All for an asteroid!

I woke up past 1:00 PM today because I spent my early morning on our rooftop. Asteroid 2012 DA14 was due to flyby Earth and I was really delighted that we’d get the chance to see it on this part of the world. So straight from work, I arrived at home around 1:30 AM and I had to rush fixing my things so I’d be ready before that moment started.

I have my telescope with me, as well my brother’s bridge camera, a GE X500 and a star chart of the asteroid’s path I have obtained from Mr. Eteny’s website, Night Sky in Focus. I had a hard time looking for my eyepieces, though, because my mother had fixed my telescope and I wasn’t able to immediately find where she put them. I spent the last 20 minutes looking for them and it was already past 2:00 AM when I was finally able to go to our rooftop.

Honestly, it was way more difficult from what I had already expected, and locating the asteroid in the star map was tasking as I had to consider the relative distance of each celestial object/asterism from one another. LOL I just need more practice, I guess, because I’m honestly not a regular observer. The first three photos I got below were surprisingly able to yield results, and I believe I might have just photographed the fast-moving asteroid. I just used the ‘Aperture’ priority setting of the camera, in the lowest possible focal length at 3.0, chose the ‘Fluorescent’ color setting, put it on a 30-second interval and prayed to get decent photos. The three photos below show the asteroid moving to the right of Crux, the Southern Cross. I checked the time signature of the three photos and they reflect 2:22:38 AM, 2:23:20 AM and 2:24:02 AM. I just adjusted them using “Auto Levels” in Adobe Photoshop and added crosshairs to point at the location of the asteroid.

Asteroid 2012 DA14 from 02h22m38s to 02h24m02s PHT -Marikina City, Philippines

Click photo to zoom

Decent pictures I guess, given the limited capabilities of my digital camera, so I furthermore edited the color, brightness and contrast, as well zoomed in and cropped the three photos. I also used the animated GIF-maker, Jasc Software, to animate the photos and make them move, showing intervals of about 30 seconds each.

Animated image of Asteroid 2012 DA14 moving to  the right of the Southern Cross - February 16, 2013, Marikina City, Philippines

Animated image of Asteroid 2012 DA14 – Click photo to zoom

I have tried looking for the asteroid with my telescope, and I had no luck even with the low power eyepiece. So I just ditched the telescope and spent the next hours trying to photograph the asteroid. But alas, I might have already lost track of its location and even when I consulted the star chart, the clouds went on the way and I just wanna burn them off — as if that would happen as they are made of water. LOL Looking at the photos (lots of photos) I have taken last night, I had a better appreciation and developed more respect to Clyde Tombaugh and the blink comparator technique used to confirm the existence of Pluto (as well as the astronomers tirelessly working on identifying asteroids/comets). From one photo to another, I had to look for a seemingly moving object just to see the asteroid. It was very tiring as I also had to first adjust the brightness and contrast in Photoshop, so I eventually gave up. I’ll just deal with them when I have more time in the future, but I’m still happy with the first three photos I have taken.

Looking at both of my feet, I’ve noticed I have LOTS of ugly mosquito bites. They had a field day on my feet during that attempt to see the asteroid. Yikes! I was too preoccupied in getting to the rooftop that I have completely forgotten to put on some Off! lotion. If only I had not brought a hoodie with me, then my arms could have suffered the same fate. Anyway, it was a very good experience, especially I also saw three shooting stars fly past and I had to shake myself off from the shock of seeing them and make a necessary wish. I had three wishes in all and one includes a new telescope for real. ^_^

That awkward moment when Uranus is over the Moon

No pun intended, but when I was checking Stellarium to check what was supposedly up in the heavens if it were not cloudy surprised me. I knew that the Moon was almost in West but I had an unexpected planet. Not to sound like Professor Trelawney on Lavander (“It is Uranus, my dear.”) but I really did not expect the planet because: 1) I was very sure that given my limited equipment, I will be having a hard time searching for it, and 2) IT WAS CLOUDY, so no use wasting my time.

Uranus over the Moon - October 27, 2012 as seen on Stellarium

It stopped raining but there was zero visibility of whatever celestial object of interest. I have been hoping to try my luck with my brother’s bridge camera (a GE X500) because I saw other amateur astrophotographers having great luck with the ones they have. But given the current weather condition, I contented myself with playing with the dials/buttons that I don’t normally touch.

Clouds obstructing the Moon - Marikina City, Philippines

That dangly-thing on a windchime and the hazy Moon - Marikina City, Philippines

My jaw dropped because I did not expect the photos to look like that. It was honestly very dark in the room and very dark outside as well, and I can barely see any details of the clouds in the sky. LOL That was amazing. Now, I can’t wait for the skies to clear so I can try my luck photographing the Jupiter, Taurus and Orion grouping almost directly above around this time.

I’ve been ranting all afternoon about how much I want to buy another telescope — a more powerful one. I really want to do astrophotography but I’m on a budget. I originally wanted to buy a webcam with a CCD sensor, but since my brother has apparently ceased using his bridge camera, I can settle for it now. Back to the telescope question, I really want to research hard on which scope will best fit my needs. If only budget were not an issue. Anyway, I’ll just push what I currently have to the limit and hope for clear skies ahead!