Observing with Street Lights

Observing with Street Lights
Dark sky sites not always necessary to see the Milky Way (This image was taken ouside of a B&B in Julian, CA)

Saturday, September 8, 2018

3-axis camera stabilizer? Mumbai at a glance; Astronomers capture the Milky Way and make it around the globe in 21 days

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, we are finally back on solid earth and this is the final post covering our exciting cruise from Athens to Mumbai, and our attempt at capturing an image of the Milky Way in the very dark skies aboard a cruise ship on the Red Sea.
Remember that we were concerned about the very brightly lit up cruise ship and the rocking and rolling nature of the ship at sea, and it was even going to be possible to find a location on ship to take such an image.  As you have seen, yes, it can be done, but there is plenty of room for improvement in this our first attempt to do such a thing.


Blog reader, Science Squad Gravity Guy, Ken, sent in a note commenting on some compensation schemes to account for the motion of the camera.  Based on his comment, I was able to find an accessory that might be able to do the job of isolating the camera from the ship motion.  Check out this image of a 3-axis, motor stabilized platform that is used by photographers.  It is not quite what I would want for astroimaging because I don't really want to hold the camera with my hand.  It does seem to be able to compensate for ship motion, but it complicates the process of trying to pre-point the camera in a given direction toward the dim deep sky object.  But there might some way to get it to work or some other similar gimbal system for astroimagers looking for an inexpensive solution.  Something like this should also be a big help on our cruise above the Arctic Circle, in search of the Northern Lights, which often need long exposures also.  Anyway, thanks for that suggestion, Ken!

One example of how photographers compensate for their motion
One example of how photographers compensate for their motion


As we cruised towards our final port of call in Mumbai, Indiana, our cabin attendant left us another of those nasty little red notes about setting our clocks ahead, but this time we found that Mumbai choses to be in a time zone that is only 1/2 hour ahead.  We sort of got used to the 1 hour time change notices as we continued cruising to the east, but this 1/2 hour adjustment just shows that local areas have their own issues to contend with when adopting a time zone.


Most of our cruising time adjustments notes were for 1 hour ahead, but this on for Mumbai is just 1/2 hour ahead
Most of our cruising time adjustments notes were for 1 hour ahead, but this on for Mumbai is just 1/2 hour ahead



So, anyway, with our clocks adjusted 1/2 hour ahead, we had 1/2 day to see just a short introduction to Mumbai.  As you can see the drive along the sea shore is quite majestic.

View of Mumbai from our shore excursion bus (Source: Palmia Observatory)
View of Mumbai from our shore excursion bus (Source: Palmia Observatory)

After leaving other ports of call in the desert regions of Egypt and Jordan, Mumbai is very green.  The monsoon rainy season is just ending and it rained on us for just 1/2 hour or so.  There were many banyan trees in the city, but also at least probably two taxis for every banyan tree.

Conjecture: For every banyan tree in Mumbai, there are at least 2 taxis? (Source: Palmia Observatory)
Conjecture: For every banyan tree in Mumbai, there are at least 2 taxis? (Source: Palmia Observatory)


We also experienced Mumbai as a very vibrant city with loads of traffic and beeping and swerving vehicles of every description and lots of pedestrians moving about and shopping on the streets, and even getting their hair cut.  And yet, many young couples enjoyed the seaside and a chance to check their smart phones for the very latest social news.

The seaside in Mumbai is very popular for strollers and just having fun (Source: Palmia Observatory)
The seaside in Mumbai is very popular for strollers and just having fun (Source: Palmia Observatory)



Evidence of India's colonial past was all around us, they do still drive on the left hand side of the street, and the arch monument below, The Gateway to India, built in 1915 to commemorate the visit by King George in 1911.

The Gateway to India, built in Mumbai to celebrate King George's visit to India in 1911 (Source: Palmia Observatory)
The Gateway to India, built in Mumbai to celebrate King George's visit to India in 1911 (Source: Palmia Observatory)



We found Mumbai to be a very vibrant city, where the very wealthy can have a million dollar apartment just a short walking distance away from some of the poorest slum dwellers.  But everyone seems to get along.  Although we were only there for like 1/2 day, we really enjoyed our first look at Mumbai.  Several of our enrichment lectures we attended onboard talked about this strange mixture of culture and religions and castes and history and we found the whole topic very interesting.  We drove though many elegant and wealthy parts and also through very poor neighborhood slums.  It seemed though that everywhere we looked most nearly everyone was smiling and going about their daily routine, with only the occasional begger.  One view that I particularly liked is the one below of a very strange looking, thin skyscraper with a poor slum right below.

Very thin building next to tin shacks in Mumbai (Source: Palmia Observatory)
Very thin building next to tin shacks in Mumbai (Source: Palmia Observatory)


Unfortunately its time to be back on board and ready for our last dinner aboard the ship.  So here we are with some new friends, who we only just met on the ship.  We knew from one of Peggy's friends, that their friend knew some other friends that seemed to be going on the same cruise that we had signed up for.  So we were on the lookout for folks some matching our given descriptions.  Hooray, out of the 900 folks onboard, we did connect!  We found, At Home in OC, or Pismo Beach, or on a Cruise Ship, Linda, and Liked Flying A4's and A7's, Gene, are big cruising fans and in fact chose to not depart in Mumbai, but extend the cruise for several more weeks until Bangkok.  Now that would have been a lot of fun, but our travel plans had us leaving at Mumbai.  But we had a lot of fun together and plan reminisce about our experience after we all get back to OC.


Sharing dinner with some new friends from OC aboard the Viking Orion (Source: Palmia Observatory)
Sharing dinner with some new friends from OC aboard the Viking Orion (Source: Palmia Observatory)



Well the time has come to say goodbye to the Viking Orion and its crew and the other passengers.  The Orion carries just over 900 passengers and has a crew of over 400, and she continues on down around India to Bangkok, where Gene and Lynda get off, and then continues further along on its repositioning cruise.  Here the Orion captain and some of the crew meet and greet in the theater for a goodbye and thank you cocktail party.

Some of the Viking Orion crew show up at the captain's cocktail party (Source: Palmia Observatory)
Some of the Viking Orion crew show up at the captain's cocktail party (Source: Palmia Observatory)



So, its off to the airport in Mumbai where we continue going eastward to arrive back in California.  After considering this whole journey we believe that we can say that we have made it around the world in 21 days.  We started our journey in California at LAX and then flew eastward to NY and then still more eastward to Athens.  From Athens we cruised aboard the Orion, eastward again, through the Suez canal and finally getting off in Mumbai.  Then the eastward journey continued by air to Hong Kong and then a long 12 hour flight east again to LAX.

We had left Hong Kong at about 1:00 PM on Saturday and then, after crossing the international date, we landed at LAX at 11:00 AM, still on Saturday.  We knew that these long flights would be exhausting so we decided to splurge and fly business class instead of coach fare.  Hmm, now its going to be hard to fly in anything less than that now that we find you can stretch out and lie flat and sort of sleep.  By the way, Cathay Pacific was a fantastic airline and it certainly made flying almost a pleasure!

Resident Astronomer Peggy deciding that flying business class is the only way to go! (Source: Palmia Observatory)
Resident Astronomer Peggy deciding that flying business class is the only way to go! (Source: Palmia Observatory)

Finally, now back at the stationary observatory, I could download the raw camera images and take a look at that Milky Way image, photographed while we were cruising on the Red Sea, as described in the post of September 1, 2018.  Yes, the Milky Way shows up in this 135 second, 10mm, exposure, even though I could just barely see it with my own eyeballs.  Maybe if I had tried to get my eyes accommodated to the darkness, but there was always some stray close by ship lighting that got in the way.  Remember that even in this image, I had to sacrifice my body for science by standing almost motionless during the long exposure to block out a stray light source!  You can see some jitter in the stars and yet Mars shows up as the very bright dot.

Milky Way as seen on the Red Sea, aboard the Viking Orion, 10mm, 135 second DSLR (Source: Palmia Observatory)




Until next time,
Resident Astronomer George


If you are interested in things astronomical or in astrophysics and cosmology
Check out this blog at www.palmiaobservatory.com






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