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Time-lapse photography of the partial solar eclipse this morning, photographed from England

January 4, 2011 1 comment




Phil Evans, an X-ray astronomer in England and frequent guest blogger for Geeked On Goddard, sends us this report on the partial solar eclipse this morning. The video above consists of 50 still shots taken by Phil over a 15-minute period. The music is Mars, Bringer of War, by Gustav Holst, brought to you in its copyright-free glory by the U.S. Air Force Band.

Being a Brit and an astronomer is often no fun. The clouds know when something interesting is happening, or you’ve bought a new piece of equipment. Almost every lunar eclipse I’ve tried to watch has been clear until the moon was about 30% covered, and then I was clouded out until the moon was about 30% covered on the way out of eclipse.

So it was with extreme pessimism that I began my first working day of 2011 by trudging my way up to the 5th floor of a tall campus buiding, carrying my brand-new Canon EOS 500D (a Christmas present plus my savings!). Sure enough, as the sky began to glow, two large, banks of cloud were illuminated near the horizon. Typical!

Or not.

Actually, there were two small, sun-size gaps: one between the horizon and the first bank, and one between the two banks. As the Sun rose (surprisingly quickly) we were treated to a fantastic view of the crescent Sun above the trees, distorted by the atmosphere, and actually accentuated by the clouds. They added depth, colour and an extra sense of anticipation as the Sun, rather than baring all, made use of the available cover to dance suggestively, keeping us on the edge of our seats.

108 photos later and the cloud had taken over. But was it worth the climb up 5 floors at 8 a.m.? You bet it was. Nice one, Universe.

— Phil Evans

Follow Phil on Twitter to get updates on hius life and work in X-ray astronomy.
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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.


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Red red moon!

December 21, 2010 4 comments

photograph of dec 21 lunar eclipse

Cornelis Dutoit, an engineer at Goddard Space Flight Center and president of our amateur astronomy club, took this bloody red image of the moon at about 3 a.m. this morning from home. We had great luck here in Maryland, with good clear skies for lunar eclipse viewing. Cornelis recounts his experience…

At first it seemed that everything was going wrong. I first struggled to get my scope balanced with a new camera adapter, and then when I went through the motions of getting the telescope aligned, its batteries died on me! I got new batteries installed (AA size in the C-size holders) just as the eclipse was starting. After that everything went fine, and even the slight wind died down. Clouds appeared on the Southern horizon but did not get near the moon. I waited till 3 a.m., about 20 minutes after the moon was covered completely but not quite at the center of the eclipse, when I finally decided that I had enough cold exposure for the night… My first pictures were taken with 1/250th of a second exposure, and the last was done with 15 second exposure, which shows that the moon dimmed in the order of 4000 times or more!

To take the picture, he used a Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ8 camera mounted on a 42mm eyepiece with a Meade 8-inch f10 Schmidt Cassegrain telescope, 15-second exposure time.

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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Categories: Earth's moon, Eclipse Tags:

SDO sees a solar eclipse from space: watch the dark shadow of the moon chug across the surface of our sun

October 18, 2010 2 comments



On October 7, 2010, the moon passed between NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and its target. And SDO saw the equivalent of a partial solar eclipse — from space.  The SDO “Pick of the Week” write-up below provides additional details. Watch the incredible video to see the dark shadow of the moon chug across the surface of our sun.

This was a first for SDO and it was visually engaging too. On October 7, 2010, SDO observed its first lunar transit when the new Moon passed directly between the spacecraft (in its geosynchronous orbit) and the Sun. With SDO watching the Sun in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light, the dark Moon created a partial eclipse of the Sun.

These images, while unusual and cool to see, have practical value to the SDO science team. Karel Schrijver of Lockheed-Martin’s Solar and Astrophysics Lab explains: “The very sharp edge of the lunar limb allows us to measure the in-orbit characteristics of the telescope e.g., light diffraction on optics and filter support grids. Once these are characterized, we can use that information to correct our data for instrumental effects and sharpen up the images to even more detail.”

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

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It's moon day at gogblog: International Observe the Moon Day is coming! ALSO: How to create a gorgeous portrait of the rising moon. PLUS: New NASA images say "Honey I shrunk the moon."

click to make me bigger!

click to make me bigger!

Are you ready for International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN)? In a previous post I told you about this event, which was conceived by NASA lunar scientists and educators, but involvement has since become more widespread and international.

You should get involved, too. The InOMN website has everything you will need to participate. I and other members of the Goddard Astronomy Club will be at Goddard’s  Visitor Center September 18 with telescopes, showing the public a cavalcade of craters.

InOMN will include a lunar photo contest. In this post, you can learn how to create a gorgeous multiple exposure shot of the moon rising, similar to the one at left by Oregon photographer Randy Scholten. He photographed the partial lunar eclipse of June 26 (2010) and it was published on Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD).


The basic ingredients:

  • A camera that you can operate in manual mode.
  • A sturdy camera tripod.
  • Access to Photoshop software and basic Photoshop skills.

Here’s how to make the portrait:

Mount the camera on a tripod. You will need to keep the camera steady for the best results.

Take a background shot of the land, sky, and the moon just starting to rise.

Then shoot additional images of the moon as it rises. Scholten shot the eclipsing moon every 10 minutes with a 500mm telephoto lens. This is why the tripod is important: Even a slight jiggle while shooting in telephoto mode can blur the image.

To make sure you get the best possible shot, “bracket” the exposures a couple of settings above and below the initial one. This will give you more choices to work with in the Photoshop assembly phase.

Scholten used Photoshop to select the 12 best moon images and arrange them in a series onto the initial background image. To do this, you need to understand how to use the Layers function of Photoshop and the Marquee selection tool (elliptical). Fortunately, this is pretty easy to learn, with many clear and free tutorials available on the Web. Good luck!

“Not your grandfather’s moon” And last but not least, today the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter team announced images that bear on the moon’s evolution. The new stuff from LRO adds to mounting evidence that the moon has been more dynamic then people thought, and is not at all a “dead” solar system body.

From the press release:

Newly discovered cliffs in the lunar crust indicate the moon shrank globally in the geologically recent past and might still be shrinking today, according to a team analyzing new images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft. The results provide important clues to the moon’s recent geologic and tectonic evolution.


Here’s a crack in the incredible shrinking moon:

scarp_608

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________ OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.


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The solar eclipse from above and below: Blogolicious image of the day, July 15, 2010.

click to make me big!

click to make me big!

Like most earthlings, you probably didn’t make it to Easter Island to see the solar eclipse on Sunday July 11. But here’s something you would not have been able to see even from Easter Island: a combined space-and-surface view of the eclipse.

This is another in the series of fantastic solar images that Goddard’s Steele Hill releases to science museums and other public places every week from the Solar Dyanamics Observatory (SDO), SOHO, and STEREO spacecraft. Hill is one of our media people for those three missions.

Steele created this image by combining an image taken by the Williams College Expedition to Easter Island (the black-and-white portion) with snapshots from space courtesy of SDO and SOHO.

SOHO’s contribution, in red, shows the sun’s outer atmosphere (corona). To make the corona more visible,  SOHO uses a device called a “coronograph” to cover the glaring central disk. It’s sort of what you do when you hold your palm out to mask the blinding glare of a bright light shining in your eyes.

The Williams College image (again, the black-and-white portion) shows the sun’s inner corona.

Finally, SDO donated the image of the sun’s central disk to cover the silhouette of the moon, which blocked the sun’s glare during the eclipse.

Goddard's Steele Hill Photoshopically manipulating the sun...

Steele Hill

Voila! A truly blogolicious composite of gogblog’s favorite star ever!

In Steele’s own words:

I’ve done this several times before.  The challenge is correctly rotating the image to align the structures in the eclipse image with the structures the coronagraph sees.  Since the eclipse image was taken in the South Pacific, the image has a different perspective versus our spacecraft.  But that did not take too long.  I like the way that we can combine ground-based and space-borne images and bring the three perspectives together.

For additional details about this image, read the NASA image release from this morning. And let’s not forget to thank Jay M. Pasachoff, Muzhou Lu, and Craig Malamut from the Williams College Eclipse Expedition for allowing this use of their image.

An earlier gogblog post explores one of Steele Hill’s previous solar images from SDO.

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OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center.


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