Saturday, April 21, 2007

Protector of all things young

Today was a beautiful day. I got one wall of my garage mostly scraped, sanded and repainted, but no mortar or concrete work. Before I left for the house last night I took a few more astrophotos.

Moon and Venus
April 20, 2007 8:19 PM

Here are the Moon and Venus as seen Friday night. Note how much the Moon has moved relative to Venus since the previous night.

Venus closeup (showing gibbous phase?)
April 20, 2007 8:19 PM
Here is and extreme closeup of Venus from the previous photo. I need to check this against my copies of the April Astronomy and Sky & Telescope to see if I actually got a photo of a gibbous Venus. Since Venus is an "Inferior" planet (i.e. closer to the Sun than we are) it displays a dramatic range of phases, from a slim crescent to nearly full. (When it's completely full, it's also on the other side of the Sun from us.) Interestingly, this is the one image I took with the camera in the "portrait" orientation - none of the ones taken in the "landscape" orientation show this shape. So could this just be some asymmetry in my lens?

(UPDATE: I have checked with the magazines and yes, Venus is in a gibbous phase right now!)

Orion with power lines and streetlight
April 20, 2007 8:53 PM

Here's the big score of the night: Orion. You probably need to right-click and open in a new window to see the amount of detail I was able to tickle out by playing with the contrast and brightness. You can easily see the three stars in Orion's head, the redness of Betelgeuse in the upper left, the three stars of the belt, and even the sword to the lower left.

Orion's belt and sword
A close-up of Orion's belt and sword. Some of the stars here may be random pixels of red, green, or blue - it happens, which is why real astrophotography is done with stacked images to cancel out these random pseudostars. (UPDATE: Nope, those are all real stars! Apparently using this camera and some digital processing tricks I can squeeze out stars down to 5th magnitude!) Note the middle star in the sword, the three stars at the lower left - that's really the Orion Nebula, which is simply amazing through binoculars or a telescope. I "gave" the three stars in the belt to my brother when we were kids - we had been spending time after school one Winter at my grandmother's house, and we regularly noticed these three stars high overhead each evening when we came home. So I gave them to him to commemorate the occasion.

Title reference: Line from Orion by k8, available on her album Something Out Of Nothing.


anne said...

I really like the top photo. I think it would make a great print.

I wish I had a camera that could do this stuff. Someday, perhaps.

whimsicalnbrainpan said...

Thank you so much for sharing these with us!

dee said...

I love the moon and Venus, too. It's just the white and blue -- so clear. Great pictures, all.

betz said...

har, we must do a telescope night with ricky this summer, when he can stay up later at night. i shall show him those photos, and have him read about them.
beautiful, all.