It has been a fairly quiet (visually) storm season for me this year but there has been some drama. Here are several shots, from two storms, that took place in July.
Views of the July 7th’s approaching storm: the most active portion was behind me producing low rumbles of distant thunder. Except for light, cooling gusts of wind and these beautiful clouds, nothing remarkable happened where I stood. Not even a drop of rain.
Goodness! I didn’t realize I hadn’t posted here since February!! I’ve mostly been making short-form posts to Twitter and Instagram and neglecting this blog. So here we are in July and I’ll make a couple/few quick image posts with captions. These photos are from July 23 and 24 when local wildlife, here in the neighborhood of a small city, paid us extra-close visits.
I recently took some time to scan a couple of film negatives I shot of the March 7, 1970 total solar eclipse. I’d traveled to Virginia Beach, Va. on a student grant to witness the eclipse and write about it. I shot the images on Kodak Tri-X Pan film, using a cheap 400mm f/6.3 lens which I still own. I have no camera or exposure information; I think the camera was a Pentax SLR when they used screw-in lens mounts! Unfortunately, these negatives were poorly handled by a newspaper that published the item — etched fingerprints revealed in the scans — and poorly stored by me over the ensuing years leaving scratches and allowing those finger oils to do their dirty work. Given all that, I’m glad the negatives survived at all! The first shot here was made during either the beginning or end of totality. The second photo shows the “diamond ring” effect as the sun peeks past the dark lunar limb. The remaining crud in the corona is the result of the aforementioned etched fingerprints, and would require excessive, damaging digital editing to remove. Reviewing newspaper clippings and Sky & Telescope Magazine photos from the 1970 event, I’m actually impressed at how well my humble efforts compare!
I was happy to have discovered, in addition to the poorly-handled film, the full set of negatives I shot that day. It will be good to have them on hand as we prepare for the total solar eclipse which will sweep across the continental United States on April 8, 2024.
Taking advantage of a couple of strings of clear nights, I set up my telescope — now more usable than ever — and did a bit of imaging. I’m pleased to report that the telescope is more usable than ever thanks primarily to two things:
- Automatic GPS time/date/location via a GPS module
- PoleMaster — a device and software that makes polar alignment easier and more accurate than I’ve ever managed before.
I made some efforts at photographing Mars during its 2020 opposition — close approach — and managed “okay” pictures. That is to say, the resulting images were the best I’ve ever done but still short of what I’d like. I’m still working on technique and technologies and this may be the best I could manage given the relatively short 1,800mm focal length of my scope!
Around the same time I turned the telescope to try imaging bright star cluster Messier 2. There was a slight but noticeable improvement there over what I’d managed before.
In early November I set up the scope at night, using the polar alignment system, so that I would be ready for solar photography the next day. Of course I observed other objects that night but then I noticed Orion rising through the bare trees. I stayed up much later than I’d planned but when Orion’s Sword came into the clear I captured what turned out to be the very best images that I have ever made of the Orion Nebula! The brilliant Trapezium star cluster at the heart of the nebula got overexposed but I was thrilled how much of the area’s nebular cloud showed.
I’m also very pleased with my efforts to image the Sun where a huge sunspot group (Active Region 2781) had appeared. The results were very good, using my telescope with Canon EOS 6D Mark 2 camera body attached for full-disk images. To protect camera (and eyesight) I used an AstroZap brand full-aperture white light film filter. Then I switched over to the little ASI178MC planetary camera; its smaller sensor providing a much-magnified effect. While not the best I’ve seen, I’m pretty pleased with this batch of solar images.
So, even under our light-polluted skies, I’m able to manage some decent astrophotography. I’m sure that with time, practice, and clear winter skies I’ll get many more amazing views.