A thought I had while enjoying some Rotel dip...
It's time old folks stop blaming Millennials for all of the world's problems. I mean, come on! We're in our 30's, have mortgages, and the gray hair is starting to appear. We're not college kids!
That is all.
Over the last several years, I have been fascinated with how everyday objects appear in different light, whether it's UV, Near IR or thermal IR. I've never had much interest in photography, but when I found out that ordinary cameras could be modified to see Near IR and UV, I had to give it a try.
I got my first taste of the hobby by simply pointing one of my smaller telescopes at a tree and installing one of my astronomy cameras into the focuser. Most astronomy cameras, unlike consumer cameras, do not come with UV/IR blocking filters installed in front of the sensor, thus making it easier to image this spectrum. To isolate the Near IR from visible light, I just used the same infrared pass filter I normally use on the planets. Once I focused onto the tree leaves, I was stunned to see that they appeared bright white. Come to find out, vegetation is highly reflective in Near IR light.
After playing around with one of my astronomy cameras, I decided to have my DSLR camera sent off to a lab to have the blocking filter removed. It cost a bit, but when I gave it a quick test with my new IR filter, I was amazed. The trees and grass were bright white and the sky was nearly black. It was worth it! Later on, I would look at common objects to see how they appeared. Many inks, dyes, and liquids became transparent. Dark clothes would appear white, photographs on the fridge looked as if they were blank, and cars looked so cool as the paint would become transparent enough to see the different types of plastic used.
Processing near IR photographs is kinda an art. Many prefer false color shots. While cool looking, I personally like infrared photos to be in black and white. Some processing is necessary, since I'm working with a color camera. Raw IR photos tend to have a purple cast, which is easily removed by a custom white balance. There are an assortment of IR pass filters on the market, with 720nm being the most common. I prefer the 850nm pass filter as it completely blocks any visible deep red from getting thru. As far as lenses go, I am currently using a really old Vivitar 35mm lens. It seems to work really well. My DSLR camera is a Sony Alpha A55V.
I hope you enjoyed reading all of that. If there are any questions, go for it. I love this kinda stuff! I plan to do separate blogs on UV and Thermal Infrared photography. Some really interesting things can be seen in the ultraviolet spectrum, especially with flowers and sunscreen. Fascinating!
I finally decided to write my first blog. Most of my future blogs will probably center around my hobby in astronomy.
Ever since I was a little kid, I was always fascinated with space, particularly the planets. My favorite planet will always be Saturn. I started the hobby with a simple store bought refractor telescope at the age of 8. It worked great on the moon, but that was about it. The mount it came with wasn't capable of tracking and the optics weren't good either. I remember seeing colors around the Moon when looking thru it. Come to find out, that was chromatic aberration and it's inherent in many refractors, well, except for superachromats. (But who has the money for those? Lol.) I used that telescope for a couple years before I moved on to other things.
I didn't return to the hobby till just a few years ago. Now that I was out of college and had a career, I had time and funds to return. I bought a small beginner reflector telescope with an equatorial mount and tracking motor. It wasn't anything fancy, but it was free of chromatic aberration and had tracking. After a while of observing, I was wanting to photograph what I saw. I checked some of the astronomy forums and bought a basic camera that slid into the focuser tube. Simply point the telescope and the planet shows up on the screen, right? I wish! Astronomy cameras have tiny chips and aligning a planet onto it is easier said than done. That bare bones setup got me started in planetary imaging, and I've been addicted to it ever since! I have made significant upgrades in the last two years. I now own 4 telescopes: Celestron C90, Aquila 90 refractor, Celestron C8, and Skywatcher 16 reflector.
2018 was an awesome year! I spent a lot of nights imaging Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, Mars, and even the ice giants: Uranus and Neptune. I will never forget the views of Jupiter's Great Red Spot, or Saturn's wonderful rings in the eyepiece of that 16in telescope! Throughout 2018, I watched Venus go from nearly full to a thin crescent phase. Mars made it's closest approach in late July and was a wonderful sight in the eyepiece. My first image of Uranus with cloud details was also just a couple months ago. Towards the end of the year, I did some long exposure astrophotography of some of my favorite targets: Andromeda Galaxy, Pleaides, Horsehead and Orion's Nebula.
Moving on to 2019, I plan to continue my hobby. This year will kickoff with a lunar eclipse at the end of the month, so I can't wait for that! This year will be a bit different, though. Jupiter and Saturn will be low in the sky and Mars is already far away from us, so I won't spend as much time imaging them as I did last year. I will likely focus on long exposure astrophotography in the spring and summer months. On the planetary side, I hope to upgrade my tracking mount with Go-to capability so I can image the elusive planet: Mercury. It's always close to the Sun, so the best time to image it is during the day when the planet is higher in the sky. Unlike Venus, Mercury isn't bright enough to be seen during the day with the naked eye, so I will need the Go-to capability to find it. I have imaged Mercury in the past, but only when it was low in the sky after sunset. The only detail visible was the phase of the planet. I can image from UV-a to Near IR, so unless shortwave or thermal infrared cameras become affordable, I probably won't be buying any new cameras this year.
I hope you enjoyed reading this. If there are any questions or comments, go for it. I love talking about this stuff!