Though I’ve been thoroughly busy with dissertation activities while still attempting to stay sane living far away from home and everything I know in an impossibly small town in Middle Tennessee I have been able to take a few hours of my morning and practice some landscape astrophotography. For those who aren’t aware, 2015 has been an incredible year for night sky astronomy. There were two lunar eclipses this year (completing a tetrad of lunar eclipses starting with two in 2014), the Jupiter-Venus evening conjunction which occurred in June of this year, several meteor showers and now a morning triple conjunction of the planets Venus, Mars and Jupiter which has graced the October and early November skies this fall.
Astrophotography is a great, expensive but rewarding hobby if you’re into that sort of thing. I don’t think there are many things which capture the imagination like heavenly bodies coupled with foreground objects. I don’t have much in terms of equipment, just an old Canon Rebel T2i DSLR with a shutter release cable and a tripod, but in the two years since I’ve saved up and purchased this camera I’ve been pleased with my results so far. I was very fortunate to have awaken on the morning of October 22, 2015. It was truly beautiful to see Venus, Mars and Jupiter so close together that you could cover all three words with your closed fist while projecting your hand at arms length against the dome of the night sky. Fortunately, my equipment is decent enough to capture the amazing image (seen at the top of this post).
No bragging here! It was a remarkable scene that I really can’t take credit for. It really is amazing how much a decent DSLR can capture with a little luck, some research/knowledge about how the camera works and a little more knowledge about celestial mechanics. Curiosity and experimentation also help. I’ll add that persistence is also key to success in astrophotography. One thing that I’ve learned is that for every amazing photo which makes it to magazine pages and in science books there’s probably a hundred or so bad images. When I shot the above image, I took about 30 images and maybe 5 came out well. I liked this one the best.
I’ll share with the world what I did to make this shot: the bulb setting was used, an ISO of 1600, the white balance was set to Tungsten, an f-stop of f/5.6 and an 18-25 mm lens. The exposure was about 18 seconds. No serious photo editing was used either. I think I did minor color adjustments in Photoshop but much the raw image (yes, I shot in RAW) appeared as it does in the photo. The labels of the planets were added too 🙂
I’ll add a few of my other favorite images which I’ve taken over the few years I’ve practiced landscape astrophotography. I’m getting my blogging time in also since I don’t get to blog often. Enjoy!!