Wednesday, July 30, 2014

2014 Perseid Meteor Shower Begins

The annual Perseid meteor shower is ramping up, but the moon will increasingly interfere with viewing as the shower's peak approaches. This one was caught to the northeast while out looking for Delta Aquarids and Piscis Austranids earlier this week.

I pursue photos and time-lapse videos of every meteor shower when conditions are favorable. Here's my Perseid meteor shower footage from 2013:

   How to Create a Time-lapse Video on Your Digital Camera.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Delta II Rocket Image Sequence from OCO-2 Launch

Four minutes during NASA's OCO-2 satellite launch from Vandenberg AFB, California
NASA sent the OCO2 satellite up on a Delta II rocket last Wednesday morning, and I captured it on several different cameras at once.

+Philip Plait (The Bad Astronomer) goes into some detail on the satellite in his blog posNASA Launches a New Eye on Carbon Dioxide, so I'll stick to the photographic detail in the following sequence of photos matched to their corresponding events in the launch timeline.

2:55:53 a.m.
T-minus 30 seconds. SRB ignitors will be armed at T-minus 11 seconds.

The launch ignition sequence will begin at T-minus 2 seconds when a launch team member triggers the engine start switch. The process begins with ignition of the two vernier thrusters and first stage main engine start. The three ground-lit solid rocket motors then light at T-0 for liftoff.
2:56:23 a.m. 
LIFTOFF! Liftoff of the Delta 2 rocket with the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2 to watch the Earth breathe from space!
T+plus 15 seconds. The launch vehicle is departing Vandenberg Air Force Base, heading south for the trek downrange over the Pacific carrying the OCO 2 spacecraft.

T+plus 36 seconds. Delta has broken the sound barrier, rapidly accelerating on the power of its first stage main engine and the three ground-lit strap-on solid-fuel boosters.
2:57 a.m. 
T+plus 50 seconds. The rocket has flown through the area of maximum aerodynamic pressure in the lower atmosphere.

2:57 a.m. 
T+plus 1 minute, 6 seconds. All three ground-start solid rocket boosters have burned out. The Delta 2's first stage RS-27A main engine is providing the sole thrust for the next couple of minutes.

2:58 a.m.
T+plus 1 minute, 50 seconds. The ATK-made solid rocket boosters have jettisoned from the first stage. They remained attached until the rocket cleared off-shore oil rigs.

T+plus 2 minutes. Delta now weighs half of what it did at liftoff two minutes ago.

2:59 a.m.
T+plus 2 minutes, 41 seconds. Delta now traveling at Mach 5.
T+plus 3 minutes. The first stage main engine still firing well. The Aerojet Rocketdyne powerplant consumes kerosene fuel and liquid oxygen to produce about 237,000 pounds of thrust.
3:00 a.m. 
T+plus 3 minutes, 34 seconds. The Delta 2 is now passing a speed of Mach 10.
3:01 a.m.
T+plus 4 minutes, 39 seconds. MECO. The first stage main engine cutoff is confirmed and the spent stage has been jettisoned.
T+plus 4 minutes, 44 seconds. The Delta's second stage has ignited! The engine is up and running.
T+plus 4 minutes, 51 seconds. The rocket's nose cone enclosing the satellite payload has been jettisoned.

3:02 a.m.
The rocket is at an altitude of 82.7 nautical miles, a downrange distance of 360 nautical miles and a velocity of 11,127 mph.

Here's NASA's diagram of the sequence (click on it  for a much larger view):

Here's the whole sequence put together in a time-lapse video covering 3 hours prior to 1 hour after launch:

If night photography looks like something you'd like to master, I'm scheduling a night photography session at California's Bodie State Historic Park on July 25:

Digital photography differs from film photography in many important respects, and nowhere is that more true than for night photography.  I've invested the sleepless nights learning the techniques and trade-offs to save you time and money required to discover it all for yourself.

Friday, July 04, 2014

NASA Launch This Week: Orbiting Carbon Observatory

NASA Orbiting Carbon Observatory Launch from Jeff Sullivan on Vimeo.

What happens when a time-lapse astrophotographer goes to a NASA launch?  Enjoy my latest edit of this new footage, just uploaded to +Vimeo :  
NASA's OCO-2 Orbiting Carbon Observatory will take 1 million measurements daily at a resolution of one square mile, enabling the analysis of local, regional, national and global CO2 emissions and trends.
My new blog:
#NASA #science #news #space #climatescience #NASAJPL #NASASocial #OCO2

Thursday, July 03, 2014

How to Photograph Fireworks

People often ask me what my settings were for certain night shots, but the light on the landscape and your subject varies from night to night as the moon phase changes, it varies from hour to hour as the moon moves in the sky, and even from moment to moment as your point your camera in different directions and have more or less light pollution in your shot.  So when I pursue night shots, I focus on determining the best exposure, and I remain vigilant to adjust it as conditions change. Normally you have to monitor f-stop, exposure time and ISO, but for fireworks the situation is simplified a bit.  The burning embers have a certain brightness which you can turn up or down adjusting f-stop or ISO, and the exposure time simply controls how long you want the trails of the moving embers to be.  You can determine the time between each shot fired, you can get many complete explosions of color.

Often an exposure time of around 4 seconds works well, but in this case the shots were being fired every 6 seconds, so I left one camera on an intervalometer capturing 5 second exposures at f/16, ISO 640, then triggering the next shot one second later, so they were 6 seconds apart in total. Upon returning, I assembled the resulting shots into a time-lapse video, as described on my blog:

Create a Timelapse Video on Your Digital Camera

For the video sequence it appears that I re-framed the shot a couple of times during the fireworks display.  I've also had been experiencing a bug in Lightroom where a crop from one shot pasted into others does not always take effect correctly, so that may be coming into play as well.
Independence Day fireworks at Crowley Lake in the Eastern Sierra 2013
Google+: Reshared 34 times Google+: View post on Google+

Here are some other fireworks displays I've photographed in the past 5 years:

Bridgeport, California 2012

South Lake Tahoe, Nevada, 2011

Tahoe City, California, 2010

Seaside, Oregon, 2009