Venus transits the Pleiades

Once every eight years, as dictated by orbital mechanics, planet Venus crosses the Pleiades star cluster. The cluster is one of star clusters nearest to Earth and easy to spot: to the right and running ahead of the great Orion constellation. It’s an open cluster consisting of about 1,000 gravitationally-bound stars though only a few of them are visible to the unaided eye. Longer camera exposures reveal more and more stars in the group. The before, during, and after-transit conjunction positions of Venus and the Pleiades make for a lovely sight by eye, telescope, and a favorite target for astrophotographers. Shown below are some of the images CAA members have made of the April 2020 Venus/Pleiades combinations.

NOTE: Images will be added as new ones are received. 4/4/2020

Wide view of the transit: Canon EOS Rebel T5i – 250mm lens, ISO 800 F5.6, 8 seconds. by Jon Salontay
Alan Studt: Nikon D850, Sigma 600mm, f6.3, ISO 28000, 1/10th second, 110 shots, 25 darks stacked in DSS. Added a bit of glow in Photoshop.
Venus Glows! by John D. Burkett
Pre-transit Conjunction. Via 400mm telephoto lens. April 2, 2020. by James Guilford.
Venus and Three Sisters. View of the Venus transit through a telescope. “I wish I could have zoomed out!” says Photographer James Guilford.
Jon Salontay_trees_IMG_7735
Transit in the Trees. by Jon Salontay. Canon EOS Rebel T5i, 55mm lens, ISO 800, F/4, 8 seconds.
Venus visits the Pleiades. by Lonnie Dittrick

Give the Moon a chance

Waxing Gibbous Moon, by James Guilford. April 3, 2020.

by William Murmann, CAA President

I know the Moon is considered a nuisance by many of our members.  However, it does have many things worth looking at as it waxes and wanes during the month.  Every night presents something new to see.
Tonight {April 3, 2020} for example, we have a waxing nine-day Moon that is past first quarter.  Looking along the terminator, however, you can spot 52-mile diameter crater Tycho with its steep walls and magnificent ray system that shoots halfway across the Moon.
Farther to the Moon’s north, we have 56-mile diameter crater Copernicus with a collection of four to five thousand-foot mountain peaks in its center made by rebound energy immediately after the crater was created by its impactor.
And just below the Moon’s north polar region, we have the 61-mile diameter crater Plato, the famous “Black Lake.”  Plato is filled halfway with black lava.  On its western rim there is a 9,000-foot peak called Plato Zeta.
As the Moon wanes and the terminator from the setting Sun nears the western edge of the crater, a sharp, spiky shadow can be seen shooting about 30 miles across the crater floor just as the Sun hits Plato Zeta.  By luck, I happened to observing Plato at 4 a.m. one morning and saw the shadow at the exact moment when the setting Sun hit the peak and shot the shadow across the crater floor.
If you are up for a challenge, see if you can see Plato Zeta’s spiky shadow just as it appears.

 

Beautiful M42 in crystalline skies

Orion Nebula, M42, by Hayden Gill. February 2020

Hayden Gill, a member of our Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA) braved a very cold but crystal-clear February night collecting image data to create this picture; it was also his very successful first effort at image stacking.

Gill wrote: “I shot it with a Nikon D7200 on a SkyWatcher EvoStar 80ED {telescope}, CGEM II mount. For guiding I have a 60mm ZWO scope and a ZWO 174 mono” guide camera. He used his Nikon for the data capture and Deep Sky Stacker to build the image. Each exposure was two minutes at ISO 800. He used 34 light images, 20 darks, 20 flats, 25 bias frames. Post processing was in Photoshop.

“This was my first attempt at astrophotography stacking. First time stacking and first time really putting all my gear to use how I have been intending to. Can’t wait to get back out!”

We will be eager to see Gill’s continued progress and images!

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!