The Starry Night, 197

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The Conjunction, with Space Station

2020/12/08. Don't dawdle. When Heavens-Above dot com tells you there's going to be a good pass of the ISS (-3.6 Mv and 71° up) and you have a clear, picturesque sky, that is not the time to linger over dessert. I arrived at my usual conjunction spot (because I had no time to look for another one), drew the tripod and SkyTracker from the car, eyeball-aligned it with the pole, mounted the camera, set it for 30s exposures at F4. Tried one frame (too dark) and reset to a higher ISO, plugged in the remote control and that was all the time I had. I could see the ISS coming up through the trees. It's a good thing the Canon fisheye has a firm and reliable infinity stop.


ISS conjunction

Mars at upper left; Jupiter and Saturn at lower right.
ISS arcing across the sky from wall to wall.
ISO 1600, 4x30s exposures, F4, 15mm Canon Fisheye, 6D.
iOptron SkyTracker.


Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter are the easy ones. Uranus and Neptune are also up in that part of the sky. Pluto is at the edge of the trees below and to the right from Jupiter but it will never appear at this scale in all that light (look back a couple pages here in the slowblog for a successful attempt to image Pluto, Jupiter, Saturn, and the Moon using more suitable glass. Instead of using one frame for the sky and layering in the ISS, I've combined four frames for better signal-to-noise in the sky (at the expense of some bluring in the foreground). And I've not cropped quite so much. Behold:


planets aligned

4x30s ISO 1600, Canon 6D, 15mm Canon Fisheye @ F4, iOptron SkyTracker
G'wan. Click the image to have any chance of seeing the outer planets.


2020/12/13. Through the looking glass. Err, through the TMB92SS with a 12mm Nagler eyepiece. Amy and Gemma and I went over to the community lot for our first telescopic view of the conjunction. The two planets are close enough now to fit together in a widefield eyepiece. The weather was warm (60-ish) and the sky still useful ahead of an incoming front. Call this insurance. The view will get better if the weather allows.





Saturn actually looks more impressive in the eyepiece than it does in that sketch, but that's because the mind seizes on interesting detail. This is geometrically correct (I used Guide 9.1 s/w for reference). Click the image for a bigger view, but Saturn will still seem to get short shrift.






My deep-sky photos are made with a variety of sensors and optics. Deepest images come now from a ZWO ASI1600MM Cooled Pro CMOS camera. A good many images come from an unmodded Canon 6D. Video and video extracts begin in a Canon EOS M, usually running in crop mode via Magic Lantern firmware. Telescopes include an AT10RC (a remarkable budget Ritchey-Chretien astrograph), an Orion 10" F4 Newtonian, and a pair of apochromats: a TMB92SS and a AT65EDQ. A very early Astro-Physics 5" F6 gets some use, too. So do lots of camera lenses on both the ASI1600 and the Canon 6D. A solar Frankenscope made using a 4" F10 Orion achromat and the etalon, relay optics, and focuser from a Lunt 60 feeding a small ZWO camera will see more action as the Sun comes back to life. Mounts include an iOpton SkyTracker (original model), a Losmandy G11 (non-Gemino), and an Astro-Physics Mach1 CP3. Software is PixInsight for heavy lifting and Photoshop for polish.


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                   © 2020, David Cortner