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iPhone Messier Galaxies Astrophotography;
NASA InSight Mars Mission Launch

Posted: 5 May 2018

Open: Friday, 4 May 2018, 1948 MST
Temperature: 73°F
Session: 1224
Conditions: Clear

Equipment Used:
12" f/8 LX600 w/StarLock
2" 24mm UWA eyepiece
2" 30mm eyepiece

iPhone 8 Plus

After opening the observatory I moved the dome OFF onto the PZT.

1957 MST: LX600 ON, StarLock OFF, High Precision OFF.

Slewed to M60 (galaxy), which would be my first imaging target for the night. Viewed M60, 102X and 81X. The fainter galaxies NGC4647 and NGC4638 were also visible in the 81X field-of-view.

Mounted the iPhone 8 Plus on the 2" 30mm eyepiece for afocal 81X imaging. 2027 MST: StarLock ON. Took the following StarLock autoguided Messier Catalog galaxy images using the iPhone 8 Plus with the iOS app NightCap Camera (Long Exposure, Light Boost, ISO 8448, 1/3sec, 1 minute exposure):

M60 (galaxy)

M98 (galaxy)

M99 (galaxy)

M100 (galaxy)

M83 (galaxy)

2104 MST: StarLock OFF. Ended Messier imaging.

Slewed to Jupiter, still low in the southeastern sky. This is a stack of 917 video frames (30 seconds) of Jupiter, afocal 81X, taken with the iPhone and NightCap Camera (ISO 32, 1/35sec), upscaled 200%:


Some atmospheric refraction is apparent in the image due to the planet's low altitude in the sky.

2111 MST: ended imaging. Viewed Jupiter, 102X. Four moons were visible.

2114 MST: LX600 OFF.

Dome ON.

Close: Friday, 4 May 2018, 2126 MST
Temperature: 65°F
Session Length: 1h 38m
Conditions: Clear

I woke up early Saturday morning, 5 May, in order to hopefully view and photograph the Atlas 5 launch of the NASA InSight Mars Mission from Vandenberg AFB, California, at 0405 MST. I set up both my D7200 DSLR (left) and D850 DSLR (right) on the house front patio (where the clearest view of the western horizon is):


When the launch occurred I did not see anything obvious until just before Main Engine Cut Off (MECO), when I saw a brief glimpse of a faint light. I took this D7200 DSLR photo (f/5.6, 1/4sec, ISO 1600, FL 300mm) with the rocket engines burning (at left):


This Atlas 5 launch as seen from Oracle, Arizona, was certainly not as impressive at the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 from Vandenberg in December 2017. The sun had not yet risen high enough for this morning's launch to illuminate the rocket exhaust plume, unlike for the Falcon 9 launch.

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