Saturday, December 22, 2012

Day Seven and Eight

Today I'll discuss ABCs - Astrophotography, Birthday, and Cabin Fever.

Yesterday was my 23rd birthday! Everyone was really sweet with birthday wishes and dinner. Derek cooked a great meal as usual, and we had an excuse to celebrate with good brownies and delicious homemade space ice cream (John's special recipe).

I was waiting all day for it to be dark- good thing it was the day with the least amount of sunlight in the whole year! I stumbled across a note in Diane's CCD photometry pamphlet about using DSLR cameras and got inspired. After a day of reading about astrophotography with DSLRs I was excited to go observing. We went out for a bit in the early evening and then again at 4:30 this morning. We tried to catch a variable star to measure with the CCD, but clouds and cold temperatures made it difficult. We are getting better at aligning the telescope - we did it in a record 35 minutes this morning!

Here are my first attempts to photograph the heavens. Don't have high expectations.

The moon is the only object big enough to use autofocus (but it doesn't focus well). I ran across a website that said you should photograph the moon as if you're in full sunlight because the moon is in full sunlight. Diane's friend gave me some advice via email - you should use large aperture. Does that mean large aperture opening or large f number?

 This is a picture of Saturn taken in the early morning with a long exposure. Sunlight is starting to lighten the sky and a couple clouds were up near the horizon. It was a beautiful dawn, but so so cold!

This is a picture of Saturn taken through the telescope. Your eyes are much better at focusing than a camera is - it looked amazing and crisp through the telescope.

The astrophotography is really fun. I may have to invest in a tripod so I can continue the hobby after this trip. I need to get better at manually focusing. It should be easier to play with settings when my fingers aren't frozen...

Today is another day stuck inside. I wish I had move EVA adventures to write about. The forecast for the next week is sadly cloudy, so we may not be able to do as much observing either. What can we do? What would actual colonists on Mars do if they were stuck waiting for good conditions?

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