January 23, 2012

Seattle and Satellite

There is something about star trails that I really like. They are hard to do though in Victoria because of the light pollution. This particular photo was taken from Clover Point, looking straight towards Seattle. The shutter was open for just under 12 minutes at f/3.5 and ISO 800.

I was trying to capture a satellite pass. I think I actually got two. The first is easy to see. It rises out of the light of Seattle and goes to about halfway up the left side of the picture.

The second is much more faint. You can only see it if you zoom way in. It is above the brighter one, and at the Seattle end it curves down into the bright patch.

I tried several times that night to get satellites, as I knew there were a bunch of them coming out of the south at around 6:00 when I was there. I saw a few of them with my eyes, but they were too faint to show up in the picture.

There are several ways you can find out where and when satellites you can see will go overhead. The website http://www.heavens-above.com/ is a great way to find out where and when all the neat satellites are going overhead. You just need to enter in your location at the top of the page, and then follow all the links to find out about all sorts of things.

A more visual way to do it is with the program Stellarium. It is a really awesome planetarium program that shows you the sky from wherever you are on earth, or on any other planet for that matter. It is a free download available here http://www.stellarium.org/ It is not only good for satellites, it is good for anything in the night sky. You can customize all sorts of options, go back and forth through the centuries and even control the light pollution at your selected location.

In the photo you can see the star trails curving. At the top they appear to curve one way, while at the bottom they curve the opposite way, and in the center, they go straight. This is because of where I pointed the camera. at the celestial equator, the stars seem to track a straight line through the sky. The celestial equator runs right through this picture from the left to the right, starting at about the top of the clouds. The stars above seem to rotate counterclockwise around Polaris, whereas the stars below move clockwise. It creates a neat effect.

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