The Stars and Many Moons

A few months ago I was inspired to embark on my path to becoming an accomplished nighttime sky photographer.  Did I say path?  More like a poorly marked trail.

But, we must all start somewhere.  The pictures presented herein, and additional ones, can all be found at the usual place, SmugMug.  Specifically, this gallery:

http://ejdalise.smugmug.com/My-Photography/Many-Moons-and-Stars/16023481_vxHmx#1202311349_XmfkK

The gallery is fully annotated, so if one prefers to just head over there and escape exposure to my drivel, by all means do so.  Otherwise, here goes nothing.

It all started last September when, as I often do before going to bed, I stepped outside and looked up.  What I usually see are a few meteors, one or two satellites, and a gazibillion stars.  On that particular night I hurt my chin because when I looked up my jaw dropped, and it hit the deck.  The air was crystal clear, and the sky above was awash with shiny jewels of distant objects whose light traveled millions of years to land upon my retina.  I went back in, came back with my camera and my tripod, and started ‘sperimenting.

Night Sky - 1
Night Sky - 1

I can hear you now.  “WOW!” and “What mastery!!”.  Alright, alright, enough with the sarcasm.  I don’t have the proper equipment, so I had to make do, and I admit the first few picture were less than interesting.

Night Sky - 2 - Eastern View
Night Sky - 2 - Eastern View

This one is shot looking east from my deck, and encompasses roughly a 90 deg angle from the horizontal.  The glow you see is from various lights my neighbors leave on at night.  Near the horizon they tint the surrounding air.  One could say it enhances the picture by giving it perspective.

I say they should turn off their lights at night.

This next one is my attempt to capture the Milky Way.  A little tricky with my camera and lens, but you can see the faint glow of it right in the middle of the picture (the SmugMug album shows it better.  Click on the picture to see).

Shot straight up - the Milky Way
Shot straight up - the Milky Way

Again, the picture is no comparison to standing outside, the air calm, the night awash with the sound of the neighbors’ dogs barking at shadows, and a spectacle of light hanging suspended above.  Some say I am a coldhearted man, but standing there I felt my heart soften, and I thought “FSM, what I would give to be out there instead of here, among the light and noise pollution!”

Anyway, you can see more pictures of stars in the SmugMug gallery, so on to my next subject.

The ISS, or International Space Station.  There is a site (http://www.heavens-above.com/) where you can check when the station passes overhead at your location.  It also predicts the brightness based on the relative angle between the Sun, you, and the station’s trajectory.  Sometimes it can be quite bright, and is easily visible in the daytime, but the best viewing is usually at dusk.

30 sec exposure of the ISS passing overhead
30 sec exposure of the ISS passing overhead

Again, the picture in SmugMug is better, but you get the idea.  Interestingly, it looks like the ISS is traveling from the lower left to the upper right, but in fact it was going the other way.  While it traveled toward the horizon, it got fainter as the Sun no longer reflected as bright.  You don’t have to take pictures to enjoy this sight.  Go check when it flies overhead, and go look at a place we can no longer travel to without hitching a ride with other countries.  It’s also inspiring to contemplate there are people up there, living, breathing, going to the bathroom, and doing science.

Finally we come to the Moon.  It’s one of the easiest nighttime pictures to take (the other being just plain dark), and I have a lot of pictures of yet another place the US is not likely to go to unless we hitch a ride with the Chinese.

February Waning Moon
February Waning Moon

What can I say.  It’s the Moon.  Go to the album for a few pictures at various stages, almost all of them close to full (easiest to photograph).  The Moon is most interesting when you can see the shadows of the craters and mountains near the terminator.  I mean the transition between light and dark, not the killing Skynet creation.

The moon also looks good when you can shoot it with something in the foreground.

Full moon over the Rampart Range - shot from my driveway
Full moon over the Rampart Range - shot from my driveway

This shot was snapped from my driveway last week.  It’s looking East, and the moon is hovering above the Rampart Range and one of my neighbor’s homes.

Well, that’s it.

I write these for the few people so insanely bored that they will read and look at nearly anything.

No, no, I know this is a fairly lame post, and a fairly lame gallery, but remember, I am writing this to amuse and entertain me as much as to provide fodder so people can reaffirm their impression of me.

But someday . . . someday I will be dead, and as oft in such cases, people will start remembering me as someone who was not really that big of a rear orifice, and why, he had one or two positive qualities (which no one will actually be able to mention), and hey, at least he had the decency to shun most of humanity.

I can see it now . . . for a brief time after I am gone, and before I am forgotten (say, a week), people might actually think of me as a nice guy.  Suckers!