Solargraphy project number 1

Ok, the solargraphy project I started 25 days ago is now finished. I opened both of my can pinhole cameras, and I'm pretty satisfied with the results. The images would have been better if I put the photographic paper into the cans in completely darkened room, I think, because this way the film got some light right at the start, when it shouldn't have. But I was just too anxious and curious and I couldn't wait. Well, first come are the unedited photos. You can see the colors are inverted and the contrast is, well, terrible.  
Unfortunately, the top got cut off. A tad disappointing.
And this one has a terrible contrast.
And here are images with colors inverted, contrast and curves edited and bla bla whatnot.
Edited, the images are not so terrible.
As usually, my dear Linux Mint is having a bitchy period and won't let me scan the photos with custom settings so I'll have to give it another shot when I finally get to repair the damn thing. For now, anyhow, I guess this is good. Stay tuned to see the final results. :)


Astrophotography, part 2

Yesterday I took two more 5-minute-exposure shots with iTelescope's T3 telescope (see this post for more info). These images are unedited as well, except for some minor contrast and saturation tweaks, just to make the details a bit more obvious. I still have no idea how to really edit them, since I have some problems with my operating systems and do not wish to install Photoshop just yet, which seems like a great program for post-processing. Well, however, here are the photos:
Messier 57, or Ring Nebula, in constellation Lyra
Messier 27, or Dumbbell Nebula, in constellation Vulpecula


Mineralogy fairs and new-age nuts

Today was the first day of the International fair of precious and semi-precious stones, MINERAL EXPO, in Zagreb, Croatia. Needless to say, I was there. And it was beautiful! So many pretty shiny sparkling stones...  There were even some fossils! *squeeee* This year's fair is the biggest so far, by my personal estimate, with certainly more exhibitors and jewelery sellers from many different countries, as far away as Australia. There were not so many visitors today, though. Maybe it's too hot outside, or they're waiting for tomorrow. Or they just don't care, which is probably the case. Anyhow, I bought two new stones, a celestine and a desert rose. My precioussss...
Another view

Desert rose
Now, there's also this thing that always terribly annoys me on happenings like this. Approximately one out of four booths displayed some new-age/occultism nonsense. Healing crystals, chrystalotherapy, energy crystal pyramids, amulets, stuff like that. There's even some guy who claims he saw or even talked to aliens, I don't really remember (I checked him out once and I've been avoiding his booth ever since). He's selling books on topics such as how to communicate with aliens, and even used to sell stones from the alleged place where aliens landed their spaceship. I don't know if he's selling those this year, the crowd around his booth was too thick and I'm not that interested anyway.
Now, I don't get this. Mineralogy and geology are as exact sciences as a science can be. They deal with physics and chemistry, classification and geographical distribution of minerals, their utilization for various needs such as building the parts for machines, or even fertilizers. How in the name of Darwin does one get from this to some nonsense such as a healing power of a naturally occurring solid chemical substance formed through biogeochemical processes, having characteristic chemical composition, highly ordered atomic structure, and specific physical properties (definition of a mineral as placed on a wikipedia page on, well, minerals)? Any thoughts?


Now, I am become astrophotographer, the painter of worlds.

And here it finally is - my first ever real astrophotography image! It was made with a Takahashi TOA-150 refractor telescope located in New Mexico, courtesy of iTelescope.Net, an open-to-public network of telescopes connected via the Internet. I think this is a beautiful idea, to let people who do not own a professional telescope to use one of your own. Of course, you have to pay if you want to use other telescopes and make longer exposures, but since it's a self-funding and nonprofit organization, that is more than fair, I believe. Anyhow, lo and behold: a 10 minute exposure of M51, also known as the Whirlpool Galaxy, a spiral galaxy approx. 25 million light-years away, and NGC 5195, a dwarf galaxy interacting with it. Located in the constellation Canes Venatici, or 'hunting dogs', these two galaxies are one of the most famous interacting galaxy pairs, according to Wikipedia (and a quick Google search). And now I have a personal portrait of them, too!
Click to embiggen.
Now, I know pretty much absolutely nothing about the post-processing in astrophotography, so you may notice this image is also an original, unedited one. That will change, I promise. Got any tips about what programs and/or processes to use? Leave them in the comments, and help a young newcomer. I will be very thankful. :)


How often do you gaze upwards?

Moon, Spica (right, closer to the Moon) and Saturn (upper right) on tonight's sky.

Man, do I love astronomy. Looking towards the sky and thinking about the vastness of the Universe makes you feel so terribly small and insignificant, doesn't it? And yet, knowing that we are just clumps of star-stuff, organized proteins revealing the secrets of the Universe, makes me proud of being human. We now know so very much about that huge, black and cold emptiness over our heads, and yet there is so much more still left to learn. Doesn't that make you smile?

So, how about you? How often do you gaze upwards?


Lightning hunting part II

Not-so-short storm tonight, and some success again. 

This is just a warm-up photo :P
Then, success! It could have been an image of a whole lightning if I hadn't been hiding my camera under a piece of paper, to protect it from the rain. And boy was it raining.
And, I mean, you can also count this one as a success, since this is also a lightning, although this one is behind the cloud, not in front of it. Heh. :D


Lunar crepuscular rays and the ring of Saturn

Very nice sky tonight! Not only did I manage to see the ring of Saturn with my binoculars (which is, to put it mildly, AWESOME), I also saw a corona around the Moon and, a bit later, lunar crepuscular rays. I did have to stay up a bit too late, though.
I was too busy being amazed to get the picture in time.
Saturn (upper left corner), Moon with crepuscular rays and Mars (middle right)


Lightning hunting

A short storm passed over Zagreb tonight, giving me a chance to try hunting for them lightnings once more. This time I was a bit more successful.

This was the first 'success'. Apparently my camera moved and lost focus. Bad luck.

Then, I decided to try zooming in a little, and then this HUGE lightning struck just on the edge of the field of view. And when I say 'huge', I mean it was actually three lightnings merging into one. Badass. Also, bad luck. If only I hadn't zoomed in :(

The last one is also the biggest success in my opinion, but is nowhere near as impressive as the second one would have been.

Well, I guess I'll have to wait for the next storm.
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