Thursday, December 31, 2015

January 2016

January 30th 1130 GMT

 At last, a decent bit of clear sky. However, the solar disc was rather bland, showing a single sunspot in “white light” and hydrogen alpha. I took full disc shots of the Sun  in both, only.


January 28th 1010 GMT

I bin scanned the Sun and saw two main areas of sunspot activity.

January 28th 0850 GMT

I checked the Sun with my PST. The disc looked bland, except for some sunspots. I took some full disc and close-up shots.


January 27th 2210 GMT

It was rather later than I intended when I ventured out. I was hoping to catch Comet Catalina visually, if not photographically. Unfortunately, the combination of the Moon and haze meant that it wasn’t visible. As Jupiter was near the Moon, I took some series of shots. The first was to catch detail on the Moon. I started with 300mm focal length, ISO 400 and an exposure time of 1/4000 second. The Moon was underexposed, so I went for 1/1000 second exposure and it was much better. I increased the exposure time to 1/100 second and this recorded Jupiter in the same frame, still at 300mm focal length. Finally, when I reached 4 seconds exposure, the Moon was way over-exposed but 3 of Jupiter’s Galilean moons showed very clearly.

I combined another set of images to get this shot of the Moon with Jupiter.

I processed another set of frames to get Jupiter with moons.

I combined the images to obtain a composite.

I also took some shots of Alcor with Mizar. Mizar didn’t split but the 7th magnitude star in the field of view showed clearly and I saw a couple of fainter stars forming a close double. I tried to stack the images but the stacked image contained less stars than the original.

January 22nd 2215 GMT

Strange how weather can change in just a few minutes. I checked the sky and a few stars were visible in the moonlight. When I returned with my Mak and DSLR, I was welcomed by thick moving cloud. I took a few frames of the full lunar disc but processed the best only.

January 20th 1330 GMT

The Sun appeared bland in my PST but my camera picked up some small prominences and a hint of surface granulation.

January 19th 1210 GMT

The sky was clear. I didn’t check the Sun in white light as the Learmonth images showed an empty disc. I did a shoot with the PST and the disc was mostly bland and featureless.

January 15th 2130 GMT

 Not all went according to plan! It started off well enough with some Moon shots at 300mm ISO 400 and 1/500 second exposure. It was when I started trying to snap the Pleaides. There was lots of “play” in the tripod. By the time I had fixed it, cloud had moved in. OK, I tried the Orion Great Nebula, M41 and the Tau Canis Majoris cluster, not that I expected much!

The Moon turned out quite well. For some reason, the images did not stack properly, so this is processed in GIMP from a single frame.


Unfortunately, a combination of cloud and lack of accurate focus meant I was not able to get anything useful from the remaining frames.

January 15th 1110 GMT

While boiling the kettle, I did a solar hydrogen alpha shoot. Visually, I saw some faculae near the sunspot but the general appearance was rather bland. I hoped the photos would show a bit more. Sure enough, the first clear full disc shot showed a couple of prominences.


The second shot shows more surface detail but the prominences were not so clear.

The close-ups did not show any great surprises.


January 15th 0900 GMT

I did a quick solar bin scan before getting down to the main nitty gritty of work. As the day before, I could just see one of the two sunspots present.


January 14th 2040 GMT

I took a shot of northern Auriga to try and capture some Messier objects. I failed but caught a faint star cluster NGC 1857. I took 21 frames at 70mm ISO 6400 and 8 seconds exposure. I also took 9 dark frames. 19 stacked in DSS and I finished in GIMP.

January 14th 1250 GMT

I bin scanned the Sun but could only see a single spot.


January 13th 0850 GMT

I took some white light shots pf the Sun with my DSLR and needed ISO 200 to record an image at 1/4000 second exposure and 300mm focal length. I did not record any sunspots but saw some granulation on the photos.

Unfortunately, further examination suggested that the photos were out of focus and the "granulation" was a result of that! There were no further solar viewing opportunities that day.

January 12th 1330 GMT

I caught a patch of clear sky between clouds but the Sun was already getting quite low in the sky. I saw just one of the sunspots I had seen the day before. Neither the Big Bear nor Learmonth images were clear, so I had nothing to compare.



January 11th 1040 GMT

Finally, I managed to bin scan the Sun and see some sunspots. It was not perfectly clear but I saw 2 out of the 3 sunspots on the Big Bear images.

January 10th 0120  GMT

It finally cleared and I realised that the comet must have risen. It took me a while to find it because of moving cloud. I set the Nikon at 135mm focal length, ISO 6400 and 8 seconds exposure. I started off with Jupiter but suspect that I had over-exposed it. Next up was M41 and I caught it on film for the first time. Then there was the Beehive (M44) and M34 in Perseus. It took several attempts to find the comet, having spotted it quite easily in my binoculars. In fact, I found M3 first and thought it might be worth attempting later in the year.
When I did the processing, naturally, I started with Comet Catalina. I was unable to get it to stack in any program I have and was somewhat disappointed not to capture a tail. Still, at least there was a hint on an extended coma.


As I suspected, Jupiter was well over-exposed. I normally use a longer focal length for this type of shot but I was mainly using the shot to achieve focus. There is a bit of star trailing but there appears to be two moons close together right next to the planet.

I only caught two frames of M41 but it was enough to get my best ever shot.

The Beehive (M44) is one of my all-time favourites and it was finally good to get a new photo with my recent equipment.

Finally, I managed to stack 7 frames of 11 for M34.

January 9th

I reprocessed a photo of Jupiter with its moons from November 18th 2012.

January 8th 1015 GMT

I did a solar bin scan. The Learmonth images showed 2 new sunspots and the older one had rotated and dimmed. The Big Bear images were not available. I was unable to see any sunspots in my binoculars, probably due to low elevation.

January 7th 2020 GMT

At last, some clear night sky. I went out with my DSLR and telephoto lens. I started off with 70mm focal length, ISO 6400 and 8 seconds exposures. I took 24 frames of the Hyades plus 12 darks.
I then zoomed in to 300mm focal length and 4 seconds exposure. I snapped the Pleiades (M45), Orion Great Nebula (M42) and M35 in Gemini. I also took some darks.

The M42 shot did not stack well in Deep Sky Stacker, so I used Microsoft ICE instead.

I had a similar issue with M35 but the great thing was that it was my first ever image of M35.
I felt that use if the remote shutter control made a great difference and using lots of dark frames made the stack of the Hyades better.

I also had a bin scan while waiting for exposures. The Orion Great Nebula (M42) looked rather good. The Hyades and Pleiades were truly outstanding. I could make out M41 and M79, despite their low elevation. I even saw the Crab Nebula (M1). These are quite good “pots” from the UK. I ended with the Beehive (M44), a future photographic target and M36, M37 and M38 in Auriga.

I would have had a coffee and gone out again, except I was rather cold and had work the next day.

January 7th 1200 GMT

I viewed the Sun with my PST. The solar disc appeared somewhat bland. I took a few shots more in hope than expectancy.

January 7th 1120 GMT

I bin scanned the Sun through a patch of clear sky but was unable to see the sunspot on the Learmonth images, which seemed to be fading anyway.

January 5th 

I was hoping for some clear sky in the evening but it just didn't happen. I reprocessed shots of Jupiter and its moons from November 14th 2012 which I reprocessed into a single image.

January 5th 1220 GMT

It finally cleared enough for me to attempt a bin scan of the Sun. A closer look showed some thin cloud crossing the solar disc and I was unable to see the small sunspot that I'd seen in the Big Bear images. This somewhat surprised me, as I would have expected to see it under the conditions.

January 5th 0630 GMT

I woke up early and not by intent! Once it was obvious I wasn't going back to sleep in a hurry, I peered through the curtains to see Caster and Pollux low in the west. As if I needed another hint. It was 6.30 by the time I got outside. The Moon and Venus were low but enshrouded by cloud. I could see some lunar features and the phase of Venus seemed quite near 100%.

The main target was Comet Catalina (2013 US10). It had moved somewhat northwards and was larger and much easier to see than four days ago. The only disappointment was that I couldn't see a tail. I would have said its angular size was about 20 arcminutes and it looked more like a nebula or globular star cluster. Good thing I know the Messier Catalogue.

I also saw Melotte 111, one of my photographic targets for the spring. I tried to find the Beehive (M44) but cloud was already encroaching from both the north and south. OK, no photo opportunities but at least I got to see the comet.

January 3rd 2115 GMT

There seemed to be some clear sky to the south but a closer look revealed a lot of haze, as the stars appeared fainter than normal. I decided to try a binocular scan. My first target was the Orion Great Nebula (M42). I could make out a rough shape but it was not at its best. The Hyades was not too bad, with most cluster stars visible. The Pleiades (M45) only showed about 20 stars. I could not make out M41 in Canis Minor, nor M35 in Gemini nor any of the Auriga clusters. I could make out most of Melotte 20 and the Double Cluster but only a hint of M34.

It was clearly not a night to try any photography.

January 3rd

With heavy rain and no chance of viewing, I reprocessed a Jupiter shot from November 13th 2012 showing disc detail and moons.

January 1st 0200 GMT

At first sight, conditions were clear but a closer look showed some haze and thin cloud. The Moon and Jupiter were close, with the Moon being a waning gibbous phase. A bin scan revealed many southern craters, as I focussed my binoculars. My true target was Comet Catalina (2013 US10). I found a fuzzy patch about a degree from Arcturus but spectacular it wasn't! I checked the Hyades and Pleiades (M45). Neither were at their best. Honestly, I was too tired to drag a camera out and only the Moon and its conjunction with Jupiter was worth snapping. My back was also somewhat dodgy, too!