Sunday, January 26, 2014

Stars Over Joshua Tree

After a short day of hiking in Joshua Tree (due to a late start, due to having errands to run in town), I set up my telescope for some observing. I also brought my "good" tripod so I could take some sky shots. I set up at the Boy Scout Trailhead, where overnight parking (but not formal camping) is permitted. In other words, it's the sort of place the Park Service would like astronomy-types to set up their telescopes.

This site is in the northern and somewhat western part of the park, so there's a couple of very visible light domes. To the north-northeast (where the first picture is centered on the rising bowl of the Big Dipper), the light dome from 29 Palms illuminates the horizon.

The second shot looks high at Orion, which is now pretty much due south (but high) by the time the sky gets serious dark. The third shot is looking due south, below Orion. Sirius is the bright star in that shot. This light dome is from Indio.

Fourth shot here is to the east-northeast, with the head of Leo rising over the Joshua tree.

This shot looks to the east, with Jupiter the bright object to the left-center-top, and Sirius the brightish star to the right.

Finally, a fuzzy shot of my telescope, silhouetted against Orion.

I took all or nearly all but the last one posted at ISO 6400, aperture around 5.6, and exposures of between 20 and 30 seconds. Even at 30 seconds, the stars start to trail a little bit.

This was a pretty nice finish to a short day of hiking (which I still need to blog about). Before I took my pictures, I looked at Jupiter and a couple of easy deep sky objects through the telescope with some rock climbers who flew out from Michigan for a long weekend. It's always fun sharing the sky, and of course, they were just happy to be where the temperatures were on the north side of zero!

I also spied the supernova in galaxy M82, which was a pretty easy sight, but appeared dimmer than estimates have been reporting.

I still need to blog my actual hike from yesterday, and maybe the Santa Fe Dam outreach event. With any luck, I'll get another hike in later today, too. A late start to my latest year of hiking, but still a lot of fun to get away from town for a little while.


  1. Thanks, Mark! I was pleasantly surprised by what I could do with the dslr. I used to take similar photos with my old film slr. Nowadays, however, you can set your dslr to ISO speeds far higher than the film I could buy in the day. Makes for some pretty "out of the box" astrophotography capabilities. All it takes is a steady tripod and the ability to focus on infinity in the dark!