Black Brant Rocket Launch
October 7, 2015
October 7, 2015, at 7:07 pm EDT, a
Black Brant IX sounding rocket
was launched from the NASA facility at Wallops Island, Virginia.
This is the view at 7:07:25 pm (as reported by the camera's internal
GPS-set clock) from Coyle Field in Woodland Township, NJ, about 150
miles north-northeast of Wallops. The rocket's ascent was visible as a
moderately bright orange dot rising above the southwestern horizon.
There was no rocket trail visually; however, the relatively long
exposure left a trail in the picture. Taken with a Canon 6D digital SLR
camera (on a fixed tripod) and a Canon 24 to 105 mm f/4L zoom lens set
to 28 mm focal length (then cropped significantly to highlight the
trail). Exposed 15 seconds at f/11, ISO 100, which resulted in unintended underexposure for the moving dot of rocket
exhaust, which had a guesstimated magnitude around zero. The rocket
trail is heading upwards towards Shaula and Lesath (Lambda and Upsilon
Scorpii), the pair of stars that mark the stinger of Scorpius (they are
pair of unequal brightness stars oriented at the 10 and 4 o'clock
The orange dot of rocket
exhaust disappeared around 20° altitude. Some minutes later, a chemical
cloud released from the rocket appeared as a bright
patch somewhat larger than a moon diameter near the western end of the
Capricornus stick figure. After some fumbling, this image of the cloud
was captured at 7:14 pm with the same camera and lens as above, again at
28 mm focal length (then lightly cropped). It was exposed 10 seconds at
f/5.6, ISO 1600.
Here's a picture of the
cloud at 7:21 pm, as it was becoming somewhat difficult to see with unaided
eyes. Taken with the same camera and lens as before, but set to 105 mm
focal. Exposed 4 seconds at f/5.6, ISO 3200. The triangle of
stars the cloud is beginning to overlap is comprised of Rho (top),
Omicron (bottom) and Pi Capricorni (right). The brighter
stars above and slightly right of the cloud are, going from bottom to top, Dabih (Beta Cap), Alshat (Nu Cap), Secunda Gedi (Alpha 2 Cap) and Algedi
(Alpha 1 Cap).
Before sunset, I took a
picture of my Dobsonian-mounted, 12.5-inch split-tube Newtonian
telescope set up on the Coyle Field runway, which had been recently rolled smooth
(note the raked, but unrolled band along the northwestern side at the
right). In addition, the tall grass stalks on the berm at the right were
absent. It wasn't clear whether the berm had been mowed or if the grass
just died back at the end of the season. This view looks southwest at
6:16 pm, 15 minutes before sunset. Taken with the Canon 6D and the Canon 24 to 105 mm f/4L zoom
lens set to 28 mm focal length. Auto-exposed 1/60 second at
f/5, ISO 100 (handheld).
Total Lunar Eclipse
September 27, 2015
The totally eclipsed moon
was captured on
September 27, 2015, at 11:09 pm EDT from Atsion Field in
Wharton State Forest, NJ, with a Canon 6D digital SLR camera and a Canon
70 to 200 mm f/2.8L zoom lens (on a fixed tripod) set to 200 mm focal length, then
mildly cropped. It was exposed 1/4 second at f/4, ISO 6400. Maximum
eclipse was at 10:47 pm and totality ended at 11:24 pm.
Here's a wide-angle view
taken at 11:27 pm, a few minutes after the end of totality. The greatly
overexposed moon is near the upper-right corner while the Pleiades and
Hyades star clusters are in the lower left corner. Uranus is also
visible about 14 degrees east of the moon (mouseover for labels). This
magnitude 5.7 planet was spotted with unaided eyes at 11:12 pm. Taken
with a Canon 6D digital SLR camera (on a fixed tripod) and a Canon 24 to 105 mm f/4L zoom
lens set to 24 mm focal length. Exposed 10 seconds at f/4, ISO 6400.
The image below is a crop
of the upper-right corner of the previous image to better show Uranus.
The asteroid (4) Vesta is also visible (mouseover for labels).
The orange lines show the way I currently locate Uranus. Starting with
Aries, I follow a line through Hamal and Sheratan to Eta Piscium on the
eastern rope of Pisces, then continue straight across to Epsilon Piscium
on the western rope, then down the rope to Zeta Piscium. Uranus was
below-left of Zeta a couple of months ago when I first started looking
at Uranus this season, now it's off to the right of Zeta. Alrischa
(Alpha Piscium) represents the knot in the ropes of Pisces.
for some older images.