Author Archives: Damian

(Another!), Moon and Venus from Tuesday 4th Dec

My works Nikon D7000DX (APS-C) and my own (full frame) Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED, hand-held out the bedroom window.

 

Jpegs straight off the camera.

 

7.09am ISO125 1/20 f/2.8 84mm (Focal length in 35mm)

 

7.34am ISO100 1/50 f/3.2 82mm (Focal length in 35mm)

 

7.35am ISO100 1/60 f/3.5 70mm (Focal length in 35mm)

 

7.35am ISO100 1/60 f/3.5 82mm (Focal length in 35mm)

Damian

An ‘Astronomy’ related day – plus… I met an astronaut!

I started my working day photographing ceramics at Richard Winterton Auctioneers (you might have seen him on daytime telly – Bargain Hunt and David Dickinson’s Real Deal), ready for the next sale later in the month.

One of the early lots was this pair of Lorna Bailey limited edition ‘Celestial’ vases…. very much a space theme in evidence:

Later in the day I found Jon, our resident toy expert looking through some old newspapers, he’s here, hiding behind this one!

and..

I left work early as Julie had got us both tickets to Lichfield’s Guild Hall to see a talk by retired NASA astronaut, Winston Scott.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winston_E._Scott

It was a 5.30 opening for a 6.00pm start. We arrived just after the doors opened and I was surprised to see the back of a man in a blue jump-suit… the main man himself !

Considering Winston and his wife had only just flown into the UK and had been travelling most of the day, he had a big smile and seemed genuinely happy to meet and greet us (and everyone else) on our arrival. Julie and I had chance to talk with him before his presentation and I said I was a member of a local astronomy group. He asked about us and I told him about the new observatory. He didn’t just politely listen (as you might expect), but asked what sort of scope we were going to put in it, etc.

His talk lasted about half an hour. He told us about his childhood, education and how he finally joined the US Navy – becoming a fighter pilot, flying F14 Tomcats. As he explained for those that didn’t know their planes, that was the one made famous by Tom Cruise in TopGun – although he quipped that he had actually ‘flown’ the things! The picture below was taken after he had received notification that he was off to NASA for astronaut training…

He explained that he trained to become a helicopter pilot flying anti-submarine machines in the Vietnam war, before applying to NASA.

His talk continued about the training involved to become an astronaut and his two missions, which included early experiments for construction in space – what would become the ISS. One of the most important things he did (yet hadn’t practised for), was after the Shuttle had released a SPARTAN solar observation satellite that malfunctioned. It was decided that he (and his Japanese colleague) should try and manually rescue said satellite (because it was slowly spinning out of control, the Shuttle crew could not use the robotic arm). Instead the two astronauts strapped their feet into position and over a 3.5 hr EVA, Winston guided the Shuttle pilot ever closer to the satellite so the two astronauts could physically grab it and load it back into the Shuttle cargo bay!

 

The satellite in question:

A link to him talking about catching the satellite:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1tcA8GnPCj_xzMDYiKJ4X82BPtfpUyuUh/view?usp=sharing

He then explained the re-entry and landing procedure for the unpowered Shuttle and the extraction of the crew. He made an interesting comment… that you never see the crew leave the Shuttle as that is always done in isolation, “because some don’t cope with the return to Earth too well”, which is unlike the footage we see when they are being pulled / carried out of the Soyuz craft… had never occurred to me, that fact.

After concluding the main talk, the floor was opened for a half hour question and answer session which covered questions relating to travel to Mars, his training, pre-flight feelings and expectations, the private sector and space tourism, the future direction of space travel… and even his Navy ‘Call-Sign’… no, it wasn’t Maverick.. or Ice Man!

At the end Julie and I both went up separately to thank him. J got chance to ask a few more questions (!), one was about languages (as you might expect from a modern languages teacher!!!) and the other was about how they decide which way is ‘up’ in space – he’s answering that question below… (it depends on the craft).

We left with a signed photograph having had an absolutely super evening. We couldn’t have met a nicer and more down to earth guy. If intelligent life ever visited Earth, he would make a great ‘First Contact’ ambassador !

Damian and Julie

 

North America and Pelican in Ha

First Image in more than three years…. just a screen grab as it’s not good enough for a full size jpeg.

A quick process to re-learn what we’ve forgotten in that time!

7x 600seconds taken at 385mm f/3.6. Dark and flat frames applied.

Calibrated and stacked in Nebulosity. Processed in Photoshop CC 2017.

Been out a few more times since then to try and sort out issues with guiding, mount control and the Robofocuser having stopped working – we’re slowly getting there!

Think now I have a total of 17 subs on this to sort. Then I’ll process again with a bit more care and attention to the finer details and stars. That should (hopefully) be the Ha sorted.

Next year we’ll try and get the SII and OIII to make up a false colour image.

Damian

Lightning!

Just had a hefty thunder storm over the hills from Westendorf, Austria.

I quickly downloaded the iLightningCam app that Ed mentioned (well the free version to trial)!

This was the result from having a play with the settings sitting on the balcony from our room (hand held no less)…

Damian

Noctilucent clouds over Streethay

Yes, the same ones Andy has also posted!

Woke up, looked out the bedroom (back) window… could see them bright as anything. Shot round to the front and grabbed camera. Couldn’t get the angle from my office window. Tried Julie’s office window (also on the front), but no joy… Headed downstairs in dressing gown and into back garden. Pulled wheelie bin out (for small tripod) but still no joy! Opened side gate and plonked tripod on car roof and started taking pictures…. rang Andy’s mobile – no joy, rang house number…. got a pretty vacant “…..heeellloooo…”. I think my curt response went something like…” Andy, it’s me, you need to get your arse outside, Noctilucent clouds..!”

This is a 1 second exposure @ f/2.8. ISO 200, 48mm focal length was shot at 3.30am on Friday morning 6th July 2018

My trusty old full frame Nikon D3 on a small travel tripod, itself sitting on my car roof.

Damian

Off the iPhone6…

Noctilucent Clouds from Steethay!

Sunday 24th June.

Observed around 11.10pm looking North (out of my front office window) – North North West (so just to the right (East) of the earlier solar pillar.

jpegs straight from camera, no processing. Taken between 11.20 – 11.40pm

Really tricky to stop the street light flare hitting the lens…

Nikon D3 (full frame) and Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens.

All ISO 200, f/2.8, 70mm focal length and between 2-3 second exposures.

Towards the end of this run I could not see the NCL’s as they had grown too faint.

For orientation: the same picture above, but with annotations


 

Damian

Solar Pillar – Sunday 24th June 2018

Three jpegs straight out of the camera.

Nikon D7000 (APS-C/DX) Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VRII + 1.4x TC

ISO 100, 1/160 sec, f/5, focal length 100mm (150mm in 35mm terms)

9.47pm

 

ISO 100, 1/100 sec, f/5, focal length 100mm (150mm in 35mm terms)

9.56pm

 

ISO 100, 1/50 sec, f/5, focal length 100mm (150mm in 35mm terms)

10.05pm

 

Damian

Solar Observing and Evening Treats!

Sunday 24th June, a chance to get out and do some solar observing – can’t leave it all to Nick and Roger after all !

I double checked my usual sites to see what was happening on the sun, they suggested enough to warrant pulling all the gear out.

http://halpha.nso.edu (GONG)

http://www.spaceweather.com

https://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov

Credit: SOHO (NASA/ESA)

 

Credit: SDO/HMI

 

Invited the big ‘A’ to join me, he duly did after 2.15 as we set up the gear.

Forecast on ‘Clear Outside’ app was correct, indicating 90+% high cloud cover…

This did have a detrimental effect on the observing to some degree, especially in my longer focal length scope, but you have to take the opportunities when they present themselves!

We both took the chance to do some sketching and it was good to see that Andy’s Calcium Quark actually worked – an “enhance white light” view, being my description.

Copyright: GONG/NSO/AURA/NSF.

We were more than pleased with our day as Andy packed up after 5, me not long after…

But the day wasn’t finished…

Looked out my North facing front office window to be greeted with a Solar Pillar – about 9.30pm.

Took a quick snap with the iPhone, then rang Andy. He seemed a bit perplexed at first for my call and a ‘Light Pillar’, but I urged him to go outside, then put the phone down pretty abruptly and went to grab a ‘proper’ camera.

iPhone image 9.34pm:

And again at 10.07pm

Even later into the evening, I spotted roughly in the same position what I thought could be noctilucent clouds… never seen them before.

Having left my tripod at work, I quickly grabbed the GorillaPod and took a 3 sec exposure – ‘NCL’ confirmed !

Texted Andy… no reply…

Those images will appear in a new thread!

 

Damian