Thursday, May 1, 2014

May 2014

May 29th 1245 GMT

It finally (!!)  cleared enough for me to see the Sun. A binocular scan revealed only one sunspot, though.


May 26th 0010 GMT

I went out to do some constellation shots, as it was quite clear apart from a patch to the south. I took out the DSLR and did a series of 30 second exposures of Hercules, Cygnus, Cassiopeia and Ursa Minor. I also saw 6 satellites.

I also took my binoculars out. I’m always amazed at just how many stars I can see in Cygnus through them. Maybe it is extinction near the horizon around Scorpius and Sagittarius that make their stars less accessible to northern hemisphere observers but Cygnus has always seemed more dense to me. I also checked out Albireo, Epsilon and Delta Lyrae. I also saw the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) near the horizon but as clear as anything. I also found M81 and M82 but, for some reason, it took me longer than usual. I also spotted M13 and the Wild Duck (M11). To round off, I also bagged M8, M20 and M22, despite it being more hazy than the rest of the sky. I’ve always felt that M22 is a rather underrated globular cluster.

May 25th 2140 GMT

It was twilight when I went out to look at Mars. I couldn’t see anything at low magnification but at 200x I could make out some detail. As I promised myself, I used the Baader Continuum solar filter to see how the contrast worked. Visually, I could see the polar ice cap and some darker regions around it but nothing in the rest of the disk. I took photos with and without the filter but it was more in hope than expectancy. I also tried some video runs with the compact digital camera.

I then had a go at Algeiba (Beta Leonis). It split clearly and I tried some photos and video runs.

I was just debating whether to try Mizar when I saw a bright sporadic (magnitude -2) meteor flash through Ursa Major at 2211 GMT.

Of the still pictures, only one shot of Mars, without the filter, revealed any detail.

 I had also tried taking some video with the compact digital camera. Unfortunately, Mars suggested even less detail, whilst one of the videos I processed using PIPP and Registax 5 revealed Albeiba as a "clean" double star.

May 25th 1710 GMT

It cleared during the afternoon, so I was able to do a solar hydrogen alpha shoot. There was one small prominence, so I did a series of close-ups of that and some full disc shots. The main activity was some plages surrounding the sunspots.

May 25th 1050 GMT

I managed some white light solar shots in between the clouds. There weren’t any large sunspots but quite a lot of small ones strung out in a line.

May 24th 0005 GMT

After a few attempts to find some clear sky, there was finally a clear patch of sky but I was only out for half an hour, due to tiredness. I had an early start on the morning of 23rd.


Many frames of the Plough, 2 of Bootes and four aimed towards Coma Berenices. All taken at ISO 800 and 30 seconds exposure.

One sporadic meteor travelling south through Ursa Major, magnitude 1 at 0024 GMT

One possible Camelopardalid shower meteor near the bear’s claws, magnitude 4 at 0031 GMT

One satellite travelling low down in the north seen while setting up.

May 21st 1730 GMT

The Sun in hydrogen alpha light was more quiet than of late. I did some full disc shots and a close up of a single prominence.

May 21st 0850 GMT

I carried out a solar white light and lunar photo shoot using my Maksutov. The  first solar shots were without the Baader Continuum filter and were close-ups, as I did not manage to take any full disc shots.

Two shots were composed of close-ups with the filter.

The first Moon shot (full disc) was ruined by a very stubborn hair on the camera but the close-ups were better, despite the difficulties in photographing the Moon in daylight.

May 19th 0900 GMT

I tried another solar bin scan and, despite seeing many sunspots the day before, I could only see one sunspot.

May 19th 0710 GMT

I bin scanned the Sun through cloud but didn’t see any sunspots.

May 18th 1210 GMT

I checked the Sun with the PST again. The surface details did not appear to change much but the prominence pattern did.

May 18th 0910 GMT

I check the Sun in hydrogen alpha light using my PST. There were some prominences and a large filament but the activity around the sunspots appeared to have reduced, probably due to rotational effects.

May 18th 0900 GMT

I bin scanned the Sun and saw that the sunspot pattern had changed from the day before and also more sunspots were visible than when I last saw the Sun through binoculars.

May 17th 1100 GMT

I tried a series of solar shoots with my 127mm Maksutov and cameras. The first problem I encountered was that my lens cleaning techniques needed refinement, as I was getting nice images of the dust on the camera lens. I also tried using the Baader solar continuum filter that I had on load from SCS Astro. The first light showed a green Sun without much visible improvement, although the sunspots seemed sharper and I managed to get some close-ups. When I processed the photos, there was no doubt that the filter made a big difference.

I also tried some manual focus shots with my DSLR but for some reason my PC did not recognise the file format! After a bit of fiddling, I managed a full disc shot, although it was less than perfect. It did show the sunspots, though.

I did a full disc drawing in case no full disc shots came out, using the filter.

May 17th 1015 GMT

I checked the Sun with my PST. Although it was not the most active Sun I’d ever seen, there were faculae around the sunspots, two sets of prominences and a nice filament. The Sun is never dull if you can see it between the clouds.

May 17th 2300 GMT

I was feeling less than well, so did not feel like carrying a telescope outside. I took some stills of the Moon with my  camera and tripod and zoomed into the lunar disc.

May 16th 1100 GMT

I bin scanned the Sun in a  clear sky. Despite checking the focus carefully, there was only one sunspot visible. The Big Bear images suggested a much more active sun.

May 15th 0925 GMT

I had another quick look at the Sun through my PST. The prominences were still there but looked quieter. I took a series of full disc shots.

May 15th 0735 GMT

I checked the Sun with my PST. There was one active region of prominences and almost directly opposite it on the disc was an active disc region surrounding some sunspots. I did a full disc shot plus some close-ups of the active region. The full disc shot was composed by stacking the best 6 of 8 frames. The close-up of the prominences was a single shot. A further set of close-ups did not reveal any details.


May 13th 1915 GMT

I took some shots of the dusk Moon with just zoom on the camera and hand-held. I stacked the best 3 of 8 frames.

May 10th 1040 GMT

I had a little bit of clear sky between the clouds and checked the Sun with my PST. It seemed a little less active than the day before but sunspots, plages and prominences were all on view. I took some full disc and close-up shots.

The first image (full disc) was composed of 6 of 6 stacked images.

The second shot shows the most active prominence region and was processed from the best frame of 4.

The third shot was made from 3 stacked frames.

The 4th shot was stacked from 2 of 3 frames.

The 5th and final shot was a stack of 3 frames but the only detail was around the sunspots, so I cropped the final image.

May 10th 1000 GMT

Conditions were somewhat better than the day before but far from perfect. The sunspot I had seen the day before was accompanied by a tight group of smaller ones.

May 9th 1400 GMT

I had another look at the Sun in hydrogen alpha light with my PST. It hadn’t changed much but I took another set of pictures anyway. The full disc image was a stack of the best 3 images from 5.

I only managed a single close-up and even that didn't quite work properly, as the shadow bands are an artifact of the eyepiece.

May 9th 1100 GMT

Cloud had been coming and going throughout the morning but it cleared enough to check in hydrogen alpha light. Several sunspots, plages and prominences were on show, mostly to the right (eastern) limb. There were also some prominences on the left side. I took some full disc and close-up shots.

The first shot was a stack of 4 frames.

The second shot was the best single frame of 4.

 A further set of close-ups revealed no more than the full disc shots of the same area.

May 9th 0845 GMT

I had a look at the Sun with my binoculars and filters. Although I’d seen the Big Bear images, I was surprised to see just a single large sunspot. Conditions were far from perfect but I would have expected some of the smaller/fainter sunspots to have shown up.

May 7th 0945 GMT

After overnight rain, it finally cleared enough to check the Sun. New activity had just rotated on.


May 6th 0745 GMT

After a night of heavy rain, it was still cloudy but I was able to see a single sunspot through the moving cloud.

May 5th 1245 GMT

The cloud had cleared but the Sun was not any more active. I attempted some full disc shots plus some close-ups of the active region.


May 5th 1020 GMT

I checked the Sun again with my PST. It was still quiet but I could see some plages around the largest sunspot and also near the limb. However, moving cloud dissuaded me from trying to do a photo. 

May 5th 0815 GMT

I tried some solar hydrogen alpha shots, despite the conditions. Visually, there was very little on show, save for a sunspot and some brighter areas.

May 5th 0745 GMT

It was still slightly hazy but better than the weather forecast suggested. The westward sunspot group was about to rotate off.

May 4th 2120 GMT

After a hazy day, it cleared a bit while I shot some still frames and videos of Jupiter and the Moon.  The lunar close-ups failed but I managed to stack and stitch 12 of 18 half disc frames to get this full disc result.

Although it was still hazy, I could see Jupiter quite well in the telescope, even at low magnification, with polar shading visible, as well as the main cloud belts. Unfortunately, I was only able to get detail from one frame.

Mars looked rather promising visually, with one polar ice cap showing rather well, as in addition to some shading. However, the photos weren't particularly good but captured some of the detail.

May 4th 1035 GMT

It cleared after a cloudy start and I noticed that the sunspots had rotated and one had disappeared below binocular resolution.

May 3rd 2140 GMT

The Moon was low in the west and it was quite hazy, so I just concentrated on the full disc, shooting stills and video with my Lumix. I also tried some Jupiter shots, full disc and some 1 second exposures to try to capture the moons. The second Moon shot is using video and I thought it looked a bit better.

I had a few goes at Mars. I could see an ice cap and some markings but my first impressions of the photos did not look good.

May 3rd 0925 GMT

I checked the Sun again. Activity had seemed to have quietened down, with the prominences not so prominent, if one excuses the pun! I took some full disc shots and prominence close-ups.

May 3rd 0835 GMT

I checked the Sun with my PST and it was an incredible sight, just as the “white light” view with my binoculars was. There were several prominences, filaments and plages surrounding the sunspots.

I took some full disc frames plus a few close-ups to try and capture the prominences in more detail. The full disc shots did not show the prominences but the close-ups did.

May 3rd 0820 GMT

I woke up to a clear sky and it was a novelty to see the Sun clearly. Not only that, there were 7 sunspots visible in 2 distinct groups.

May 2nd 2200 GMT

After a cloudy day and dusk, I saw Mars but could see little detail and could not get any on any photographs. Although Saturn was low, the rings showed well and I could see Titan.

Photographically, I was able to capture the rings but the best results came from processing movie files from my Lumix, preprocessing with PIPP, stacking in Registax 5 and finishing off in GIMP. I kept the best two.


May 1st 1440 GMT

Although conditions were poor, it finally cleared enough in the afternoon to allow me to see two sunspots.