Tuesday, October 6, 2009

October Night Sky Events

October is a good month for observing. The sky is darker earlier, it's still not terribly cold outside (we hope), and there are different objects to see. For example, the Orion constellation is up and with it, the Orionid meteor shower.

On Oct. 8 at about 6 a.m., Venus should be shining brightly near the eastern horizon. Below that, depending where you are, you might spot Mercury and Saturn. By Oct. 13, at about 6:30 a.m., Saturn will have moved to the upper left of Venus. On Oct. 16, in the eastern sky, just before dawn, there should be a conjunction with the crescent Moon and Venus and Saturn. Then on Oct. 26 or 27, the Moon and Jupiter should be in conjunction at just three degrees apart.

A major event this month is the lunar landing of the LCROSS lunar rover. I believe it should be visible if you have a 10" or larger telescope. There is a countdown clock on the right side of this page.

Another important event this month is the RASC Saskatoon Centre open house at the Sleaford dark site. It is located about 65 kms east of Saskatoon and offers great celestial viewing. This event will be held on Friday, Oct. 23 and Saturday, Oct. 24. There will be a convoy of cars leaving from the east end of the Saskatoon Field House parking lot at 7 p.m. on both nights. The Sleaford site is operated jointly by the RASC Saskatoon Centre and the U of S Department of Physics and Engineering Physics. RASC club members will set up their own telescopes, in addition to the U of S telescopes that are setup there. For more information call 966-6429. Make sure to take warm, weather appropriate clothing.

Additional viewing events for October:

Oct. 7 - Moon 0.1 deg N of Pleiades (M45)
Oct. 8 - Draconid meteors peak; Mercury 0.3 deg S of Saturn
Oct. 10 - Moon 1.2 deg N of M35 (open star cluster in Gemini)
Oct. 12 - Occultation of the Moon and Mars
Oct. 13 - Moon at perigee (369067 kms)
Oct. 15 - Zodiacal light visible in eastern sky before morning twilight for the next two weeks
Oct. 21 - Orionid meteors peak
Oct. 25 - Moon at apogee (404166 kms)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

And The Fight Is On...

Well, I've done it. I've bought a Canon camera. After much deliberating, I have taken the plunge back to Canon. I sold my Nikon D80 and bought a Canon 40D. I have kept my Nikon D90 however. I have an 18-55mm image stabilization lens for the D90 and I've ordered the same size lens for the 40D. Both will have batter grips, and remote shutter release cables.

I've heard nothing but great things about the 40D. My friend Bob, of Blackholes and Astrostuff has a 40D. I've always loved how his photos turn out so much more full of color than mine. The major difference is in the sensors on the camera. The Nikon is not an ideal camera for night photography, in my opinion. It introduces too much noise and red color into the photos. The Canons is rated far superior for night photography than the Nikons.

One thing I noticed at the Cypress Hills Star Party (SSSP 2009) in August, is that everyone had a Canon DSLR for night shooting. I had the chance to meet Alan Dyer while there and bought his book (that was co-written by Terrence Dickinson), The Backyard Astronomer's Guide. Even in that book they recommend strongly that Canon is the only way to go for night photography. So, how could I pass up the chance to improve my night shooting of the stars by not getting this camera? Truth is that I couldn't.

I haven't had a chance to use the 40D yet, due to the weather, but hopefully soon. I'll also be ordering the necessary adapters to attach the Canon to a telescope, similar to the set up for my Nikon. As soon as I have some results, I'll post them. For now, I have a picture of the Nikon D80, Canon 40D and Nikon D90, respectively, so you can see how they all look.