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Look to the stars. God isn't hiding anything.

UPDATE: Earth photographed by Cassini from 900 million miles away.


Here it is: Cassini’s greatly anticipated portrait of the Earth, as seen from the Saturnian system nearly 900 million miles away. It’s the pale blue dot in the right center of the image, under Saturn’s luminously beautiful and delicate rings.


Good thing I wore a fresh pair of undies that day and smiled whenever I was outside. You never know who is watching or taking your photograph...even if it is from 900 million miles away.....



Right: Photographed by the Cassini spacecraft, looking past Saturn toward the inner solar system, Earth is the tiny blue dot at center right. 

Inset: The Earth and Moon, magnified five times. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)



Smile! You're on interplanetary camera!


On July 19, 2013, Cassini spacecraft will photograph Saturn and its ring system eclipsed by the sun with Earth in the background!


So on the 19th, go outside, put on your best smile and have your photo taken from a billion miles away!

C/2012 F6 Comet Lemmon

7 January 2013


This comet will be visible for a while in February 2013 for a few weeks, with it's expected brightest during the beginning of the month. It's an easy binocular target very close to the southern celestial pole.


To find Comet Lemmon tonight, you'll be looking for a fuzzy white blob due south any time after 9pm. It's a bit of a challenge, but once you spot it, it will be easy. With a long exposure with a camera, it's bright green!

This is a screenshot of the comet straight out of the camera, with no processing. It's only a single two-minute exposure, but I have around 30 of these to stack and process in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully, I can bring out thevery faint tail.


Stay tuned!

Geminid Meteor Shower - 7-17 December 2012

The Geminids meteor shower is the dirty trail streaming out behind an asteroid called object 3200 Phaethon. This makes the Geminids one of the only major meteor showers not coming from a comet. These meteors are slower moving than most meteor showers, about 22 miles per second, making them fairly easy to spot.

They usually peak around the 13th - 14th of the month, with the date of highest intensity being the morning of the 14th. The shower is thought to be intensifying every year and recent showers have seen 120–160 meteors per hour under optimal conditions, generally around 2am to 3am local time.

The Radiant 

The radiant is the point in space where it appears all the meteors are coming from. As you see a meteor streak across the sky, try to trace it back to where it came from. You will find that as you trace them all back, they will appear to fan out from a central point. This is called the radiant. The Geminids are so-called because the radiant is in the direction of the constellation Gemini, (The Twins). More precisely, next to the star Castor.

Visibility should be good if there are no clouds, as it will be a very dark sky with no moon. 

 Photographing the Geminids.

Meteors are quite safe to look at and are great to photograph. Use a camera with a wide angle lens on a tripod to cover as much sky as you can. You can experiment with your ISO depending on your camera, but anywhere from ISO 800 to ISO 1600 should be ball-park. Set your shutter to 20 or 30 seconds, aperture as wide open as you can and use the timer delay or a remote shutter release so you don't vibrate the camera when you take the shot.You may get one or two in the 30 second photo, you may get none, you may get a stunner! Just trip the shutter again for another 30 seconds and keep at it!

If you want to know more about taking these kinds of shots, pleas view my astrophotography tutorial here. Scroll down the the part about widefield astrophotography.

Good luck and God bless! 

 P.S. And just to show what can be done with a cheap Canon 400D DSLR with a standard 18-55mm kit lens, here is a shot of an Orionid meteor I shot in 2009.

 

Leonid Meteor Shower - 13-21 November 2012

With all the excitement over the Solar Eclipse, don't forget to set your alarm for the annual Leonid meteor shower.

The Leonids are the dusty trail of chunks of rock and ice  left in the wake of the periodic comet, Temple-Tuttle. Once a year, the Earth passes through this trail and encounters this debris as it skips off our atmosphere. Sometimes the trail is really dirty with lots of junk, other times it is relatively quiet. There have been times in past centuries where the whole sky looked like it was, "on fire" due to the amount of meteors in the sky.

The Radiant

The radiant is the point in space where it appears all the meteors are coming from. As you see a meteor streak across the sky, try to trace it back to where it came from. You will find that as you trace them all back, they will appear to fan out from a central point. This is called the radiant. The Leonids are so-called because the radiant is in the direction of the constellation Leo.

Unfortunately for us in the southern hemisphere, the constellation Leo is low in the north eastern sky just prior to dawn, rising higher as the morning progresses. However, if you get up before there is any light in the sky, you could see quite a few meteors per hour. This year we have little to no moon to add to our problems, so you might get lucky.Get up early around 3am and you should see a few. The best nights are the peak on the 17th/18th.

Photographing the Leonids.

Meteors are quite safe to look at and are great to photograph. Use a camera with a wide angle lens on a tripod to cover as much sky as you can. You can experiment with your ISO depending on your camera, but anywhere from ISO 800 to ISO 1600 should be ball-park. Set your shutter to 20 or 30 seconds, aperture as wide open as you can and use the timer delay or a remote shutter release so you don't vibrate the camera when you take the shot.You may get one or two in the30 second photo, you may get none, you may get a stunner! Just trip the shutter again for another 30 seconds and keep at it!

If you want to know more about taking these kinds of shots, pleas view my astrophotography tutorial here. Scroll down the the part about widefield astrophotography.

Good luck and God bless!

That God-guy. ;) 

Solar Eclipse - 14 November 2012

 

A Solar Eclipse happens when the Sun, Moon and Earth are all in a straight line with the Moon in between the Earth and Sun. This casts a shadow in a path across some of the Earth.

The sun at any time can only be viewed through special filters in the form of glasses over your eyes or covers over binoculars, telescopes and camera lenses. NEVER look at the sun unless you have suitable protection.*See warning below*

Right:  Geometry of a Solar Eclipse.If you look at the darker shadow where it touches the Earth, you can see that only a very small part of the Earth gets to see the whole show.

 

"I have only ever seen a lunar eclipse two Venus transits and a very tiny partial Solar eclipse, but I can tell you that seeing these things together and thinking about the great distance as you watch, can put some reality and perspective in your soul that no science documentary can ever do." Barry Armstead.

 

There are two main types of Solar eclipse you are likely to witness - Partial and total. A total Solar Eclipse is when the Moon completely covers the Sun from your vantage point on Earth and can only be seen across a very small track on the ground approximately 150km wide. If you are lucky enough to be in that location at the time you will see, "Totality". 

For us in Australia, the total eclipse tracks across from Arnhem Land early morning on the 14th November, crosses the Gulf of Carpentaria and then across to Cairns at 6:39am. Cairns will see totality for just over 2 minutes with the sun low in the morning sky. It then heads across the Pacific ocean towards South America.

Totality is described as one of the the most awesome natural phenomena that you will ever see. People save up all their lives to travel great distance to see one. When totality is reached, car-horns blow, people whistle, cheer, cry and break down in an emotional climax that can't be described. 

Above: Totality - The moon covers the sun completely and exactly, revealing the dynamic corona of the sun's outer atmosphere.

 

Not everyone will see totality though. Even though the moon is big (about the size of Australia) it only casts a shadow over a narrow path across the earth as we spin around. For the rest of us in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, we will only see a partial eclipse. The further North and East you are, the bigger the shadow of the partial eclipse will look.


During a partial Solar Eclipse the Moon only partly covers the Sun, but can be seen over a wider area of Earth. The sun will look like a big white biscuit with a bite taken out of it. If the bite is really big, it will get dark here on the ground, like heavy cloud darkens a day.

Right: A partial solar eclipse as the moon steps in the way of the sun. *Photographed through special filters. See warning below*

 

 

  *WARNING!*

 
 Never look directly at the Sun with the naked eye! The sun can permanently damage your eyes and burn your retinas. Use appropriate eclipse glasses.
 
Also, never view the Sun through a telescope or binoculars without a properly designed Solar Filter! Using an incorrect filter can DESTROY your expensive telescope in seconds!
 
Below right: Eclipse Glasses can be purchased online or through your local telescope shop.
 
Below left: Solar filters for telescopes, binoculars and camera lenses can be home made from Baader Planetarium film for around $40 a sheet. Buy it early though, mail-orders have a habit of turning up late!
 
 
Making a Pinhole viewer 
 
 Alternatively, you can make a cheap and simple pinhole viewer so you can PROJECT an image onto paper instead of looking at the sun directly.
 
 
 Just experiment with the distance between the two cards to bring the sun and the Venus image into sharp focus. It might be a good idea to wear sunglasses while looking at the white card, as it can reflect quite brightly.

 

Transit of Venus across the sun - 6 June 2012

 

A transit of Venus is a very rare event. It will be the last time most of us living today will see it in their lifetime. The next one will be in the year 2117!!!
 
During the transit Venus will pass between the Earth and the Sun. Venus will appear as a small black disc, moving in front of the sun over a few hours.
 
If you want to see the whole thing, hopefully you will have no clouds and a whole lot of patience! A deck-chair and some sunscreen may also be handy. 
 
Sometimes when the disc of Venus starts to break the edge of the Sun's disc, just before it comes in fully, it appears to "bleed in" dragging some black from the edge before it breaks off to a disc of it's own. It does the same on the way out. 
 
While you are watching, you may also be able to see other sunspot activity on the surface of the sun where the magnetic fields penetrate the surface, cooling it by around a thousand degrees. You will see black spots with textured edges, sometimes clustered in groups. 
 
 
 
Below is a chart giving the times for each city in Australia that the event will be visible. The best time to see it fully will be at C2 and after. 
 
Definitions:
 
Ingress - Venus entering the face of the sun
Egress - Venus leaving the face of the sun 
C1 -  Disc of Venus's first contact with the face of the sun
C2 - Full disc of Venus all the way in
C3 Disc of Venus touches edge of sun's face on the way out
C4 - Disc of Venus fully out
 
 
 
 WARNING!
 
 Never look directly at the Sun with the naked eye! The sun can permanently damage your eyes and burn your retinas. Use appropriate eclipse glasses.
 
Also, never view the Sun through a telescope or binoculars without a properly designed Solar Filter! Using an incorrect filter can DESTROY your expensive telescope in seconds!
 
Google search, "Eclipse Glasses" and contact your local telescope shop for solar filters for telescopes. Be quick though, mail-orders have a habit of turning up a day late!
 
 
 
Pinhole viewer 
 
 Alternatively, you can make a cheap and simple pinhole viewer so you can PROJECT an image onto paper instead of looking at the sun directly.
 
 
 Just experiment with the distance between the two cards to bring the sun and the Venus image into sharp focus. It might be a good idea to wear sunglasses while looking at the white card, as it can reflect quite brightly.

 

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