Saturday 29 January 2022

ISS transit of the Moon! And flat-earthers...

A lunar transit of the International Space Station is something I've wanted to capture for a long, long time. It's difficult in the UK as clear skies are hard to come by, especially, it seems, when you want them most. Using an online ISS tracker, I knew that there was an opportunity to capture such an event quite close to home, so lots of planning later and I was all ready to go on the 19th of January.

The ISS passed in front of the Moon at approx 22:54, with the transit lasting close to 1 second. Yes, 1 second. You can imagine why this type of thing takes a lot of planning, as well as very careful execution.

I videoed the transit on 2 cameras (1 main, 1 backup), and made the image stacks from the footage, as well as from some stills taken just after the pass. It was a 96% moon on the night, but I decided to blend it with an image of the 100% full moon from 2 nights prior, to give it a nice 3D type feel. Not something I've tried previously, but it does make this final image feel more complete.

It's not very often a shoot ends with this sort of feeling, but all the prep and effort paid off.

Colour data was enhanced in post-processing for aesthetic purposes, but the colours here are naturally occurring. ISS positions are accurate and to scale, made from the 25 frames in the video that the ISS appeared in. To ensure each image of the ISS was sharp, I opted for a shutter speed of 1/2000s for the video. This was an educated guess as I've not attempted this before, but physics, maths & photography are kind of my thing(s), so I knew that this would do the job fairly well.

Here's the video footage, played at real-time speed, half speed and quarter speed:

Something I didn't consider at the time was just how triggered FLAT-EARTHERS would be by my night's work. I had one 'interesting' comment on my Facebook post, then another, and another in quick succession, so I soon realised that my post must have been shared somewhere a bit, shall we say, 'out there'. A bit of detective work from my good lady and we found the offending Facebook group, a 'flat-earth' group. It seems the ISS is a real problem for their 'movement' as it's one of the few things they can't provide any remotely conceivable explanation for.

I didn't find the comments annoying. In fact, the extent of delusion was so extraordinary that the comments were highly entertaining!

You're a NASA shill!
You work for NASA!
You're pushing lies for the government!
ISS is fake!
Earth is flat!
ISS is only the size of a football field, you can't see it at 250 miles!
It's the wrong size compared to a plane in front of the moon!
It was a modified plane!
The moon is really close to us inside the dome!

I'm grateful for the laughs, so thanks to them for that! In fairness, the number of flat-earthers that I attracted was low as the images will have been seen by millions across the various platforms. But still, concerning nonetheless... 😂

Monday 24 January 2022

Glossy Ibis photo

Iridescence! I was pleased to catch some iridescence without direct sunlight, as sunlight with field shots like this usually leads to horrible shadows and/or highlights.

There is a fair bit of video footage too but it's unlikely to make it off the PC; I've had a rather busy few days with astrophotography and replying to hundreds/thousands of people about some International Space Station pics/video!

More on that in the next post. It'll likely be worth your time...

Sunday 16 January 2022

4th Glossy Ibis arrives on patch & Red Kites in January

Another Glossy Ibis on patch is something I've been expecting for a while given the number that have been in the UK over the last few weeks, so it was nice to hear that Viv had spotted 3 on Friday 14th. I popped down as quickly as possible but missed them by 2 minutes; apparently they'd flown high and west, normally a bad sign here. 

However, roll on the following morning and I got another chance as Bun spotted 3 on Bridge Marsh! I hurried down but again they weren't there, but I did later see them distantly in flight, and then tracked them down to a field north of Bridge Marsh & the A3052. Not particularly close (they gave spectacular views both before and after, I hear), but great to see nonetheless. I also had a Greylag Goose on Bridge Marsh, my first of the year.

Here's a pic of 2 of the 3 ibises, at a range of 150-200ft, so not too bad.

Sunday 16th arrives and I popped down to Seaton Marshes for a look around and sure enough the 3 Glossy Ibises were still there. A bit later I spotted another one flying in from the south, and after double checking the other 3 were all still together, could confirm that this was indeed a 4th bird. 

Also of note were 2 Red Kites low over Colyton on Friday 14th, my first January sightings on patch as far as I can remember.

More pics as well as some video of the ibises to come once I've had time to sort them out!

Monday 10 January 2022

White-fronts, Cattle Egrets and a Brent

The strong start to the year continues! The 3 White-fronted Geese were still present on the 3rd, and I had a couple of Cattle Egrets on the estuary briefly before they flew north. It was nice to see a Brent Goose on Bridge Marsh on the 7th as well.

The first week in January also provided some clear skies, albeit briefly. Still, I made the most of them. Images taken with my wildlife camera gear and a tracking mount. No fancy astro cameras, no telescopes (yet).

Horsehead & Flame Nebulae

Messier 33

Monday 3 January 2022

January 2nd - Pochard, WF Geese and a Tufty

What a fantastic start to the year for patch birding! Both getting out in nature and spending time at home over the last few days has really put perspective on things that I SHOULD be doing. I'm determined to work less this year. If I stop work now, I've done more hours than a 50 year old working in full-time employment since they were 18. This is at 30 years old. Genuinely, no exaggeration. To say I have been drained both mentally and physically is an understatement. Cue the violins... 

An afternoon trip to Seaton Marshes was very productive, with a Pochard and Tufted Duck being watched by Phil Abbott when I arrived. Bun found them earlier in the day apparently! This is the 1st Pochard that's been here at a time when I wasn't working (violins again), so I was pleased to finally see one locally. Also locally scarce but not really a surprise given the numbers about at the moment were 3 White-fronted Geese on Bridge Marsh.

Pochard and Tufted Duck

Sunday 2 January 2022

January 1st Birding

A rare, brief & somewhat uninspiring blog post! I'd love to say this is the beginning of a resurgence of this blog, but the chances are slim... I have a lot to post from 2021 but that will more than likely stay on the hard drives!

It was nice to get out on patch for a few hours this afternoon. Not much of interest seen, but it was relieving to be back out with the bins and camera after an extremely testing 2021.

Pintail at Seaton Marshes 01-01-2022