The Big Dipper, Red-lit Canadian Windmills and the Glow of the Soo

CHDK stands for Canon Hack Development Kit. It is a set of open-source firmware that be used to add new features to an older Canon camera. The camera has to be old, because it has to have been around long enough for someone to have written the code for that specific model (Mine is a SX60.). I have been struggling with it all summer long, but yesterday I got it to work. There is still a lot about this kit that I don’t understand, like in order to activate this code, you first load it on the camera’s memory card and then you lock the card, which ordinarily means that you can’t write to the card, but apparently the card’s physical lock can be overridden using this software, because I can still record pictures onto my locked memory card. CHDK offers many interesting new features, like one that I am interested in trying sometime that automatically snaps the shutter in response to the flash of a bright light, think lighting, it is that fast. Last night, I used a different feature of the toolkit. Canon point-and-shoot cameras come standard with a maximum longest shutter speed of 15 seconds. 30 seconds is much more preferred for shooting astronomy photography. Longer would be even better, and CHDK can go even longer, but after 30 seconds the stars begin to streak. Anyway, I got the software to work.

The reason for this effort is because we up here in the great Northwoods are currently experiencing a Geostorm. It is not quite a Carrington Event¹, but this bombardment of solar particles is expected to generate an aurora borealis. Yesterday, we experienced a G1 level storm, which is pretty light, and didn’t see anything, but tonight we are forecasted to get a G3 level storm, which is a moderate storm and should generate some northern lights activity. Unfortunately, we are also expecting rain tonight, which would be a bummer, but I’ll be ready if the skies do manage to clear later tonight.

  1. The Carrington Event was a large solar storm that took place at the beginning of September 1859, just a few months before the solar maximum of 1860. In August 1859, astronomers around the world watched with fascination as the number of sunspots on the solar disk grew. On YouTube an astrophysicist was live streaming about this week’s event and mentioned this historical event.

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