Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Not Just A Bright Spot - At 60X!!!!

Ok, so it has been about a year since I last posted about the ISS (international Space Station) that hurtles overhead at 17,250 mph in an orbit so predictable that NASA sends out email s(or tweets, if you're into that sort of thing) as to where it will be, based on zip code (plus four! don't you forget it!) (link here).  But that was when I was renting a house that had tremendous amounts of trees in the NW, N, and NE views of the world.  Now I OWN the home I live in, and I have a fairly un-occluded view of the sky from the NW to the SE.   I cannot see 180 degrees of sky, but I can see a good 140 to 150 degrees of sky, looking through the palms, apricots, birds-of-paradise, and my nosey-and-intrusive-asshole-Joe-the-neighbor's Indian Hawthorne tree/bush.

So this afternoon, when I got the NASA email alert:
"Wed Feb 26 6:12 PM, Visible: 6 min, Max Height: 80 degrees, Appears: NW, Disappears: SE"
I was Delighted!   (see, I am Really Not That Hard to please me, honestly - I am a man of simple means, and modest proclivities)

I was out in my driveway, looking towards the NW, at 6:05pm.  I had a wonderful Trader Joe's Vintage Ale in hand and my Lumix camera slung around my neck.  I was determined to try and take a "HD quality" video, and if that didn't work, a "still photo" at 60X zoom (in "sunset mode" one can get the 24X zoom to go to a 60X optical zoom).  The results are as follows:



Not as good as I had hoped for...  or as good as looked through the view finder, where I could SWEAR I saw the distinct patterns of the solar cells...  but maybe my mind fabricated that geometry. Sort of lackluster, visually.  The view finder said it was "58.8X" (nearly 60X) so I was hoping for a higher resolution.  Regardless, it was VERY COOL!  My neighbor Sheri came by walking her old golden retriever, as she does every morning and evening, and I heard her ask behind me "whatcha looking at?" (my camera pointed up, almost 90 degrees, into the sky).  I told her (excitedly) "The International Space Station, 200 miles up, hurting along at more than 2000 miles per hour" (I forgot the 17.250K mph actual speed) .. and pointed it out to her.  At first she didn't see it.... and then she said "that looks like an airplane, are you sure?"  "Yes, I am very sure, NASA sent me an alert, I know exactly what it is".

My neighbors must think I am nuts.  Back in 2013, my SE Asian neighbor (I Think Steve & Stephanie are Laotian, but they might be Cambodian or Mung, I am not sure) Stephanie was watering her lawn and saw me staring up at the sky.  I pointed out the space station hurtling westward, and she crossed the street to see why I appeared so fascinated and to see what I was seeing.    By that time, it was near to the Eastern horizon, like the image below.  Not much to see.
I'm sorry, but after watching Neil deGrasse Tyson on Moyers and Company via DVR last night, I believe it is IMPOSSIBLE to Over-Emphasize the importance of Science and Engineering literacy / awareness / competence and De-emphasize mythology and superstition in the U.S. of A.  I LOVE the FACT that I am able to SEE a scientific and technological marvel, fly over-head, predictably, safely, routinely, doing amazing & unappreciated work... while in the comfort and safety of my own driveway.  Very cool, indeed.


  1. It can't be 60x optical zoom. The lens is 25-600mm. No mode will physically extend it beyond 600mm focal length. Taking a night time shot of a *moving* object 200miles away is a really big ask of a hand-held camera, even one with a very nice 600mm lens at f2.8. You might be able to get a better shot if you go all manual or at least adjust the exposure metering. It will be nearly impossible not to overexpose the ISS in a shot like that in any auto mode.

    Still, how cool is that to see the space station?

  2. I did not think 60X was possible either, but the view finder display (in sunset mode) doesn't max out at 24X, it goes to 58.8. The optics calculation didn't make sense to me either, but I thought that Maybe Panasonic does some kind of software multiplication that "upped it". Or maybe I just need to read my manual and see why the little bar graph and numbers go to 58.8X ... il faut voir.

    Considering it was Supposed to be cloudy and raining last night (as it is this morning), and such weather would have occluded any ISS observation, I was Thrilled to be able to see it last night. I don't know why google blogger doesn't like the 6 second mpeg I took... but... I'll try and work on that later today.

  3. Yes, it does have built-in "digital" zoom, so anything beyond 24x is non-optical. You can get the same effect by shooting at 24x and then cropping later.


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