My first attempt at photographing an eclipse, and I must say I was pleased!
Woke up extra eary this morning, happy to see the clouds disappeared as the eclipse began. Managed to get a few shots using my teeny tiny 18mm-55mm canon lens. In retrospect I should have set up my telescope, but with the weather being an unpredictable jerk lately, I didn’t want to risk getting stuck in the rain.
While the high-zoom, highly sharpened images of the ISS were impressive, I thought it would be nicer to provide the full-frame images to show just how small this object appeared on my Canon 40D through my 150mm telescope. My choice to add a 2x barlow lens was definitely a good choice as it doubled the size of the object on my sensor.
I’m not going to lie… I’m still giggling like a schoolgirl at the fact that I managed to finally get a shot of the International Space Station.
So after two attempts and two failures, my third attempt at imaging the International Space Station ended with a great deal of success.
First let me explain the challenges of imaging the ISS.
1. Target Speed
Astrophotography is challenging enough, but at least the target objects (Sun, Moon, Stars, Planets, and DSO) are seemingly slow-moving objects when compared to the ISS, which is travelling at around 7.6 kilometers per second in low-earth orbit (that’s 27,500 km/h or 17,000 mph for our American Friends). To tackle this issue I had to opt for manual tracking to allow for faster corrections and quicker target acquisition. Simply set the elevation to that of the ISS max altitude, align the finderscope to the camera, and keep that marvelous little ball of light in the crosshairs.
2. Target Brightness
The ISS is a fairly reflective object, and being so close to earth makes it significantly brighter than most stars. This presents an issue when estimating focus and exposure values. My solution was to focus on a fairly bright star using my bahtinov mask, then dial back the shutter speed to dim the star (In this case my settings were and ISO speed of 1600 and Shutter speed of 1/1250s. Fast enough to capture sharp still frames, and bright enough to see the object without overexposure.
3. Environmental Issues
The ISS has a planned and predictable trajectory, but that doesn’t mean every pass will be ideal. These factors affect an imaging session.
– The pass is early in the evening, making harder to spot (and harder to find a focus star).
– The pass is relatively short, lowing the amount of capture time.
– The pass has a less-than-ideal maximum altitude, making it a further, dimmer, more blurry target (and potentially obstructed by buildings and trees).
Luckily my latest imaging session occurred after sunset, lasted a full six minutes, and had a maximum altitude of 72 degrees. This all made for a prime session.
The main cause of my first two failed attempts was the misuse of my DSLR. The Canon 40D is not designed to record video, but I chose to attempt my imaging session using the Planetary Imaging feature in Backyard EOS, which is basically making use of remote live view to simulate low-res video capture. Perfect for planetary imaging, not so much for the speedy ISS… The Result? This blurry blob.
To remedy these failures I opted for a simpler solution, replacing my laptop, software, and low-res video for a simple handheld remote shutter/timer control. This allowed me to preset bust-shot intervals giving me plenty of high-resolution RAW images to sort through. Leading to these three recognizable shots of the ISS. I’m proud to say that the session was a tremendous success.
It was a reasonably clear night; although, it was so humid and hot that a light haze stayed close to the ground, but still a great night for observation! I spent more time looking through my eyepieces, but managed to snap a photo of M17, the Swan Nebula.
Needless to say, I’ll definitely be returning to the Tyneside site!
Based on the CSC predictions, it looks like a good night to head out with my telescope to the Binbrook Conservation Area.
Looks like a late night ahead, seeing as how I’ll be there until roughly 2-3am. If you’re feeling slightly insomniac-ish, you’re welcome to join me here!
So my hopes of an ideal night for viewing Mars at opposition didn’t turn out so well. A barrage of clouds forced me to rush the session with Mars still rather low in the sky, making it heavily distorted due to the atmospheric distortion. But none the less, here is a photo taken of the Red Planet at its brightest (plus a bonus shot of the moon) before the clouds ruined my night. It may not be much, but it’s my first and only photo of Mars, and if my eyes don’t deceive me, I think I see a slight highlight of the norther polar ice cap (but I could be wrong).
Get your cameras, binoculars, and telescopes out because the Red Planet will be shining bright tonight! Mars will be at its closest point directly opposite to the Sun in the sky, meaning it will be exceptionally bright and easy to spot in the southeastern sky. So look for a bright and vibrant red “star” tonight, if you’ve got kids let them stay up a little later than usual and let them have a look too!