Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Monday, August 10, 2009 - 12:58AM

Sunday night sky shooting: Moon and Jupiter

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Clear skies prevailed Sunday evening, so I went up to my favored ridgetop spot near Big Chimney to watch the Persieds and whatever else the sky presented. I didn't see a single meteor from sunset through moonrise, though I wasn't watching all that intently. I didn't really need to keep my eyes on things too much, since I'd set the Canon up wide-open doing continuous 30-second exposures. If something major had happened, the camera should have caught it. I didn't see anything upon examining the images later.

Low-level atmospheric conditions were pretty bad for any type of night sky photography - with dense haze, on the verge of fog, blocking all but Jupiter and the moon in the lowest 10-15 degrees or so above the horizon. It wasn't the most comfortable of nights to be outside, hot and muggy with mosquito attacks. This is one of the 60 or so exposures that I did while hoping for a bright fireball. The haze was capturing lots of light from the few and normally inconsequential rural streetlights below the terrain lines. Jupiter is the bright spot at lower right:

click to enlarge

Moonrise was not as immediately detrimental to ambient sky light and subsequent star/meteor visibility as I had thought. In fact, if we get clear skies on Tuesday and Wednesday, there should be a good 2-3 hours of moon-free meteor viewing. The haze turned the moon to a deep red/orange color as it rose. I switched to the Bower 1300mm to grab a few shots of this.

click to enlarge

Before leaving, I turned the big lens onto Jupiter for a few frames. Most of the better shots of Jupiter that I've seen online have been assembled with stacked multiple exposures. These are just single ones, though even with the softness of the Bower lens you can still make out some of the planet's banding:

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

I may try the stacking technique sometime to see if I can get a sharper image of Jupiter. I have been trying to spot Saturn in recent weeks, but according to tracking info, it's been nearly on the western horizon at sunset and not very visible. So, Saturn shots may have to wait until the middle of winter.

Plus, Saturn's rings are edge on so it's not very photogenic right now.
- Posted by Dann Cianca from Englewood (Inverness), Colorado

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