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Mercury-Venus-Jupiter, Star Trails & Movie,
Asteroid 1998 QE2

Posted: 1 June 2013

A pack rat from near the observatory was captured and released on Friday, 31 May 2013. Count is now 20 live pack rats and 2 dead ones.

The observatory was opened Friday, 31 May 2013, at 1908 MST, 93°F. At 1919 MST, viewed Mercury and then Venus, 83X. At 1923 MST, viewed Jupiter, 83X, faintly visible against a bright sky. At 1927 MST, viewed Saturn, 83X. Sunset occurred at 1928 MST.

I left the observatory at 1931 MST to photograph the changed positions of Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter in the western sky. This photo was taken at 2005 MST, D7000 DSLR, f/5.6, 1/5sec, ISO 400, 66mm:


Mouseover the image above or tap on it if using a touchscreen device (iPad, iPhone, etc.) to see the labels.

See the changing positions of the planets: 27 May, 26 May, 25 May, 24 May, 23 May, 20 May, 19 May.

I returned to the observatory at 2014 MST. Did more Saturn observing, 83X, while waiting for Astronomical Twilight to end (at 2100 MST). At 2028 MST, viewed Omega Centauri (globular cluster), 83X. I put the telescope to sleep at 2039 MST as I would not be using it while taking sky photos.

Beginning at 2100 MST and continuing for 30 minutes, using the D7000 DSLR on a tripod, I took 47 images of the northern sky, 30 seconds, ISO 1600, 18mm. This is the first image:


I processed the 47 images using the free software StarStaX to yield this image showing star trails:


The straight lines are the many airplanes that crossed my night sky during the 30 minutes. The stars are trailed by the Earth's rotation. The "North Star" Polaris is the "constant" star at the center of the star trails. Click the image above to view a time-lapse movie of the same 47 images, showing the 30 minutes of rotation of the sky in 4 seconds. This was my first attempt at making a movie of the night sky and the results were pretty nice. I will be doing more star trails and movies.

At 2138 MST, I resumed observing Saturn with the 8" LX200-ACF, 83X.

At 2144 MST, I powered on the GC Wi-Fi Adapter and used SkySafari Pro to GOTO Asteroid 1998 QE2, which had made its closest approach to the Earth just a few hours earlier. I began searching the star field in the 2" 24mm UWA eyepiece (83X) for the asteroid. Within 2 minutes of starting my search, I had spotted the asteroid moving rapidly against the background stars. I mounted the D7000 DSLR at prime focus of the 8" telescope and did 30 second, ISO 6400, exposures every one minute. This is the first image, taken at 2207 MST:


The trailing of the asteroid's motion is very obvious in just 30 seconds. This animated GIF shows the movement of Asteroid 1998 QE2 in five minutes:


I ended imaging at 2212 MST and resumed observing Asteroid 1998 QE2 using a magnification of 83X. The asteroid was nearing some brighter background stars now and the motion was very evident in just a few seconds.

The observatory was closed at 2238 MST, 73°F. Two Kissing Bugs were seen in the observatory during the night and terminated.

One of my images of the International Space Station (ISS) was used in an article by David Dickinson at Universe Today. Thanks David. Friday morning, 31 May 2013, I captured the ISS transiting the Last Quarter Moon.

Comments are welcome; use the Comments section below, or you can Email Me. Thanks.

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