Mercury Transiting the Sun

Mercury Transiting the Sun

For the past week, the mornings had been foggy and overcast. If the weather pattern did not change, I would have to wait until 2049 because the 2032 and 2039 transits of Mercury will not be visible from North America.

When I saw blue skies this morning, I hurried outside to set-up my observation station. First, I used an Orion StarSeeker III 127mm Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope with an AstroSolar filter. Believe it or not, it is difficult to locate the sun because the sight is not usable. You cannot safely look at the sun through the sight. And, if I wore solar safety glasses, then the sight itself is not visible.

For the image below, I used a 300mm lens and a 2x teleconverter. With a wider field of view, it was easier to find the sun. The camera, lens and tripod were also a lot more stable so I had an easier time focusing on Planet Mercury. With the telescope, focusing was more challenging because of the vibration.


Moonrise Over San Francisco Bay

The 4% crescent moon rose over San Francisco Bay two hours ahead of sunrise. The low tide exposed the mud flats during the early morning hours. If you look closely, you can see three faint dots in the morning sky.

In this closer view, Auva and Porrima from the Virgo constellation flank the moon while the planet Mars is at the lower right. The sunrise lit up the vibrant morning sky due to all the smoke from the Kincade fire that traveled down from Sonoma County to the peninsula.

Details: D700, 70-200mm f/2.8, ISO 2000, 70mm, f/5.0, 2.0sec


36% Waxing Crescent Moon

Headed out to see the crescent moon this evening. Fortunately, I was able to locate it on the telescope even though the EZ Finder II was out of batteries. Again. That really needs an auto-off function.


B-17 Flying Fortress

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is a legendary plane that flew over the skies of Europe during World War II. This historical plane was on display at the Wings of Freedom Tour during its Mountain View, California visit in May 2019.


Photographing Air Force One at Moffett Field

If you want to photograph Air Force One, some online resources can assist with the planning. First, the Defense Internet NOTAM Service provides an early schedule for the President’s arrival and departure. Read the Presidential TFRs for temporary flight restrictions for VIP movement. The FAA published the applicable TFR three days before the President arrived.

The more detailed itinerary was available the night before. published the Presidential Calendar, with the specific times and general locations (including the airport) on the President’s schedule. Of course, the timeline can change based on delays in the schedule. Today, initially published the wrong times, which conflicted with local news reporting. I was able to determine who was reporting the correct timing by consulting the White House Pool Reports

Twitter feed.


Mid Autumn Festival 中秋节快乐

Hope you are enjoying the full moon and delicious moon cakes on this Mid-Autumn Festival.


Air Force One Panorama

Took two panorama photos at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. The above photo was taken with the iPhone using the built-in panorama feature. The advantage was that this was easy to take, but the photo contains noticeable distortion and there were exposure issues from the wide dynamic range.

The second photo was stitched together from multiple photos taken by camera. The ceiling is not curved and the photo is better exposed particularly towards the right side by the large window.


Aboard Air Force One

Air Force One

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum

I recently visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. Located in Simi Valley, just north of Los Angeles, the presidential library provides a retrospective look at President Reagan’s life and administration. Having visited the library many years ago, as well as having lived through the 80s, my main focus was on seeing Air Force One, which was installed after my prior visit.

Walking through Air Force One was a unique experience. I had thought the interiors would be more luxurious. In hindsight, considering that it was a modified Boeing 707 that entered service in the 1970s, the tight, cramped quarters should not have been unexpected.


Le Mont-Saint-Michel

Le Mont-Saint-Michel
  1. Take the Ouigo Train to Rennes. From the Paris Montparnasse station, SNCF offers a number of direct TGV trains to Rennes. The lowest cost option is the morning Ouigo train, which costs about $20 for a one-way ticket. The regular SNCF trains are much more expensive and cost $80-100 for a one-way ticket.
  2. Download the Ouigo App. The Ouigo train I traveled on was clean and comfortable. I paid a nominal fee for the large luggage I brought on board and also opted for the seats with an electrical outlet. Installing the Ouigo app was essential since I did not have access to a printer. I could just show my boarding pass from my phone.
  3. Rennes to Mont Saint-Michel Bus. The journey from Rennes train station (Gare de Rennes) to Mont Saint-Michel is serviced by a bus that runs four times a day: 9h45, 11h45, 12h45 and 16h45. So, the morning Ouigo train (7h06 – 9h07) is perfect for catching one of the connecting buses. The noon Ouigo train (12h14 – 13h53), on the other hand, drops off passengers right in the middle of the afternoon gap. If you don’t want to wait 3 hours, then the alternatives are hiring a private car or renting a car.
  4. Tidal Schedule. The Mont Saint-Michel Tourist Office publishes a tide schedule, if you want to plan your visit around high tide. I visited during low tide and it was quite dry around the island, except for that sliver of water I found that created the perfect reflection.
  5. Hotels. Staying overnight at Le Mont-Saint-Michel offers a number of advantages. In the evening, once the crowds depart, the restaurants and shops begin closing and the streets empty. As the pace slows, I was able to walk around the island without having to navigate through a sea of fellow tourists. During these hours, it’s easier to compose photos with nobody in them.
  6. Shuttle Bus. The complimentary navette travels from the parking lot to Mont Saint-Michel, with a stop at the off-island hotels and restaurants. The bus (and pedestrians) both cause vibrations on the bridge as they pass by. If you are using a tripod for long exposure photos, you need to take that into account.†
Complimentary Shuttle Bus (Navette) at Mont Saint Michel

Louvre Pyramid

B&W Louvre Pyramid

I.M. Pei’s iconic pyramid marks the entrance to the Louvre museum. In the evening, tourists saunter around the courtyard taking selfies, while illuminated by the soft glow emanating from the pyramid. With the water fountain and reflecting pools, the Louvre is a photographer’s delight at night.