Sunday, July 17, 2011

If At First ...

I've made several attempts to photograph the International Space Station as it traversed the lunar and solar disks. I've never been all that happy with the results.

I tried again today.

Clocks synchronized with their atomic brethren at Boulder, CO, I hit the shutter release at 8:09:23 AM. Cries of "there it is" coincided with the shutter clicks. Got it!

Click to Bigafy

This is a composite of nine images, each showing the ISS against the disk of the sun. Four sunspots are also visible.

The sun was relatively low in the sky, approximately 24° above the horizon. This meant that transit would be a long one, 1.49 seconds. The trade off being that the ISS was farther away, and thus smaller than if the transit was overhead. 

As with the previous attempts I was not alone, I was with a party of eight this time. Six of us shooting. My camera was set to continuous shooting, a 100-400 mm zoom lens attached, and proper solar filter* on. We all had frames with the ISS (not guaranteed, as my friend Drew tells how he got very nice before and after images one outing!). 

*Never look at the sun without proper filtering! 

This is a cropped image, 400 mm just isn't enough focal length. Everyone else was imaging with telescopes. I briefly toyed with using my 60 mm Hα scope, but having never shot through it I played it conservatively and used the lens. Perhaps next time.

My best so far, but still not anywhere near what others have accomplished. I guess I'll just have to keep trying.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

More Leps

This past Saturday Patty and I wandered about Palmyra Cove Nature Park looking for butterflies. We found some.

Cabbage Whites were out in force. Dozens on any plant that was in bloom.

Which sometimes led to altercations.

It was in the mid-nineties Fahrenheit and some, (the smarter ones?), were hanging out in the shade.

I don't know what this one is, so feel free to let me know in the comments.

This is a rather worn Horace's Duskywing skipper. But he seemed to have no problems flying about. Especially when we tried to photograph it.

Silver-spotted Skippers, while not as common as the Cabbage Whites, were well represented in the park's gardens. And as more typical for skippers, would hold a pose long enough to get several shots.

Another skipper which was kind enough to hold a pose.

And another for which I do not know the species.

And then there was this fellow.

Clearly not a butterfly. But surprisingly it is a moth. A Sphinx moth. Specifically a Snowberry Clearwing.

I know them as hummingbird moths, and they dart from flower to flower like their namesakes. And like their namesakes they are difficult to photograph.


The heat limited our time in the park, and we didn't wander all that far form the visitor center. And that limited the number of species we saw. But we had fun and look forward to our next Lepidoptera adventure. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, July 8, 2011


My friend Patty has decided to study Lepidoptera, butterflies and moths, this summer. And sometimes she lets me tag along. One such occasion was last Sunday evening when we set up a sheet and some lights at the Rancocas Nature Center. We passed the time sipping wine and eating cheese waiting for the light to do its thing.

If you light it they will come. And they did, helped by some moth bait (rotting bananas, molasses, and beer; yummy!) courtesy of Patty's friend Jenn.

This one is Halysidota tessellaris aka the banded tussock moth. (As with all images on this blog, click it to bigafy.)

Moth ID is a bit of challenge. There are approximately 800 butterflies in North America north of Mexico, making for a fat but manageable field guide.

There are some 12,000 moths. That's fifteen fat field guides. And unfortunately there are no real good up to date field guides for moths. Fortunately, there is the internet. And BugGuide.

BugGuide is "an online community of naturalists who enjoy learning about and sharing our observations of insects, spiders, and other related creatures." In other words, crowd sourced identification. My H. tessellaris was identified by John Maxwell, a BugGuide contributor who lives not fifteen miles from me. Small world.

This fellow is yet to be identified. Feel free to let me know in the comments.

This one is a bit trickier. John thinks it is a member of the genus Acrolophus, the tubeworm moths, albeit a worn individual. Another BugGuide contributor who goes by the handle TurtleDude goes further, calling it an eastern grass-tubeworm moth.

John thinks this one is also in Acrolophus. 


I took a number of other images, but none good enough to share. As no insects (except mosquitos!) were harmed in this adventure, and since moths don't listen when told to sit still and pose, I managed a good number of blurry pictures of half a moth. It was frustrating at times but I had fun doing it.

So thanks to Patty for suggesting it; Jenn for the bait; our host Barb, who lives at the Rancocas Nature Center (how cool is that!) who opened her home to human and insect alike; Susan and John who brought the pizza. As well as to John and TurtleDude for the ID suggestions.

It was fun, and I can't wait to give it another go.