Thursday, December 5, 2013

December 2013

December 31st 1640 GMT

I went out to photograph Venus and found it was very low down. I tried viewing and photographing it at various magnifications from 48x to 231x. I got the best results at 77x but found that the atmosphere and telescope made chromatic aberration bad. The phase was very slender and I thought was about 10% at most. I removed the false colour through processing but was still left with a very bright patch.

December 29th 1110 GMT

I did some tests with my T-ring and photographic set-up but ran into troubles when the camera "thought" there was no lens attached. Of course there's an <expletive> lens attached, it's a whole <expletive> telescope! Back to the supplier for advice.

I bin scanned the Sun through moving thin cloud and just saw the 3 sunspots I'd seen before had rotated quite a lot since my last observation a couple of days ago.

December 29th 0010 GMT

It was not a crystal clear night but not far off and clearer to the south than the north. I realised that I'd still set the ISO setting to 3200, much higher than the 800 I wanted for my Plough shot. Had I remembered to set it before going outside, I might have caught a bright mag -2 meteor travelling to the right of the Plough, east to west. It might JUST have been an early Quadrantid, as it was surely travelling the right path.

While taking 19 thirty second widefield exposures of the Plough, I set about bin scanning the sky. Mizar and Alcor split very clearly. The Orion Great Nebula (M42) looked ab out as good as I've ever seen it through binoculars. I also felt the same about the Hyades and Pleaides (M45). M35 looked good and I also saw M36, M37 and M38 in Auriga but had some trouble finding them, not having had much recent practice. The Perseus Double Cluster and M34 looked quite well and the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) looked almost as good as it ever had, despite the unfavourable elevation. The Pinwheel Galaxy (M33) was anoth story and was marginal and I would not have seen it through casual scanning but I happened to know where to look,
I'd forgotten to look at Jupiter's moons but bagged M81 and M82 after searching for a long time. The Beehive (M44) looked just superb and rounded off an interesting session.

I stacked 18 of the 19 shots to obtain this composite image.

December 27th 2210 GMT

I went out armed with my DSLR. It was clear around Orion in the south, less so to the north. I took a few frames of Orion and Lepus at 18mm, ISO 800 and 30 seconds exposure. I repeated this set-up with Orion centred in  the frame (or so I hoped).

I then moved to 6 seconds exposure at ISO 3200 and 70mm focal length. I did a few frames of the Orion Great Nebula and then the Hyades.

December 27th 1225 GMT

I managed to bin scan the Sun in between rain showers and noticed that the sunspots had moved from the day before.

December 26th 1050 GMT

The solar hydrogen alpha shoot was less than successful. I managed to capture the sunspots and the prominences but my impression was that I had overexposed the photos. Also no photographs stacked.


December 26th 1040 GMT

I could see three sunspots while bin scanning the Sun in a clear sky. I also saw a thick waning crescent moon. Not much was visible but Grimaldi was well in from the limb and I could see a bright patch below it.

December 24th 2230 GMT

The attempted Orion shots were ruined because by lens cleaning efforts weren't good but at least I captured the main stars of the constellation. Incidentally, I had  thought that Betelguese had a magnitude of about 0.7 over the recent period.

December 24th 1410 GMT

It had cleared enough to see the Sun through my PST. Most of the activity was around the sunspots I had seen earlier in the day and there were many plages. I took a series of shots at 1/500 second at 18mm and 1/50th second at 70mm, both at ISO 3200. It was one of the latter photos that produced the best results, as none of the photos stacked.

December 24th 1115 GMT

The conditions had somewhat worsened since dawn, so instead of a hoped-for solar photo shoot, it was better to bin scan the Sun through the moving cloud and record the sunspots by drawing.

December 24th 0810 GMT

I was up before the alarm, so decided to snap the dawn Moon. It was almost at last quarter and clear enough to take some full disc shots and a couple of close-ups. I used my DSLR at 1/500 second exposure at ISO 3200 at 18mm for the full disc shots and 70mm for the close-ups.

December 22nd 1245 GMT

The conditions were poor on the way back from the airport but I managed to see three sunspots from Membury Services.

December 21st 0900 GMT

The sky had cleared enough for a sunspot viewing. I could only see two but suspected that I could have seen more in better conditions.

December 19th 2000 GMT

There were few stars visible but the Moon and Jupiter were visible to the east. A four second exposure at 18mm with my DSLR captured some of the brighter stars in Gemini, although the Moon was well over-exposed.

I took 15 exposures of the Moon at 70mm and stacked and processed them. I could capture the main maria but no craters.

December 19th 0925 GMT

During a break in class I showed my trainees how to view the Sun safely through binoculars and Baader filters. There were 9 sunspots on view and I wondered how many I would have been able to see through my Maksutov.

December 17th 2000 GMT

The Moon and Jupiter were close and they were the only objects visible in the sky. I took some widefield shots showing both then attempted some close-ups at various exposure settings at ISO 3200 to see what would work best.

The Moon alone was 1/2000 second and with Jupiter it was 1 second.

Dec 17th 1630 GMT

I saw the Moon (and nothing else) just after work and a binocular view did not show any different features from the morning.

Dec 17th 0120 GMT

I saw a bright full moon from my hotel room in Warsaw. Tycho's rays dominated the moonscape. Due to libration, Mare Crisium was well placed but Grimaldi was not.

I also tried to see the Orion Great Nebula (M42) but it was drowned out by moonlight.

Dec 9th 2100 GMT

I went out to do some afocal lunar photography. The Moon was approaching first quarter, so a lot of features were visible. Unfortunately, cloud rolled in before I could do many close-ups. I found that an exposure of 1/1000 sec with ISO 3200 seemed to be best.

The full disc shot was a disappointment but I stacked six of the close-ups to make a nice composite shot of the southern craters.

Sorry, the photos didn't load, so please use the links to see them:

Dec 8th 1645 GMT

There was a lot of cloud around but the Moon and Venus were around. It took me a long time to get the exposure time right on both objects but especially Venus. I took some close-ups of the Moon, as well as the full disc shots. The close-ups stitched together well to make a nice full disc shot, whilst the full disc shot was poor.

Venus had an apparent phase of about 25%. It was a shame that bad weather and my laptop not working had made it difficult to record the approach of the planet to Earth. However, some shots showed the phase and this was the best.

Dec 8th 1215 GMT

The sky was very cloudy to start with but partially cleared enough for me to do a binocular scan (although not photography session) on the Sun. A new sunspot had emerged since my last observation and a new one had rotated on.

Dec 6th 2300 GMT

Encouraged by getting lunar images on the screen in the early evening, I decided to give Jupiter a try. I managed to get one run showing two moons but there was a lot of noise. Close-ups failed completely because I couldn’t get the G-clamp to work with my high power eyepiece. I realised I had another one I could try but it was in another accessory box and I was feeling rather tired. I just remembered how much enjoyment I had from using my SPC880 about the same time the year before and felt it was so much better to get a result.

I managed to get rid of the noise via Registax 5 and GIMP but the uploaded image here was blank, so please follow the link to view:

The saving grace was that at 256x magnification Jupiter looked as good in the eyepiece as I could remember and I saw a cloud belt which extended only part-way round the planetary disc. At least it wasn’t a TOTAL waste of time.

Dec 6th 2200 GMT

I had a look at Jupiter and the two main cloud belts were clear. Higher magnification showed a bit more detail near the poles. I took some afocal shots with my DSLR but none of them looked promising.

The attempted shots showing moons showed far too much camera shake. I found it is much more difficult to hold still than a compact digital camera. However, 3 of the attempted close-ups showed the main belts, enough of a result for me to persevere with the method and experiment with eyepiece magnifications and exposure times. Being hand-held, I used ISO 3200.

Dec 6th 1740 GMT

Although there was cloud around, I could see the Moon and Venus above the horizon. Venus was too low, so I started  off with a DSLR shoot of the Moon. I took some full disc and close-up shots.

I then tried an experiment where I used an Xbox Cam which I attached afocally using a small G clamp. I used a low power (32mm) eyepiece. The Moon looked over-exposed, despite changing settings using Sharpcap. I tried a variable polarising filter, so the image on the screen looked better.

Potentially, I thought the method could be useful with higher power eyepieces and high power patience!

Dec 6th 0855 GMT

I bin scanned the Sun when it was low in the south east. Conditions were much better than the day before and I found two sunspots.

Dec 5th 1320 GMT

The weather conditions appeared to be teasing me. A few brief glimpses of the Sun encouraged me to reach for my binoculars and filters but every time I got out, I would be completely clouded out! At 1320 GMT, it was just about clear enough for observations to be viable but there was lot of moving cloud about both thick and thin. I managed to see one sunspot but it is highly likely that I had missed others in the conditions.

Dec 4th 2100 GMT

I had been feeling a bit under the weather but I couldn’t waste the first clear night for ages. In fact, it certainly wasn’t perfectly clear, as I couldn’t see the 5th magnitude stars that make up the asterism of Ursa Minor. I took a frame of Taurus at 18mm, ISO 800 and 30 seconds exposure. I caught a bit of sky glow, so I retried a further six frames with ISO 400, as conventional wisdom often suggests.

I stacked three of the images but had to remove all of the red due to sky glow.

For some reason, the image did not reproduce here after loading, so please refer to the link below:

Saturday, November 2, 2013

November 2013

November 2013

Nov 30th 2215 GMT

I wasn't feeling great, so I didn't go out for a big shoot but I pointed my DSLR at the zenith for two exposures at 18mm, ISO 800 and 30 seconds exposure to produce this final image. It would not load here, so this is the link:

Nov 30th 1235 GMT

I bin scanned the Sun during a traffic hold-up on the M4 on the way home at 1235 GMT and I saw a lot of new activity.

Nov 25th 2040 GMT

I was in Dusseldorf on business and it was clear enough to try some constellation photography. My first set of shots were well overexposed and out of focus but I stacked the best 3 of 6 frames of Cygnus and Lyra taken at 18mm focal length with a DSLR at ISO 400. The stacked image was processed using GIMP.

To make matters even more interesting, I saw a bright magnitude -6 fireball flash north to south through Pegasus at 2054 GMT.

Nov 23rd 1120 GMT

A solar bin scan showed that the large sunspot had rotated near the limb.

Nov 23rd 0955 GMT

I bin scanned a waning gibbous moon low in the west. Some southern craters were still visible but there were no extensive ray systems on view, although Kepler showed well. Grimaldi was visible but quite near the limb.

Nov 22nd 1200 GMT

I went out with the Mak and did some afocal solar shots. I was struggling a lot with ISO and exposure time settings. I was going to continue with some hydrogen alpha shots when cloud rolled in. To make matters worse, none of the shots was useable, so I resorted to drawing the sunspots.

Nov 22nd 0630 GMT

I woke up early (not by design) and checked the positions of Comets ISON and Lovejoy online. After a lot of searching, I found both of them in binoculars but dawn and moonlight made the search somewhat difficult. I found them both but, under the viewing conditions, I could only see fuzzy comas and no tails.

Nov 21st 2040 GMT

The evening weather had been very inconsistent, with lots of moving cloud and clear spells in between. When I went out, thin cloud was scattering moonlight. As the Moon was near Jupiter, I took some snaps of the two together before doing a big lunar shoot with full disc and close-up shots. I had a go at capturing Jupiter’s moons, then had a go at the Pleaides (M44). The initial results didn’t seem too promising but the cluster looked nice through the telescope,  even though I could not see the whole of it in a field of view. Unfortunately, most of the shots suffered from poor focus and over-exposure, so I just managed the conjunction and stitched 2 imaging runs together to produce one lunar image covering most of the lunar surface. Not much to show for more than 100 images!


Nov 21st 1630 GMT

I spotted Venus in the dusk sky and estimated a phase of 45% through my binoculars.

Nov 21st 1150 GMT

I checked the Sun with my PST, The large sunspot was very obvious and I could see some small prominences and nice filaments. I took some afocal shots with my DSLR.

Nov 21st 1630 GMT

I spotted Venus in the dusk sky and estimated a phase of 45% through my binoculars.

Nov 21st 1145 GMT

Fortunately, conditions were rather better than the day before and I managed to see two sunspots, the other one from the previous day had rotated off or was too close to the limb to see.


Nov 20th 2110 GMT

I was going to do some constellation shots, having seen the Summer Triangle earlier in the evening. When I went out there was cloud and the Moon was up. I did several afocal shots with my Mak and DSLR. I was using ISO 3200 to get a sharper shot with a short exposure. 

First up was 10 shots stacked of 22 for the whole lunar disc.

I didn't quite cover the full disc but I managed to stitch a series of close-up shots.

Nov 20th 1400 GMT

After a very wet morning and lunchtime, it cleared enough to see sunspots through my binoculars.

Nov 19th 0945 GMT

Due to an upgrade on my PC, I've had to use Powerpoint to draw sunspots instead of CorelDraw. Fortunately, it showed the sunspot patterns quite well.

Nov 15th 0715 GMT

There was a lot of moving cloud and some rain but I still managed to record some sunspots. The large one looked really impressive.

Nov 14th 0715 GMT

After a cloudy, wet period in Malta,  I saw that new sunspot activity had emerged.

Nov 10th 1020 GMT

Conditions were hazy but I managed to see two sunspots.

Nov 10th 2330 GMT

I had another go at last night’s shots but also tried M42 afocally and Jupiter’s moons. Nothing really quite worked but I managed to capture the stars of the southern half of Orion.

Nov 9th 1830 GMT

It was just about dark but there was some thin cloud around. I took a few shots of the Moon afocally with my DSLR for the first time. The Moon was almost at first quarter and there were lots of features on show. Only two out of 25 frames were of sufficient quality, so I stacked both of them to get the final image. OK, it's not perfect but it was my first attempt at the image.

Nov 8th 2130 GMT

I found a hotel balcony with an east view and took some snaps of Orion and Gemini and some attempted close-ups of Jupiter and M42. Only the constellation shots revealed anything.

I also browsed the sky with binoculars and enjoyed a nice view of the Orion Great Nebula (M42) and the Hyades. I also saw Jupiter had one moon to the west and three to the east. I could see M35, although it wasn’t at its best and the Beehive (M44).

Nov 7th 1730 GMT

I did another photo shoot with the Moon and Venus together.


Nov 6th  1810 GMT

I captured the Moon with Venus in the evening sky.

Nov 6th 0720 GMT

I saw the Sun low down in the morning sky before travelling to work and saw that many sunspots were around.

Nov 3rd 1655 GMT

A binocular scan of Venus suggested a phase of 55%. The official figure is 48%, so either some of the "night" side is partially illuminated or the Pugh Effect is at work. Shame I was separated from my 127mm Maksutov to do a phase estimation with that.

Nov 1st 1030 GMT

I managed to check the Sun with binoculars through some gaps in the cloud. The surface was much quieter than previous days but there were still a few sunspots around.