Click on a photo to see a larger version of the image.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Moon Tree at LPL

In 1971, the mission of Apollo 14 flew to the Moon and landed Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell near Cone Crater in the Fra Mauro Highlands.  Orbiting above the Moon was Stuart Roosa, the Command Module Pilot.  Roosa had been a smoke jumper before becoming an Astronaut and in honor of that profession and their work, he carried a packet of seeds of several different types of trees.  When they returned to Earth, the seeds were distributed to all the states and trees were grown from the seeds.  The trees were planted at many different sites and the University of Arizona received one of the seedlings which was planted between the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and the Flandrau Planetarium where it has been since before I arrived on campus.  I have enjoyed watching it grow over the years.

The above image shows the Moon tree in late June 2014 as I was test driving a new lens for my Canon 70D.  The new lens is a Sigma 18-250mm telephoto, in this case set at 18mm focal length.  The exposure was 1/400 seconds at f/8, ISO 800.

This 2nd image shows the sign in front of the Moon tree and was taken from the exact same spot as the first image, showing the range in focal length of my new lens.  This image was taken at 250mm focal length with an exposure of 1/320 seconds at f/8, ISO 800.  It also shows the sharpness of the lens which appears quite good given its large range in focal length.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Galaxys, stars, a meteor and a dome.

The beginning of morning twilight has started so the sky is very blue.  Near the top left of this image is a meteor streaking through the sky in the edge of our Milky Way Galaxy.  If you look closely just below the top of the dome and about halfway between the dome and the band of the Milky Way, you can see the most distant object visible to the unaided eye (in a dark sky, anyway) - the Andromeda Galaxy.  Watch out because the Andromeda Galaxy is on a collision course with the Milky Way and one day, our two galaxies will merge into a giant mess at least for a while.  Don't worry, it's still a few billion years in the future, but be sure to mark you calendars.....  This image was taken with my 10mm fisheye at f/2.8 with an exposure of 30 seconds and ISO 1600.  The dome houses our 1.8-meter Spacewatch Telescope on Kitt Peak.

A bonus image from a little earlier than the previous image.  The International Space Station is orbiting rather close to the terminator - the boundary between day and night on Earth so that it is visible longer after sunset and before sunrise.  Here is the ISS this morning over the 4-meter dome on Kitt Peak.  The trail starts above the north star, Polaris, and ends above the constellation of Cassiopeia in the Milky Way as it moved from left to right in this image.  This exposure was taken with my 10mm fisheye lens at f/2.8, ISO 800 and a 30 second exposure.  The domes, along the horizon left of the 4-meter dome are the Steward Observatory 90 inch Bok Telescope and the 36 inch Spacewatch Telescope.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

ISS over Kitt Peak

These first 2 images are 30 second exposures at f/2.8, ISO 400, taken back to back.  The first shows the ISS trailing over the planet Mars while the 2nd it is above the star Arcturus.  The Moon is in the upper right corner.  The building is the Spacewatch 1.8-m dome.  All the images in this post are taken with my Canon 70D and a 10mm f/2.8 fisheye lens and identical exposures.

Turning the camera to the right, the ISS is now setting into the northeastern sky over Tucson which is lighting up the clouds a bit between the building and the rock.

The ISS is still visible as a dimming trail in the clouds above Tucson in the lower right edge of this image.  The domes visible from upper right and then across the bottom of the frame are the 1.8-m Spacewatch telescope, the 4-meter Mayall Telescope (the largest on Kitt Peak), the Steward Observatory 90 inch Bok Telescope, the Spacewatch 36 inch telescope and the rolloff roof of the Super LOTUS telescope.  The Moon is just barely in the frame at top left and you can also find the Big Dipper near top center and the planet Saturn above the Super-LOTUS dome at the left edge of the frame.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

ISS and a meteor from Kitt Peak

Tonight featured a very nice, relatively bright pass of the International Space Station overhead.  Ever since I was a young boy watching SkyLab fly over, I've almost always waved at a manned spacecraft that I watched fly overhead.  It's cool to think of the humans aboard that little light silently zipping across the sky.  I am on Kitt Peak tonight in the middle of 8 nights up here.  The last 6 nights are at "home" at the Spacewatch Telescopes.  I took my Canon 70D outside with my 10mm f/2.8 fisheye lens so that I could catch the moonlit cirrus along with all things celestial and some domes and it worked great in a series of 30 second exposures at ISO 400.  The Moon is surrounded by a halo which the ISS flew through in a couple frames before this shot.  This shot is special not just because of the bright trail of the ISS on the right half o the frame above the 90 inch and 4-meter telescopes, but also because a meteor trail appears to the left of the ISS and to the right of the Moon, just going into the faintish lunar halo.  Some recognizable constellations are in the sky as well, just left and above the ISS trail is the Big Dipper.  The sharp eyed amongst you will be able to spot the Little Dipper and Leo as well.  Besides the 90 inch and 4-meter domes at right, you can see the Spacewatch 36 inch dome just right of center and below the Moon is the "Super-LOTUS" which observes gamma ray bursts from its roll off dome.