Preparing for the rare transit of Mercury...

across the Sun’s face tomorrow, Veteran’s Day, beginning at sunrise. Unfortunately the event will be well underway when the Sun appears over the rim of Adobe Mesa to the east at around 7:45 am MST, so I will only be able to observe and photograph the last 3.5 hrs of the approximately 5.5 hour slow motion event. I will shoot images with my DSLR through a solar filter mounted on a 400 mm lens, while visually observing the event through the TeleVue Pronto refractor, also outfitted with a solar filter.

There may even be some local residents stopping by for the daytime “star party” as I made the Castle Valley Comments column in the Moab Times-Independent newspaper!

Solar filters are fitted to the front of my small refractor (front) and my Canon DSLR (rear).

Solar filters are fitted to the front of my small refractor (front) and my Canon DSLR (rear).

Image courtesy Fred Espanek:  http://eclipsewise.com/oh/tm2019.html

Image courtesy Fred Espanek: http://eclipsewise.com/oh/tm2019.html

Friendly reminder and warning: Do NOT look at the Sun through an optical instrument or naked eye without appropriate precautions and certified solar filters.

Learn more here about this interesting event: Don’t Miss Monday’s Rare Transit of Mercury

UPDATE: Weather forecast is clear and sunny tomorrow. Unfortunately, due to low solar activity during the current solar minimum, there are no sunspots on the surface of the Sun: spaceweather.com These would have added a nice compositional element to an image along with the tiny round silhouette of Mercury.

The spotless Sun setting below Porcupine Rim on the eve of the transit.

The spotless Sun setting below Porcupine Rim on the eve of the transit.

Orion hanging above Professor Valley...

towards the west, as I waited patiently to photograph the Milky Way at Fisher Towers several nights ago. I’ve annotated several celestial objects in the image, and the dim orange glow in the bottom center is the Red Cliffs Lodge on the Colorado River.

This is a 20 sec exposure, hence the airplane trails in the image.

This is a 20 sec exposure, hence the airplane trails in the image.

Milky Way over Fisher Towers...

taken around 4 am this morning. The bright glob in the upper part of the galactic core is the planet Jupiter, overexposed due to its brightness.

Recipe: Tripod-mounted Canon 6D with 14mm Rokinon manual lens, 20 sec, f/2.8 at ISO 3200.

Recipe: Tripod-mounted Canon 6D with 14mm Rokinon manual lens, 20 sec, f/2.8 at ISO 3200.

PlanIt! Pro is an Android astroimaging planning app and is key to staging images like that seen above, allowing the user to locate themselves via GPS in order capture your envisioned landscape composition involving various celestial objects and/or events. Brilliant.

Waxing gibbous moon...

this evening with 78% of the surface visible. Full moon is on Thursday.

Canon 5Div with 500 mm EF lens at 1/125 sec, f/5 at ISO 100.  This is a cropped jpeg right off the camera with no adjustments or sharpening.  I really like this lens.

Canon 5Div with 500 mm EF lens at 1/125 sec, f/5 at ISO 100. This is a cropped jpeg right off the camera with no adjustments or sharpening. I really like this lens.

Where is 46P/Wirtanen?

Short-period comet 64P/Wirtanen is well placed for what could be a naked eye view the next few nights. I’ve created a chart where you can generally locate the fuzzy object with binoculars as it arrives at perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) today. It’s a worthwhile challenge to spot the glowing object as appears early in the night sky, above and to the right of the constellation Orion.

Furthermore, the Geminid meteor shower should be at its highest activity Friday night, and its radiant is located to the left of Orion. So if the weather is clear, and you can see Orion, then you should be able to spot the comet and enjoy a few meteors if you brave the evening chill.

Good luck and keep your expectations low. I’ll post a shot of the comet if I can manage a good one.

Here’s a finder chart showing the comet directly above the constellation Orion several hours after sunset.