Sunday, March 31, 2013

Going to rehab

I'm going to rehab for addiction to empanadas. As I get private medical insurance through my company, I'm going to the Priory

March Video

My March photos accompanied by Moonlight Shadow by Mike Oldfield

Saturday, March 9, 2013

New download added

Noiseware Community edition added to software downloads:

I'm experimenting with this on some of my widefield shots, like this one of the zenith on March 3rd:


Friday, March 8, 2013

February Video

During this terrible weather, you may enjoy a video of the photos I took of the sky last month:

Friday, March 1, 2013

March 2013

March 1st

I stacked 14 of 27 lunar images from August 31st 2011 to produce this image.


I reprocessed this image of the Coathanger asterism from August 31st 2011.

Against all expectations, it cleared enough in the afternoon to perform a solar bin scan and I was able to see four small sunspots against moving cloud.

I had a cough, so did not consider it wise to stay out a long time to image Jupiter with my webcam. Nevertheless, I couldn’t waste a clear night. Despite the conditions being a little hazy, I did 2 series of shots, the first centred on Jupiter and the second centred on Orion. I took 6 frames of the first series and 7 of the second and carefully subtracted a dark frame from each.


After a very cloudy day, it cleared unexpectedly by 2100 GMT. I still had a bad cough, so restricted my activities to a series of zenith shots. I stacked six exposures to obtain this image.



I bin scanned the Sun at mid-day but could not see any sunspots.


A late morning solar bin scan revealed a small sunspot.


 I reprocessed the zenith shot from March 3rd using Noiseware Community Edition.


A lunchtime binocular scan of the Sun showed just a single sunspot through the fast moving cloud but it was a large one and possibly suggesting an auroral display in a few days' time.

March 12th

I was working in Newbury, so did not have more than my binoculars and filters with me.My lunchtime bin scan revealed four sunspots.



I caught a clear patch of sky when I went to ensure that I'd turned my car headlights off and could not resist a sneaky peek at the Sun through binoculars.

I stopped by the roadside at 1840 GMT in an attempt to find Comet Panstarrs. I could see some lunar craters with my binoculars but was unable to find the comet which I expected to see below the Moon, near the horizon. Moving cloud didn't help and perhaps the sky wasn't as transparent as it could have been.


The sunspot pattern had changed again when I looked at lunchtime.

 I bin scanned the western horizon for the comet at 1900 GMT but couldn’t see anything. The Moon was showing some detail, though.

I re-checked at 1920 and finally found it, partially obscured by cloud. I was able to see more of it when the cloud moved but spectacular it wasn’t and I didn’t see any sign of a tail.

I also checked out the Pleiades (M45), which showed most of its stars and the Orion Great Nebula (M42) showed well, despite the twilight and the low elevation.

As I was starting to recover from illness, I ventured out to do some widefield shots. The first set was aimed at Ursa Minor and the second set was aimed at Gemini. Conditions weren't great, so Ursa Minor is difficult to make out, even though I stacked four frames. Gemini is in false colour, as I had to remove the red channel to get rid of the cloud. Processing was done using Microsoft ICE, Paintshop Pro, GIMP and Noiseware Community Edition.

March 16th

There was a small gap in the clouds at 1050 GMT and I saw that the sunspot pattern had changed again. It is highly probable that the positions of the sunspots I recorded is less than accurate, as I saw them for only about 8 to 10 seconds before another band of cloud rolled in.


At 1900 GMT I bin scanned near the horizon. I saw Comet Panstarrs and it seemed to have a tail of about one degree but it looked very diffuse and didn’t have enough contrast against the twilight to attempt a photograph. Needless to say, as the sky darkened, the comet got lower and disappeared in the haze before it got dark.

I had a more fruitful session at 2000 GMT out with the Mak and digital camera. I snapped a few full frame shots of the Moon, followed by Jupiter. I also had a look at the Orion Great Nebula (M42) which looked superb, despite the low elevation and I could make out the Trapezium very clearly. I took some shots, more in hope than expectancy. Unfortunately, I only captured a few background stars.


The weather was quite cloudy but a gap appeared at lunchtime and I saw the main sunspot patterns.


I tried to reprocess the Orion Great Nebula (M42) images from March 17th. By repeatedly adding an image to itself, I managed to get the faint imprint of the nebula. Yes, it showed the butterfly shape but masterpiece it wasn't.

I reprocessed the full disc solar hydrogen Alpha shot from Sept 1st 2011 and used GIMP to show some detail that I was unable to obtain at the time.

I also reprocessed a stacked image of the Sun in normal "white" light, which showed off the sunspots rather well.


I was clouded out, so reprocessed a Jupiter image from September 2nd 2011 taken with a digital camera.


I bin scanned the Sun through moving clouds at 1030 GMT and didn't see any sunspots.

I reprocessed a set of Pleiades images taken with my 127mm Maksutov on September 2nd 2011. I stacked 29 images using Registax 5 (Registax 6 hung and Microsoft ICE didn't work) and further processing was done using Paintshop Pro and GIMP. I tried Noiseware Community Edition and couldn't get it to remove the noise without removing stars.

March 23rd

It was cloudy, so I reprocessed a solar hydrogen alpha shot from September 3rd 2011.


I reprocessed two webcam images of Jupiter, one showing moons and the other showing surface details from September 2011 to produce this composite.

I reprocessed some solar images from September 4th 2011 using some of the techniques I have developed using GIMP. I revealed a large filament, as well as plages and prominences.

I reprocessed the full disc "white light" shot by stacking 10 images in Registax 5 (having tried Microsoft ICE and Registax 6), splitting the colours using Paintshop Pro and further processing done using GIMP.

I further processed another full disc solar image from September 5th 2011.


It was cloudy yet again, with a few snow flurries. I revisited a solar hydrogen alpha shot from September 8th 2011. It wasn't a particularly active Sun that day but I managed to extract more detail than I did on the day. However, attempts to stack multiple images with various tools failed, so I just used the best frame.


I reprocessed a full disc Moon shot from September 10th 2011. I took a stack of 27 images and split the channels into RGB using Paintshop Pro then used Curves and Colorise from GIMP to obtain the final image.

I also reprocessed a solar hydrogen alpha shot from September 11th 2011. I was unable to obtain any surface details but the prominences looked interesting.


Wow! Amazing! After an 8 day absence, I finally saw the Sun and there was just a faint sunspot but it's great to be back.


I reprocessed a full disc hydrogen alpha solar shoot from September 13th 2011. The best 3 images were stacked using Microsoft ICE and further processing was done using Paintshop Pro and GIMP.

I later processed a "white light" shot from the same day.

I also reprocessed a rather nice full disc lunar shot from the same day.

There was moving cloud about but I managed to bin scan the Sun in the morning and draw the sunspot. It had grown and moved since the day before.


I bin scanned the Sun at 1600 GMT and was surprised not to see any sunspots, given that two were visible in the Big Bear images.


I noticed a rather dark sunspot that had just rotated into view when I made an afternoon binocular scan.

February 2013 Full Report

This is the last full report, as I will be doing one large monthly report from now on.


I reprocessed a full disc lunar photo from August 24th 2011.


My first observation of the new month was a binocular scan of the Sun showing a single large sunspot.

At 1245GMT I viewed and photographed the Sun with my PST, having been reunited with it following my business trip to Lisbon. The standout features were the sunspot, some prominences and a large filament.

I decided to have a go with the webcam and Startravel 80 from 1930 GMT to 2000 GMT when a dizzy spell ended the session. The main idea was to try using a focal reducer with a webcam to get more of the Pleiades. It didn’t work due to focus travel problems and I thought of a potential workround later.

The Pleiades looked superb through the eyepiece and I took several shots at various exposure settings and areas of the cluster.

I also took some runs of Jupiter with its moons. 3 were visible and the best run showed some background stars.


A morning solar bin scan showed 2 sunspots.

I nipped out to do a quick zenith shot at 2200 GMT. This is a simple shot that involves pointing a camera straight upwards for as long as it will expose (8 seconds for my compact digital camera), then fetching it in when ready. A little but of tweaking using Paintshop Pro and GIMP brought out rather more detail.


There was thin cloud about, so I wasn’t able to do a pre-work photo shoot. It cleared enough for a bin scan for me to pop outside for a minute and see the sunspots had moved.

It cleared for a while at lunchtime. As I had to go out to pump up a car tyre, I took 2 digital cameras out to photograph the Sun in hydrogen alpha light at 1215 GMT. The Sun was much quieter than at the weekend, with only a sunspot and prominence the stand-our features.

The full disc shot showed some prominences and some minor surface details.


I reprocessed a constellation shot of the Plough taken on August 26th 2011. Ursa Minor is visible near the top.


 I reprocessed a full disc hydrogen alpha shot from August 28th 2011.



I reprocessed the first quadrant photo of August 28th 2011.


I reprocessed the second solar quadrant from August 28th 2011.


I reprocessed the third quadrant from August 28th 2011 and found a nice filament near the limb that didn’t come out in the original processing.


The final quadrant from the Sun on August 28th 2011 revealed a nice prominence.


 I combined 9 images from August 28th 2011 to form this picture of Perseus.




A further 6 shots were used to obtain this shot of Andromeda, also showing the Square of Pegasus, Aries and Triangulum.


Clear sky at last! I binned scanned the Sun during a break in class and saw just a single sunspot.

At 1125 GMT I checked the Sun in hydrogen alpha light with my PST. The surface was rather bland, apart from a prominence, a filament and the sunspot I had seen in “white light”. Viewing and photography was difficult because of moving cloud.

At 1740 GMT I did some full disc shots of the Moon using my Skymax 127 and compact digital camera. The idea was to take several frames and combine them, as I usually do but only one frame was usable. On the other hand, the result didn’t look too bad.

At 1810 GMT, I snapped the Moon with Jupiter but Aldebaran also came out in the photo.


I bin scanned the Sun before work and saw that the single sunspot had apparently shrunk from the day before.

I checked the Sun in hydrogen alpha light with the PST at 1235GMT. There was some haze about (that dissuaded me from trying the Moon as well) but I could see a nice prominence, the sunspot and a filaprom (filament joining up to a prominence) clearly.

At 2315 a patch of sky cleared around Jupiter. I’d been itching to try out a new method of webcamming at F/2.5 (yes, I mean F/2.5) by using the Startravel 80 and Antares focal reducer. I started off doing Jupiter’s moons then moved on to the Pleaides until the battery ran out at 2340 GMT. On stacking the images, I found that Registax 5 worked better on the longer exposures than Registax 6. The Pleaides shot was composed of about 11 imaging runs.


An alternative processing method for the Pleaides from 15th, showed more stars but no colour.


The final shot from August 28th 2011 shows Pegasus. I tried to combine it with the Andromeda shot but it failed.

I bin scanned the Sun with small binoculars (7x30) (from Brest, France) especially taken for travelling at 1630 GMT but didn’t see any sunspots.

I popped out at 2015 GMT before dinner to do a quick photo shoot. I caught the Moon with Jupiter and Aldebaran.

I also snapped Auriga, directly overhead.


I did a photo shoot of the Moon and Jupiter at 2045 GMT, after a lot of fiddling.

I stacked four frames of Orion to produce this image.


I snapped the Moon with Jupiter at 1800 GMT (1900 local time) in twilight.

At 2001 GMT, I attempted to snap the Plough but only caught the handle! Still, it made a nice sight with the foreground trees.


Conditions were much more hazy than the day before, so I just snapped the Moon with Jupiter. The faint traces of Aldebaran and Betelguese can also be seen.


My first session after my dad’s accident was a quick shoot of Orion and Jupiter in Taurus.