a fast one.
The Double Double: Now that skies had started to clear the moon shown brightly which unfortunately affected everything else I was looking at. I decided to have a look at Vega and in doing so reacquainted myself with The Double Double which was just north in the sky of Vega in the constellation Lyra – The Lyre.
Here’s a picture I took at 10:31 pm of Epsilon 1 Lyrae and Epsilon 2 Lyrae. What’s unique about these stars is that they’re actually two sets of double stars! Unfortunately I could not resolve each set with the setup I had. To the bottom right of the Double Double is the HR 7401, a K5III orange-red giant star.
Settings: ISO 400, shutter speed 1/5, auto white balance, no image modifications.
I then decided to take some pictures of the Pleiades. The first picture was taken at 10:42:30.
Settings: ISO 1600, shutter speed 1.4 second exposure, auto white balance, no image modifications.
The following picture shows the above picture on the left and on the right is another I took at 10:42:53, 23 seconds later. You’ll see something that wasn’t there before. Can you guess what it is?
Settings: ISO 1600, shutter speed 1.0 second exposure, auto white balance, no image modifications.
It’s a plane!
Jupiter and its moons:
Settings: ISO 8000, shutter speed 1/5, auto white balance, no image modifications.
This image and larger version below was take at 11:28. The moons you see from bottom left to top right are Ganymede, Io and Callisto.
And the full zoom.
Conclusions: It was a great 1st night even though the clouds were a problem and the moon was bright. I’m happy with my images but I know they are very amateur and I have a ways to go before I can take professional quality images. I’m learning a lot and it’s a fun hobby. Now if I could only earn money doing this. 🙂
PS If visiting the Napanee Dark Sky site there are two good places to stay in Napanee that I’m aware of. I stayed at the Hampton Inn but there’s also the cheaper Fox Motor Inn which I’m told by a couple I met there that it was nice, clean and cheap at around $75 a night.