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.”

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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.

2018 Perseids meteor shower

Photo: Perseids Composite: Images combined to show 22 meteors viewed from Salt Fork State Park, Ohio. Photo Credit: Frank Shoemaker.
Perseids Composite: Images combined to show 22 meteors and radiant direction, viewed from Salt Fork State Park, Ohio. Photo Credit: Frank Shoemaker.

Note: This post will be updated with additional photos and narrative as provided by CAA members.

The 2018 occurrence of the annual Perseids meteor shower was not particularly outstanding but among sky watchers the event’s timing offered some promise; it peaked on a weekend and Earth’s Moon offered no interference! Overall, members enjoyed the experience but were not impressed by the Perseids’ performance!

A few intrepid members of the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA) spent late nights into early mornings at darker sites around the area ranging from Observatory Park in Geauga County, to Letha House Park in Medina County, Findley State Park in Lorain County, and Salt Fork State Park in Guernsey County.

Photo: The night wasn't stellar Saturday for the 2018 Perseids Meteor Shower as viewed from Letha House Park West, Medina County. This fisheye view of observers leaving at 12:35 AM. Photo Credit: James Guilford.
The night wasn’t stellar Saturday for the 2018 Perseids Meteor Shower as viewed from Letha House Park West, Medina County, as clouds and light pollution hindered observations. This fisheye view of observers leaving at 12:35 AM. Photo Credit: James Guilford.

Saturday night observers were largely frustrated by clouds moving over the Northern Ohio area though some did report seeing meteors. The passing clouds were illuminated not only by city light pollution but also by flashes of lightning from thunderstorms over Lake Erie!

Member Lonnie Dittrick, out Saturday night, reported, “Spent about 2.5 hours out near Wellington and snagged 23 meteors (about 1 every 9.6 minutes). Conditions fair with lots of high clouds and a cloud-out for 30 minutes. Reoccurring lighting north over the lake. Three very bright shooters that left trails. 11:10 to 1:40 AM.”

Joining the crowd at Observatory Park, Nancy Whisler wrote, “We counted 34 up until midnight, then we left because it was getting so cloudy and moist. We had a great time!

Some folks tried watching from their own back yards. “Stayed home in Brunswick on my backyard patio Saturday night and Sunday,” wrote Jon Salontay. “Saturday started out with promising skies and weather but the sky got very hazy and smoky early and cloudy later. Saw only one sporadic meteor around midnight and didn’t catch any with my camera. Limiting magnitude was at best 3rd magnitude, probably 2nd. Sunday night saw better conditions; much darker and clearer.”

“Saw only two Perseids though: one early at 11:30 PM, and another around 4 AM, in an early and later session. Three meteors, in two days, in five hours observing.” Reflecting the feelings of many observers, Salontay concluded, “I’ve had better nights.”

Watching from his home’s deck in Brunswick Hills, Matt Franduto wrote, “The last two nights (2 – 3:00 AM) have been awful. Zero on Friday. Three (Saturday) night.”

Sunday night, inconvenient for many due to Monday work schedules, offered better skies and a nice selection of fireballs (exceptionally bright meteors) in addition to more ordinary “shooting stars.”

Watching the sky from “the lovely skies of North Olmsted,” was Steve Korylak. “I took about 200 15-second exposures covering Cygnus and Cassiopeia starting at 1:30 AM and caught not 0ne. However the next half-hour I saw three Perseids and four sporadics. Some shower, more like a drizzle!”

Photo: Sword of Mars: A Perseid fireball meteor streaks past the brilliant planet Mars in the skies over Findley State Park, Wellington, August 12, 2018, 1:03 AM. Photo Credit: James Guilford.
Sword of Mars: A Perseid fireball meteor streaks past the brilliant planet Mars in the skies over Findley State Park, Wellington, August 12, 2018, 1:03 AM. Photo Credit: James Guilford.

From Findley State Park, James Guilford watched and photographed from twilight until 1:30 AM Saturday to Sunday. He did not keep count as photography was his main interest. “I saw a few dim Perseids and several fireballs and captured one as it passed Mars,” he wrote. “The main problem became dew; one after another the camera lenses fogged up and I had to keep swapping them out. The camera and tripod were dripping wet by the time I had to call it quits!”

Dark skies matter when it comes to spotting meteors. Member Frank Shoemaker, who went to Salt Fork, reported, “My daughter and I went down to Salt Fork state park and were out from 11:30 PM to 4:30 AM on Sunday night/Monday morning. The clouds completely cleared out about 1:30 AM and we eventually lost count of Perseids in the 70s. I think we saw at least 80 of them.” That was a good night! See his composite photo at top of this story.

Photo: Singular Streak: A close-up view of a Perseid as it passed through constellation Cassiopeia Sunday morning. Photo Credit: John D. Burkett.
Singular Streak: A close-up view of a Perseid as it passed through constellation Cassiopeia Sunday morning. Photo Credit: John D. Burkett.

Member John Burkett took a different approach in making his meteoric image: as an experiment he attached cameras to a CGEM which tracked with background stars. The image above was produced from a Nikon D810, Nikon 35mm f/1.4 @ f/4, ISO-200, single-frame 76-Seconds, cropped. It was just below and to the right of the big “W”. He was three miles out of Seville, time stamp is 5:29 AM.

 

Star Trails and Space Station Track

Photo: Star trails around Polaris are interrupted by a pass of the International Space Station. Photo by Alan Studt.
Star trails around Polaris are interrupted by a pass of the International Space Station. Photo by Alan Studt.

On a seemingly rare clear night recently in Northeastern Ohio, Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA) member, photographer Alan Studt traveled to Hinckley Lake for a bit of stargazing. CAA members can access Cleveland Metroparks for after-hours astronomy.

“Gale and I watched the nice ISS pass on Thursday night. Since it was clear Friday night we went to Hinckley Lake Reservation and sat by the lake while I shot a star trail. Nice surprise – the ISS flew by and photo-bombed the star trail!” — Alan Studt

Technical Items:

  • 102 shots, 20 seconds each
  • Tamron 15-30mm @ 15mm, f2.8
  • ISO 200, Nikon D810