See the transit of Mercury Monday, November 11

Photo: 2016 Transit of Mercury. Photo by James Guilford
Transit of Mercury, May 9, 2016. A cloudy sky left occasional openings for views of tiny Mercury slowly gliding across the solar disk. Photo by James Guilford.

UPDATE: The Transit of Mercury program planned for Edgewater Park has been canceled due to a forecast of clouds, rain/snow, and below freezing temps. We’ll have to try again in 13 years when the next transit comes around.

The planet Mercury will cross between Earth and Sun on Monday, November 11, 2019. Given clear skies, members of the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA) will be stationed at the lower level of Edgewater Park offering safe viewing of the event. Viewing times at Edgewater will be from noon until just after 1:00 p.m.

CAA members will be present with their solar-safe telescopes offering several ways of viewing our Sun. Cloudy skies will, of course, cancel the event. No tickets or reservations are required; those interested should simply come to the park. The transit is a natural, astronomical occurrence and cannot be rescheduled; when it has finished, it is finished!

Anyone with eclipse viewing glasses would be able to view the transit but without the magnification offered by a telescope, the event will be hard to see. Mercury, officially a planet, is not quite three times the size of Earth’s Moon. Viewed from Earth, around 48 million miles distant, Mercury is tiny!

The 2019 transit begins at about 7:35 a.m. and will end at 1:04 p.m. November 11. Another transit of Mercury won’t take place for 13 years.

WARNING: NEVER look directly at the sun through binoculars, a telescope, or with your unaided eye. Permanent eye damage and even blindness can result. Astronomers use special filters and glasses to safely observe the sun. Sunglasses, photo negatives, etc. will not protect against eye injury.

Old Moon rising

Image: Moonrise over Cleveland. Credit: Frank Shoemaker.
Old Moon Rising. Cleveland, Ohio’s downtown skyline with waning Crescent Moon rising. The moon was about 32.5 hours until new. Credit: Frank Shoemaker

This beautiful new shot of an “old” Moon rising was made by Cuyahoga Astronomical Association member Frank Shoemaker. The photographer writes, “I shot this image this morning [September 27] at 5:50.  The moon was about 32.5 hours until new. So far, this is the closest I’ve shot the moon to being new.”

The “new” phase is the end of the lunar cycle aging from Full, and fully-lit, to New and fully-dark; it’s also the beginning of the next cycle, thus New Moon.

“I shot it from the west end of Edgewater Park on the new pier down at the water. I used a Canon 7D Mark II with the 100-400 mm lens at about 260 mm. It’s a single exposure, 2 seconds at f/9, ISO 2000.” Shoemaker explained. “I processed the image through Topaz Labs DeNoise AI and finished it in Lightroom. I planned the shot with the Photographers Ephemeris app.”

 

It’s more than just a bright light

The International Space Station – August 2, 2019. Photo by James Guilford.

It is possible to get images of the International Space Station (ISS) that show more than a beautiful, bright streak across the night sky. Outside of the spit-second timing of shooting the ISS’s silhouette against the Sun or Moon, one rarely sees images of the station as it moves across the starry night sky. “I thought I’d take advantage of Friday night’s (August 2, 2019) brilliant pass and try a still photo of the station,” wrote photographer and CAA member James Guilford. “I’d actually been wanting to try this for some time. Getting focus right turned out not to be as difficult as getting the exposure right and the darned thing was just brilliant — I overexposed by possibly two stops. While I lost out on station details but for some solar panels, I did pick up some background stars! This was my second try at a still image. Third time’s the charm?”

Here’s the equipment list and exposure info:

  • Canon EOS 7D Mark 2
  • Canon EF400 FL Telephoto Lens (The camera’s cropped sensor makes the 400mm the close equivalent to a 600mm lens.)
  • Shutter: 1/1,600 sec.
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • ISO: 4,000
  • Finally: Heavily cropped, exposure adjusted in Photoshop

How was the camera guided? “The camera and lens were handheld and hand-tracked” he explained. “My experience with photographing birds and dragonflies in flight helped!”

The target is very small and moves quickly across the sky. Guilford wrote, “Much is made of the fact the ISS spans a space about the size of a football field but you’re trying to photograph that football field from more than 250 miles away! It. Is. Small.”

A star to steer her by

Marblehead Light with Star Trails. Photo by Alan Studt.
Marblehead Light with Star Trails. Photo by Alan Studt.
A nighttime visit to Lake Erie’s Marblehead Lighthouse provided the perfect opportunity for the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association’s Alan Studt to create this beautiful image. This nightscape isn’t a simple, single-exposure image as done in the old film camera days.
Here’s what went into making this picture:
  • Shot an approx. 22-minute star trail between 11:30 and Midnight (100 – 13 second shots at ISO 3200).
  • Edit out dozens of airplanes – probably all but a handful of the shots had multiple planes flying by.
  • Foreground is made of 45 images median stacked equaling about a nine-minute exposure.

Tools:

  • Nikon D850
  • Tamron 15-30mm @ 15mm, f /2.8
  • Post done in Sequator, StarTrails.exe, Lightroom, and Photoshop
“Beautiful evening!” says Studt. We agree, and thanks for sharing!

 

Beautiful North America

Photo: The North America Nebula by Lonnie Dittrick
The North America Nebula by Lonnie Dittrick

This image was captured by the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association’s member Lonnie Dittrick. The astrophotographer reports it took “fifty-two 90-second light frames over two nights (fighting waning gibbous moon and smoke from Canada)” from his backyard in Northeastern Ohio.

The North America Nebula (NGC 7000 or Caldwell 20) is an emission nebula in the constellation Cygnus, close to Deneb (the tail of the swan and its brightest star). The remarkable shape of the nebula resembles that of the continent of North America, complete with a prominent Gulf of Mexico.” — Wikipedia

 

Happy Solstice 2019!

Photo: Solstice Sunset by Alan Studt
After Sunset: A crowd gathers at Lakewood Park, enjoying sunset on June 21, 2019. Photo by Alan Studt.

The Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA) was well-represented this year at the annual Lakewood Solstice Celebration held on the shores of Lake Erie. CAA members brought 11 telescopes to help support a successful annual Summer Solstice program at Lakewood City Park.

Photo: Child gets support looking through telescope. Photo by Alan Studt.
Getting by with a little help, a boy is supported as he looks through a solar-safe telescope at the Sun. CAA President William Murmann tends his scope. Photo by Alan Studt.

Lakewood Park features an amphitheater-like Solstice Steps facility where visitors are able to view the Great Lake. The evening event draws thousands and boasts food, music, activities and, thanks to the CAA, safe solar viewing and after-sunset astronomy.

Photo: CAA Members at Lakewood Park. Photo by Carl Kudrna.
Plenty going on as CAA members tend their telescopes either offering views of the Sun or waiting til sundown and darkness. Photo by Carl Kudrna.

Attendees enjoyed clear, sunny skies for most of the day right up until just before sunset. Safe solar viewing was offered through a variety of telescopes and filters though, because Sun was at Solar Minimum, there wasn’t much to see on old Sol’s face.

Photo: Seeing the Sun. Photo by John D. Burkett.
Viewing the Sun through a large refractor telescope. Photo by John D. Burkett.

A group of clouds moved across the Lake Erie horizon from the northwest covering the Sun and obscuring Mars and Mercury, which also should have been visible at sunset.

Photo: Partial Sunbow. Photo by Alan Studt.
Clouds and crowds during sunset at the 2019 Lakewood Solstice Celebration. A portion of a sunbow forms an arc at the right. Photo by Alan Studt.

After sunset, however, Jupiter rose above the trees in the east, providing an opportunity to show visitors Jupiter and a few of his Galilean Moons.

Photo: Telescope silhouetted. Photo by Alan Studt.
A grand vintage telescope is silhouetted against the blue evening twilight as a guest views planet Jupiter. Photo by Alan Studt.

CAA member Jay Reynolds again organized and coordinated the Solstice astronomy program with the city of Lakewood. Reynolds passed along compliments from the city for the timely and organized manner in which members arrived, unloaded, and kept the flow going as members set up their telescope systems.

Photo: Telescope and Eyepiece. Photo by John D. Burkett.
Waiting for Dark. A telescope is set up, waiting for dark skies and an opportunity to view Jupiter. Photo by John D. Burkett.

Lakewood city officials and staff welcomed and supported CAA as part of their annual event. Lakewood Mayor Mike Summers and his wife, expressed how much they enjoy coming to the event and this (telescopes) was their favorite part!

Photo: Lakewood Solstice Steps. Photo by Alan Studt.
Lakewood Park’s Solstice Steps at sunset. Photo by Alan Studt.

The Lakewood Solstice Celebration is one of several public events in which CAA members provide astronomy outreach programming. “It’s what we do.”

This report by CAA President William Murmann and others.

Looking out the window

Photo: Craters on the Moon's Terminator. An iPhone photo taken through a telescope at 600X. Converted to monochrome.  Photo Credit: Lowan Laws.
Craters on the Moon’s Terminator. An iPhone photo taken through a telescope at 600X. Converted to monochrome. Photo Credit: Lowan Laws.

CAA member Lowan Laws was using his eight-inch Meade Dobsonian telescope at our Letha House Park observing site one very clear night this July. Pointing his scope at the Moon, he marveled at how sharp the image was. He said the atmosphere was so clear and steady — the seeing extraordinary — that he kept increasing the magnification to see how far he could go. Finally, at 600X, he snapped this image using his Apple iPhone at the telescope eyepiece (afocal method). It’s almost like looking out the window of a spaceship in lunar orbit.