For the last few nights I’ve been playing around with The Night Sky on iOS. It is really fun to use and a wee bit magical. If you want an app on your iPhone that has some wow-factor – this is it. Everyone I’ve showed this app has purchased it immediately after seeing it.
At 10pm I feel like putting on a pot of coffee and working all night. By 11pm I wonder why I haven’t been in bed for an hour. The plight of an early riser.
Last night I spent some time on my patio working and reading.
City Hall – Carbondale, PA
Last night my friend Sameer Barkawi, mentioned here a few times, and I wanted to take our cameras for a spin around our hometown of Carbondale, Pennsylvania. He recently picked up a Nikon D90 and I was using Eliza’s Canon Digital Rebel XTi.
I put a few of the photos that I took up on Flickr in a set.
There are tons of crabs on the beach here on Indian Beach in Salter Path, NC.
Taken July 18, 2008 – The windows at the Seneca Harbor Wine Center.
Date taken: July 18, 2008 | Lights reflecting in the harbor waters.
Date taken: July 18, 2008 | Seneca Lake Marina in Watkins Glen, New York at night.
A sports bar in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The crest-like logo is pretty cool because, if you look closely, it does a good job to represent the bar, the city it is in, and the activities that happen there.
Though the Happy Hour, on a Friday night, was sorta lame. The place was pretty dead for the most part. I am not sure if this is always the case though. I’ve been to this same bar during football season and it is nearly standing room only.
Last night, while we were watching a movie, there was a constant flashing outside of our window. Â The flashing kept getting more and more consistent and, seemingly, closer. Â One of the strikes was close enough for the power to hiccup and so, after turning off and unplugging just about everything in the house, we managed to shoot a few photos of the lightning barrage.
These photos were taken with Eliza’s Canon Digital Rebel XTi in manual mode with an ISO of 100, F/3.5, and a 30-second exposure. Â I think.
It took quite a bit of changing the settings, and snapping long exposures, to get the shots that I did. Â Next time I’ll know what settings seem to work best and I’ll setup on a window without a screen.
Date taken: May 18, 2008 – 10:24pm EST – The moon, as seen from northeastern Pennsylvania.
I found this as I was rifling through a few of my photos that I haven’t yet imported into my photo library. Â Getting a photo of the moon without the proper equipment is extremely frustrating. Â The awe-inspiring view of the moon on this night, led me to run back upstairs after taking out the garbage to get my camera and tripod, and this photo does not do that view any justice.
One day, you will visit this site and see a photo of the moon that will take your breath away. Â I promise.
Last night Keystone College’s Thomas G. Cupillari Astronomical Observatory was open to the public, and so Eliza, Chris, Andrew, and I took the short ride out to take advantage of the exceptionally clear skies. I could not be happier with my decision to go. We had a great time learning about, and gazing at, our solar system’s planets, stars much larger than our own sun, and distant galaxies.
Every Wednesday and Friday from March 12th until May 30th, of this year, the observatory is open to public lectures and viewing sessions. While we were there we were given a ~30-minute lecture about the viewable sky in our hemisphere, the constellations, and some of the quirkiness of star gazing. The lecture was jammed packed with information and I look forward to one day listening to it again, just so I get it all. Â After the lecture you are free to use, under the careful observation and help from the staff and volunteers there, the telescopes that the Observatory has in place. Â We primarily used four main telescopes while we were there.
The planet Mercury at sunset (just left of center).
Before the lecture, and before we even peered through any telescope, we were able to get a clear glimpse of Mercury, the planet closest to our Sun and only visible during the morning and evening. Â An object so clearly visible, yet often overlooked as probably being the first star you can see as the sun sets, yet is actually an entire planet.
After the lecuture, the first telescope we used in the circle-shaped building with a rotating roof, is a telescope built byÂ the firm of Alvan Clark & Sons of Cambridgeport, MA in the late 19th Century. Â In 1971Â Thomas G. Cupillari bought the telescope from an ex-host of the Today Show on NBC,Â Dave Garroway, and with a contribution of $5,000 from the Scranton Area Foundation – built the building in which it now sits and is operated. Â Focused onÂ MercuryÂ we were able to get a much better look of theÂ atmosphere’sÂ affects on how we see objects in the sky. Â Mercury appeared to be a giant rainbow, really a neat looking site. Â With a rather swift movement, the gentlemanÂ maneuveringÂ the telescope for us, pointed the telescope nearly straight up in the sky. Â After adjusting the rotating roof into position, making slight adjustments to the telescope through the finder, he said “Ok, this next thing is a fake.”. Â I was the first to look through eyepiece when I saw Saturn, complete with its many rings, being displayed as vividly as a photograph in a science book. Â With black space and only a few stars surrounding it, it really did look fake. Â I was amazed.
The second telescope we used to focus in onÂ BetelgeuseÂ and Mars. Â The woman handling this telescope, who also gave the lecture, put me to the task of finding some of these objects. Â The telescope were were using was “thrown together” by one of the volunteers using a few old parts of a Meade telescope he had. Â I am not sure which parts were original, which parts were modified, but the telescope performed wonderfully. Â The view finder (not sure of the technical term) was equipped with an infraredÂ bulls-eye. Â Lining it up to an object in the sky could not have been easier. Â Mars shown like a jewel in the sky. Â It looked like a woman’s ring; diamonds surroundingÂ sapphire. Â I can’t describe it any other way. Â Saturn appeared much more far away but still just as crisp.
The third and fourth telescopes were in a building with a fully retractable roof. Â The one we used most was, I think, a Meade LX200 on some sort of custom fixed mount (here is a photo of its lens). Â It was operated by remote control and held hundreds of thousands of astronomical objects in its database. Â Type in a number, hit enter, and the thing lined itself right up with what you wanted to see. Â Using this telescope we focused on entire galaxies, appearing like nothing more than dust in space, which contain billions of stars. Â We were also able to see a planetary nebula (described as such because of the relative shape of the nebula, not because the nebula produces planets rather than stars) which had a bright center and a fuzzy aura.
The fourth telescope was fixed towards the southern sky and, using it, we were able to see a few stars that were “nearing the end of their lives”. Â The star was bright red, like a distant break light, and was clearly distinguishable from its neighbors (yet you’d never see it with the naked eye). Â We used this telescope the least of all.
Being clothed in only sweatshirts as the temperature dipped into the low 30s, we had to leave before the sky truly got pitch-black, but I’m looking forward to a return visit in less than two weeks, were we’re encouraged to bring our own telescopes (I have one that I want to learn how to use better). Â I can’t tell you how anxious I am to get back out there, prepared with tools and proper clothing, to be up all night and gaze at the stars once again.
So glad I took my telescope out for a few minutes. Really nice weather and a clear sky for a good look at the moon.
Date taken: November 26, 2007 | Walking through the wet streets.
Last night the moon was nearly full and the sky was crystal clear. So I decided to take my Meade 114 eq-asb telescope that Eliza bought me for our seventh wedding anniversary out for a spin to do something relatively simple; look at the surface of the moon.
At least I thought it would be easy. The moon being the nearest celestial object to Earth one would think it would be easy to zone in on it, look at its surface, and get back inside. Not when you have no idea how to properly use your telescope it would seem.
I did manage to see a little bit of what I wanted but I really need to start taking this telescope thing much more seriously. Here is a photo I took of the moon last night that really does not do any justice for the brilliance of the moon. As with all good things in life, using a telescope takes time and effort to master – and I look forward to trying again on the next clear night.
Oh, on a somewhat related note I read over on Wil Wheaton’s blog today that a free eBook is available called What’s Up – 365 Days of Skywatching which gives you a quick, easy, and printable reference of the night sky for each day of the year for 2007. Brilliant.
If you have any other tips, tricks, or resources that you’ve found useful – please feel free to pass them along. I’d love to get better at using my telescope so that it is much more enjoyable and less frustrating next time.
Wow. We were just treated to an extraordinary display of nature. Thunderstorms, while not uncommon in our neck of the woods, typically pass very quickly. Tonight we had a thunderstorm that went on for a few hours, and is still fading slowly as I write this.
Eliza managed to video tape at least 8 really great bolts that ripped through the night sky. I’ll see if I can get her to post them up online and jot down a description for you all.
While Eliza was doing that, I was trying to take some photos of the bolts, but that is much easier said than done. Out of a little more than one-hundred tries, I was able to get these 24. Out of these 24 only a few are really good. But they were worth the effort and the wait.
Conclusion: Lightning rocks.
[tags]weather, photos, lightning, lightning bolt, sky, night, thunderstorm[/tags]