Updates: January 2014

UPDATE: Tuesday January 14th 2014: “Losing Lovejoy”

I really don’t think it will be long now until Comet Lovejoy fades beneath the reach of modest equipment like mine, so I’ve written a new astropoem about it, kind of a thank you and goodbye…

LOSING LOVEJOY

…and there you are again, still shining
Stubbornly above the trees,
An on-the-very-edge-of-sight star
Far to icy Vega’s lower right,
Bathed in lonely Rasalhague’s glow.
Nowhere near as easy to see as you were
On Christmas Eve; your head no longer
That bright, Kryptonite green
It was while our longing eyes
Were fixed on lying ISON.

There you are again, old friend,
A sky wraith, fading away,
Still shining softly as darkness greys
And birds wake to greet the approaching dawn with song.
I’ve followed you for many Moons now,
Watched you grow from a lowly smear
In an eyepiece on a star-spattered Kielder night
To an emerald green, lace-tailed light
Above frost-whitened fells
Playing hide and seek through scudding clouds,
Your tail, clipped from a vapour trail,
Drawn in pastel shades of lavender and blue
As you fell silently through the sky,
Gliding past Procyon before flying fearlessly
Beneath the Beehive and slipping through
The gap between Cancer’s nipping claws,
Brightening, tail growing,
Shamefully ignored as ISON fever gripped the world,
People everywhere unaware Another was there
For them to see…

Almost gone now, almost gone.
It won’t be long before you’re lost to me.
But ‘til then every chance I have to see
You fading into the night
With these sleep-deprived eyes  I’ll take,
And treasure.

© Stuart Atkinson 2014

—————————————————————————————————————-

 

UPDATE: Sunday January 12th 2014: Lovejoy really fading now…

Our much-beloved Christmas Comet, Comet Lovejoy, is still there, but a lot fainter, and smaller, and harder to pick out from the background stars, than it was the last time I looked. The past two mornings I got up early to try and get some more photos – with mixed success!

Yesterday morning I looked out the window and just before six and was greeted by the welcome if unexpected sight of a beautiful clear and starry sky, so I grabbed all my gear and hared up to my little woodland clearing to take some more Lovejoy pics. Set up, aimed camera, set camera, pressed the shutter button to begin the exposure -

“No card in camera” said the screen.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

I’d left my memory card in my card reader on the table, after downloading some pictures the previous night! IDIOT!!!!!

Luckily I’d only walked 5 minutes or so from home, so I was able to dash back, grab the card, put it in and dash back to my observing site again… but of course, in that time, just in those few minutes, the sky misted over, completely, not a hint of a gap left.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

But I wasn’t going to give up without a fight. I waited for another good half hour, until small gaps began to appear in the cloud cover, and eventually, with the birds starting to sing their dawn chorus, and the first hint of brightening in the east, I managed to get a couple of pictures. They needed some work doing to them, but at least I got something…

LJ4b

I know what you’re thinking – “Er, where is it?” so here, this will help…

LJ4bcircled

I tried cropping and enhancing the comet a little but I’m not sure it was worth it to be honest…

LJ4 crop

But hey, at least I got something…

Then this morning, another optimistic early wake up, and another clear sky, not as clear as yesterdays, a little more hazy,but definitely good enough to go comet-hunting in. So, grabbed my gear – card securely in camera, and a newly-bought lesson-learned spare tucked away inside my camera bag too – and headed out, and within ten minutes was taking pics of Lovejoy. It’s still there, but it’s a bit of a fight capturing it wth a basic camera-on-tripod-only set up now, because it’s a lot fainter, a lot smaller in the sky, and is heading into a very rich starfield too, so it’s starting to become lost in the star froth of the Milky Way. But it is still there, and worth taking a look at when the sky is clear above you next…

LJ Best

Lovejoy is centre, just to the left of the bright star over to the right (which is Rsalhague, by the way).

This time cropping it has worked rather well, I think…

LJ crop best

I also did a bit of experimenting this morning, taking some pictures of the sky, minus a comet, to see how stacking them would work, really testing out the potential of my observing site for more general astrophotography. Pretty pleased with the results too…

Lyra2b s

Lyra2b cr

That’s the constellation of Lyra, The Lyre, and the mega bright star is Vega. Quite pleased with that, and it shows my little observing site has great potential for the future I think! :-)

Update: Friday January 3rd 2014: Lovejoy Fading…

Against all the odds I managed to get a couple more images of Comet Lovejoy this morning. I headed up to “Little Kielder” at 5am, under a beautifully clear, starry, sparkly sky, but it was blowing an absolute gale as a storm started to move in from the west, and I had to literally hold the camera tripod down while I took pictures. That meant most were blurry – it’s impossible to keep perfectly still while doing that, the vibrations run through you and through the tripod too – but I managed to salvage a handful of shots, and stacking them together and tweaking them a bit has resulted in a couple of “Hmmm, not bad…” pics..!

Lovejoy is a lot smaller and fainter now than it was just a few weeks ago, so to give you a sense of scale here’s one of the uncropped stacked images – a stack of 5x 50mm 4 sec exposures, each shot at f2 and 6400ISO…

LJ2

And now a couple after “a bit of work”… :-)

LJ1_cr2

LJ2_cr2

I had planned on taking a lot more pictures, but by 05.30 clouds were rushing in, being lit from behind by brilliant flashes of lightning, so I decided that standing out in the open with a big metal tripod for company probably wasn’t the best idea ever, so I headed home again! But at least I got the pics…

I wonder how many more I’ll manage to sneak before Lovejoy is too faint?

Update: January 1st 2014: HAPPY NEW YEAR!

First of all, can I wish all of you a very Happy New Year! Glad to see you came back to the blog even after 2013 ended, and I hope you’ll keep coming back during 2014 because there will be at least a couple of noteworthy comets in the sky, and who knows what surprises will come out of the deep during the next twelve months..?

By the way, has anyone noticed how quiet the ISON/Nibiru/Wormwood/Armageddon/Rapture nutters have suddenly fallen? Brilliant isn’t it :-) You have to feel sorry for them; they must be feeling SO embarrassed today, what with all their doom-mongering Comet ISON predictions coming to nothing. Oh, the shame of it, the humiliation! After all those months of spouting utter, utter bulls**t on YouTube and Twitter there was no “Red Hand of Death”, no earthquakes or tidal waves, no invasion by UFOs, no clouds of angels filling the sky, no alien ambassadors greeting us from their majestic extraterrestrial biospheres, no Earth-shattering fly-by of Nibiru… nothing. NOTHING. And are they acknowledging that? Is there a single honest, hands up “We got it wrong, we were just talking crap, sorry if we scared anyone…” apology? Naaah. Don’t be daft. All we’ll hear now is silence, a deafening, deluded, denying silence from the idiots who spent so much time last year trying their best to either misinform or terrify people about the comet. If I have one wish for 2014 it’s that it will be the year these idiots, nutters and cranks finally get bored with their conspiracy theory garbage and start to channel their energies into actually looking at the real sky and appreciating the real wonders of the universe. But I already know that’s not going to happen, and I don’t need a crystal ball to predict that all their lunacy about Comet ISON is going to seem like a warm up act for off the scale tin foil hattery come October, when Comet Siding Spring scrapes past Mars.

I can tell you all now that I will be covering that event here on this blog, and again there will be zero tolerance for the conspiracy theorists.

But enough of that for now! Let’s start 2014 postively, by taking another look at Comet Lovejoy!

Yes, it’s still there, still visible after sunset and before dawn for observers in the northern hemisphere, but only if you make the effort to get out there and see it. It takes some hunting down now, because it’s now way below naked eye visibility, and requires binoculars or a small telescope to be seen. But it is still a pretty easy photographic subject of you have the right equipment and techniques, a dark sky, and patience.

Earlier today – when 2014 was just half a dozen hours old – I headed up to my “Little Kielder” woodland clearing observing site to take some more photos of Comet Lovejoy. I went up there the other evening actually, hoping to get some photographs of Orion drifting behind the trees, and they turned out pretty well…

Orion trees ssOrion trees 2s

This morning it was yet another case of waiting (im)patiently for gaps in the clouds to drift over the comet’s position, and that took AGES, but eventually I was able to grab it, and here are my best photos from New Year’s Day 2014…

LJ1_cr

LJ4b

IMG_7148s

Not sure how many more pictures I’ll manage to get of Lovejoy, we have some seriously bad weather coming in, but I’m sure these won’t be the last. :-)

Again, Happy New Year everyone!


41 Responses to “Updates: January 2014”

  1. I’ve just started the hobby of astrophotography and was thinking about getting a DSLR. I was wondering if there is a good camera for beginner astrophotographers like me.

    • If you can afford it, you want a Canon 6D. Has one of the best SNR (signal to noise ratio) and lowest read noise levels at high ISO of any DSLR camera on the market today, even better than the Canon 5D III and Nikon D800. It is a bit pricey, but you might still be able to find it on after-christmas sales for around $900 (which is a DAMN good deal, as it is a full frame DSLR camera).

      I currently use the Canon 7D myself, however I purchased the 7D for action work (wildlife, birds) which benefit from a high frame rate. If I had a choice of DSLR to pick up for astrophotography (assuming I didn’t get a dedicated peltier-cooled CCD camera for use with a telescope) I would definitely get the Canon 6D. No contest, hands down, its high ISO noise levels are INCREDIBLY low, which means really clear astrophotos.

      To go along with the camera, you should look into the Samyang/Rokinon/Bower/Pro Optic (all use the exact same lens product, just different names) 14mm f/2.8 and 24mm f/1.4 prime lenses. These lenses offer some of the best corner performance of any lenses at these focal lengths (even surpassing Canon and Nikon primes of the same focal lengths and apertures), which is ideal for astrophotography. These lenses are pretty cheap, $300-$600, and are very sharp. They have a fair amount of barrel distortion (particularly the 14mm), but that doesn’t really matter for astrophotography.

      A package deal with the Samyang 14mm and Canon 6D would probably run about $1200 if you can find them on sale, which is honestly a REALLY good deal (normally the 6D alone is about $1200 or so.)

      If the 6D is too pricey, then things get a lot more complex. There are a lot of DSLRs out there, many of which can be good for astrophotography, some of which are not well suited to it, in prices randing from a few hundred bucks used to around a thousand new. If you are truly serious about astrophotography, you might try to find an old Canon 20Da (note the ‘a’ there), which is a Canon 20D that has a special filter over the sensor to allow Hydrogen-Alpha infrared light wavelengths through (they are normally filtered out). Price on the 20Da can vary widely…I’ve seen used copies for as little as $499, and some as high as $1299 (which is ludicrous, as the camera’s replacement, the 60Da, is only $1499! :P). If you can find it for cheap, it is a great deal. I recommend the same two lenses, 14mm and 28mm Samyang/Rokinon.

      Allowing Ha infrared light means the camera is more sensitive to a LOT of the light from nebula, which emit a lot on the near infrared bands. So, while the 20Da (and its successor, the 60Da) have smaller pixels than the 6D, they are still the best alternatives as they are *additionally* sensitive to that *extra* light in the Ha band…so you should still be able to bet brighter results than with say a Canon 600D or the Nikon D7100 or something similar. You should be able to find a Canon 20Da for pretty cheap these days…it is old, but it is a trusty good old astrophotography camera. It can also be used for regular photography as well, and for the most part white balance should correct any slight red shifting that might occur from the different sensor filter.

      • “14mm and 28mm Samyang/Rokinon” should read “14mm and 24mm…” sorry about that.

      • Thanks VERY much for that excellent advice Jon, really appreciate you taking the time to put that together. Far more comprehensive and technical than I could ever be!

      • Um wow that was very detailed I’ll look for the 20 and 60 Da the 6D is about twice as much as I would like to spend but maybe I’ll look at it as an upgrade for later. Before, I was looking at the D3100 and the T3. They were both entry level DSLRs but I didn’t know how good they’d be for astrophotography.

      • I just found a used 20Da for $100 and a samyang 14mm lens for $360 bringing the total to $460, right inside my budget =D

      • Ha! that 20Da is the only one on the market that I can find!

      • Glad to be of help. I’ve been into astronomy since I was a kid…only really started actually pursuing astrophotography more recently. I have been saving for a Celestron EdgeHD 11″ telescope and mount. I keep putting it off, finding other things to do…but I really think it is time I finally put some money into my passion here and started DOING it.

        Along the way, I’ve done years worth of research…and I’m happy to disseminate all the knowledge I’ve gained to help other aspiring astrophotographers. :) I also have a little knowledge center on my blog where I post helpful little bits of info, thoughts, technical articles, etc. that may be of use to anyone interested in pursuing astrophotography (or nature photography in general) over the long term.

        @Stephen: Finding a 20Da for $100 is a real STEAL! Make sure you get the shutter actuation count…probably on it’s last legs, although astrophotography isn’t particularly likely to stress it, you may need to get the shutter replaced. You should be able to at a local camera store that sells and services Canon products…it probably wouldn’t cost more than $100 to replace it IF it needed to be (I would just wait until it actually fails…which could be years out, before doing so, though.)

        I think picking up a whole wide field astro camera package for under $500 is pretty awesome! Count yourself lucky! :D And…I expect to see some photos soon! :)

      • Thanks Jon! The camera won’t be sold until sunday but hopefully I get it!

      • Best of luck! Hope you get it.

      • I have some NIKKOR lenses in my basement, would those work with the 20Da or since they were made by Nikon they won’t work with Cannon products?

      • Canon EOS DSLR cameras have a pretty short registration distance. You can get an adapter that will allow you to use Nikon DSLR (F-mount) lenses on your Canon body’s EF mount. The Nikkor name was also used for large format camera lenses, and if that is what you have, they cannot be adapted.

      • Sad day the owner took the camera off the market, now there’s no 20Da’s on the market ;(

      • Sorry to hear that. Keep an eye out, though. It is still a popular astrophotography camera, and they are often on the market. BTW, currently, the 6D should actually be cheaper than the 60D (~$1000 vs. $1300). The 6D has some phenomenal high ISO performance (very, very low read noise…Canon’s best so far), and ISO 1600, 3200, and 6400 are all quite usable for astrophotography.

      • yea well my budget is $500. I was wondering if the Nikon D3100 or Canon T3 would be good for astrophotography since they are in my budget.

      • The Canon T3 would be better. The problem with Nikon cameras (and Sony cameras) is that they clip the low end of the signal, permanently eliminating that data. Canon sensors use a bias offset, meaning you can use dark frames and bias frames to subtract noise from light frames, and recover useful detail that would otherwise be lost in the noisy low end of the image signal. So I would get the Canon T3, rather than the Nikon 3100.

        Also, keep in mind, ALL of my astrophotography shots are stacks. I take multiple light frames (usually a few dozen at least, often as many as 100), dark frames (around 20), bias frames (around 20), and sometimes flat frames (use the same lens, at the same shutter speed and ISO, pointed at a bright evenly lit object like a nearby white wall illuminated by daylight, and expose such that the histogram peaks about 2/3rds of the way to the right hand edge.) By stacking multiple light frames, and “calibrating” them with a master dark (created from 20 individual darks), a master bias (created from 20 individual bias), and master flat frames, you can nearly eliminate noise, fix vignetting (to make the frame “flat”), and enhance the SNR to get much better results.

        You will never get a good astrphoto with a single light frame…not without considerably better equipment like a good Schmidt-Cassegrain OTA on a high quality equatorial tracking mount (that has been properly and precisely polar aligned) and a good autoguiding package.

        So, for “short exposure” astrophotography, which is what were talking about here, you need to read up a bit on how to make light, dark, bias, and flat frames, and how to stack them (there are a number of techniques, ranging from manually with Photoshop, to automatically using one of a number of stacking tools, from free ones like DSS (Deep Sky Stacker) to for-pay ones like Nebulosity.)

        Just want to make sure that you understand that even once you get a T3, that alone isn’t going to get you a great astrophoto shot with a single frame. It is a fair amount of work to produce even the rather mediocre stuff I’ve been creating recently (and honestly, my stuff is pretty mediocre in the grand scheme of astrophotography!! :P)

      • Thanks john for the heads up, I’ll have to look at how to do that.

      • I read up on flat frames and they seem very hard to take with knowing stuff about the histogram I don’t even think my camera has that! And by 2/3rds do you mean black is zero white is 1 and 2/3rds is a little right of the middle?

      • Flat frames are simply frames that neutrally exhibit the vignetting of the lens. In order to do that, you need to photograph a bright, featureless surface….such as an illuminated white wall, with the focus of the lens set exactly as it was when you photographed the night sky. Generally, that means the wall is out of focus, but that makes it even more neutral.

        As for the histogram…the general idea is that you don’t want the frames to be blown out, or even entirely white. You want to pull the exposure back a bit, so it is a very light gray. You basically have it…the histogram represents the distribution of tones…black is zero (left), white is one (right), and the gradient of tones between those two extremes is distributed between those two. You want the histogram to peak before the right edge, around 0.66 or 2/3rds.

        It does not have to be exact…just don’t overexpose…bright gray, not white. You want to clearly capture the vignetting of the lens at the same focal length and focus setting as when you exposed the night sky.

  2. What are your camera’s settings when you photograph the skies?

    I used this:
    10-15s exposure, tungsten lighting, -2 brightness, ISO 100

    I cant just tweak up random settings since it it my parent’s camera :)
    If I break anything, I’ll be grounded from using the camera.

    PS: I love those Orion photos! The nebula looks beautiful

    • I know right don’t want to brake your parents’ camera!

    • @Mark: Use the 600 rule (or, these days, the “500 rule” is probably better) to determine how long you can expose for. The basic rule is:

      500/focalLength = shutterSpeed

      Shutter speed is in seconds. So, if you have a 100mm lens, then you could expose for 5 seconds before stars begin to make trails. If you have a 10mm lens, you can expose for 50 seconds before stars begin to make trails. At 24mm, you can expose for 21 seconds before stars begin to make trails, etc.

      Also, when it comes to the night sky, you want a MUCH higher ISO setting. In APS-C and other small sensor cameras, at least ISO 800, but don’t be afraid of ISO 1600 and even ISO 3200. If you have a full frame camera, you probably want at least ISO 1600, and don’t be afraid to try even ISO 6400 if you need to in order to maximize your image brightness. (As a side note, don’t over-do it…if the black sky comes out real a mid-toned gray, drop ISO a bit.)

      Here are some shots I just took last night. One is a wide field 100mm shot of Orion’s belt and sword, and all the nebula around there:

      http://jonrista.com/2014/01/02/new-years-milky-way-and-the-orion-axis-of-nebula/

      Exposure was 8s @ f/2.8 ISO 3200, however I took 100 frames, and stacked the best 80% of them using Deep Sky Stacker. I then processed the result in Photoshop to get the final result you see on my blog. So, technically speaking, the final image is 640 seconds long at ISO 3200, or about 10 minutes and 40 seconds! ;)

      (NOTE: The 7D, and by extension pretty much any Canon camera that uses their 18mp APS-C sensor, is actually a TERRIBLE camera to use for astrophotography…it has one of the poorest signal to noise ratios of the majority of DSLR cameras on the market right now, even some cameras with smaller pixels have a better SNR than the 7D…but, my shot gives you an idea of how far you can take “the worst gear possible” to get decent astrophotography images. If I had a 5D III or better, a 6D at my disposal, I could probably get results an order of magnitude better…)

      • Thank you very very much Jon Rista! :D

        I’ll try following those settings later tonight!

      • I’ve got a bunch of problems with the camera:

        1. What is focal length? I have no idea what is it; is it zoom or the photo size?

        2. The shutter speed option does not allow any aperture changes and vice versa. The aperture option is the only one to allow changes in ISO but it does not allow long exposure, just continuous multiple photos.

        3. The Manual Option allows both aperture and shutter speed settings but not ISO.

        2 and 3 are not really problems but they are more of rants :)

        The only problem I face is number 1. I need real help on it

      • PS: The Orion and Axis of nebula photos are “mouthwatering” good!

        Maaannnnnn….. That sky looks great for astrophotography and those nebula pics are really awesome! :D

      • @Mark: Thanks! The orion nebulas are ok…best I could do without a tracking mount. If I had a tracking mount, I could do MUCH better…I simply lack one at the moment.

        What camera are you using? In the case of a DSLR, you choose the lens yourself, and it can be prime (single focal length) or zoom (range of focal lengths). The standard default lens for many DSLR cameras is an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6. Also, in the case of a DSLR, you choose the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. In the case of a lower end camera, a “point and shoot”, you probably have a built-in zoom lens with a wide range of focal lengths…you should be able to choose the focal length. As for shutter, aperture, and ISO, it depends on the model, so I would need to know what camera.

      • I use a Canon PowerShot SX230 HS camera.

        I’ll try to upload some photos I have taken. One thing for sure is that it is waaaayyyyy far from any of the sky photos I have seen. :(

      • Ok, that is a basic point and shoot camera. It is also an older one, so I am not sure how far it will take you. You really want a DSLR for astrophotography, but in the interim, here are the details:

        1. The lens is a 5mm to 70mm zoom lens. For the 500 rule to work, you need to convert that into full-frame equivalent focal lengths. That is done by multiplying the focal length by the crop factor, which in your case is ~5.7x. Your focal length range is effectively 28-400mm. At the widest, you can shoot for ~18 seconds, at the longest you can shoot for ~1.25 seconds. You should be able to choose a range of zooms in between those extremes…however I am not sure the camera will tell you the exact focal length automatically. You might need to take a sample shot, import it, and check what the focal length is in the EXIF metadata.

        2. The pixels in this camera are going to be extremely small. That means that you need to make absolutely certain the camera is rock solid stable before shooting. You will need a stable tripod. Additionally, touching the camera to press the shutter button, even when it is on a tripod, will cause camera shake. If you have a delay mode, where the camera waits a few seconds after you press the shutter to take the shot, use that to give the camera time to stabilize before actually opening the shutter.

        3. The aperture of the lens is not the greatest. At 28mm (5mm) it is f/3.1, and at 400m (70mm) it is f/5.6. Those are relatively “slow” apertures, so you are going to need to use a very high ISO setting. The problem with small P&S cameras like this is they do not produce very good IQ at high ISO, and sometimes they do not even offer very high ISO settings at all. You will need ISO 1600 at least, but ISO 3200 is probably really necessary to get even dim shots.

        4. You are really going to need to stack multiple frames to get any kind of useful final outcomes. Stacking is a level up in astrophotography, requires a lot of careful shooting, then a lot of careful tinkering in post to actually stack light frames, dark frames, bias frames, and flat frames in special tools like Deep Sky Stacker (DSS) in order to produce a more workable image that has more detail and dynamic range. Even IF you stack, with an older P&S like this, there are no guarantees.

        If you are truly interested in astrophotography, I highly recommend you look into buying an entry level DSLR. Particularly a Canon DSLR, as the way Canon sensors work is much more conducive to astrophotography than Nikon and Sony cameras, due to the fact that Canon sensors use a bias offset (allows you to clean up noise using dark and bias frames, and actually recover light frame detail that is actually clipped and lost forever in Nikon and Sony cameras.)

        You can find a decent entry-level camera for pretty cheap these days, especially if you look for them used. There are the Canon Rebel (xxxD) cameras, like the 100D and 600D, which are the current entry level models. You can look for the 550D or 500D used, and probably get one for a mere couple hundred bucks. A better Canon camera is the xxD line, like the 70D. Canon periodically releases cameras in that line that are tuned for better astrophotography, like the 20Da and 60Da. The 60Da is relatively new, and still costs a lot…you might be able to find a 20Da for only a few hundred bucks, and it is a very good DSLR camera to start with.

        When it comes to DSLR cameras, you don’t have a built in lens. You need to buy lenses. For wide field astrophotography…big wide night sky photos of the milky way and whole constellations, you should look into getting the Samyang/Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 and 24mm f/1.4 lenses. Both are relatively cheap (few hundred bucks each), both offer stellar IQ for astrophotography purposes, and both are solidly built lenses. Overall, if you find a good deal on an entry level DSLR or the 20Da, you could probably start with one of these lenses for $500-600.

        With a 20Da, you would have the potential to create MUCH more pleasing night sky images. You won’t get super sharp, highly detailed results like you often see from professionals and avid amateurs, for that you would need to move up to the NEXT level…an equatorial tracking mount and longer lenses. The next level after that would be a full telescope on that tracking mount, a T-adapter and T-ring for the DSLR, and a guiding package.

      • Thanks Jon Rista! :D

        I’ll save up my lunch money so I can buy a DSLR later in the future!

      • You won’t regret it! :)

      • On some cameras you can’t change the exposure or aperture. I have a Nikon l110 and a Nikon l320 you can’t change the exposure or aperture on either of them. So I’m forced to use my tiny samsung bl 1050 with only 10.2 megapixles (the l320 is 16.1 megapixles) so I’m investing in a T3 for better zoom, quality and be able to change the lens.

      • Or a 20Da if one pops on the market

  3. A few lesser nutters are still making some noise in comment threads. “It’s still there, look harder!” or “NASA knows right where it is, they’re lying to us!” Idiocy is an inexhaustible resource.

  4. I can see Ison getting smaller and smaller when will Ison be gone?

  5. Not sure if you guys have heard about the large CME emitted from the sun a day or so ago?

    Anyway, I was hoping to get a view of the Aurora Borealis, has this often gets stimulated into a fantastic display during emission events like this CME.

    I’ve seen it with my own eyes from the Midlands (Stoke on Trent, England) three times in my 43 years, and was hopeful that with the clear sky of late I’d see it again.

    Sadly, that didn’t happen and there wasn’t even the slightest hint of an aurora developing. :(

    Did anyone get a view of it on WFI?

    Stu, you probably had a good opportunity being in the North of the country. Did you see it?

    Have a great weekend folks! :)

    Craig

    • You haven’t read my “Cumbrian Sky” blog report then..? ;-) http://cumbriansky.wordpress.com/2014/01/10/no-northern-lights-but-a-great-night/

      • I have now. Cheers Stu!

        So Mother Nature shafts the astronomy community of the northern hemisphere once again. I suppose the Aussies got a great view of the Aurora Australis, did they? Bloody typical.

        Well, at least others can share my frustration. Fortunately for me, the only inconvenience I had was looking out of my bedroom window every thirty minutes. No driving involved, and no bone penetrating wind and cold.

        I’m amazed at how you always stick it out in the awful weather thrown at us Stu. You must have rhino skin! ;)

  6. I can’t believe Lovejoy still has a pretty decent and visible tail. You did well to get anything at all Stu, but to get the tail exposed is impressive. When you think you did this as dawn was coming is even more so.

    What did you think of BBC Stargazing Live this year? Personally, I think it’s the best TV show of the whole year. Just a pity it isn’t on for the whole week, and more than once a year would be good.

    I think Brian and Dara are brilliant characters, and their personalities have really helped make science and more particularly astronomy, accessible and popular to the average person. One of the comments I always got as a casual observer, is that astronomy is boring and for nerds. Other comments included astronomy clubs being full of “know-it all’s” and arrogant, stuffy, aloof members.

    Seems like things are thankfully achangin’, and TV, the interweb and interesting, engaging, and knowledgeable presenters are doing a great job of getting more folks interested.

    Thoughts?

    • Definitely think the BBC got it right with “Stargazing Live” this year. When the programmes started the emphasis, they said, was going to be on telling people what they could see in the sky on a clear night, and where, and how, hence the use of the word “Stargazing” in the title. But somewhere along the line it turned into a live episode of Horizon strung out over several nights, with presenters talking about really complicated astrophysics, or being despatched on jollies around the world to go stand beside and look up at telescopes and sigh “Wow…!” Then there were bad misfires like having celebs on to be “taught” about astronomy, instead of members of the public who might genuinely want to get into the hobby. I’ll never forget what an absolute pillock Jonathan Ross was, boasting how he had several telescopes but never used any of them, making lame jokes about “Uranus” etc when he was being shown the sky. But this year, this year was just excellent. Lots of practical advice about observing the night sky, lots of good practical info about observing equipment, and presenters who were there because they knew what they were talking about, and can communicate well, no numptie celebs. Great live footage of the northern lights live from above Norway too, with the always-excellent Pete Lawrence and Liz Bonin putting across the wonder and beauty of the norrthern lights. Back in the sudio, Brian Cox and Dara were a great double act, again, and thankfully Dara toned down the comedy this year and came across as actually a very knowledgeable science presenter in his own right. Add guests like Cdr Chris Hadfield and Carolyn Porco, who both were brilliant advocates of space exploration and science, and it was a huge success. So, thanks BBC, for 2014’s Stargazing Live, and here’s to lots of people joining local astronomical societies in the aftermath. I know we at The Eddington Astronomical Society always enjoy an influx of new members after the programmes. Roll on 2015’s!

      • I remember the one with Jonathan Ross. He was pretty child-like and probably put a lot of people off the subject. Why tell everyone he’s got loads of telescopes and doesn’t use one of them?

        Personally, I would like to see more of the “outside the studio” segments in a future programme. As always, the weather will dictate the possibility of that happening. I remember (last years show?) when they turned out all the lights and street lights in that town hoping to show the glory of the night sky. It didn’t go too well as there was wall-to-wall cloud, and all the cameras shown was a black screen!

        I agree, that this years SGL was brilliant with almost zero glitches and questionable content. I think they might also bin the K-9 questions section in the second section. I don’t think Dara like it too much. It does interfere with the interesting discussion that is taking place, as they go off on irrelevant tangents.

        I thought they might have problems this year, following the disappointment of ISON. They must have re-written the whole show, as much of the content would – I imagine – have been about comets.

        The Spacewarp experiment didn’t work so well for me though. Every time I tried to zoom in on one of the galaxy images I had a screen full of lines, which locked up the page and thus I had to restart the programme. :(

        I would have quite liked to have my name in a text-book, like Spitch what’s his name?

        Yeah. Roll on 2015’s show. Loved it!

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