Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April 2014

April 30th 1200 GMT

I checked the Sun with my PST and took some full disc shots. I also tried to take a movie file and stack it. Although PIPP reprocessed it correctly, I was unable to stack it using Registax.

The camera shot showed some detail.


April 30th 1025 GMT

Conditions were much better than the day before but I could still only see two sunspots.


April 29th 1100 GMT

Conditions were rather poor but I managed to see the 2 sunspots from the day before that had rotated.


April 28th 1330 GMT

 After a cloudy morning I bin scanned the Sun and saw new activity had rotated on.


April 27th 1125GMT

I bin scanned the Sun through thin cloud and didn't see any sunspots. The Big Bear images looked quite blank, so it looked like solar activity was low.

April 26th 1555 GMT

I checked the Sun in hydrogen alpha again and it was still active. I got some full disc shots in before cloud moved in.


April 26th 1225 GMT

The prominences and filaments showed well visually but cloud moved in again before I could take any photos.

April 26th 11:15 GMT

I cleaned my lenses and had another go at the Sun in hydrogen alpha light. Visually, the features we not as obvious as the previous session and the only one I could get a close-up of was the prominence.

April 26th 1010 GMT

There was a rare clear spell and I checked the Sun with my PST. Some prominences were evident and two nice filaments. Although I had not had much success with close-ups with my set-up, I decided to try a few of the main features just in case.

Although the full disc shot looks rather artificial, it was the best way to show the disc detail and the prominences. I managed to get some feature close-ups, although the area surrounding them didn't come out too well.


April 26th 0845 GMT

A solar bin scan showed a single small sunspot.


April 25th 2200 GMT

After a cloudy day, it cleared somewhat at dusk but I decided to wait until true astronomical darkness. Wrong decision! By the time I went out, Jupiter was completely clouded out and Mars was barely visible. I could see some albedo features on Mars and could just about record some of it in the photos.              

April 24th 1035 GMT

There was a lot of cloud around and I was only able to see one sunspot.

April 23rd 1900 GMT

There was a small gap in the clouds as the Sun was about to set. I could see two sunspots and the one I had seen 2 days before had rotated very quickly.


April 23rd 0740 GMT

I checked the Sun with my binoculars in very poor conditions but didn’t see any sunspots.

April 21st 1040 GMT

Conditions were quite poor but I managed to see a sunspot when I checked with my binoculars. It is probable that other sunspots were there but too faint to see under the conditions. I also expect that those I'd seen 2 days previously had rotated near to the limb.


April 21st 0945 GMT

I checked the Sun with my PST. Although I could see some detail, some cloud ruined the images. However, I managed to get some detail from them, especially the prominences.


April 21st 2315 GMT

Ah, the dreaded return to BST and the question of whether it is really today or tomorrow, as I always give times in GMT. This is quite important when I travel to different time zones. The previous day had been solid cloud. It wasn't that much better but I'd seen various hints about the Lyrid meteor shower. My plan was quite simple, to try and capture one. In that aim, I neither captured one nor saw one but thought it might be possible that I'd missed some that were too faint to see/photograph through the cloud. In a mere ten minutes, it clouded over again. On checking the photos, I was able to get a half decent shot of Lyra.


April 19th 2115 GMT

The idea was to webcam Jupiter and Mars. I didn't understand why but I could not get any detail on Jupiter whatsoever. I was unable to find it with a 2x Barlow lens (my usual way of spreading the light and getting some detail). I also tried a variable polarising filter but this didn't work. 

I gave up and went back to afocal and my attempts to snap the moons was woeful. I was thinking the whole evening would be wasted when I managed to get enough detail to show the main cloud belts.

If Jupiter was a disappointment, Mars was a revelation! Not only was it my best ever Mars shot but I guessed it could have been one of the best afocal shots ever. The camera caught everything I saw, with a clear polar ice cap and surface markings.

April 19th 1045 GMT

The morning was mostly cloudy but I managed to see some sunspots through some thinning of the cloud. As the day before I didn't think the positions were accurate but the drawing gave a good general impression on the patterns.


April 18th 2115 GMT

It was a tough choice whether to webcam the planets or do some deep sky photography. As the night was very clear and I didn't have any work the next day and I figured I didn't need near-perfect conditions to photograph the planets. Since my last attempt at the Beehive (M44) ended in dismal failure, I had cleaned my finderscope. Despite that, I still couldn't find it, so I tried Jupiter first. Now the Beehive looked great in my telescope but then I had to get focus. Well about what seemed like hours but was really only 10 minutes, I finally achieved an image. I just snapped away for a few more frames at ISO 3200 and 4 seconds exposure with my Startravel 80.

I lost my flats, darks and bias frames with the computer upgrade, so used Microsoft ICE instead of Deep Sky Stacker. The shot was composed of 17 frames.

I repeated a similar procedure with Melotte 111.

As the night was still youngish but I didn't feel energetic enough for some webcamming, I decided I was overdue for a binocular scan. I took frame after frame of Leo and then Bootes.

While waiting for the snaps, I had a leisurely browse round with my binoculars. Jupiter showed 4 moons and I wasn't sure if I'd seen the cloud belts or not. The Beehive looked absolutely great and I couldn't remember a better binocular view. I couldn't find M67, though. Melotte 111 looked rather good but I noticed that there weren't many background stars. I noticed the globular cluster M13 in Hercules and even found M92 and remembered how I once saw it was much brighter than I expected
 and I thought it could be a comet.

I saw Epsilon and Delta Lyrae and 16/17 and Nu Draconi. I saw two patches where M65 and M66 were supposed to be but there was no way they resembled the galaxies that they really were. I a.lso had an explore of Cassiopeia.


April 18th 1645 GMT

I checked the Sun with the PST. I didn't notice any prominences, although some came out in the photo. Most activity was around the sunspots. I was still not sure what the best way to capture and process the Sun was but I was sure getting some better results with the Lumix than before.                             

April 18th 0950 GMT

There was quite a bit of moving cloud, so I'm not sure if I recorded the sunspot positions accurately but I managed to get the general pattern. Most of the activity was moving towards the western limb but a new sunspot had rotated on.

April 17th 1125 GMT

I did some full disc shots of the Sun in hydrogen alpha light in the hope that I would see some changes from the previous viewing.

April 17th 1115 GMT

I looked at the Sun through the Mak. Some thin cloud had developed since my hydrogen alpha session earlier but I was able to see plenty of sunspots. I tried using my Lumix digicam afocally but could not get focus on the whole disc.

April 17th 1010 GMT

I checked the Sun with the PST. Although it was less active than the day before, there were still quite a few features around.

April 16th 2050 GMT

I went out to catch the International Space Station (ISS). It was mostly clear but there was some cloud around and it was not completely dark.

I caught 3 segments of the track and also snapped a single frame of Auriga.

April 16th 1645 GMT

I checked the Sun in hydrogen alpha light and it was ablaze with activity.

April 16th 0915 GMT

A solar bin scan showed continued high levels of activity and a big change in sunspot patterns.

April 15th 1005 GMT

A check of the Sun through the PST showed continued high levels of activity.

April 15th 0950 GMT

On less than 24 hours, the Sun had magically burst into life in hydrogen alpha light.

April 14th Evening

I tried to shoot the Moon with Mars but had a technical difficulty with my camera. Once it was resolved, I managed to get a shot.

Apr 14th 1630 GMT

I checked the Sun with my PST and saw a lot of activity around the sunspots but no prominences. I stacked 3 of 6 frames.

April 14th 1320 GMT

There was some moving cloud but I was able to see quite a few sunspots.

April 13th  2040 GMT

It was one of those evenings where we came back from visiting family and I had an early start the next day. The Moon was beckoning and was taunting me to snap it. Not really wanting to carry a telescope outside, I made an audacious attempt to photograph the Moon with just a compact digital camera at 20x magnification. Most frames failed miserably but three showed features, with one being noticeably better than the other two. I processed it and could actually see craters. I've seen worse taken through a telescope, including some of my own!

I also snapped Mars close to the Moon in a wider shot.


April 12th

The evening was clouded out and I received an excellent tip from East Midlands Stargazers. I used PIPP to preprocess some lunar and jovian AVIs before using Registax 5.

April 12th 1110 GMT

It was back to thin moving cloud but I was able to see three sunspots through the murk.

April 11th 2015 GMT

I took a few afocal frames of the Moon before trying out my Xbox Livecam.

I did some lunar close-ups and then tried Jupiter. As I don’t have a driven mount, I was unable to get the planet into the field of view with a Barlow lens but DID see some cloud belts on the laptop. I tried a few frames and also had a look through the telescope and could see some shading as well as the belts. 

Unfortunately, I was only able to obtain one image each. Registax 5 simply did not work with the AVIs produced with the Xbox webcam and Registax 6 did not like "jumpy" images. Quite honestly, It was little to show for the time spent but I'll be back at the drawing board and have another go.

I had a look at Mars but couldn’t make much detail out. It was low and the conditions were hazy. By this time, almost two hours after I’d ventured out, I was getting very tired and it was getting foggier.

April 11th 1630 GMT

I hoped to catch the Sun with the PST again early afternoon but it was too cloudy. It did clear late afternoon and I took another set of full disc solar images.

April 11th 0945 GMT

I took another set of full disc shots of the Sun through the PST. I saw some prominences that I hadn’t spotted before.

April 11th 0715 GMT

At first, the view through the PST looked bland but there was quite a lot of activity surrounding the sunspot group.

April 11th 0710 GMT

I woke up to a clear sky, after a cloudy evening, and bin scanned the Sun. One of the newer sunspots had grown and I thought not just through rotational affects. Another had disappeared or faded below binocular resolution, whilst another had rotated off.

April 10th 0900 GMT

A quick bin scan of the Sun under reasonable (slightly hazy) conditions showed some small sunspots that had just rotated on, whilst one of the recent ones I’d been observing was just about to rotate off.

April 9th 2030 GMT

I had a look at the Moon with the Mak. It was 2 days past first quarter and Copernicus was prominent. I took a few full disc shots. I stacked the best 9 of 13 frames.

I also attempted some afocal shots of Jupiter, first at low (64x) magnification to capture the moons and then at 209x magnification plus optical zoom to catch some disc detail. Visually, Jupiter looked superb with a hint of the cloud bands that I’ve seen in recent expert amateur images and shading near the poles. The widefield shots were unusable but I managed a nice result with one of the disc shots.

Apr 9th 1520 GMT

I had a quick look at the Sun with the PST. It was quite quiet, with only a small prominence visible and some faculae around the sunspots. I also spotted a filament. I took a series of full disc shots.

April 9th 0710 GMT

The Sun was low down and partially obscured but a bin scan revealed that the two sunspots I had seen the day before had rotated.

April 8th 2040 GMT

I shot a few full disc lunar frames and attempted close-ups of Clavius. The full disc shot was composed of 15 frames out of 30 and the Clavius shot7 out of 12frames. I also captured another part of the Moon by mistake and decided to go ahead and process it anyway!

April 8th 1105 GMT

I checked the Sun with the PST. It was rather quiet with a single prominence and one active region visible. I tried some full disc shots and close-ups. I found some detail I hadn't spotted in the full disc image but the close-ups did not work.

April 8th 0825 GMT

I had a clear spell in between clouds and bin scanned the Sun to reveal two sunspots.

April 7th 2010 GMT

At last a clear spell. I used the Lumix afocally to do some Moon shots and had a quick got with Jupiter to see what I could capture. I took several frames of the full disc and some close-ups. The close-up shots were both composed of several stacked close-ups stacked and stitched.

The Jupiter shot wasn't too good but at least showed a couple of moons.

April 4th 2115 GMT

Well it was clear at disk but when I looked out, the planned Moon shot was off, due to cloud. I decided to try for Melotte 111 but was unable to find it before cloud moved in. I took out the Startravel 80 and DSLR instead. I tried for the area around Arcturus but could not find focus. I tried Algeiba (Beta Leonis) and then Alcor/Mizar before cloud moved in completely.

The area around Arcturus showed lots of stars. I’m still amazed at how many background stars my “rig” captures when nowhere near any known deep sky object. I used my “normal” setting of ISO3200 and 4 seconds exposure.

Although I took several frames of Algeiba, I used the best one to create the image.

I caught Mizar, Alcor and some background stars but didn’t split Mizar.


April 4th 1645 GMT

Finally, there was another break in the clouds and I got my PST out. I could see two small prominences and an active region that covered most of the lower part of the disc. I took some afocal shots with the Lumix: full disc, quadrants and some attempted close-ups of the active area.

The first shot was composed of 6 stacked images: the first time I have got it to work with hydrogen alpha images.

The second shot was composed of 2 stacked images.

The third was composed from 3 stacked images and showed a lot of prominences.

The 4th image was a single frame, as the three I took did not stack. That was probably because it was the quietest part of the disc.

It was a similar story with the 5th image.

The 6th and final image shows some plages around a sunspot.

April 4th 0740 GMT

The Sun was low but I managed to see some sunspots, although it is likely that I may have missed some fainter ones under the conditions.


April 3rd 0800 GMT

 It was very cloudy but I saw a solar disc. I checked it with the binoculars but was unable to see any sunspots, probably due to the conditions.

April 1st 1130 GMT

It cleared enough for me to have a go at hydrogen alpha photography. I was glad I had the Lumix, as it had been difficult to take photos with my DSLR. The Sun was rather quiet and there was still some cloud about but I was impatient to have a go. Fortunately, the full disc shot came out well, I just selected the best and I was able to detect a prominence and several filaments that I hadn't seen.


April 1st 1015 GMT

After a cloudy start, it cleared somewhat by mid-morning. I was able to see three separate sunspots through thin cloud but suspect that some fainter ones may have been visible.