I like to prepare my astrophotography planning calendar for the year ahead by charting out suitable dates. This time I’ve brought it forward by a couple of months due to demand for next year for workshops, bookings etc and other competing demands on my time.
The conditions that I’m primarily looking for are crescent Moon light, where the moon is just bright enough to light the foreground but not too bright as to overpower the Milky Way core. Some other conditions need the absence of Moon light and it’s just knowing the expected positioning of the Milky Way core.
The benefits of planning (subject to weather):
- Knowing when certain compositions will become available or will no longer be available (eg if I’m after a rising Milky Way core – eventually throughout the year, it will be too high in the sky by the time it gets dark, so I have to make sure that I photograph this before that happens or wait for the next year);
- Planning for trips – some trips take a lot more planning. While I’m self-employed (that almost affords some flexibility), some people need to request leave in advance. For myself, I can try and manage other obligations around the best astrophotography dates; and
- Planning of workshop dates – I need to plan workshops well in advance to for conditions and making sure I’m available on those dates.
I’ve manually extract information from the fantastic appp Photopills and input information into a spreadsheet. The information that I have included is:
- Moon information including the rise/set times and luminosity. This is only a guide since the luminosity will also change based on the Moon elevation. It will significantly dim when it’s close to the horizon, just like a sunset.
- Milky way core availability times and core elevation when it’s available. I decided that the starting/ending elevation was important to include to assist in knowing what would be available as a composition.
- Public holidays and other events. Timing of public and school holidays results in higher traffic and costs of travel and accommodation.
I decided to exclude some information that I had included in previous years. This was mainly sunrise and sunset information as this was a bit superfluous to the main objective of the chart and the time required to input that data was just too long. I previously used TPE for this.
The chart is quite heavily limited since all the data is based on my location here in Perth, Western Australia. The timing may be different based on other locations But the chart does provide some idea of the planning that I do and if you’re interested, can input data that suits your location.
A link to the sheet is here (google docs) – Calendar
Where to from here? I’ve marked down a few tentative and confirmed workshop dates and I’m planning a few expeditions of varying lengths. I have quite a few plans for 2020 and am trying to make sure I don’t miss the best opportunities.
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