Entries tagged as Canon EOS 450D

Today's "The Toon-Box"

Staring at Pluto out the window

My telescope told me Pluto was in this view

For the past few weeks, clouds and rain due to the monsoon prevented me from seeing a clear sky at night. But that period is nearing its end, and last night I had a near-perfect opportunity - no clouds and no haze. Brightness of the first-quarter Moon was about the only fly in the ointment.

As I was only able to observe the southern sky out the window of my room, I consulted a star chart to see if anything interesting was there to see. Pluto immediately caught my eyes. As you might know, this dwarf planet is making headlines at the time of this writing because the New Horizons probe made a flyby two weeks ago. The unprecedented details of the images from the probe is capturing public interest, and mine. So I wondered if I could see a glimpse of it with my own telescope.

Problem is, Pluto is very faint - 14.1-magnitude right now. Based on my past observations, it would be at or just outside my limits even with astrophotography. Sure enough, when I pointed my telescope to the right position, I couldn't make it out visually. So I attached my DSLR camera and took several long-exposure photos in hoping that they'd be more revealing. One of such result is the photo you see above. The brightest star is ΞΎ1(Xi 1) Sagittarii, a 5.1-magnitude star. Most of the rest are fainter than 10-magnitude.

Pluto found - it was 2/3 from the top and 1/3 from the left

After carefully comparing the photo with a detailed star chart, I finally found a dot that didn't belong to a star. This seemed to be Pluto that I was looking for. But to make sure, I compared all the photos I took over the span of about an hour and looked to see if there was any movement - a telltale sign that it's not a star, but an object moving around the solar system.

Movement of Pluto animated

Indeed there was. This was the dwarf planet I was looking for. This process of comparison was basically how Pluto was identified and discovered in the first place back in 1930, so it was pretty satisfying to retrace the steps. I'm also glad to know that the southern sky at Naju is still dark enough to see this faraway world.

Telescope: Celestron NexStar 6SE
Device: Canon EOS 450D (prime focus)
Settings: (1500mm) - ISO 1600 - 30s - (f/10)
Filters: None
Time: 2015-07-26 00:06 - 01:13 KST
Location: Naju, Korea

Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy in the west

Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is getting dimmer (50% size)

When I last looked at the comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy about three weeks ago, it was near its peak apparent brightness due to its proximity - it passed the closest to Earth just 3 days ago and shined at a magnitude of 4. The comet had now moved away, making its closest approach to the Sun two days before this observation. It was still relatively easy to capture it on the camera, as it's only dimmed back to magnitude 5.

The comet had moved to the constellation Andromeda. 59 Andromeda was below the comet, just outside the enlarged photo. The bright star directly above the comet in the enlarged photo is a magnitude 6.6 star called HR677 or HD 14272.

Some issues now complicate its observation other than the slow dimming. From where I observe, the western and northern sky is lit up with light pollution from the center of the city. And these days, constellation Andromeda is in the western sky, already starting to head toward the horizon after sunset. So I have to observe it in the early night, just when the area of the sky is not too brightened one way or another, at around 9 to 10 PM. The dimmest stars in this photo is around magnitude 12, so I think it was a success.

Device: Canon EOS 450D + Tamron 18-270mm Di II VC PZD
Settings: 432mm - ISO 400 - 30s - f/6.3
Filters: None
Time: 2015-02-01 22:29-22:39 KST
Location: Naju, Korea
8 photos stacked with RegiStax 6.1.0.8

Orion Nebula - Canon 450D vs. SX50 HS

Orion Nebula as seen by Canon EOS 450D & Tamron 18-270mm lens (100%)

I wanted to revisit my thought that the DSLR (Canon EOS 450D) would take better deep-sky photos than a P&S (Canon PowerShot SX50 HS). The latter has a much more powerful zoom lens, so maybe it could help overcome the limitations of the small sensor. 450D's APS-C sensor has 13.3 times the area of the 1/2.3" sensor used in the SX50 HS.

After some trial & error, I found that my iOptron SkyTracker, once properly calibrated, could be usable even at a focal length of 1200mm (35mm equivalent) if the exposure time is 30 seconds or less. So I decided to take photos of the beautiful Orion Nebula at the maximum zoom of both cameras.

The 450D was able to take a low-noise photo of the nebula with nice-looking colours. But the limit of the zoom was apparent. Also, under the below-freezing temperatures (it was around -2C) the infinity focus of the lens shifted further out after about an hour.

Orion Nebula as seen by Canon PowerShot SX50 HS (40%)

With the SX50 HS, the resulting photos were expectedly more grainy in general at full resolution. I felt that the ISO 100 setting on SX50 HS would still yield a grainier photo than 450D's ISO 400 setting. But the super-zoom lens and stacking were able to make up for this. After taking the photos at the maximum zoom and reducing the size, the photos still had more details than that of the 450D.

Judge for yourself with the two photos above. I should note that even when stacked, 450D couldn't get much more details out.

I guess the SX50 HS is still quite alright after all. Oh, and the focus was more or less stable during the similar long session under below-freezing temperatures. I think 450D needs a better zoom lens... or a real telescope to make it fulfill its potential.

[#1]
Device: Canon EOS 450D + Tamron 18-270mm Di II VC PZD
Settings: 432mm - ISO 200 - 120s - f/6.3
Filters: None
Time: 2015-02-01 21:46 KST
Location: Naju, Korea

[#2]
Device: Canon SX50 HS
Settings: 1200mm - ISO 400 - 30s - f/6.5
Filters: None
Time: 2015-01-31 23:12 KST (23:12-23:49)
Location: Naju, Korea
10 photos stacked with RegiStax 6.1.0.8

Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy, animated

Comet Lovejoy does not stand still

Stars in the sky slowly move together in the sky due to the Earth's rotation. So the long exposure astrophotography involves using a star tracker to negate this motion. However, objects closer to Earth like the other planets tend to move slightly differently, and the change in position is noticeable over the course of a few days, as I've shown with the asteroids.

This movement is especially pronounced with the comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy these days, as it passed by Earth recently to approach the Sun. This 12-frame animation shows the comet moving through the sky over a 27-minute period, at an interval of roughly 2.5 minutes. These are from the images that were used to make the stacked image of the comet in my earlier post.

Device: Canon EOS 450D + Tamron 18-270mm Di II VC PZD
Settings: 432mm - ISO 800 - 30s - f/6.3
Filters: None
Time: 2015-01-10 21:39 KST (21:25-21:52)
Location: Naju, Korea

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