Early July

Mother nature continues to tease us with somewhat nicer summer weather but still mostly unstable air. This leads to sunny days with muggy afternoon thunderstorms and unpredictable nightly viewing conditions. So far July hasn’t fared much better than May or June. Yuck!

We did get a few decent nights with tantalizing beautiful views of Saturn and Jupiter. The bright waxing moon wasn’t conducive to deep sky observing, but we spied a few old favorites. Happily I had some pleasant company for these sessions and I’m glad of it. We were busy visually observing so I don’t have any new pictures from those sessions.

But this past Sunday July 9th was kind of neat as we had a car rally/fly-in at Marcy field, the town’s grass airstrip. Amid the simultaneous farmer’s market and sunny skies things were quite active and with my car full of telescope gear, what to do? Solar observing of course! (After checking out the antique cars, piper-cub and Cessna!).

Speaking of solar observing, don’t leave this page before checking out the spectacular photos below from contributor Tim Connolly, who’s passion is solar imaging!

Anyhow, I dug out the telescope and white-light solar filter which reduces the intensity of the sun by about 100,000 times for safe viewing. This was a great opportunity to practice imaging with my DLSR in anticipation of the August 21 solar eclipse, and setting up in the grassy field near the farmer’s market was sure to garner attention! Sure enough, several groups wandered over to take a peek. Perhaps I’ll set up there again. Clouds were in and out, but nice views were had with a few nicely placed sunspots:

IMG_9789 out1
Taken with my CPC-800 and f6.3 focal reducer in order to capture the entire disk of the sun – which will be important for the eclipse. This image has some cloud action, adding a bit of character. The image is a 1/2500 second ISO 400 exposure and processed minimally to fix the color.

I experimented with my camera’s auto exposure bracketing feature, something I rarely use but that could be important for the eclipse.

As an added bonus we saw Venus at 1:30 PM in broad daylight! I sent the scope to find Venus And there it was, well visible in my finder scope (minus the solar filter). A little positional tweaking and I had it in plain view of my 6 mm eyepiece which translates to a magnification of 339 times. I’ve never seen it so high in the sky. Seeing was reasonably good in the midday sun.

It was a 1/2 phase miniature moon-like view. What a great discovery for me to find Venus so easily. A single point alignment on the Sun would be less than ideal, so I wondered how I’d get accurate alignment for the eclipse. And there’s the answer. I can align on two objects which should improve the tracking on the all-important day.

Clouds moved in and even a few sprinkles as I contemplated mounting the camera again. Darned! Maybe next time.

Now for the good stuff – check out these beauties from Tim Connolly. He’s been pretty busy during the past week taking photos from his location in Saranac, NY. Some day maybe I’ll attain his level of skill! He took these using his solar scope and narrow bandwidth hydrogen-alpha filters, and has given me permission to share:






I’m looking forward to darker skies in the coming week as the moon finally begins to wane.



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