February 29, 2012

Hunter Over the Pool

Down in Florida the cherry blossoms were already coming out on Valentines Day. Here is Orion over the swimming pool in the backyard. There is a little purple splotch to the right of the belt, but that is just a bit of lens glare from the lights.

February 26, 2012

Weird and Wonderful

The forest in Florida is much different than around here. It is filled with all sorts of weird and wonderful plants.

Just a few hours ago I went out and got some pictures of tonight's Moon-Jupiter-Venus all close together thing. Pretty cool If I do say so myself.

Last night the three were in almost a straight line and tonight the crescent moon is right beside Jupiter.

February 25, 2012

Stars in the Sky

Looking up at the sky in Florida you still see the same stars for the most part. There are some that are missing, and some that you cannot see from here. The main difference is that the major constellations are all in a different place. 

Here is the Pleiades, guarded as always by Taurus. Their light coming to us across trillions of kilometers of space just so that we can take pictures of them. 

Go Stars! (Not the ones from Dallas, Go Canucks Go!)

February 24, 2012

Awesome Name for a Road

I know that it is not a picture of the sky, but I think it is awesome that there is a street in Cocoa Beach called Astronaut Boulevard. From just a few kilometers from where this photo was taken a rocket launched today. The Atlas V carrying the MUOS-1 military communications satellite launched today at 5:15 EST. This is pretty cool to me for many reasons, one of them being the fact that I have seen that very rocket out on the launch pad. It was due to launch the day after I visited the Space Center, but that day and the next the launches were scrubbed for weather. After rolling out to the pad again yesterday, it was successfully launched today.

February 23, 2012


Sometimes it seems like I am constantly posting picture of Orion. There is a good reason for that. Orion is one of the most distinctive and cool looking constellations in the northern hemisphere. It is also full of awesome nebulae and is home to some bright red supergiants.

Here, the great hunter is pictured up above some trees with that weird fluffy moss stuff that covers all the trees in Florida.

February 22, 2012

Red Eye Flight

This is from Cocoa Beach in Florida. On the left is most of the Big Dipper, and just out of the frame is in fact the Kennedy Space Center. This 30 second shot happens to have an airplane in it.

On a different note, I took some pretty cool photos of the Orion Nebula tonight, I am going to play with them a little bit, and post them soon.

February 21, 2012

Palms in Paridise

Palms at Wakulah

After a day spent lying on Cocoa Beach, I spent some time lying on the beach at night. On the way back to the hotel, I found these palms overlooking the parking lot. I think this picture is pretty cool. It looks blurry, but that is just because the trees were blowing in the wind. The weird blue light on the right is from the pool.

I had a wonderful trip to Florida, including to the Space Coast and the Kennedy Space Center. I have many many pictures of all things space that I cannot wait to share. I saw rockets of all shapes and sizes, I saw an actual rocket sitting on an actual launch pad waiting to launch. I saw the pads where the shuttles flew from, I saw the shuttle Atlantis in her natural habitat of the Vehicle Assembly Building. Those are just a few highlights of my visit to Cape Canaveral, and I will talk about them later as I post the pictures.

In this we see Orion almost straight overhead lounging in a Cocoa Beach palm tree. It was neat to see the stars all in a different place because of the latitude. Over on the other coast of Florida where I spent most of my time the nights were a lot darker than I expected, lots of stars.

Silly Me

I have been a bad blogger this past week. I was away in Florida, and although I could have done a post each night, it was just so nice to sit and relax. I am back home now, and I have lots of new photos to share. Check back soon!

February 14, 2012

The Red Sunset

This is the sunset I mentioned when in the post "A Red Ball in a Tree, a Bike, and some Snow?". I took this in 2008 in Comox BC.

I am currently in Cocoa Beach right now just a few miles south of Kennedy Space Center. Driving in we saw the Vehicle Assembly Building peeking over the curvature of the earth from many miles away. From the pier at Cocoa Beach I could see one of the launch towers at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

I am so excited to go on the tour tomorrow.

February 13, 2012

Man Over Moon

I took this the same night I took the pictures of the legislature buildings. This handsome gentleman is Captain Vancouver the explorer. The crescent moon is visible between his legs.

I am headed to Cape Canaveral tomorrow. I am so excited. I am going to go to the home of NASA and see some of the most incredible machines ever devised by humankind. A big thanks to G+G for making this possible.

February 12, 2012

Tower at the Top

The top of Mt Doug hosts this tower. I took this a month or so ago. Orion is just coming over the hill, Taurus is just below the red light in the center of the frame, and the Pleiades are just above that.

I am currently in Florida, so I am going to be making short posts for the next week or so. I went out last night and tools some cool pictures, and I plan to do the same tonight. I am going to wait until I get back home to post them so that I can use my large computer screen to edit the pictures.

February 11, 2012

Moon Over the River

This is a sepia-fied photo of the crescent moon over the river by my house. The white balance was all funny in the original, so I had to switch it. 

The moon looks weird in this picture. It has what seems like two lobes to it. That is because it was about half full. 

I did not have a chance to do a post last night as I was in transit all day from Victoria to Florida. I am here now and I hope to be able to do some cool photos where I am here. Yay for waking up in Florida!

February 9, 2012

Fly Me to the Moon

This is one of my favorite pictures I have taken of an airplane. I figure that since I am on my way to the states to take a flight, I would post this now.

I took this at CFB Comox several years ago. The plane in the picture is an American P-3 Orion Maritime patrol aircraft.

I might add more to this post later, but for now, enjoy!

February 8, 2012

More Than Just a Handle

From near the top of the Malahat, the view is spectacular, day or night. Here, I am looking northeast from the north end of the scenic route. 

Very obvious in the frame is the "Big Dipper". The second star in on the handle you can just see the Mizar / Alcor star system. I had thought that I explained this system before, but looking back, I guess I have not.

Mizar is the name given to the second star in the handle of the big dipper. Just visible to those with good eyes is a second star right next to it. This star is called Alcor. The two stars orbit around each-other over the course of thousands of years. 

If you take a look at the two stars with a telescope, you can see that Mizar itself is actually two separate stars going around each other. So now we have Mizar A, Mizar B, and Alcor. 

If you do some fancy spectroscopy stuff you can figure out that Mizar A is actually two stars as well, Mizar Aa and Ab. Mizar B is actually two as well, as is Alcor. So really, the second star in the handle of the big dipper is Mizar Aa, Mizar Ab, Mizar Ba, Mizar Bb, Alcor A, and Alcor B. Pretty confusing stuff eh? It is incredible to picture all those stars whirring around eachother. It is one of my favorite star systems.

February 7, 2012

Round and Round the Merry-Go-Round

This kind of shot is very difficult to take in the city because of all the light. They almost always end up overexposed or really weird colors.

In this case, it is both overexposed and funny colors, but I like the effect. I also like the artifacts from the lens. The pink circle in the top left and the faint semicircles around it going towards the bottom right are from the streetlight that was just a little out of the frame.

These stars are all going around the north celestial pole. Polaris is in the center, the one star that is just a dot.

It is pretty neat how the ones in the center barely moved, but the ones at the edges moved a whole bunch. This is the same thing as on a merry go round. Standing in the center you are still, but as you move out you go faster and faster to get around in the same amount of time.

To take the photo, I set my camera up outside my door and pointed it up. I used the bulb exposure, and let it run for about 19 minutes. The ISO was 200 at f/5.6.

February 6, 2012

One Year Ago

I took this photo one year ago today from the beaches at Cinque Terre. This was one of the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen.

The town I shot it from is called Vernazza. This winter Vernazza and some of the other towns along that section of coast were devastated by landslides. The cleanup effort is under way, but it will be a long hard process. You can find more information here.

The sun as you can see is not round in this picture, it is sorta split into two and squished a bit. This is because of the temperature of the air not steadily decreasing with altitude, rather, it decreases at a variable rate, or perhaps even has an inversion in the atmosphere where the temperature increases with hight for a bit. The effect is a mirage.

It is such a nice sight that I will not sully it with any more babble about temperature, instead I want to thank my cousin. This weekend he graciously has let me borrow his telescope. It is a 4 inch refractor, and the really cool thing is that it is motorized and can track the stars as the earth spins. I am hoping to get an adaptor that will allow me to attach my camera directly to the telescope so that I can get some long exposure pictures of things in the sky without them just turning into streaks. So thank you again sir!


As you may have noticed, I did not post pictures yesterday or the day before. I took an unexpected and very plesant trip up island to see my family, and in doing so completly forgot to bring any pictures to post.

I will very certainly post a picture for today, and I will do some up extra posts up so that I dont have to worry about not having any pictures.

February 3, 2012

Iridium 37, Flare Near the Dipper

Finally! An Iridium Flare! I took this shot last night at just after 7 pm. You can see the big dipper in the picture, and if you follow the two stars at the end of the bucket you can see Polaris near the edge of the photo. The flare itself is the bright thing in the middle. 

I got to where I was going to shoot it about 10 minutes early and set up the camera. I knew that it was going to be 40 degrees in altitude about 25 degrees east of north. Having it so close to Polaris made it easy.

I did a few test photos to make sure everything was all lined up correctly. Then sat in the car to wait. The flare was to peak at about 10 seconds before 7:17, so I went back out at about 14 minutes after according to my cell.

My cell phone clock is about 2 minutes fast, and I know that, but when it hit 7:16 I saw a satellite coming from the right direction about to pass just out of the frame to the left. I almost moved the camera, and if I had I would have missed the real one. 

I saw the satellite around zenith, straight overhead. When came into where I knew the frame was I pressed the shutter button. I knew that if I just used a 30 second exposure it would get cut in half again, so I used a bulb exposure. The exposure ended up being just a tad under 70 seconds.

I quite like the result, and I think it is pretty cool how precisely these flare can be predicted. Anyways, that was my yesterday night.

February 2, 2012

An Oddly Flat Sea

A 30 second exposure of the beach yeilded this last night. There were little waves, and the several broke during the exposure making the ocean look really weird.

This photo is looking towards Orion. It is really neat how over the course of the year the stars move around in the sky so much. I remember just a few months ago, Orion would just be rising at 9 or 10 o'clock. Now it is up when the sun goes down. 

It is no small wonder that the "march of the heavens" so captivated the ancients. Their slow progress through the sky is somewhat comforting.

Last night down at the observatory we took our first look at Mars. It is not a particularly interesting thing to look at. It is just a small reddish dot, but it is still pretty cool.

As we speak there is a new rover on its way to the red planet. Curiosity will land in August. There is a link to the mission page in the links section. 

I was thinking about this last night. Even in my memory it is incredible how far our understanding of Mars has come. I remember when Spirit and Opportunity landed 7 and a half years ago, how amazing it was. Their 3 month planned mission was historic. Now, pictures of the martian surface are commonplace and easily recognizable by just about anyone, and still one of those rovers is still trucking away soon to be joined by Curiosity. Pretty cool if you ask me. Anyways, this picture doesn't even have Mars in it, so I don't know how I got talking about this. Tonight I am going to go out to capture an Iridium Flare. I got one last night, but it was just a little wimpy one, and it peaked right in between two exposures. The one I am going to try to get tonight is going to be about as bright as a crescent moon when it peaks...should be good!

February 1, 2012

King of Gods

Jupiter, King of Gods

To the Romans, Jupiter was the ruler of the gods. The planet Jupiter is indeed somewhat special. It is the largest planet in our solar system both in mass and in radius. Along with Venus and the moon, Jupiter is one of the brightest things in the sky.

Jupiter is big. The radius is more than 10 times that of the Earth. It might sound as though that makes for a lot of potential real estate, but not so; Jupiter is a gas giant. Unlike earth which is made of metals and rocks, Jupiter is made of gas. There is no surface to speak of, we define the size of it by its atmosphere. The gas gets more and more dense as you go down into the planet. Like the earth, exactly what Jupiter's center is like is somewhat of a mystery. There are many theories, many placing a small rocky core with liquid metallic hydrogen surrounding it. Who knows.

In this picture, taken through an 8 inch telescope, you can see two the dark belts currently present on the planet. The dark belts and lighter zones between them are bands of circulation moving in opposing directions. There are very strong winds on Jupiter and the conflicting circulation of the bands causes and keeps alive many storms along their interfaces.

The Great Red Spot is an example of such a storm. It has been observed for centuries, and is kept going because it is wedged between a belt taking the top one way, and a zone traveling the other, that keep it rotating.

Another neat thing about Jupiter is how oblate it is. All planets want to be spheres, but the forces caused by rotation make them bulge out at their equator. Earth is several kilometers bigger around at the equator than around the poles. Jupiter is much much bigger around the equator, to the tune of a few thousand kilometers. You can actually see this in the photo. 

There are all sorts of other interesting things to say about this planet, but I will leave those for now.