I’ve searched for Neptune many times and thought I’ve seen it a few of those times, but I was never sure I had the right target. In late October, it was just within a Telrad target of he Moon, and I had my chance! I was able to confirm the position by stars near it and see, what I knew to be Neptune! (Do I sound a little excited?) Not only was I able to see it, but I even had a happy accident and was able to image it.
This image was taken on my handheld point and shoot Canon G16 camera at the eyepiece. I love how you can see the spherical shape and the brilliant blue color.
If you don’t know anything about Neptune, then you probably aren’t impressed. So, let me tell you a little about Neptune. This little guy is actually a very big guy. He is about 17 times the mass of the earth, and the 4th largest planet in our solar system. Neptune is the furthest planet from the sun and it orbits the sun every 164.8 years. That means that since it’s discovery in 1846, it’s JUST completed a cycle around the sun. Neptune is about 2.8 billion miles away from the sun.
Neptune’s atmosphere is made up of hydrogen, helium with traces of hydrocarbons and possibly nitrogen, but it contains a higher proportion of “ices” such as water, ammonia, and methane. He gets his beautiful blue color from the methane in the upper atmosphere absorbing the red light from the sun and reflecting the blue light back into space, making it appear blue.
Neptune is a really cool planet. I encourage you to read up on him soon, or better yet, go find him in the sky.
I’m going to try my hand at some different astrophotography techniques. I normally do very little editing to my images, if any, so now I’m going to see what I can come up with in Affinity. (Editing software for a Mac) This was my first attempt. Totally unnatural coloring, lights blown out a bit, but I think I like it. I also want to try layering for some fun effects. Ok, yeah, as soon as I figure layering out. Luckily there are lots of tutorials on YouTube.
Since I didn’t plan of getting pictures during Totality, I decided to focus on things I could attempt to capture with a lot less effort.
The first of these is the temperature change during Totality. Since we were going to be in a shadow, it was logical to assume there would be some change. The real question was how much was the temperature going to change?
It was a HOT and muggy day in Tennessee, during the eclipse. The temperature was about 95 degrees and 60%-80% humidity. I used a digital thermometer in direct sunlight and it registered 121 degrees just before the eclipse began! As the eclipse transpired, the temperature dropped to 81 degrees! That’s a 40 degree difference! It was a lovely respite from the heat.
The second thing I tried to capture were the shadowbands that can appear during Totality. Shadows bands are hard to explain, so I’ll let this NASA burb tell you more.
What are “shadow bands?”
These are among the most ephemeral phenomena that observers see during the few minutes before and after a total solar eclipse. They appear as a multitude of faint rapidly moving bands that can be seen by placing a white sheet of paper several feet square on the ground. They look like ripples of sunshine at the bottom of a swimming pool, and their visibility varies from eclipse to eclipse. 19th century observers interpreted them as interference fringes caused by some kind of diffraction phenomenon. The Sun, however, is hardly a “point source” and the patterns are more random than you might expect from diffraction effects.
The simplest explanation is that they arise from atmospheric turbulence. When light rays pass through eddies in the atmosphere, they are refracted. Unresolved distant sources simply “twinkle,” but for nearby large objects, the incoming light can be split into interfering bundles that recombine on the ground to give mottled patterns of light and dark bands, or portions of bands. Near totality, the image of the Sun is only a thin crescent a few arc seconds wide, which is about the same size as the atmospheric eddies as seen from the ground. Bands are produced because the Sun’s image is longer in one direction than another. The bands move, not at the rate you would expect for the eclipse, but at a speed determined by the motion of the atmospheric eddies.
Since we would be look at the sun, I set up and old camera to record shadows bands. They are extremely faint and I almost wish I would have used a better quality video. Oh well, next time. They are difficult to see, and when I converted the video, they became even fainter.
This is what I get for being a good parent. One of my first long exposure images of the sky with my G16. My teenage son was with me and I told him to go dance around with a glow light in front of the camera. I don’t think I need to explain what he was drawing. Needless to say, it’s a happy accident because we laughed and laughed when we saw it and there’s nothing quite like hard laughter with your child. In the end, I did manage to get a cool image of long exposure light, but the one above, will always remain a favorite.