Thursday, February 7, 2019

Non-Astronomy Photos 2019

February 15

I was between appointments and visited Blaise Castle in Bristol. It looks nice but is a tough climb. I also saw many squirrels on the way up, although they were reluctant to pose for photos.

February 7th

I saw a rainbow from home.

I drove past Kemble and, on the way out of the village, stopped by the River Thames. The last time I had seen it, it was dry. There was some water but it was quite shallow and the original source of the Thames and a side stream that joins the main river were both dry.

Outside Nailsworth. I found a crop of snowdrops. In fact, I had past several that day but it was not always easy to stop for a photo while driving,

I was in Nailsworth when I snapped the clock tower.

I also snapped the well beside Nailsworth Stream.

Nailsworth Stream is home to some brown trout, although I did not see any.

St George's Church is a nice landmark.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

February 2019

February 15th 1615 GMT

I was out and about with only binoculars. The sky was very clear, so I took a look at the Moon, which was well clear of the horizon. I could clearly see Clavius and Tycho’s ray system was already prominent. Despite the daylight, the contrast was very good.

Although the Learmonth images did not show any features on the Sun, I decided to have a rare look at the Sun, as I normally carry my filters with me. I did not see any features. The Sun was quiet, indeed.

February 15th 1115 GMT

The Sun looked quiet in hydrogen alpha light again.

February 14th 2110 GMT

I took some shots of the Moon with my DSLR only. I used 300mm focal length, 1/2000 second exposure and ISO 100.

I was very pleasantly surprised to end up with nine images in focus. I stacked them using Microsoft ICE, then finished in GIMP. I removed the red and blue channels and adjusted colour, curves, brightness and contrast to end up with a decent result.

February 14th 1350 GMT

The Sun appeared quiet in hydrogen alpha light again but I saw some minor signs of activity.

February 13th 2110 GMT

After an underwhelming couple of lunar shoots two days before, I increased the exposure time to 1/160 second, with ISO 100 and 1.54m focal length. It seemed to work better and I stacked 110 frames.

February 11th 2120 GMT

It was my first use of my 127mm Maksutov for the year. The Moon was nicely placed from our back garden. Unfortunately, my Bresser Electronic Eyepiece caused my PC to crash. I think it may have been because I had to rebuild my PC in January. I used my DSLR with my Mak instead to obtain some full disc shots. I used ISO 100, 1.54m focal length and 1/200 second exposure.

Unfortunately, the result was disappointing, despite having stacked 70 images.

February 11th 1845 GMT

I did another shot of the Moon with my DSLR using the same settings as the evening before.

February 11th 1510 GMT

The Sun was quiet again in hydrogen alpha light.

A second attempt at processing revealed a little more detail.

February 10th 2120 GMT

I snapped the Moon with my DSLR at 300mm focal length, ISO 100 and 1/1000 second exposure.

February 7th 0940 GMT

There was a persistent clear patch of sky around the Sun. A view through my PST suggested that the Sun was very quiet but I took some full disc shots in the hope of detecting something. The Big Bear images that morning also suggested an unusually quiet sun.

February 2nd 0940 GMT

There was snow and ice around, so I snapped the Sun in hydrogen alpha light from indoors. It was the most blank and featureless Sun I'd seen but the Big Bear images showed little, too,

Monday, January 7, 2019

2019 Writing Blog

This is a continuation from my 2018 writing blog:

February 11th

I revised the solar section but did not change many words.I added a lot of photos instead.

February 6th

I revisited the planetary section of "Being an Astronomer" and added a few newer photos and tweaked a few details. The next section is about the Sun.

I also read a lot of discussion about being a writer. There are many writers and there are almost as many types of writer as there are writers. Most of us never get published and the overwhelming majority of those that do cannot make a full-time living from it. Some writers have fixed ideas about how many words they should write and/or how many hours they should spend a day. That may be fine for full-time writers who would probably spend all day most days procrastinating. At the time of writing, I had two day jobs and some days were too busy to even think of writing.

Many writers tend to blog about writing and some are active on social platforms. Some of this time is valuably spent. Networking with other authors about how to go about work is fine but you can overdo it and it can become another excuse not to get on with the business of writing. Time spent promoting yourself or your publications is time well-spent, especially if you find out which media channels generate your most purchases. Also, time spent looking at your genre or intended genre of other ideas is not wasted. There is little point in competing in already-crowded space, unless you really are able to offer something unique.

As my writing time (like everybody else's) is limited, I like to make sure I am not wasting too much. Before launching a lengthy project, I like to have some idea of whether people will actually read the end product. In addition, as well as writing, there is editing, re-writing some sections, researching (especially in my genre of specialist interest) and images. This probably takes 2 to 3 times more time than first drafting.

This (to my mind) rather makes judging productivity by numbers of words rather meaningless.

February 1st

I haven't spent much time writing but am making steady progress on the second edition of "Being an Astronomer":

I have corrected some minor errors, added some clarifications and replaced/added more photographs.

January 31st

I'm starting on my 2019 report, which will be finished when the year is over. January was a more active month than past Januarys, despite missing the lunar eclipse.

January 27th/28th

Although my photo session failed to produce any images that I could use. I made a good start on the second edition of "Being An Astronomer".

January 26th

Well, I have my roadmap sort of sorted-out. Any activities that make money outside of writing will naturally take priority, unless I really get in the Amazon Top 100. Actually, "2018 an Astronomer's Year" has reached the dizzy heights of 12 512:

Most writers, apart from J.K.Rowling, William Shakespeare and the like will be rather impressed by that.

I'm not planning on anything completely new for 2019. I'm going to at least start the 2nd edition of "Being an Astronomer". The main change will be a lot more illustrations of constellations. Naturally, I'll also add any new photos to other sections. Apart from the usual reasons for delay, it depends on the British weather, which has delayed previous projects.

The other plan is not quite new. The original idea is about 6 years old. I revisited it last year but lots of things (including paid magazine work) pushed it to the back burner. The current working title is "The Quantum God". See last year's blog for details.

January 23rd

I finally finished my Webcamming booklet, which I had postponed to keep my previous booklet current:

So, an interesting challenge! I have several project ideas but not sure which one to go with. Nothing in the pipeline.

January 15th

"2018 an Astronomer's Year" has finally hit the bookshelf: 

January 7th

As it was my day off, I made good progress with my 2018 retrospective and have called it "2018 an Astronomer's Year". I was going to do a similar one on 2001 but didn't get many results. I'm glad I waited, as it would have made some rather dry reading without my photographs. I had a couple of sections to finish, then the final refining and checking.

January 1st

I started the year with just two projects on the go and both were part of the Phil's Scribblings series of articles and booklets. I had started writing "Webcamming" but decided to include some step-by-step instructions, so I had shelved it for the time being, due to weather.

Being the end of the year, I wanted to finish my retrospective but wanted to consider a new, catchy title. Unlike previous end-of-year reports, I decided to include an outline of how I achieved what I did, to make it more interesting for the readers.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

January 2019

January 30th 2045 GMT

I went out again and made sure that my aim was better. I caught many different angles and parts of Perseus, hoping that I could get the whole constellation with the set-up. Well, sooner or later.

It seemed more like later, as I only caught the top half of the constellation.

I managed an image of Melotte 20, though from it,

January 30th 2010 GMT

Further experimentation and investigation showed that the fault in my set-up was the intervalometer and not the camera. I manually set the exposure to 15 seconds and took intermittent frames using a rote shutter release. ISO was 6400 and focal length was 35mm.

Unfortunately, my aim was out again, as I just caught the top of Perseus and caught just the top of the constellation, featuring Melotte 20 again.

January 30th 1230 GMT

The Sun was diving in and out of clouds but I tried a solar hydrogen alpha shot regardless.

January 28th 1010 GMT

I had some unexpected clear sky, so did a solar hydrogen alpha shoot. The Sun, however, was quiet.

January 28th 0015 GMT

I moved the camera towards Cancer, more in hope than expectation. I did not catch the whole constellation but caught a widefield shot of the Beehive (M44).

January 27th 2100 GMT

Well it was clear but I was having trouble with my intervalometer. I ended up taking a few manual shots every few minutes instead. It was the usual setting for my camera with the new lens. It was at 35mm focal length, ISO 6400 and 15 seconds exposure. I started off at Perseus and let the eastern stars drift across. I didn't get anything useable for publication but caught the star cluster Melotte 20 with Capella and parts of Auriga.

January 27th 1330 GMT

There were some more clear patches, so I did a solar hydrogen alpha shoot with my PST. This time, I increased the zoom on my DSLR. I had reverted back to my 70-300mm lens and 32mm Plossl. Even though I could not see any detail visually, I caught a sunspot and some albedo features on camera.

January 27th 1225 GMT

Normally, I would just be going to the shops for a few things. I'm rather good at procrastinating on my days off work and had loads of things that needed doing. However, I had been following some sunspots on the Big Bear and Learmonth solar observatories and there was some clear sun in between moving clouds. I could not recall the last time I had attempted to observe the Sun in white light. It had been unusually quiet throughout 2018. I was surprised to see two small sunspots near the solar limb before clouds rolled in again.

January 25th 2210 GMT

I was still coughing, so I left a camera trap at the southern half of Orion, with the objective of doing a stitch. I set my camera at 35mm focal length. ISO 6400 and 15 seconds exposure. I didn't get any more images but I didn't need a stitch, as I caught the whole constellation.

January 22nd 2120 GMT

I still had my cold and it was sub-zero, so I snapped the Moon from an open window upstairs, with the same settings as the morning.

Unfortunately, the photos were under-exposed and I was unable to extract much detail.

January 22nd 0730 GMT

The Moon was just past full and low in the west. I took some shots at 300mm focal length, ISO 100 and 1/1000 second exposure. It was rather nice for a DSLR-only shot.

January 21st 0350 GMT

In the run-up to the lunar eclipse, clouds of various thicknesses were moving over it. Sometimes it stayed cloud-free for a few seconds but never quite long enough to take a photo. By 0200 GMT, it had clouded over completely. I woke up in the night to see a partial phase of about 60% but, again, it did not stay cloud-free long enough. Although I woke up twice during totality, it was 100% clouded out.

January 17th 1240 GMT

It was clear but even the professional solar observatories were showing a quiet sun. I decided to experiment by using a short focal length eyepiece and my new camera lens. It was harder than I thought. I set my camera focal length to 35mm and, after a lot of trial with my Moonfish 15mm focal length eyepiece, finally settled on my Moonfish 20mm eyepiece. As the professional observatories suggested, I had a very quiet Sun.

My first effort at processing was a disaster but I found that my leaving the red channel and using Curves on the green, the result was not too bad.

January 16th 2040 GMT

Conditions were similar to the evening before, with lots of moving cloud of various thicknesses. I did my usual routine with the Moon and my DSLR. If anything, this was a shade better than the night before.

January 15th 2115 GMT

There was a temporary gap in the clouds. I was not able to get a telescope onto the Moon, as cloud was encroaching again. I took some shots with my DSLR using various exposure times at ISO 100 and 300mm focal length. Even though I write it myself, I think it was rather nice for a DSLR.

January 13th 2340 GMT

There were some clear patches in the sky, with some moving cloud. I left my camera out in “constellation mode”: 35mm focal length, ISO 6400 and 15 seconds’ exposure. I aimed it at Cancer and left it to do its work. Cloud ruined most frames but I managed to catch the constellation and I was pleasantly surprised how well the Beehive Cluster (M44) turned out.

I caught the Sickle asterism of Leo in another set of frames.

January 9th 1820 GMT

The Moon was a thin crescent phase low in the west. I took some shots at 1/250 second exposure 300mm focal length and ISO 100. I tried a few snaps at 1/25 second to see if I could capture earthshine. I didn't but the crescent was OK.

Straight after it was back to the previous night’s settings, as I aimed my camera at the west side of Taurus. This was a stack of the first 50 frames.

This was a stack of the second batch of 50 frames.

I moved the camera after the third batch, so stacked 26 frames.

The rest of the photos were ruined by cloud, so I stacked the three above,

January 9th 1040 GMT

I checked the Sun with my PST and DSLR. Visually, the Sun had an all-too-familiar feel of being bland and featureless, at least through the eyepiece. However, the photographic result was more illuminating.

January 8th 2140 GMT

After a bit of teasing, a clear patch of sky opened up in the south. I set my DSLR at 35mm focal length, ISO 6400 and 15 seconds exposure and aimed it at Taurus. I had 48 frames that were unaffected by cloud so stacked them using DSS and finished off in GIMP.

January 7th 0720 GMT

As I was getting ready to leave for work, I saw Venus in the morning sky. I checked it with my binoculars and the phase seemed to be about 60%.

January 4th 1800 GMT

After a partially clear day, where the clouds seemed to be gravitationally bound to the Sun, it was a bit more clear in the evening. As I still had a cold, I left my camera searching for Quadrantid meteors while I stayed inside. I set up my camera to 35mm focal length, ISO 6400 and 15 seconds’ exposure.

No luck with meteors but I processed a few frames to obtain a snap of the polar regions.

January 1st 1950 GMT

After yet another cloudy day, it unexpectedly cleared. I used my new lens at 35mm with a 0.45x focal reducer to catch meteors (or at least try!). I used an effective focal length of 15.75mm, 15 seconds exposure and an ISO of 6400. I aimed the camera in the rough direction of M81 to try and catch some Quadrantids. I did not stay out, as I still had a cold.

I left the camera out for almost 2.5 hours but most frames were ruined by some cloud. I stacked 24 of the best frames to get a not bad effort of Ursa Minor.

I caught a satellite trail.