Thursday, January 29, 2015

New moon setting timelapse

One of my hobbies is to spot the new moon as early as possible. Seeing the moon and setting the months in accordance to the new moon setting has an important role in the old Hebrew calendar. The current Hebrew calendar is based on calculations so the beginning of a new month can drift a day or two from the actual day that the new moon is seen from Israel.
This month, the new moon was at 21/1/2015. I was able to see the moon about 15 minutes after sunset. It depends on the moon age (26 hours in this case) and its location and of course the observer location. The moon was about 5 degrees north of the ecliptic which means that it could be seen in the sky more than a hour after sunset. this was an easy moon to spot but seeing it while there is still light is still a challenge. Venus however is so bright that it was easy to see it even before sunset. This is no wonder since you can see Venus during the day easily.
So here are just a few pictures before we are going to talk about timelapses.

The first moon is from 17:17 and it may take a while to find the thin crescent of the moon.

The new moon
The new moon (you will see it when you enlarge the photo - just click over it)
After some minutes it is darker and Venus is clearly visible and also Mercury almost at the same line of the moon and to its left.
The new moon Venus and Mercury
The new moon Venus and Mercury

The new moon Venus and Mercury
The new moon Venus and Mercury
If you enlarge the next photo you will see some red light from a passing airplane over the moon.
The new moon Venus and Mercury
The new moon Venus and Mercury

I am getting addicted to timelapses. They are fun to plan, easy to carry out and looks so charming. You don't need fancy equipment. You can do them with your smartphone as well. I am using a Canon700d for the timelapses. I used an intervalometer which enables me to see the number of photos I want and the time between each photo. If you use a smartphone there are bunch of software which will do that for you, but you will probably needs an external power source. also a tripod adapter is necessary for best results (You can buy them for few bucks in china, the intervalometer as well). I will write a longer article about timelapses in the future.

This time I thought that a photo every 2 seconds will be OK. I changed the photo resolution to a moderate size (there is no need for 24M files for an HD video), and let it work for 80 minutes. I had 2400 photos and used the freeware "virtual dub" to create the following timelapse. make sure to watch it on a full screen and in HD resolution (you might need to open it in YouTube site  for it)

The video starts from the first time I saw the moon until Venus sets. As it gets darker more stars become visible.
So what's next? Next month 19-22 February, Venus and Mars will be very close in the sky. In the 20th, the new moon will also be there for US observers (I will miss that :-( ), so check up your gear, see if you need a larger memory card, get your intervalometer or suitable APP, do some tests and try to take your own great timelapse.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Venus and Mercury Conjunction

Venus and Mercury are in conjunction and it is easy to see the pair at southwest just after sunset. Bright Venus is visible immediately but it will take some 20 minutes to see Mercury. Their closet distance was during 9-11/01/2015 at about half a degree (just like the full moon), but they will be close together during the following few days.

Lets start with the better video from 2015-01-12 and thew whole story just after
As always better to watch on you-tube site with 1080hd resolution!

The first photos are from 11-Jan-2015. My point of view was quite good, as the pictures include the Israeli International airport (TLV), so you can see airplanes takeoff (In a curved S shape) and land.

As I tried to photograph, a bunch of very young curios kids got around me asking so many questions and bumping the tripod from time to time which of course damaged the video since it changed the composition and I have to throw away blurry photos. However they were so cute and asked so many questions - What is a star? How big it is? What is its name (4 times, I hope they got it finally). What is this star (Orion constellation at the east)? Where is the polar star? and so on... You simply can't be crossed at such nice kids!
Here are some photos and the video. The camera is Canon 700d with 18-250 Sigma lens.

Venus Mercury and an airplane landing
Venus Mercury and an airplane landing (bottom right

Venus, Mercury and an airplane taking off
Venus, Mercury and an airplane taking off
The video is a composition of about 200 photos taken during 50 minutes period Until Venus dropped behind the clouds (make sure to watch on HD 720 at least)! Don't miss the airplanes! They add a lot to the video.

I wanted to try again so I went today (12-Jan-2015) to a different place with a friend and tried a different approach, which basically is to photograph much more frames. I came out with around 1400 frames. Toward the end of the timelapse you will be able to see Mars as well at the top left - 3 planets and even four if you count Earth,
Few photos:
Venus and Mercury - 2015-01-12
Venus and Mercury - 2015-01-12

Venus and Mercury - 2015-01-12
Venus and Mercury - 2015-01-12

Venus and Mercury - 2015-01-12
Venus and Mercury - 2015-01-12

Venus and Mercury - 2015-01-12
Venus and Mercury - 2015-01-12
And the video from January 12th 2015

Related articles:
Venus and Jupiter conjunction
Venus and the Pleiades

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The ISS crosses the moon

On Sunday 28/12/2014 I finally managed to photograph the ISS crossing the moon. The timing and location must be very accurate. The moon is only half a degree in the sky and the time it takes the ISS to pass over the moon is less than a second. Here is the video. The details and explanation will follow. Make sure to watch the video in full screen mode with 1080HD resolution.

I wrote a general article in the past about how to use the Heaves-Above (HA) site to find when the ISS is passing over you and how you can spot and see the ISS. For this pass I saw that the path is very near the moon and even crossing it, but accuracy is very important. The moon is not that far from Earth even a change of 1km in the observer's location will give a slightly different path which can miss the moon.

The ISS and the moon just after the pass
The ISS and the moon just after the pass
When I checked the details of this path I first got the following map. The map looks very promising, the ISS is crossing the moon right from my house. Home sweet home. I can arrange all the equipment on my roof in peace and have a nice hot cup of coffee.
Usually when I check in which constellation the ISS passes it is enough but for the moon you should press the map to get a larger resolution which is better. And in that map, we can see that the ISS is NOT crossing the moon., What a shame. But not all is lost.

What I did was to go to the site settings and switch my location to many small towns nearby. With some trial and error I found out that I need to be some 6km south from my house in a small village named Ganot. Not a problem (You can use CalSky site to get email notifications on close passes). Still I was not sure if HA is accurate enough and if the ISS will actually pass over or just very near to the moon.

I used 3 different cameras. Canon SX50 which has a very large zoom (1200mm equivalent) for the closeup, Canon 700d with 18-250 (@250) for the first video and also a Sony DSLR for still photos with long exposure.

The setup of all camera took about 20 minutes and as I was very busy with it I hardly saw the pass itself with my eyes so I was not sure whether it passed over the moon. I took some more photos at the end of the pass. Here is the ISS in the constellation Cetus (The whale)
The ISS in Cetus
The ISS in Cetus
The pass was over and I was very excited to see what I got on the videos. I played the videos on the small cameras' screens and was very happy to see a tiny dot on both videos, but even than I couldn't be sure that it is good or that the focus is OK and so I drove back home and immediately went to the computer to look what is in the videos.
The results were edited into the video in the beginning of this post with the OpenShot software.

A pass on the moon is quite rare and if you attempt to photograph one use either video with the highest fps you can (My video is with 30fps 60 and more are better) or use high burst of single photos. Better to use several cameras and try different setups.
Here are some more of my best videos

If you read hebrew here are links to my other sites:
Books review (Hebrew)
Astronomy and scinene
The Weekly Parasha

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Carnival of Space #384

Hello all! It is the holidays season, here in Israel we are celebrating Hanukkah and all over the world is X-mas and New year just soon! Best wishes for all of you my fellows. Hope you are all well and having great time.

Great things happen in space just as usual and without any further delay let's move on to the #384 edition of Carnival of Space

I am doing quite well with 3 dimensions, I can think about the 4th, but a A Universe of 10 Dimensions? Well, yes according to Universe Today which sends us the story of A Martian Blue Snake, Brought To You By Canadians And A Spacecraft as well. Mysterious? Just follow the link and see.

First findings from Rosetta: Rosetta mission results point to a non-cometary origin for Earth's water. (Space Writer) Great to know that the mission already gives important scientific data. 

EveryDaySpacer wants us to be happy so she offers From now until December 24, 2014, you have a chance to win The Year in Space Wall Calendar 2015. Way to go!! Thanks! 

And some more stories from NextBig Future:
 And from the Meridian Journal we hear about Curiosity finds new evidence Gale crater was once a large lake

I will finish with just a photo of sundials stamps which were issued TODAY in Israel, I was a consultant for this series and I will share the whole story soon, so far just enjoy the first day envelope with 3 great sundials from Israel (Here is an article about many sundials in Israel)

Sundials in Israel - First day envelope
Sundials in Israel - First day envelope