Satellite With A Period of Approximately 0.67 Day
Weird 2009-05-17 3:20:32 UTC
2009-05-17 5:02:52 ‑ 5:05:28 UTC
20 s - ISO 1600
White balance = Manual
prime focus (32.5×)
I removed a darkframe and flatfield, enhanced the contrast, applied a 3×3 Gaussian blur to minimize thermal noise, rotated to north-up, scaled to 33.3% and cropped the image. Finally I combined my three photos into a simple movie.

It's not surprising to see satellites traveling along the celestial equator like this object; it is surprising (to me) how "slowly" this one appeared to be moving through the frame. This implies a high orbit: "back of the envelope" period of approximately 0.67 day and an altitude of about 30,000 km. There are some military and research satellites at this altitude but I haven't found an match for this object yet.



M3 and Cosmos 1666
Cosmos 1666 2009-05-09 3:20:32 UTC
2009-05-09 3:20:02 ‑ 3:20:32 UTC
20 s - ISO 1600
White balance = Manual
prime focus (32.5×)
I removed a darkframe and flatfield, enhanced the contrast, applied a 3×3 Gaussian blur to minimize thermal noise, rotated to north-up, scaled to 20% and cropped the image.

I've had satellites move through frames a few times before but always at the periphery. This is the first time I've had one pass so close to the my object of interest: the globular cluster M3 in this case.

Thanks to Heavens-Above and the Encyclopedia Astronautica I know the satellite to be Cosmos 1666, a 1500 kg, Tselina-D, electronic signals intelligence satellite launched on 1985-07-08 or -09. Approximate magnitude was 3.7.



73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 C and B
Comet 73P ("P" for periodic) is more recognizably named Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, or S-W 3, for its discoverers. Known since 1930, S-W 3 began receiving special attention in 1995 when it started falling apart. Now there are dozens of fragments all of which continue to disintegrate. C and B are the most prominent, remaining, large pieces.

The first night, the morning of May 12, I started with the C fragment and was quite excited by its appearance and brightness - that is until I looked at the B fragment, a little later, which was more striking. The next morning, both fragments were still prominent and beautiful through the telescope but looked slightly dimmer. Although real changes are occurring from day to day, this "dimming" was probably the result of the full Moon being higher in the sky.

During this time, the fragments were at their closest to Earth, about 30 Earth-Moon radii, and obviously moving quickly across our sky. The short movies show the motions of fragment C over an 18 minute period, and fragment B over a 13 minute period. During this time, both fragments move about 1/6 the apparent diameter of the Moon. In the photos below, this motion causes the background stars to appear as streaks when images tracking the comet rather than the stars were created. Fragment C
73P C movie
Fragment B
73P B movie

73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 C
73P 3 C 2006-05-12 73P 3 C 2006-05-13
9:36 - 9:54 UTC May 12, 2006
20 s - f/2.8 - ISO 400
White balance = Manual
Noise reduction = Fixed Pattern
1.0x telephoto
25.0 mm eyepiece with reducer-corrector (31.5x)
This is a combination of twenty-one images. A background was removed from each and the contrast enhanced. The modified images were combined by subgroups of four, except for the last group which contained five, and the contrast enhanced again. Finally, the subgroups were combined.
9:16 - 9:30 UTC May 13, 2006
20 s - f/2.8 - ISO 400
White balance = Manual
Noise reduction = Fixed Pattern
1.0x telephoto
25.0 mm eyepiece with reducer-corrector (31.5x)
This is a combination of seventeen images. A background was removed from each and the contrast enhanced. The modified images were combined by subgroups of four, except for the last group which contained five, and the contrast enhanced again. Finally, the subgroups were combined.
 
73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 B
73P 3 B 2006-05-12 73P 3 B 2006-05-13
10:05 - 10:17 UTC May 12, 2006
20 s - f/2.8 - ISO 400
White balance = Manual
Noise reduction = Fixed Pattern
1.0x telephoto
25.0 mm eyepiece with reducer-corrector (31.5x)
This is a combination of sixteen images. A background was removed from each and the contrast enhanced. The modified images were combined by subgroups of four, except for the last group which contained five, and the contrast enhanced again. Finally, the subgroups were combined.
8:51 - 9:07 UTC May 13, 2006
20 s - f/2.8 - ISO 400
White balance = Manual
Noise reduction = Fixed Pattern
1.0x telephoto
25.0 mm eyepiece with reducer-corrector (31.5x)
This is a combination of nineteen images. A background was removed from each and the contrast enhanced. The modified images were combined by subgroups of four, except for the last group which contained five, and the contrast enhanced again. Finally, the subgroups were combined.


Mercury - Venus - Saturn Conjunction
Mercury - Venus - Saturn 2005 Mercury - Venus - Saturn (enhanced) 2005
2:32 UTC June 28, 2005
Magnitudes: 0.0, -3.7 and 0.2 respectively
2 sec - f4.9 - ISO 100
camera and tripod; 3× optical and 1.8× digital zoom
There's no modification of the photo on the left. The photo on the right is the image on the left with the contrast enhanced.
There was noticeable (heat) haze and a bank of clouds low on the western horizon. This significantly reduced the apparant brightness of the planets as they set, Saturn in particular which was the lowest of the three. Some passers-by and I agreed that Venus and Mercury were obvious by eye while Saturn required binoculars. Saturn is faintly visible in the original photo if one uses the enhanced photo as a guide.


Comet Machholz
2:36 UTC February 18, 2005
Magnitude: 5.7
60 sec - f2.8 - ISO 400
25.0 mm eyepiece (50.0x)
This is an average of five images with the low end contrast increased. I created a blank background field and subrtracted this from my five 60 sec images. I then averaged those five images always aligning on the comet. Lastly I increased the contrast.

Comet Machholz is moving and fading quickly. Even over the 12 minutes needed to take the photos, the comet moved relative to the background stars which appear as short streaks.


Venus-Jupiter Conjunction
Venus-Jupiter conjunction
all about 11:45 UTC November 5 - 8, 2004
8 sec - f2.8 - ISO 100 - 3x optical telephoto
camera on tripod facing east
A post-processing combination of four photos. The brightest object moving from the left of center to the lower left is Venus. The next brightest and moving a smaller distance is Jupiter. The brighter star to the left just below the center is γ Virginis, the dimmer star to the near the top and right of center is η Virginis.

On November 4, I was able to see the Venus-Jupiter conjunction through a gap in the clouds although it was drizzling at the time. The next morning, November 5, I set up my camera and tripod and took the first picture at about 6:10 AM CST. The "late" start was intentional so that there was enough light to make the sky and trees visible with an 8 sec exposure. These made for a little more interesting image and the trees provided a convenient reference to dramatize the day to day motion of the planets. Thereafter, I set up my camera and tripod each morning at about 5:30 AM CST in about the same spot and took pictures with darker skies. I opted for 8 sec exposures to insure I could see a few stars for aligning the pictures.

In post-processing, I simply added all four images together after aligning the two stars mentioned above.


Sun Halo
Sun halo
06:30 UTC May 10, 2004
1/1000 sec - f2.8 - ISO 400
camera on tripod pointed to the south-southwest

I noticed an almost complete halo around the Sun on my noon walk. The halo had faded but was still intact upon my return so I quickly got out my tripod and camera. Never having done this before, I let the autoexposure capabilities of the camera take over.


Venus and the Pleiades
Venus and the Pleiades
01:15 UTC March 1, 2003
8 sec - f2.8 - ISO 400
camera on tripod facing west

Venus and the Pleiades are centered. Mars is to the upper left, Capella to the upper right. The sky was poor with high haze but appeared better to the west. The exposure is short enough that any drift is not noticable.


Iridium Satellite Flare
Iridium 41 (right antenna) flare
01:31 UTC December 21, 2003
15 sec - f2.8 - ISO 400 - 3x optical telephoto
piggyback

The long streak is the flare from the right antenna of Iridium 41 moving from north (top) to south. Orion is to the upper right; Sirius to the lower left.

I had intended to start shortly before the flare appeared to begin and capture the entire event. However, the camera had gone into sleep mode while I waited for the flare. I did not realize this had happened and it took me several seconds to recognize this and hit the button a second time. Regardless, this is a fun success for me, one I hope to duplicate.


Leonid Meteor Trail
2002 leonid meteor
10:35 UTC November 19, 2002
5 min - f2.8 - ISO 800
The camera lying on its back pointed up.
Northwest is to the top.
This image was scanned from a negative taken using Kodak Max ASA 800 color film.

The longer streak in the center is the meteor. The stars Pollux and Castor appear to upper right of center. The Praesepe is just visible to the lower left. A background field was created from and then subtracted from the original image to eliminate sky glow. The contrast was enhanced slightly. Note that power lines, upper center to the right are still faintly visible as is an bottom lit tree branch in the lower left.

Last modified: 2009-05-23