Aerial haze in New Mexico

The normally great skies at Rancho Hidalgo were somewhat marred by aerial haze from fires burning in Arizona.

Here’s a picture from the El Paso- Phoenix plane showing the source of some of the aerial haze.   We’re at about 36,000 feet.

aerial of arizona wildfire

I showed this to Dan Klinglesmith, who is studying astronomical seeing at the Magdalena Ridge Observatory at New Mexico Tech:  “That is a great picture in one sense!  The attached plots show the levels of small particles in the air at my home in Socorro from May 26th till this morning.  My particle counter measured the number of particles in 8 different channels.  The line (black)  marked >0.3 microns counts all of the particles bigger than 0.3 microns. the line (red) marked >0.5 microns counts all of the particles bigger than 0.5 microns and so on.  The difference between the >0.3 and >0.5 microns would tell you the number of particles between 0.3 and 0.5 microns.

The linear plot lets you easily see the time when we had smoke and haze in Socorro.  The log plot shows 6 decades of counts and you can see that the number of large particles is quite small.  And it looks like the small particles are going up this morning.  The levels all depend on which way the wind is blowing. On the afternoon of  29 when the count were almost 1,000,000 in 2 minutes we could not see M mountain from town.  Then later that night when the counts went about a million there had been a major fire on the plaza and we were seeing the effect of the smoke from that fire.”

Canon 60Da First Light

At Rancho Hidalgo, I set up the Canon with my standard 28-135 zoom and the tracker head.  The tracker has a small polar scope, and the alignment just uses that.  I shot constellation scale tests, mostly at 28mm with ASA from 1600 to 6400. Here’s a 3 minute exposure of the Scorpius region at 6400.  There’s no calibration.  I adjusted levels and curves in Photoshop. There’s more noise in the image than you would want, but I found that ASA 3200 was acceptable assuming use of dark and bias frame sets and stacking multiple frames to reduce noise.  The greenish crap on the lower third is due to smokey haze from Arizona wildfires.  See http://jjmcclintock.com/wordpress/?p=139.

Scorpius area. Canon 60Da, 180 seconds; 28mm at f/8 ASA 6400. Not calibrated,  but levels and curves were adjusted in Photoshop.