Today I did a bit of travelling (just to Collegedale) to do some daytime stargazing. On CalSky.com I was informed that a solar transit of the ISS would be happening near my location and I decided I just had to try to capture it. It was scheduled for 11:43:08am today and would last just under 1 second.
So, I packed up my gear and headed out. When I found a suitable spot to set up, I took out my equipment and realized that I had forgotten my telescope power cable. That’s okay – I can set up by hand. I also forgot my compass, which I use to align the telescope with North, but I guessed at that, based on where the Sun was. So already things weren’t going well, when my laptop battery went from saying I had 90 minutes of power (more than enough) to the next minute saying I had 8 minutes of power (not nearly enough). Despite all of this, I just did it manually – I hooked up the scope and pointed it at the Sun, set up the D50 and used the manual remote to trigger the shutter. When my watch (which I had synchronized before the trip) indicated a minute left I started taking photos as fast as the camera could take them. While it took pictures, I looked through the viewfinder which would go black every time it took a shot (it’s a DSLR) and after about 4 minutes I stopped, not having seen a thing. So I packed up my gear and headed home.
When I got home, I put in my camera’s memory card into my plugged in laptop and waded through 170 images before I finally came to this one. It’s the only one that captured the ISS. Unfortunately, since I couldn’t get the laptop running, I couldn’t focus with the extreme precision I’d need to get a crisp outline of the station, but I’m very happy with this nevertheless. The ISS is clearly outlined against the disc of the Sun while two sunspots are also clearly visible.
I can’t wait to try again (the next one near me is several months away) and next time I’ll bring both my scope’s power cord as well as my laptop’s.
I haven’t been out much – my telescope had a motor go down and by the time I replaced it, I haven’t had good weather. Tonight, I caught an early evening (9:12) ISS pass with two photos – each are 30s exposures and show the station eventually going behind my neighbor’s house.
International Space Station on 5/18/10
Via slashdot, via instapundit, I was directed to the following video of an amazing tour of the International Space Station done by astronaut Mike Fincke. It’s really amazing how large the station is. It’s also amazing how full of junk it is. Watching this makes me think seriously about what would I would need to do to become an astronaut (either that, or earn $25 million) just so I could visit the ISS.
Here it is, in 4 parts:
The Moon, Venus and the ISS (Out of focus)
This is the best of 3 lousy shots that I got. Unfortunately, I accidentally messed with the focus right as the ISS was approaching and this is the result. I did get all 3 in the frame, but they look terrible. Note to self: do not attempt to readjust the focus 5 seconds before an event.
My kids and I doing some stargazing
Tonight has been absolutely gorgeous. Three of my children stayed up a little bit later than normal (until after 9:00) to take part in the Great Worldwide Star Count. First, though, we went out early to catch the International Space Station which was going to be visible in the south. It was really bright!. Then, we lay down on some blankets in our front yard and looked at the constellation Cygnus like we were supposed to. The kids determined that we could see stars up to 5th magnitude based on the charts they provided. We then uploaded the results using my laptop which I had out for my evening’s stargazing. I plan to post a number of other pictures later on this evening.
It’s not too late to participate in the Great Worldwide Star Count! They are accepting observations through the 15th of this month.
The Internation Space Station will be rise above the southwest horizon and head northeast until entering Earth’s shadow at 8:44pm near the constellation Cygnus. It should be the brightest thing in the sky and it will go a bit beneath (visually) Jupiter in the sky. Also, if my software is right, there is a Progress mission that should be with it as well and very bright also. While they still may be visible after they enter the Earth’s shadow, they will probably be much harder to see. The neat thing is that Cygnus is the constellation that people are supposed to view for the Great Worldwide Star Count over the next two weeks. It looks great for that tonight and I’ll be out in my driveway with my kids counting stars. You should participate too!
Note: I’ve noticed that this post gets a lot of hits, I’m assuming from searches. The ISS’s orbit brings it over different parts of the world continuously so while on this particular day it was visible in Flintstone, GA at 8:39pm, there’s no guaranteeing it’ll be there at that time tonight. That said, if you’d like to find out when it’ll be visible in your particular area, please visit Heavens Above. They have a nifty utility that’ll calculate all that kind of stuff. In the mean-time, have a look around.
ISS on 8/23/07 – Out of Focus
The ISS was brilliant tonight: -2 magnitude and I hoped to get a good photo (maybe with some detail?). It was not to be – I had everything set up and took 20-30 shots at various points along its trajectory. Unfortunately, it was out of focus – pretty severely so. However, since I didn’t have much time and the D50 is difficult to focus for astrophotography anyway, I didn’t realize I was way out of focus until it was too late. I had focused on the moon, figuring that that was about the most likely focus level, but apparently, that wasn’t really good enough. It’ll be at least 10 days until it’s this bright again and maybe longer. I’ll try again then.
By the way – does anyone know if I actually had succeeded in getting it in focus if I would have seen any detail? I’ve seen some amazing stuff with done with 10″ scopes, but mine’s just 4.5″ so I know I wouldn’t see anything nearly as spectacular as those, but I was hoping there might be something a bit more than just a dot. When I saw the ISS in Iowa with my scope (no camera at the time), it looked squarish through the viewfinder – not round, but perhaps that was an optical illusion. I hope I’ll have the chance to find out soon.
If you’re in or around Chattanooga (or Flintstone, GA of course), this evening at 9:00pm, the ISS should be visible. Click here for a diagram of where it’s going to show up. I’ll be trying to get some more photos, of course, but if anyone else wants to try or just see the thing, tonight’s a pretty good night to do it because it’ll be very bright, be visible for a very long time (across nearly the entire sky), the viewing conditions are predicted to be really very good and it’s not going to be super late. Here’s my blog entry from when I was viewing it a couple nights ago. The only downside is that even at 9:00 it’s still reasonably bright out so it may not be as visible until it is a bit higher in the sky.
I also saw it last night and tried to get some photos, but didn’t have much success. Though I did get one intriguing photo, I kind of think it was of something else. I may post that photo at a later time for folks to look at.
International Space Station 8/21/07
This 77 second long exposure was exactly what I was hoping for. I knew the station would be coming over this evening and would be extremely bright. I set up my camera several minutes beforehand, and made a test shot or two and once I saw the space station, I opened the shutter on the camera. My goal was to get the big dipper in the picture (it’s in the bottom right quarter of the image) as well and it turned out just the way I was hoping. I can’t tell you how excited I am by this shot – I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw it. I actually was so excited I couldn’t wait and am posting this from my laptop in my driveway while I do some more observation.