August 17, 2012

Catching Meteors - January Quadrantids

     Back in January, the Quadrantids were predicted to be a pretty good shower, given the lack of moonlight and the amount of comet dust we were likely passing through.  Hence, I decided to give it a whirl with my DSLR (Canon Rebel XS) with the stock 18-55mm lens at 18mm.  Here's the logic I used to get something.
     Highest ISO possible, with largest aperture possible.  Why?  Since meteors are objects that only appear for less than a quarter of a second, I need to maximize its exposure compared to the exposure of the rest of the picture, while still getting a good enough picture of a constellation.  If I had lower ISO or smaller aperture, it would require a longer exposure time which would mean the meteor would be visible for a shorter fraction of the exposure, making it dimmer.  After taking some test shots with ISO 1600 and f/4, I found that a 20s exposure gave me the best constellation shot without too much light pollution.
     So with the settings ready and two charged batteries waiting, I set my remote shutter to continue taking 20s shots until the battery died or the memory card was full.  I did have to switch batteries part way through, which you'll notice in the video.
     I only got about 1.5 hours worth of the shower, but I was able to take all of the pictures and load them into iMovie and shrink the display time of each to 0.1s to create a movie.  Really the only purpose of an iMovie in this case is to use it to try to find the meteors in the pictures.  Playing it allows me to watch many at one time and it's easier to see them when they flash up on the screen.  It also helps to have 20 sets of eyes in the classroom checking it out, too.  We found two other "meteors", though I'm not quite convinced.
    Using the timing in the video, I was able to find one....yes, just ONE meteor.   Oh well, I DID get a picture of a meteor!  Alas, here's the original photo.
     After cropping it and doing some darkening in Photoshop (I'll post on that stuff later), I got the final picture, which I'll probably frame.

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     This was all done by trial and error, although I did do a little bit of research to get some general ideas.  The problem was that most of the stuff online has ISO settings of 3200 or 6400, which my camera does not have.  Have you captured any meteors?  What settings did you use?

August 12, 2012's been a while

Yeah, more than a year.  For all 6 of you followers, I apologize.  I actually have been taking pictures, but I've fallen into the trap of taking so many shots on a rare fateful night where I actually get the chance, then falling asleep and never really getting to processing them and posting about them.  So I have a back log, and I intend to post about my favorites as I go from most recent shots to the oldest ones.  Hopefully they're enjoyable to see, and who knows, maybe you'll learn something from me, or I'll learn something from you.  After all, as an educator, that's kind of the goal.

October 23, 2011

2011-06-30 – Dumbell Nebula

Also while I was taking some pictures of the Ring Nebula, I decided to take a quick look at the dumbbell nebula.  Here I did some darkening like I did on the Orion Nebula before.  It got better, but I think some better planning, light pollution filters, etc. would make it better.
Canon Rebel XS, through my 120mm refractor, with 10mm eyepiece projection, 90 seconds
Same picture, with some processing

August 30, 2011

2011-06-30 - Andromeda

I was taking some pictures of the Ring Nebula, then moved on to see what I could do with the Andromeda Galaxy.  Unfortunately, the light pollution in Ephrata is simply too much.  It didn’t help that I was looking through my 10mm eyepiece, but you can see the dark dust lanes at least. 

Canon Rebel XS, through my 120mm refractor, with 10mm eyepiece projection, 95 seconds
Next time I’ll put a light pollution filter on and see what happens – maybe use the Newtonian or SCT for more light gathering.

July 25, 2011

Jupiter Refractor Less-of-a-FAIL

On the same night that I took the previous pictures of Jupiter through the Dobsonian Reflector 10in, I also took pictures through the EON Refractor.  Judge for yourself, but the cool part is I got some of the moons on this one.

July 24, 2011

Jupiter Dobsonian FAIL

Alrighty, so back in October of last year, I tried getting some pics of Jupiter through the 10-inch Newtonian Reflector on Dobsonian mount, just to see what would happen. Basically a fail because I couldn't magnify it (putting in an eyepiece would have changed the focal length to a spot I can't get to) and because my refractor is better for planetary observing anyway. Alas, if I don't blow up the pictures at all, you can see some detail, like Jupiter's band (Usually there are two band, but this was taken when the one band suddenly "disappeared").

The original after cropping - Shot with DSLR on 10in reflector, 1/500s, ISO 200

The "processed" picture
Overall, I'm not impressed.  I figure if I want to get good pictures of Jupiter I should:
  1. Use the Refractor
  2. Use a CCD camera and learn how to stack images
  3. Or if I want to use the 10in reflector, I think I need a focal reducer or something...

March 27, 2011

First Processing Attempt (almost) EVER!

Ok! So I decided to do a little QUICK processing of my image and found that it was actually not that hard and there was definitely a vast improvement in the picture quality (I think).  So I took the advice from this website (and changed the RGB settings based on what I liked).  I really just changed the RGB levels and contrast and brightness (after cropping it).  What do you think?
Obviously, it's not show quality, but it does give me hope for later.