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“Redneck” Astrophotography

Redneck Astrophotography:  I’m not sure how this term came to be but somehow it seems a bit contradictory.  That’s all I’ll say about that.

Anyways, I don’t own any fancy equipment for taking long-exposure shots of the night sky on an expensive EQ mount.  I do however have an iPhone which has an app for taking long-er exposure pics but with no tracking system I’m not sure how it will turn out.  It’ll probably have star trails if anything shows up at all.  I did also just download an app called “Snapseed” which is an image editing app for the iPhone.  I managed to get it for free which is huge because it’s usually $9.99.  I took several shots of the moon the other day when it was just before full.  I have to use both my 25% and 13% transmission filters to get the image dim enough for the camera to take in.  The result is 7% light transmission which is a perfect amount for my phone’s camera to handle.  After using Snapseed to sharpen it up and play with the contrast I managed to produce a pretty striking image of the moon with good contrast between the mare and the higher elevations.

The second image is one of M42, the Great Orion Nebula, that a member of the Harford County Astronomical Society took.  I just recently joined HCAS and they sent this picture out in an email.  After sprucing it up a bit I got much more detail out of the nebula than is at first visible (it looks a bit grainy but still not bad).  I’m quite pleased with Snapseed so far and if you’re like me and can’t afford fancy equipment to do real astrophotography then this is a great option!  Especially if you purchase an eyepiece mount for your phone like this one from Orion.

I hope you enjoy the pictures!

M42 Orion Nebula Credit: Harford County Astronomical Society

Refurbished moon

Mars Images App

Mars Images app

Smartphones really can do some amazing things!  The latest app I downloaded to my iPhone is the Mars Images app from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  It uses the comm uplink from the long-lived Martian rover Opportunity and downloads them directly to your phone or tablet!  How cool is that?!  The Opportunity rover is currently “hibernating” during the harsh Martian winter but there is a pretty large cache of images already stored.  There will also be the opportunity to see images from JPL’s newest rover Curiosity when it arrives on the Red Planet in August.  You can download the app for your iOS device or Android.

My First Astrophoto…Sort of

On Sunday night I went outside in my driveway and spent a good while taking in the beauty of the full moon with my binoculars.  It was a perfectly clear night and I had an amazing view of the moon for over an hour!  The only drawback was that it was almost at zenith so my arms and neck needed frequent breaks.  I am not equipped at all for astrophotography but I figured I’d give it a shot.  All I had was my iPhone and its tiny lens so snapping a picture of the moon was not an option through my binoculars because there was simply too much light for my phone to handle.  So I focused my attention to Jupiter which was hanging low in the East sky around midnight.  I am simply in love with the sight of Jupiter’s moons through my 15×70’s so I decided to try it out with my phone.  Unfortunately with binoculars you can never get a complete image because you can only hold the phone up to one of the eyepieces.  Although the size of the planet is reduced and the moons aren’t visible (far too faint for my phone’s camera) I’m relatively please with how it turned out!  Take a look:

My first attempt at astrophotography...a mild success

So there it is!  Obviously if you compare that to any other amateur’s pictures of Jupiter this is the worst, but I’m proud of it nonetheless!  It’s still amazing that something that is 816 million kilometers away and yet we can see it with our naked eyes, and even better with equipment.  So that’s that.  I hope that brought you at least mild enjoyment.  Until next time, remember Psalm 97:6, “The heavens proclaim His righteousness, and all the peoples see His glory

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