Endeavour in Dock

Its modern day namesake ship, the Space Shuttle Endeavour, made the news of late, on its last voyage to its museum home. But this is the Endeavour that the Shuttle is named for and a ship that also made scientific history.

This is the modern but authentically crafted replica of HMB Endeavour, the ship Lt. James Cook commanded on his first round the world expedition. The principle goal was to observe the June 1769 transit of Venus from Tahiti. But Cook sailed on to map the then unknown coastline of New Zealand and the east coast of New Holland, now Australia. It was an astronomical expedition that changed the world.

The replica Endeavour just completed a circumnavigation of Australia, something the original ship never did, and now is moored at the National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour, Sydney. I visited it October 30 as part of my homage to Cook and my own astronomical expedition to see the total eclipse of the Sun. In a couple of weeks I’ll be in Cooktown near the top end of Queensland where, in 1770, the original Endeavour ran aground on the Barrier Reef. An anchor from the original ship is still there.

– Alan, November 1, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer

Halo over the Harbour

Here’s my first astrophoto from the land down under in 2012.

I’m in Australia for the solar eclipse, now two weeks away. With luck we will see the Sun disappear in a spectacular early morning event. But for now, here’s the Sun creating a solar halo shining in the sky over the icon of Australia, the Sydney Opera House.

After a couple of days in Sydney I head up the coast, collect and check out my telescope gear in storage for the last couple of years, and then begin the long drive up to northern Queensland and the rendezvous with friends … and the Moon’s shadow.

– Alan, October 31, 2012 (Australian date) / © 2012 Alan Dyer

Eclipse Site Bound

This isn’t a photo I’ve taken. Instead it’s where I plan to be in three weeks taking photos.

The blue line is the centreline of the November 14 total eclipse of the Sun. The scene is on the Cook Highway coastal road just south of Port Douglas in northern Queensland, Australia.

Three of the beach houses on Oak Beach Road on the Queensland coast is where several of us Canadian eclipse chasers will gather to view the total eclipse, weather permitting! The eclipsed Sun will be to the east, over the ocean shortly after sunrise. We’ve had the houses rented since late 2009.

Eclipse chasing usually takes long term planning. Very few people can say years in advance where they will be on a date like November 14, 2012. But we can!

Eclipses govern a good part of our lives. And we love it!

– Alan, October 21, 2012



Jupiter Rising

Look east now late at night and you’ll see Jupiter rising amid the stars of Taurus.

I took this shot a week ago from my rural backyard on the last clear night I’ve had. Remarkably, I had  bought a new camera – a Canon 60Da – earlier that day and was actually able to try it out. This is the first real shot I took with it. It shows Jupiter amid the horns of Taurus the bull, and below the Pleiades. A faint aurora lights up the northern sky at left.

There have been some superb aurora displays in the last week but clouds just got in the way.

This is my 200th blog post since I began AmazingSky.net in early 2011. I hope you have enjoyed the images and will continue to do so. Thanks for looking!

– Alan, October 15, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer

Regal Colours of Cassiopeia


Sitting on the border of Queen Cassiopeia and King Cepheus is this royal cloak of pinks and reds.

Too faint to see even in a small telescope, the main cloud of nebulosity is called NGC 7822, with a companion cloud below known as Cederblad 214. Rather cold names for a stunning region of space.

I love the colours in this field. The camera I use is modified to bring out the reds of glowing hydrogen but also nicely picks up blues and purples, which mix to provide subtle shades of pink and magenta. There are even yellows and greens from dust clouds.

Yes, I’ve certainly punched up the colour and contrast quite a bit from what came out of the camera, but I tried to retain a “natural” colour balance, not skewing the palette too far to the deeply saturated monotone red I see in some images of nebulas.

I shot this Saturday night, October 6, from my backyard on a fine autumn night for stargazing and star shooting. It’s a stack of eight 12-minute exposures, “median” combined to eliminate the satellite trails that crossed several frames.

– Alan, October 6, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer

Moonrise on the Badlands

The Moon rises over a lunar-like landscape on Earth.

Well not quite. The badlands of Dinosaur Park, Alberta may look desolate but they were created by forces the Moon has never seen, namely water erosion. And they are “bad” only because we can’t farm them. But to the deer wandering across the top of the hill – and perhaps gazing at the Moon, too – the badlands are a fine place to live.

I shot this image as part of 600-frame time-lapse movie of moonrise, on September 30, the night that produced images for my last few posts. It was a very good night indeed.

– Alan, October 5, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer

Big Dipper Over the Badlands

The Big Dipper swings low over the Badlands of Dinosaur Provincial Park, with an aurora added for good measure.

This another shot from my very productive night last Sunday out at Dinosaur Park, 100 km east of me. Here the curtains of aurora that made the news that evening shimmer below the iconic seven stars of the Big Dipper, now low in the northern sky on autumn evenings.

Light from the Full Moon provides the illumination. People wonder how we astrophotographers can take pictures of the stars in the daytime. We don’t. We take them at night, letting the Moon light the scene. Its light is just reflected sunlight, so a long enough exposure (and in this case it was only 8 seconds) records the landscape looking as if it were daytime, complete with blue sky, but with stars – and this night an aurora – in the sky.

– Alan, October 2, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer


Aurora Highway

Traffic seems to drive off into the Northern Lights, on a highway to heaven.

On the way home Sunday night the aurora exploded again in a burst of brilliance. I pulled over by the side of the road and grabbed some shots. I’m looking north here, with the Big Dipper also in the frame. For this shot I layered in two exposures for the ground to get a more complete sweep of the taillights. But the sky is from a single frame.

This was the widely-seen aurora of September 30, 2012. This scene of mad motion down the highway contrasts with the quiet solitude of the badlands landscape of the previous post.

– Alan, October 1, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer


Northern Lights Dancing Over the Badlands

It was a marvellous night – a triple act: with a fabulous sunset, a beautiful moonrise, then as the sky got dark the aurora came out and danced.

Sunday night I headed out to Dinosaur Provincial Park near Brooks, Alberta, site of the world’s best late-Cretaceous fossil finds, and a striking landscape of eroded badlands. I was just finishing taking frames for a sunset-to-twilight time-lapse movie when the aurora kicked up in activity, quite bright at first, despite the light from the nearly Full Moon, which is illuminating the landscape. I swung the camera around, loaded in a new memory card and begun shooting another time-lapse sequence of the dancing northern lights in the moonlight.

While the display faded to the eye over the next hour, the camera still nicely picked up the subtle colours, like the magenta hues. I shot 330 frames, each 8 seconds long at ISO 800 and f/2.8 with a 16-35mm lens and Canon 5D MkII camera.They’ll make a great movie sequence.

It was a 40-gigabyte night, as the second camera was shooting the moonrise over the badlands. But then I pressed it into service as well shooting the aurora. It was a great night to be at a location as wonderful as Dinosaur Park.

– Alan, September 30, 2012 / © 2012 Alan Dyer


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