Sunday, 14 April 2019

Sunspot at last

Both NASA and NOAA have predicated that we are heading even further into the Solar minimum, Is this bad news for Aurora watchers. This low is expected to last until Autumn 2020 followed by a slow recovery

The new Solar Cycle 25 won't commence until 2023 - 2026


Graph: Space Weather

Solar Cycle 24 was a weak affair and produced little action. Sunspots usually produce a flares and Aurora activity. Some think that in an Aurora Minimum, the Aurora take on a more pink colour, which has been the case recently.

Solar wind comes from holes in the Sun, rather than Sunspot Flares at this time in the Solar Cycle, which still produces some impressive Aurora

This sunspot which appeared a few days ago, AR2738, is impressive, its has a core 3 times that of Earth but has not produced any flares. Something may happen soon as it seems to be breaking up.

The Sunspot has a trail which is 200,000km long, also know as a Light Bridge.

In 2018 we had 221 days where no sunspot were seen (61%)
so far in 2019 we have had 62  days (60%) where no sunspots have been visible

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Wednesday, 20 March 2019

14mm Samyang F2.4 XP lens review

In this review I would like to focus on the feel of the lens and how I see the photographs. More detailed reports can be found on the internet

I have used both the F2.8 and the newer F2.4 XP Samyang lenses. All photos shown taken with XP lens

Old F2.8 lens
The F2.8 had problems with de- centred focus areas and I had to send back 4 before finally getting an acceptable lens. Samyang is very good at controlling Coma and Chromatic Aberration and even wide open this lens is sharp if you get a good copy. It does have problems with barrel distortion which is always a problem with any landscape photos.

A lot less barrel distortion on the XP lens

Some Vignetting wide open

I bought the F2/8 not only as a landscape lens but for astrophotography and although  it produced some acceptable photos it was still a bit soft in the corners

St Ninian's Isle at Dusk

These images are a lot sharper across the whole frame

It has a plastic casing but feels a good solid purchase at around £326 (Amazon).

Newer F2.4 XP
The newer XP F2.4 version is a professional lens and even though its around £716(Amazon this is £100 less than I paid for it a few months ago) it has a lot more going for it. It feels good in the hand, being an all metal construction with a good lens cap that holds in place well.

Both lenses are manual focus but this one has all the contact points to provide all the information, aperture, speed and focus confirmation. Be aware that if you are a Canon user it will show F2.5 not F2.4.

The distance scale seems accurate unlike the old F2.8 and at the limit it was in focus for the stars so no guess work, mine didn't turn to the infinity marker. The bokeh is excellent by the way

Again Coma and Chromatic Aberration is very well control with virtually nothing showing even wide open. It is that bit faster which is always good for astrophotography. There is only minimal barrel  distortion which means good news for astro and landscape photographers, Vignetting is better controlled from F4

It seems a lot sharper wide open and has the resolving power for a 50mp lens and you can tell, lots more detail with excellent colour rendition. Flare is a lot better controlled, even shooting directly into the Moon/sun (be careful) . Agree with the Samyang information

 ISO800 F2.4 15 seconds (Full Moon)

Crop of top left corner
Samyang blurb
Image quality is maintained by using 18 glasses in 14 groups including four different special optics: two aspherical lenses, one hybrid aspherical lens and two extra low dispersions lenses and one high refractive lens. This optimal performance creates impressive image quality for centre to corner of the image. Also, the minimised aberration enhance the clarity of the image creating a more impressive image than your eyes can see

Old one 14 glasses in 10 groups


I was thinking of either the 14mm sigma art f1.8 (£1300) or 14mm Nikon f2.8 (£1608) but liked the other Samyang lenses, I also use the 24mm f1.4 which is also excellent for astrophotography so I thought I would give the XP lens a try. 

In the end I am glad I bought the new XP F2.4 version. As usual, buying any equipment for astrophotography brings a curse with it and it was cloudy and windy for the first 15 days but I did use it for landscapes and was very impressed.

A couple of nights ago I managed a few photos under a full moon and it was picking up stars well using the Nikon D610. The stars were sharp across the sensor and I found that turning the lens to the limit (towards infinity) produced the desired effect so no pre focusing or live view focus on a star. Quality wise it is a lot better than the old one.

Its a pity that its nearly at the end of the Night sky season but I hope to get at least one more session in to test this further

Samyang 14mm Premium MF 24 4 3D

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Green and Purple Aurora

Its always good to see the Aurora, but many nights are full of cloud. A few nights ago the cloud cleared allowing the green then purple shin through.

Tingwall is always a good spot, wide open with the water allowing for good reflections. Its a busy road both for cars north and south

Its a pity about the LED outside light up the valley which has only recently gone up. It is distracting and many more houses and barns now have permanent outside lighting. This site may well be lost if the Viking Energy wind farm goes ahead. The red beacon lights on top of the turbines will show up here even though the will be 10 miles further north

Looking south towards Scalloway and here on the left two large LED lights near the fire station and further along the streetlight which are also LED produce a bluer light. The council are just in the process of replacing all 4000 streetlight with LED lights

Orion showing about the boatshed

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Sunday, 3 March 2019

Wednesday Aurora in Shetland

Shetland at last had some clear skies and the weather forecast was correct for once with a couple of hours of stars

It was an Orange Alert during the time I was walking St Ninian's isle but no one else came to view.

I don't particularly like totally dark nights as photos tend to look flat, a Moon 25-50% is much better as it lights the landscape

I caught this rare red Aurora on camera and as the Aurora was very active it was showing well over to the west

All the photos were taken with a 24mm Samyang lens and a Sony A7s camera between ISO 6400-8000. The A7s is very good in low light.

                                                                          Bigton Church

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Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Sandlodge & the Super Snow Moon

Super Snow moon from Sandwick

There was a Super Snow Moon on Tuesday night and for once it was a clear night. It started a bit cloud but I had nearly a perfect sky from around 8pm

Moon over Mousa

Its a Super Snow moon because its inflated in size and luminosity because  it occurs on the near side of the Moons orbit

Its 8% wider and 16% brighter, but since there is nothing to measure the scale it looks like an ordinary moon


Sandlodge is at Sandwick just a few minutes away from where we live and it always provides a good backdrop to any night sky photos to the east

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