The Half-Astrophysicist Blog

Perseid in Hawaii

I went up Haleakala last night to watch the Perseids. Good show…stayed up way too late. Here is a pic, but I have a LOT more to go through!

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August 13, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Crescent Moon, Mars and Mercury

Mercury is starting to climb up in the western sky for a pretty good appearance and tonight the crescent Moon joined Mars in the vicinity. I managed to get a few shots. I expected Mercury to be difficult to see low in the sky, but it was much easier to find than the higher Mars. In these shots, Mars is to the the right and just below the Moon. Mercury is below Mars and just a little to the right. There are a couple of planes drifting through this part of the sky so don’t be fooled by them!

 

April 20, 2015 Posted by | Astrophotography, Mars, Mercury, Moon, Pretty Pictures | Leave a comment

April 4th Lunar Eclipse

A few days late but wanted to post my pics from the April 4th lunar eclipse. I was traveling and spending Easter weekend in Las Vegas. Even though it’s one of the brightest cities in the world, a lunar eclipse punches through no problem. I was staying at the Luxor hotel so I had their Sphinx and pyramid to use for backdrops.

Not many people up at that time of the morning…just a few people trickling back to their hotels. Managed to get a few of them to look up as they wondered what I was photographing at that hour…a few of them even got excited about seeing the eclipse!

So here are the pics…some close up, some wide shots. I had to keep moving as the Moon set behind the pyramid. Eventually I found a palm tree to use as a foreground object. Click any photo to embiggen.

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There has been a lot of discussion about whether this was a true total (but very short) lunar eclipse or just a very deep partial eclipse. Just my personal observations, it sure was borderline. I was never totally convinced there was true totality during those brief five minutes. It is very hard to be 100% sure unless the Moon is well inside Earth’s shadow.

Well, I can think of one way to be sure…that would be an observer on the Moon who could see if Earth covered the Sun…can’t wait until we get a person on the Moon during a lunar eclipse…those will be some photos!

April 7, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jupiter and the Full Moon and a Quick Timelapse

Jupiter rose near the full Moon last night so I thought I would post a pic from my place in Tucson.

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Last night, I made a quick timelapse from some shots I took at Kitt Peak a couple of weeks ago with a Lensbaby 5.8mm fisheye lens. I wish I had let it go longer since I like what I got…I really need to get a second camera so I feel better about tying one up all night!

February 4, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Come Lovejoy From Kitt Peak

I was on Kitt Peak last night and had some time to shoot Comet Lovejoy. It was great to get out to a real dark site and give it a shot. Here are some of my pics.

First, a closeup.

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Now zoomed out to see it next to the Pleiades.

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Now zoomed WAY out! Note the Zodiacal light on the right arching upward and the winter Milky Way on the left. The Pleiades and the Comet are at the top of the shot.

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Next I played with a new fisheye lens I recently bought. Here is a full sky view of Kitt Peak outside the Visitor Center Telescope.

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Finally, I stayed up late to get the comet as it was setting. Here it is above a telescope on Kitt Peak.

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Great night and abnormally warm for January on Kitt Peak. Upcoming schedule will make it hard to get more pics for me before the Moon comes back…get out there and see it soon!

January 21, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Quick Comet Lovejoy Pics

Finally back from a long trip…clouds in Seattle and Florida kept me from getting good opportunities to see and photograph Comet Lovejoy (I saw it from Florida, but the light pollution kept me from getting great pics). Back in Tucson and got some tonight. Here they are…all with a Canon 60D on an iOptron Skytracker. Various exposure times and focal lengths.

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I also was visited by some javelinas tonight. Had my thermal camera with me.

Taken with SM-N900T, Android 4.4.2

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January 19, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Colorful Sunset Animation

I like photographing green flashes at sunset. Tonight’s sunset was particularly rich for a couple of reasons. The Sun set behind  a particularly nice set of mountains resulting in a long series of green flashes with occasional hints of blue and purple. I set my camera to burst mode and took 65 frames. Since my camera takes about 5 frames per second, this corresponds to a little under 11 seconds of video. I animated them all so you can watch it roughly in real time. Sorry for the slight camera shake…the battery in my remote shutter release died so I had to push the shutter release by hand!

December 30, 2014 Posted by | Atmospheric Physics, Green Flash, Sunset | Leave a comment

More On Comet Lovejoy

I went out again last night (Saturday, December 27th) and did some more with Comet Lovejoy. I was out a little later so the Moon was very low and even set while I was observing. The comet was again an easy naked eye object and very nice through 8×42 binoculars. I set up my trusty Canon 60D and iOptron Skytracker to take some more photos.

I took a bunch of 30 second exposures…hope to go back and stack them. Anyway, I just want to post this one since a plane flew right by the comet during one of them and I thought that was kind of fun.

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Here is a longer 120 second exposure that brings out the tail. The small globular cluster M79 is to the upper right of the comet.

IMG_6899Finally, I put the 35mm lens on my camera and did a 30 second exposure so you can see where the comet is in the bigger picture.

IMG_6925I went out tonight just outside my townhome (not to Saguaro National Park). The Moon is brighter and I have more light pollution here. I was not able to pic out the comet naked eye from here but it was easy in binoculars. Comets are notoriously fickle but it is forecast to brighten in the couple of weeks and I hope it gets to naked eye visibility from here. It is also climbing higher in the sky which should help, especially for those farther north (it tops out around 30 degrees above the horizon in Tucson right now, take one degree off that for every degree farther north you are!)

For better and for worse, I travel a lot the next couple of weeks and am trying to figure out how much equipment I can take with me to keep track of this comet on my trip!

 

 

December 29, 2014 Posted by | Astrophotography, Comet Lovejoy | 2 Comments

Here Comes Another Comet Lovejoy

Terry Lovejoy has done it again…another comet he discovered is becoming a nice object. This one is Comet Lovejoy 2014 Q2. He discovered it back in August and it has been a southern sky object but as it approaches Earth, it is moving into the northern sky. I finally got it tonight after fighting weather and my own busy schedule.

I went out to one of my usual spots at the end of Speedway in Tucson. This is the Douglas Spring Trailhead at Saguaro National Park East. It is about a 10 minute drive from where I live so it is reasonable dark to the southeast. Comet Lovejoy was faintly visible to the naked eye and easy in 10×42 binoculars. I took some pics but accidentally had my camera set in JPEG mode rather than raw (STUPID, STUPID, STUPID!) I will try again tomorrow night after the late improv show…Moon should be low enough then that it won’t be a big deal and the comet should still be far enough east that it won’t get lost in Tucson’s lights. Anyway, here is my pic from tonight.

IMG_6834This comet will be around for a few weeks…see it now or wait until after the full Moon in January when the skies will be darker. You might see it naked eye!

 

December 27, 2014 Posted by | Astrophotography, Comet Lovejoy | | Leave a comment

Seeing in the Infrared: The Seek Thermal Camera

I have neglected this blog for a while, but vow to do better! And I have a really fun entry today.

Infrared cameras have been around a long time but have always been very expensive. Even a low cost Flir camera starts at about $1000. I have had the opportunity to borrow infrared cameras for work and have always enjoyed playing with them and wanted one for myself.

Earlier this year, Seek Thermal announced a new camera that attaches to your cell phone (both Android and IOS) for $200. It looked promising and I decided to take a chance and order one from Amazon.

The first thing I will say it it took a while. They were overwhelmed with orders and it was backordered for several weeks. Part of the reason I ordered from Amazon is they won’t charge you credit card until the product ships (some people complained they ordered from Seek directly and their credit cards were immediately charged even though the camera was backordered).

My camera finally arrived on Monday. I downloaded the app for my cell phone (free), plugged in the camera and it took right off giving me infrared images. As you can imagine, the first thing you do is take a selfie.

img_thermal-1107409294You can clearly see warmer and cooler parts of my face. It’s hard to take a selfie since the camera points away from you! The resolution of the camera is pretty low…only about 32,000 pixels (compare to many megapixels for modern cameras). However, that is normal for infrared cameras to have a much lower resolution and some of the entry level Flilr cameras have resolutions of under 5,000 pixels (such as the Flir E4 which starts at $995) so I would say they are doing pretty good for the price point.

When I got home, of course the cats were instantly the subject of pics. They both have cold noses.

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A picture of my television and entertainment center. I believe you can tell where the LCDs are located behind the screen from the heat signature. The big heat source beneath the television is my stereo receiver and the DVR is on the shelf below that.

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I went outside. The camera works in the dark of course since it detects infrared instead of visible light. You can tell the difference between the lower level of my townhouse which is exposed brick versus the second story that has siding.

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Last night I went to Jersey Mike’s subs here in Tucson since I didn’t have time to go home for dinner. Couldn’t resist snapping a photo of the grill. I believe that is meat for cheesesteaks on the grill. Looks like the one on the left will be done first!

img_thermal-745333136I have been playing with it. I have managed to see footprints in the infrared and can tell if someone has been sitting in a chair recently. You can also use the camera to measure temperatures of objects. I have used this feature but not done any testing to see how accurate the readings are.

Two minor issues with the camera. I find that if you bump the camera while it is plugged in, it is easy to jostle it enough for the software to lose contact with it. It always finds the camera again quickly so that is not a major issue. The second issue is a software nag. When you plug the camera in, a pop up window appears and asks if you want to allow the phone to access the camera. There is a little box you can check that says always allow this connection. I check that box but it always shows up again and asks the same question every time I connect the camera. Hopefully this will be fixed in a future software release.

The camera will record video as well. However, the refresh rate is only 9Hz so the video will not be very smooth. Again, I have found this true even with the $1000 (or more) IR cameras so you have to pony up a pretty penny to get around this!

Overall, my first impressions are positive andI hope to play with it for a long time! I will take it with me when observing/photographing outside so I have something to entertain myself with while my camera clicks away.

The other issues I should mention is with the iPhone version. According to Seek’s facebook page, Apple has not approved it for use with the iPhone so shipments of the iPhone model are on hold currently and people waiting for that version are not happy. It looks like they are almost caught up with the backlog of orders for the Android version.

You definitely can’t beat the price…this is the first time a decent IR camera has been available at this cost and I look forward to seeing what people can do with it!

November 19, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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