Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Comet ZTF from Lake Mead NRA, NV

Hiked and photographed Saturday, January 28, 2023. I had hiked out here (the Redstone area) previously, and have also done night photography from near here, as well. But finding some interesting rock formations I found in the daylight was difficult in the dark. You can be just 20 yards away and not see some of these formations. So I when came out here again last month, I dropped some pins (waypoints) with my Alltrails app, then saved the activity, so I could find these places in the dark.

It worked. I got to the parking area about 30 minutees after sunset, walked south, and easily found my first target, the "space alien with eye" formation I called, "Space Alien Arch." That's the first photo, above. Jupiter is the bright object. This is looking to the west, so the skyglow coming from the Las Vegas Valley is pretty obvious.

I then headed north a bit, to my second target. The comet is actually in this shot, as was my intent, but it had no tail, and was so small that it is almost imperceptible at this scale. It's above the two stars at the end of the Little Dipper, about half way up the photo, about 20% in from the right edge

Then I walked back to the parking lot and set up my tracking mount. Set it up dual saddle, with my 80mm f/7 refractor on one side, and my Nikon D3500 with 85mm f/1.8 lens on the other. I alsohad a .8x focal reducer on the refractor, making it effectively a 450mm f/5.6 lens.

My initial shots showed quite a bit of trailing, indicating a poor alignment. So I got behind my mount and adjusted both the altitude and the azimuth to get the main axis more closely aligned with the celestial north pole. Shots after that showed no apparent trailing, at least not at the scale I was shooting and enlarging.

The telescope shots were about 60 seconds at ISO 2000. Nice thin trail visible. Very happy with the result.

I also discovered that my D3500 produces very violet stars, quite different from my D780 (which was attached to my telescope). Not sure if that's due to a setting I made or just the way the sensors are calibrated, or perhaps if one or the other has or doesn't have an IR and/or UV cut filter built in. I definitely like the D780 representation of stars, better.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Comet C/2022 E3 ZTF

Comet photo taken 1/22/2023. Facerock shot was 1/21/2023.

Went out to Joshua Tree last weekend. Took a short hike and some post-sunset night sky shots. Then came back early Sunday morning to catch Coment C/2022 E3 ZTF. My first time using a telescope I bought back in July for possible astrophotography. I already own an Orion Sirius mount, which is plenty to handle the 80mm f/7 refractor. I added a .8x reducer a month or so later, for wider, faster collection of photons.

Not particularly skilled with my technique. I eyeballed polar alignment with Polaris, set up my telescope, then scanned with my binoculars to find ZTF. After I found it with the binoculars, I tried without success to point my telescope on target. The equatorial mount is not very good at sweeping an area, and I didn't have an optical finder attached to my telescope.

So after about twenty minutes, I gave up, swapped my dslr for the eyepiece, and starting taking 30 second exposures of the general area, to find it photographically. After another twenty or so minutes, I finally did find it. I centered, and started shooting off exposures of 30-120 seconds, mostly at ISO 1600. Not technically good shots, but I was satisfied.

Later that morning, over breakfast, I downloaded some shots to my phone and edited the .jpeg in Lightroom for mobile. Best result here.

Also with this post is a shot I took at Facerock, the previous night. Thirty seconds at ISO 1600, 20mm f/1.8 lens. I've shot here before, and I like face!

Despite being only about 1/4 mile from the road (maybe 1/2 mile walking), it's been empty the last few times I've shot. Most folks crowd near the road, or on the other side of the road, at Skull Rock.

Click on the photos for larger versions.

I may post some daytime shots from the Split Rock trail, later.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

B1 Bombers from Altadena, January 2, 2023

On January 1, most years, but January 2 when the first falls on a Sunday, there's the Tournament of Roses Parade in the morning, then the Rose Bowl game in the afternoon. Most years, I think to myself, "I should have gone up there to get a photo of the military flyby" that happens just before each parade, and just around National Anthem time of the game. For many of the most recent years, it's been a B-2 Spirit (stealth) bomber. However, this year, with the B-2 temporarily grounded, the Air Force sent two B-1 Lancer bombers. A friend observed that it was funny that this meant substituting two B-1s for one B2, as though it was a math problem.

Traditionally, the parade starts at 8am in Pasdadena, from the corner of Colorado and Orange Grove, and the Rose Bowl game starts a few minutes after 2pm on the afternoon of the game. The latter will likely change in the new era of a twelve team college football playoff.

I didn't have the motivation to get out of the house and get to Colorado Blvd in time for the parade kickoff flyby, but I did decide to try to get up to Altadena before kickoff time.

I debated between the hills above Altadena (Pasadena-adjacent) or the hills above Monrovia (well to the east, but the planes appear to follow the foothills out that way after leaving Pasadena). Settled on Altadena. I headed up from Rubio Canyon, then took the first left up towards the Sam Merrill Trail.

Ended up in a bit of a rush, as there are a lot of road closures and traffic issues between my home and Altadena on the day of the parade and ballgame, but I made it to the trailhead about 1:30pm. Hustled on up to the Sam Merrill, and went to the first place with a view to the south. Pulled out the camera and waited.

It didn't take long. The approach was pretty quiet, so they would have been in sight for a while before I finally found them. But they spun up their engines and afterburners after they reached the Rose Bowl, and gave me some decent views, of their afterburners, despite the distance. Probably 2-3 miles away for most of these. I shot using a 100-400mm zoom, and cropped pretty severely. Processed on Lightroom for Mobile. Not knock-your-socks-off amazing, but I had fun, and you could see the afterburners, especially in the third shot.

Still plenty of hikes to blog from last year, and even a few from the year before. But that was my first hike of the New Year.

After the flyby, I walked back down into Rubio Canyon, then back up to view some of the waterfalls of Rubio Canyon. Very nice season for waterfalls, so far. Only had my dslr and telephoto, though, so no handy shots to post here.