Thursday, August 28, 2008

Infrared Photography And The Mars Hoax

One of the reasons I got my DSLR camera besides taking images of the celestial wonders was to get into infrared photography, it has always fascinated me how the photographers were able to capture such otherworldly looking images, trees look white as covered in snow, the sky is darker, just everything is cooler.

So I just got my infrared filter, I ordered it 5 months ago, not one to be found in town, I got the dreaded reply;

"Oh, we don't carry them here", unbeknowenst to me, we don't cotton to that them there infrared filter thingy up here in Saskatoon, we have to order them from China, it takes 3-6 months to come in. Okay, did I miss the succession of China from the Earth? Why oh why do things take so long to get to here from there? somebody should let the Chinese know we have other modes of transportation besides slow boats.

Anyways the image above is a picture of the area I go to at night to watch the celestial wonders of the night, I figure there is something missing, the Moon, so I fooled around in photoshop and added a Moon, works for me.

I got a comment from marvin the martian last night about The Mars Spectacular hoax, the one that states the Moon and Mars will be the same size, apparently the hoax is still going strong. It all started back in August of 2003 when Mars was as close to the Earth as it had ever been and that it wouldn't be this close again till 2287, the hoax said it is so close it will be as large as the Moon.

Boy did I get a lot of emails and questions that year from friends and family, actually every year since, no one called me about it this year and I hadn't heard or seen the hoax up until now, so just to let you know it is a hoax and the image below is a more accurate depiction of the relative sizes of both the Moon and Mars, an Image I took December last year during Mar's conjunction with the Moon.

I'll leave you now with an animation of the Aurora that took place August 9th.

Monday, August 25, 2008

In Search Of Micrometeorites

The above image is what they call a micrometeorite, I snapped a pic of it at 400x with the Celestron LCD Digital Microscope. Tons of these things fall from space daily, some in your backyard, you have probably been hit by one, they are very cool, again you are looking at something from space that is a remnant from the building blocks of our solar system, some 4.5 billion years ago.

You too can be the proud owner of one of these, how do you go about collecting your own? well the best places to look are where they are most likely to gather, as they come down from space they for example land on your roof and are washed into your eavestrough by the rain and down to your downspout, those are great places to look, I've found many in those places.

Or you can put out a piece of paper for a few hours in your backyard and check it out later to see if there are any micrometeorites on it, now they are kind of small, anywhere from around 25-350 microns, a hair for example is 50-70 microns, but the good news, the metal micrometeorites are made up of iron or nickel or both so they are attracted to a magnet, just take a magnet out, run it over the paper and anything that sticks to it is a candidate to be a micrometeorite.

The above image is a 10x20 ft poly sheet I left out overnight on top of the mall roof I work at, came back in the morning carefully brushed off the debris into a large pail, and took the pail back to as I like to call it, the micrometeorite lab in my basement, I found the micrometeorite in the top image on this poly.

Up until now that's about as far as I was able to go, now with the microscope I'm able to actually see the round metal micrometeorite up close and personal, to see the scaring and pitting caused by the interaction with our atmosphere as the micrometeorite is falling to the ground.

The next step is to weed out stuff that may not be a micrometeorite, I do this with the help of my handy dandy Wal-Mart light magnifier combo, after all microscope time is expensive,..... not really just like saying that, through the magnifier I see a couple of possible not micrometeorites. After I remove them, I rub a small screwdriver back and forth on the magnet to magnetize it, then rub the screwdriver on the particles in question that may be micrometeorites, then it's off to the microscope.

Now you'll notice I've taken many pics to guide you though the complex procedure just in case you want to collect your own micrometeorites, but there is one pic I didn't manage to get....... the look on my Wife's face as she happened upon my lab while I was working my way through the dirt to find micrometeorites, if looks could kill, I'd be a dead man.

Wife " What"

Me " Collecting micrometeorites"

I think she is cool with it now, I mean after I explained what a micrometeorite was and showed her some pics. I'll leave you with a video I took just after I found the above micrometeorite, just to show you what stuff looks like under a microscope, every thing is at 100x, usually do 100x, wide angle, then when I think I've found something I go up to 400x.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Black holes Goes Micro, Cern's LHC Starts Up September 10

In celebration of Cern's Large Hadron Collider, (LHC), going live September 10, 2008 Black holes is going micro, that's right microscopic. I've always been fascinated with the microscopic world and so every once in a while I am going to post some micro images with the help of the Celestron LCD digital microscope.

The above image is what my meteorite that my wife bought me for Christmas looks like under a microscope at 160X magnification, notice the pitting caused by the meteor's travel at more then 30,000 MPH through our atmosphere, if you were to look at it normally it looks and feels very smooth, not so, it's amazing what stuff looks like magnified under a microscope, what's cool is you are looking at a remnant of the building blocks of our solar system, some 4.5 billion years ago.

Mark your calenders September 10 2008, that's the date when they flick a switch, or many, probably many, to send particle beams of protons or heavy ions , called hadrons around a 27 km circular tunnel in opposing directions and then guide the beams to collide into each other.

I know what you're thinking, why would they want to do something like that. Well by smashing particles into each other at such high energies they hope to break down the proton into even more smaller indivisible fundamental particles known to humankind, in essence re-creating the conditions that were present less then a billionth of a second after the big bang.

Have you ever starting reading a book , lets just say for argument sake at page 20?, doesn't work, you have no idea what's going on, nothing makes sense, crap, I start at page 2 I'm screwed, well that's where we started, page 20 in the theory of life book, a lot of things don't make sense, dark energy, dark matter, black holes, we have to get to page 1, the Large Hadron Collider promises to take us there, to page 1 and in doing so will give us the proper background as to why things work the way they do, to understand the big stuff like you, me, and the Universe you have to know how the little stuff works, understand why things are the way they are so as to be able to go forward, build a better mouse trap, to figure out a lot of the crazy stuff that's happening, like are there really more dimensions? what is dark energy? we know there are such things as black holes, or do we, there is no irrefutable proof they exists, they figure they can once and for all prove their existence by creating one every second, mind you it will be a real small one and is supposed to evaporate before it sucks us and the Earth in it, due to a theory called Hawking Radiation. Guess we'll find out September 10.

By understanding how something works puts us one baby step closer to harnessing it's power, "Beam me up Scotty" may one day actually happen.

I like to leave you now with another microscopic image of, well I don't know what it is , what ever it is it was hitching a ride on a rock the size of a pin head, it is at 400x, I like to call it Alien guy with a tail holding a laser gun.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Creative Photography, Night Fall

Something different again for Black holes, thought I would enter one of my shots in Creative Photography's weekly photo contest.

As I was on my way to our astronomy club's dark site to image the Perseid Meteor Shower, I noticed a little shack in the middle of nowhere, one side dark caused by the impending night the other side light caused by the Sun's last rays before it set in the west, looked cool, got a get a pic, so I slowed down looking for an off road to get the image before I lost the light and the moment. As I was doing that I noticed the guy behind me wasn't of like mind and almost ran into me, I think he must have known me, he waved at me and everything, at least I think that's what he was doing.

When you spend a lot of time under the stars one of the most beautiful times is when day turns into night, the stars, planets and Milky Way slowly start to appear with the darkness, working their way from the east to the west as if taking their place on stage ready for another Celestial play to begin once again.

Just got off the phone with Dr. Tony Phillips of, we are so going to do lunch sometime, seems another aurora is happening tonight, never had both auroras and a bright Moon in the same image, should be interesting as the Moon takes away from the night, we shall see.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Auroras And Mars Dust In 3D

Got another call from Dr. Tony Phillips from NASA's Saturday August 9 Stating;

"The planetary Kindex has reached a level of 5, this means that a mild geomagnetic storm is in progress. High latitude sky watchers should be alert for Auroras. So I got my stuff together and headed out of town to our Astronomy clubs dark site to view the Auroras for the first time far from the city lights, didn't disappoint the show was magnificent, all kinds of colors".

Checked in at Heavens Above website to see if there was going to be any Iridium flares, was in luck, 2 were going to be right in my field of view, got them on a couple of my images. When I got to the site I noticed a few clouds, which was cool, they added to the overall atmosphere.

Was able to view the Auroras for almost 2 hours before more clouds, thunder and lightning rolled in, actually it was raining slightly near the end so I grabbed a canvas shopping bag I keep in the trunk of my car for just such occasions and threw it over me and the camera and kept shooting till I could shoot no more, too much rain, and the lightning was scaring the crap out of me.

In the end I took 149 images over a time frame of 1 hour 49 minutes, stitched them together and made a movie for your viewing below. Notice the Big Dipper on the left, an early Perseid meteor at 1:06, top center and the 2 Iridium flares at 3:05 and 3:10, both bottom center.

Alright people, grab your 3D glasses once again, NASA has just released more 3D images, this time of Martian dust particles, the first ever 3D image of dust particles from another planet. They were taken with the lander's Atomic Force Microscope, man I so want an Atomic Force Microscope, mind you I'd like anything that does Atomic force, like Atomic Force 3D glasses, just think of the possibilities. This Atomic Force Microscope is 100x more powerful then the Phoenix Lander's wimpy optical microscope,(notice the lower case letters). The Atomic Force Microscope can scan and detail dust particles as small as one thousandth the width of a hair.

I know what you're thinking, "Bob I would love to view these awesome images in 3D but I just don't have the required 3D glasses", well you're in luck. the first 30 people that email me their addresses I will ship free of charge your own personal Hanna Montana/Miley Cyrus 3D glasses, you heard right I have a surplus, (don't ask why), of these awesome 3D glasses, be the first one on your block to own a pair and explore the world of 3D, start with NASA they have tons of 3D images to explore.

I'll leave you now with my "Aurora From A Dark Site" movie

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Perseid Meteor Shower

Well the above image is my best Perseid meteor, it was taken a couple nights ago during a wild Aurora event, and I might add made the front page of, and their online Aurora gallery here. I'll be posting a bunch of the Aurora images next post, as far as the actual shower, well the picture below speaks for itself, lots of clouds and lightning.

I should have known better, after all on my way to my site I almost hit a black cat, slammed on the brakes, the cat stares at me with shiny black eyes, then crosses in front of me, I figure I'm doomed. I get to the site and take some pics of the clouds and lightning just in case I get lucky and a Perseid crosses my path as well, no luck, so I sit it out in my car hoping the clouds roll away. Two hours later, they do, woo hoo, get out of the car, set up my equipment and start enjoying the shower and taking pics.

Got some images, the meteors themselves were very small and fast, then all of a sudden off to my right and behind me, the brightest meteor in Cosmos land, think it burned a hole in my retina and I wasn't even looking at it, the camera of course was pointing towards Perseus, where the meteors are supposed to be.

So I'm minding my own business viewing the meteor shower when along comes the Fuzz, driving slowly by my location, then stops and starts to back up.

So I'm thinking to myself, look inconspicuous, well as inconspicuous as a man on a dirt road with a tripod and camera in the middle of nowhere at 1:00 am can be. I'm going through all the possible scenarios of what is about to take place, like can they arrest me? Like the master chess player and wordsmith I am, I anticipate and meticuliously plan out the various possibilities of intelligent banter that will ensue. So the officer exits the vehicle, walks up to me and says;

Police guy : "Taking Pictures?"

Me: "Yeah, I'm taking pictures of meteors"

Police guy: "Cool, I wish I was, I have a camera as well"

Me: "Cool"

It went on a little longer, and then he had to get back to patrolling the city, fun well it lasted, always cool when your not arrested. After about half an hour the clouds rolled back in and it was back home for me. I stayed up all night in case the sky opened up again, at 4:30 it was clear, went back out, saw a few more and was lucky enough to capture another Perseid.

I'll leave you with a clip a put together of some of the meteors and Iridiums I've imaged since the camera purchase.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Iridium Flares and The Perseid Meteor Shower

The above image shows an Iridium Flare. What is an Iridium flare you may ask? Well, it's kind of like a communication satellite gone wild. The Iridium's are a group of satellites use for satellite mobile phones. As the Iridiums are crossing the night sky they look like a regular faint spot moving slowly across the sky, but these satellites have 3 main highly reflective antennas and depending on where the Sun is and how they are orientated in the sky can reflect the Sunlight, just for an instant while the Sun is in the sweet spot on the antennas making the satellite appear much brighter to the observer on Earth, they are often mistaken for meteors. The cool thing about Iridium flares is they can be predicted, just go to Heavens Above web site, input your Latitude and Longitude, you can find these numbers for your area here, go to the iridium flare section and it will give you the next time and location in your sky a flare will occur, they're kind of like meteors on a schedule.

August is a great month for the Milky Way, it is at it's highest and best location for viewing and imaging, hence I have taken some more images. I took the image above at our Royal Astronomical Society Of Canada's dark site on their tracking mount, the image is 2.5 minutes at ISO 1250.

The above image of the Milky Way complete with meteor was taken on my tripod, 1 minute exposure at ISO 3200, get out and enjoy the Milky Way while you still can, we loose it's beauty over the winter months as it is high over head and is washed out by our Sun's glare.

Although the upcoming Perseid meteor shower peaks in the early morning hours of August 12, there are quite few rouge ones showing up when you least expect them as we are now entering the debris field left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle. The image above is a Perseid meteor I took last night. They will be easy to find, just look to the NE between Cassiopeia and Perseus about an hour after Sunset for the show to start, they say to expect to see one every few minutes to start with and as the night progresses into morning up to 2 a minute should appear.

I'll leave you now with a clip I put together of the , you guessed it the Milky Way, took 60 images over a time span of an hour and a half and stitched them together, love how the clouds roll away as the night rolls in.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Our Milky Way Galaxy

It was a clear Moonless sky, perfect for me to get out of town and snap a few images of our Milky Way Galaxy, which Sky and Telescope has chosen one for their online readers photo section, which is cool. Traveled for about 30 minutes, far from the city lights to a little back country road. So I pull off the main road onto a dirt road that disappeared about 20 yards in, thought this will do, got out of the car and set up my equipment. The Milky Way was a sight, beyond description. As I was taking pictures cars coming up to my spot would slow down thinking I was a cop, once they found out I wasn't they honked their horns, I thought this can't be good, gonna make some people a little upset, Hey whatta gonna do.

I was thinking to myself as I was admiring the utter magnificence of our home galaxy, the people driving by don't know and don't care what's going on, traveling to and fro, while the cosmos is just above them. Whenever I look at the stars I think there is so much we don't understand, example, did you know that we still haven't mapped the entire Milky Way yet, they are saying that there are still areas of the Milky Way that if where on a map would have to say, "There be dragons here". Well when you think about it, it's like trying to map a forest when you're in the midst of it, hard to do.

Some fun facts about our Milky Way.

All the stars we see in the night sky are from our Milky Way, somewhere in the neighborhood of 200-400 billion of them.

Our Milky Way is around 100,000 light years in diameter and 16,000 light years thick.

Dust and non-luminous matter is the reason for the dark rifts in the above images, which block the starlight from the stars behind it from reaching us.

Our Sun orbits the center of the galaxy, which by the way takes 200 million years.

Since it's birth, the Sun has orbited the center of our Milky Way only 20 times.

Our Milky Way Galaxy was formed around 13 billion years ago, the result of a large collapsing ball of gas and dust.

The Milky Way is part of a local group of galaxies of which Andromeda is a part of.

The Andromeda Galaxy is moving towards us at a speed of 1,800 km per minute, impact in 3 billion years, not to worry, the Sun will have fried us by then, not to worry, we will attain Class III civilization by then if we don't destroy ourselves first and will have started to populate other planets in the galaxy, but first we have to get to Mars, which I have already bought property on, being the forward thinker I am.

I'll leave you now with an animated gif of one of my Milky Way images.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Martian Water Confirmed and Total Solar Eclipse

It's confirmed, ice water on Mars!! After a couple of failed attempts the Phoenix Lander's scoop finally got some of that ice water soil into one of it's ovens to analyse and confirm there is ice water on Mars. The soil came from a trench around 2 inches deep called Snow White, image above and below, top one being a cool 3D image.

Some more great news, NASA has increased the funds for Phoenix extending it's mission to September 30, 5 weeks past the original 90 days.

Having said all that you may want to look at investing in some of that now wet Martian real estate, I mean now we have confirmed water, the property levels are bound to jump. Those of you that are my regular readers know I have purchased Lunar Real Estate and being the forward thinker and wise investor that I am, have purchased some Prime View Martian Property, that's right not just any view, Prime View. For just $22.49 you can get in on the ground floor with the purchase of an acre of Prime View Martian real estate. After your purchase you will receive your Martian Deed, a Martian map with your location, so you know where to go and a copy of the Martian constitution and Bill Of Rights, and on top of all that you will have a great conversation starter at all the dinner parties you attend, example;

Informed Bob: So, uninformed friend I have purchased an acre of Prime View Martian real estate.

Uninformed Friend: ...............I thought you had lunar property?

Informed Bob: Yes that is true, I have purchased an acre on the Lunar Southern Hemisphere in the Crater Campanus, lot# 15/1247, 26-30 degrees south, 30-26 degrees west. and being the forward thinker and wise investor that I am have decided that after the confirmed ice water discovery on Mars it would be in my best interest to purchase Prime View Martian real estate before the prices become too prohivitive to purchase.

Uninformed Friend: ..................What? nuts?


This morning there was a Total Solar Eclipse, it started around 6 am EST, the path of totality started in North East parts of Canada and ended up in China and Mongolia. if you missed it you can catch up over at NASA or watch the You Tube video below. A Total Eclipse occurs when the Sun, Moon and Earth are perfectly aligned so the Moon which is in between, blocks the Sun from the Earth.

Some interesting facts:

The Moon's shadow for the August 1 2008 eclipse was 6,235 miles long and 147 miles wide.

During the eclipse the Moons shadow covered .4% of the Earth's surface.

The entire Eclipse lasted 2 hours 3 minutes, totality lasted 2 minutes 27 seconds.

Below is a You Tube video of the eclipse posted by the Associated Press.