Comets Lemmon and PanSTARRS

February 16th, 2013

New Moon, clear summer skies and two beautiful yet different comets seemed like a perfect reason to go out and try something new – a time lapse though a telephoto lens on a special tracking mount to keep the stars steady in the frame. The two comets in the video below are C/2012 F6 (Lemmon) and C/2011 L4 (PanSTARRS).

The video shows about 5 hours of comet Lemmon and an hour of comet PanSTARRS before the astronomical twilight. Hopefully comet PanSTARRS brightens up and puts on a great show before it moves to the Northern Hemisphere skies.

These comets are wonderful in a pair of binoculars and if you can go out and have a look. Here is how to find comet Lemmon and PanSTARRS

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Loch Ard Gorge Panorama

January 28th, 2013

During a quick trip to one of my favourite places in Victoria – Loch Ard Gorge on the Great Ocean Road I manage to make a full panorama of the Gorge with a small Aurora and a lot of airglow in the sky
Loch Ard Gorge

The image covers 360 degrees horizontally and features the Milky Way, Jupiter, Orion, Magellanic Clouds and Southern Cross. Below is the virtual reality tour which should get you close to “being there”.

Loch Ard Gorge Panorama

Loch Ard Gorge Panorama

If you click on the Virtual Tour thumbnail on the left you should be able to pan and zoom using the buttons at the bottom of the image or just click and drag it with the mouse to pan and use Shift/Ctrl keys to zoom in and out. Adobe Flash player is required.

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During our camping holiday at Wilsons Promontory National Park (Victoria, Australia) in December I noticed a glimpse of bioluminescence in the surf. However, the weather was not favourable for night sky photography and I knew I had to return at the earliest opportunity and photograph this phenomenon under the stars.

I waited for the next New Moon in January 2013 and ventured out to Squeaky Beach at night. Electric blue surf started to appear when it became dark and it was amazing to see the blue sparkle as I walked in the water.

The ghostly blue light is is produced by small single-celled marine micro-organisms called Noctiluca scintillans (commonly known as the Sea Sparkle) through a chemical reaction. It can be found all over the globe and particularly in areas of nutrient-rich waters. I could not resist adding Aurora Australis footage I took at Mornington Peninsula in October 2012 to create the natural “Liquid Light Show”.

The “Memories of the Moon” track by zero-project was a perfect fit for this time-lapse.

Images and Virtual Reality Tour

Squeaky Beach Panorama

Squeaky Beach Panorama

If you click on the Virtual Tour thumbnail on the left you should be able to pan and zoom using the buttons at the bottom of the image or just click and drag it with the mouse to pan and use Shift/Ctrl keys to zoom in and out. Adobe Flash player is required.

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Total Solar Eclipse 2012

November 16th, 2012

We got very lucky at Ellis Beach near Palm Cove in the tropical North Queensland in the morning of November 14th, 2012. Half a n hour before the total solar eclipse the Sun was very well hidden behind a stubborn cloud, which did not seem to move anywhere. However, just before the totality phase the cloud moved and the Sun cleared just in time for us to witness the most thrilling astronomical event – the total solar eclipse.

Thanks to Promote DSLR controllers I was able to enjoy the visual show whilst three cameras clicked through the pre-programmed eclipse sequences.

Diamond Ring Effect on Ellis Beach

The image above closely resembles what we saw just moments before the beginning of the totality phase – the “diamond ring” effect, where a small portion of the Sun is still showing.

I still have lots of images to go through and below is just a small sample of  images I took during the eclipse.

Sunrise Bailys Beads Effect Corona Diamond Ring Effect
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CSIRO ASKAP Radio Telescope

October 1st, 2012

The monotonous flatness of the Western Australian outback is interrupted by the tall antennae of the Australian SKA Pathfinder Radio Telescope. The night sky is majestically dark with no man-made lights as far as eye can see. The dishes are slowly turning following the path of stars. It seems  like stargazer’s haven… Indeed I was very happy to be there filming the CSIRO ASKAP radio telescope under the night time sky during the new moon week of September 2012.

19960 images, 3 cameras, 5 nights — I hope you enjoy the time-lapse video (please put the sound on):

ASKAP  is a very impressive instrument with 36 antennas, each 12 meters in diameter, spread out over 4,000 square meters and working together as a single instrument. Murchison Radio-astronomy observatory is one of the most radio-quiet places in the World and not many people come by. This footage may be quite unique because after the telescope testing phase is completed, any electronic equipment, including cameras, may not be used near the telescope.

It was an unforgettable experience — I stayed at the telescope during the day, helped scripting and testing the antenna movement for the night with CSIRO scientist Maxim Voronkov and just enjoyed the remote location with no mobile phones.

Alex Cherney

 

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Mystic Sky of South Island

August 10th, 2012

I am very happy we made Lake Tekapo on South Island of New Zealand our winter holiday destination. Of course it had to be around the New Moon and I hoped for some clear nights. The weather was good and I had two cameras clicking away during six nights.

One lucky night the fog descended on the valley but Mt. John remained above it.

Boiling Clouds

The lights of Lake Tekapo village and passing cars under the blanket of fog made for a very cool foreground. I think I like it even better than Aurora. Warm thanks to the University of Canterbury for letting me use the Mt. John Observatory grounds.

Matariki (the Māori name for the Pleiades) eluded me due to clouds or a full memory card until the very last morning at the Church of Good Shepherd. Even then it looked like the fog thickened just before Matariki rose but it cleared up just in time when Jupiter and Venus joined the show.

 

I hope you enjoy watching this five-minute long film as much as I enjoyed making it.

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I was waiting for the middle weekend in July for quite a while for two reasons:

  • I was going to Parkes, NSW to attend Astrofest held by the Central West Astronomical Society and David Malin astrophotography awards
  • There was a going to be very nice alignment in the early morning sky with Pleiades,  Moon, Jupiter, Venus and Orion constellation, which I hoped to photograph above the Dish

The awards night was exciting and I was extremely happy to find out that my images won two categories and received three honourable mentions (full report to follow).

After the awards dinner I drove to the Dish and watched the clouds come and go. When it started to rain just before the twilight I thought that all was lost, packed up my cameras and drove back for about 5 minutes. Then I looked out of the car window and saw the clearing in the sky which headed towards were I just was. Not thinking for too long I turned the car back, raced back to the Dish, put the camera on the tripod and managed to take just a few images before the sky closed again.

Moon and Planets on Parade above the Dish
Annotated image:
Planets on Parade above the Dish (annotated)

Moments like this make all sleepless nights very worthwhile indeed!

This image was selected for NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day (July 19, 2012).

 

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After chasing it for more than two years I was finally rewarded with two displays of Auroa Australis (Southern lights) within a week visible from Mornington Peninsula, not far from Melbourne. The nights were warm an clear and the Moon was not in the sky either – I could not have asked for better conditions.

The red color of this aurora is caused by  the charged particles from the Sun exciting  oxygen atoms high in the Earth’s atmosphere. Hopefully there will be more to come as Sun’s activity increases in 2012-13.

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Great Christmas Comet Lovejoy

December 26th, 2011

At the conclusion of 2011 stargazers in the Southern Hemisphere were given a magnificent Christmas gift – the Great Comet Lovejoy, discovered by Australian amateur astronomer from Brisbane Terry Lovejoy.

On the morning of December 23rd I was at Cape Schanck, Victoria and the comet rising above the Southern Ocean was as magnificent to see as it appears on these photos.

I also managed to photograph the comet when it was much fainter on December 30th, from Great Ocean Road as seen in this “Little Planet” image stitched from 12 fish-eye photos.

Little Planet Lovejoy

 

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Tekapo Starlight

December 6th, 2011

Recently I was involved in a very exciting project – a film crew from Japan invited me to participate in filming a documentary about Lake Tekapo starlight reserve in New Zealand.
Luckily, two nights on South Island  were clear and I got some nice footage.


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