Stargazing from the window of a plane at 35,000 ft

On a recent non stop Air Canada Flight from New York City to Calgary I had this past November I was treated to a window seat for an evening of Star gazing and photography.  From the vantage point of being above the clouds, you get a really clear view of the sunset and the emergence of the Stars and Planets.  This evening it was the recent conjunction of Jupiter and Venus, with Saturn nearby that gave a real treat.  I was also able to take a few pictures with my cell phone camera to record the event. 

For the first couple of hours while it was still daylight, there was not much to see, but as the airplane cleared the Great Lakes and overflew Minnesota, the planets came into view over the right side of the plane.  I must have taken over 50 images, using various settings.  But the most striking image I took was over the Bakken Oil Fields of North Dakota around Williston ND.  I have shared it below. 

Jupiter-Venus Transit from 35,000ft – We see the two planets on the left, Saturn is over to the right – centre.  Below is Williston, ND.  Taking a picture like this is a bit of a challenge, you have to compensate for the vibrations of a longer exposure, and mask out any cabin lights and reflections. It was a lovely sight to watch.

Mercury Transits the Sun 2019

On November 11th 2019 the innermost planet of our solar system transited the face of the Sun.   That is Mercury passed directly in front of the sun and was visible through telescopes with solar filters as a small black dot crossing the sun’s face.   The next transit will occur in 2032 which is in 33 years.   To see it from Calgary it looks like we will have to wait another 17 years in 2049!

So I set up my scope and observed the event in the cold chilly air up on Nose Hill.  After the sun climbed higher in the sky and after allowing a number of the public to get a direct view, I took this picture. Mercury is the little black dot in the upper right.  


Here I am set up

What is the best cell phone for Astronomy

Earlier this year I faced the difficult decision to replace my current cell phone at the time with a new phone, this time I wanted to purchase a phone that would give me ability to take pictures using my astronomical equipment, or just using a tripod of the night sky.  I began the search as any of us should do……. by asking Google (since is do not have a apple or amazon account)  A quick Google Search gave me a list of options to consider.    (i.e. I asked google “What is the best cell phone for Astronomy”) I was able to even get Google to point me at websites that presented side by side comparison between the leading choices.  Then I had to consider are the choices available through my cell phone provider.   This all happened around 8 months ago.  The choices now are different than the choices them. 

At the time the choices I looked at were the latest Samsung (which I have owned in the past,) the latest LG (which was the brand of my current phone,) the Google Pixel, the latest Apple IPhone, and the latest Huawei – just to annoy Donald Trump.  I have been an Android users for ever, never having owned an Apple product, but I was willing to consider it if that was the best phone based on the performance reviews I found.

Google gave links to nice websites that provided side-by-side comparisons between the top products. and the winner was:


The first photo of a dark sky the next night, just point and shoot was impressive:

Next I tried a constellation shot from my back yard, which happened to be Ursa Major

That was 8 months ago and I usually take a few pictures with the camera each time I head out after dark and the skies are clear.  This one was taken at the Mount Kobau Star Party this July in the early morning hours:

I used a Tripod with the camera mount from a selfie-stick to take steady shots that are needed in the dark for the best results, and voice activation to take the pictures.  


Cantaloupe Moon

Finally had time and clear skies at the same time, so that I could test a recent purchase of Optical Equipment for my Telescope. I recently added a Televue Power-mate so that I can get a larger image on the sensor of my DSLR camera. And look at the results. ….. Someone remarked that it looked like a Cantaloupe!

Taken on April 26th 2 days before the full moon.

New Years Day – First full moon of 2018

New Years day arrived right at the same time as the temperature warmed, enough for me to take a scope out on the deck and take a picture of the First Full Moon of 2018. I was using the 90mm Celestron, that I purchased in 2006 in South Carolina while on a visit to my uncle Michel and Aunt Marion. I had not been actively observing for about 10 years, and was starting to miss it. I wandered into a Telescope store, and I was surprised by the price of a decent telescope. This one had an equatorial mount and manual controls. Just had to figure out how to get it home on the Airplane. I used it for 4 years until I purchased my 110mm Refractor that I use now. For the past 8 years it has been used by my son, but I asked for him to return it so I could observe the Moon.

December 2, 2017 Perigee Full Moon

December 2, 2017 Perigee Full Moon

Was successful in capturing the Perigee Full Moon this evening from a vantage point in Signal Hill in Calgary.  This was taken a few hours before the Moon is full just after sunset in Calgary.  I also figured out how to balance the light levels between the image of the moon and the darker background the Skyline. To get an image that more closely aligns with what one sees with their eyes.

Check out the Album on Flikr


Who Inspired me

People that were instrumental in getting me into Astronomy

I like to tell the story of my Uncle Evert, my dad’s oldest brother and the role he has played in inspiring me to get into Astronomy.  When I was young and lived with my family on a farm in rural Manitoba. I used to spend my time out in the yard looking at the stars.   My Uncle Evert who had a Grade 8 Education and was for the most part a worker, farmer and tinkerer, stands out as one of the first people that inspired me, in fact he is directly responsible for me getting my first telescope and now my most recent telescope (the one I use now all the time for taking astro-photos.)  As he had no children of his own, he always spent lavishly on presents for his nieces and nephews.

When I was 10, I received the most amazing gift of a small telescope. I remember vividly as it happened yesterday that Christmas Eve in Small town Rural Manitoba where I immediately took that small telescope outside to look through it for the Andromeda Galaxy in the driveway of my Grandparents home.

He was always keen to look through my scope.   Later when I had obtained use of a 8″ reflector, he was one of the first people to come out and take a look.   Any story, any picture, and any drawing or sketch, he was always keen to see what I had to show, even later when he was confined to a wheel chair in his nursing home.