A last-minute change in plans for the landing of the shuttle Endeavour meant a chance to see a shuttle landing in person, perhaps the last such opportunity in California as the shuttle program approaches its end (scheduled for 2010). Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that the public was positioned a l-o-n-g ways off!
Click on image to see landing sequence.
2008 Solar Eclipse
While the year isn’t over yet, it’s safe to say that the highlight of the year (astronomically speaking) was the 2008 solar eclipse which I photographed from China.
Eclipse pinhole images.
From our viewing site, totality was short and the sun was very low in the sky, but both factors added to the impact of the eclipse. In particular, the sun’s low altitude contributed warm sunset tones to the overall visual effect.
Continuous cloud cover over most of Asia, and even a thunderstorm the night before added drama to the build-up to the eclipse. And as usual, Jean and I tacked on “side trips”, turning an eclipse less than 2 minutes long into a 3-week odyssey through Korea, China, and Mongolia… but that is another story.
February 2008 Lunar Eclipse
In February, we had another lunar eclipse opportunity, though not as good as the previous lunar eclipse in August 2007. At that one, I finally realized that it is really worthwhile to go out to a dark site to watch the stars emerge as the moon fades out. But this time the fact that the weather prospects were bad and the moon was going to be rising with the eclipse already in progress, I opted to just stay in town. In fact, the weather was looking so bad that I didn’t do any equipment setup at all. However, after moonrise, the clouds cleared, so I rushed home to get in a few frames of the eclipsed moon. I ended up getting the end of totality phase, but not much more before the clouds moved back in.
Having the moon and clouds in the sky usually means no astrophotography for the night, but not all cloudy nights are total losses. The ring here is caused by ice crystals high up in the atmosphere.
Ring Around the Moon
To start out this blog, I thought I’d begin by stepping back to the beginning of the year…
Comet Holmes, a periodic comet that suddenly brightened up dramatically in 2007 was still hanging in through early 2008. It must have been a very large, sudden outburst of dust and gas that caused this otherwise nondescript comet to become bright and large enough to be seen by the naked eye in a dark sky (not in the city). Because its orbit placed it high in the northern sky, it was visible to me for many months, so I was able to take many photos as the gas shell became progressively larger and dimmer. Also fortunate for me was the fact that it was moving so slowly among the stars that I could track on the stars rather than the comet itself. Too bad it didn’t have a spectacular tail to go along with the rest of it.
Comet Holmes pass by the California Nebula
By March of this year it was down to its last gasp and I took my last photo of it on March 8th. Fortunately it was passing the California Nebula at the time, so it made for another interesting sequence of shots.
On the back burner is a rainy day project to merge the whole sequence of Comet Holmes shots into one giant mosaic. Looks like that will have to wait until computer hardware and technology allow me to handle really big image files…