Thursday, August 3, 2017

August 2017

Aug 31st 2115 GMT

Lunar photography conditions were better than the night before, at least for a while. I took some full disc shots of the Moon before cloud moved in. Scattered moonlight made deep sky and constellation photography impossible.

Aug 31st 0800 GMT

 I snapped the Sun in normal light with my Mak and DSLR and captured new sunspot activity.


In hydrogen alpha light, the solar disc was bland apart from the area surrounding the sunspots. I took a set of full disc shots and another set of close-ups of the active region.

Aug 30th 2115 GMT

I was going to attempt lunar close-ups with my Bresser Electronic Eyepiece but was having problems with my laptop and clouds.

I took some full-disc shots with my Mak and DSLR instead. I processed the best frame only.



Aug 28th 2100 GMT

I took a few frames of the Moon with my DSLR and Mak. Focal length was 1540 mm, brightness ISO 400 and 1/1000 second focal length.

Oh <expletive>!!! It was way under-exposed.

I processed a single frame and had a better result.

I then aimed the camera at the zenith, this time with the right parameters. Unfortunately, the focus was slightly out but I managed to obtain an image of northern Cygnus. I did not catch any meteor trails.

Aug 28th 0120 GMT

The sky was looking rather autumnal with Cygnus and Lyra in the west. The Pleaides (M45) and Hyades were well clear of the horizon but were dimmed by haze. I could see the Perseus Double Cluster, which was in a clear patch of sky. I also saw what looked like nebulousity nearby. I thought that I knew this area of sky but was feeling unsure. I also had a general look at the Milky Way.

Aug 28th 0020 GMT

I swapped the memory cards back again and aimed at the Pleiades (M45).

Aug 28th 2330 GMT

The memory card was full. I swapped with the compact digital camera and aimed my camera roughly in the direction of M34. Nothing useful, though.

August 27th 2110 GMT

I pointed the camera at the zenith to scan for sporadic meteors, using the same settings as for the Perseids. Or so I thought! I had used the camera for solar photography and totally forgot.

I had a good scan of the sky with my binoculars. I hadn't done this much during the year for various reasons, so it was a rare treat. I started with Melotte 20, as it is an easy target and a nice focussing test. It showed most of stars, including the brighter ones.

The Andromeda Galaxy (M31) showed well. I saw its full extent , despite the low elevation and some haze. It was hazy near the horizon but clear near the zenith and I could see the Milky Way.

I even saw a fuzzy blob where M33 was supposed to be. The Wild Duck Cluster showed well but I could see neither the Ring (M57) nor the Dumbbell (M27), both marginal targets for my 15x70 binoculars under good conditions. I could see M13 and M92, the globular clusters in Hercules.
I finished the session with the summer double stars.
I reset my camera (properly!?) to try for Melotte 20 with ISO 6400, 3 seconds exposure and 300mm focal length. I could not get Deep Sky Stacker to work but stacked 330 images using Microsoft ICE.

Aug 27th 1000 GMT

After a cloudy night when I kept hoping for some clear sky, I woke up to a clear sky. I checked the weather forecast and saw it was going to be cloudy until late afternoon. I checked the Sun in hydrogen alpha light and took some quadrant shots as well as the full disc ones.


Aug 26th GMT

I checked the Sun in hydrogen alpha light with my PST. The solar disc looked bland and I couldn't see the sunspots. I took just full disc shots.

Aug 25th 0750 GMT

With a forecast of cloud later, I did a solar photo shoot. There were a few small sunspots visible in "white" light.
In hydrogen alpha light, the Sun looked bland, apart from the sunspots, so I just took full disc shots.

Aug 23rd 2130 GMT

I had another go at the Perseid meteor shower. I aimed my camera more towards the Pole Star, as there was some cloud in the Andromeda area.
I caught one on camera at 2217 GMT

At 2222 GMT (yes, really!!) I caught another meteor on camera but it looked more like a sporadic one.

At 2240 GMT I saw a bright meteor with a short trail near Polaris but it definitely was not "on film" as the intervalometer had taken the maximum photos.

I stacked the images to obtain a composite of Cassiopeia with Ursa Minor.

I reset the timer and waited for 6 minutes for the memory card to fill up. As the sky was clear, I moved the camera so that Cassiopeia was in the centre. However, I did not get anything useful from the frames.

I then switched to a smaller capacity memory card from my compact digital camera. I did not catch any meteors but managed another stack of Cassiopeia.


Aug 20th 0955 GMT

There was a lot of cloud around, so I checked the Sun with my binoculars. It was alive with activity.

Aug 20th 2345 GMT

I set up my DSLR and started snapping with the intervalometer.
I went out 10 minutes later and saw a mag 0 Perseid flash towards the Pleiades (M45) at 0015 GMT.
I did not detect any meteors in the first 93 frames. I tried to stack them but ended up with just one frame with dark subtraction. The result was a shot of Cassiopeia and Perseus.

I returned out at 0040 GMT. The camera had taken 399 frames, so I set the intervalometer to start counting again. However just before 0100 GMT, the camera was full.

I only saw one meteor but it was a magnitude -4 Perseid. There was nothing on camera.

Aug 19th 2320 GMT

After a wet day and evening, there were some patches of clear sky to the east. I set the camera to my meteor settings and moved it around to avoid the clouds. At 2338 GMT I saw a faint Perseid with a short trail in the constellation of Perseus.
I did not catch any meteors on camera but I stacked a few frames of Cassiopeia, cropping out the clouds. The Perseus Double Cluster and Andromeda Galaxy (M31) were also in the photo.

I did a similar shot of Perseus.


By 2345 GMT, it had clouded over and there was a threat of rain.

Aug 18th 0700 GMT

With cloud and rain predicted for later in the day, I had a solar session. I took some white light shots with my Mak and DSLR.

The solar disc was bland in hydrogen alpha light, apart from the area surrounding the sunspots, so I took some full disc frames and close-ups of the sunspot region.

Aug 17th 1330 GMT

Conditions were poor, with moving cloud, but I'd seen the sunspots on the Big Bear images and figured that they were too small to see in my binoculars. I went ahead with a "white light" shoot with my Mak and DSLR anyway.

Aug 15th 2115 GMT

I finally got under way after shooting a few dark frames. I used the same set-up as before with my Nikon and aimed the camera between Cassiopeia and Cygnus.
Cloud was present on many of the images. I caught a sporadic meteor in Cepheus at 2210 GMT.

That was all I caught. I proceeded to stack the frames but use only the top 20%, due to cloud.

Aug 13th 0940 GMT

I had some clear weather, so had a look at the Sun in hydrogen alpha light in my PST. Although there were no obvious prominences, the solar disc seemed to show more detail. I took some full disc shots and close-ups.


Aug 13th 0025 GMT

I caught a Perseid meteor on camera but, on processing, found another one in the frame.

Aug 13th 2350 GMT

Having transferred the files to my PC, I set my camera "rolling again". I watched for half an hour before tiredness and coffee beckoned. I saw Perseid meteots at 2357, 2358, 0014, 0016 and 0018 GMT. 

Aug 13th 2340 GMT

I watched for 10 minutes as I transferred files from my (full) camera to my PC. I saw just one faint sporadic meteor.

Aug 12th 2110 GMT

I set the intervalometer to take 300 frames at ISO 6400 and 5 seconds exposure at 18mm focal length. When setting up the camera, I saw a Perseid meteor before coming indoors to watch a film. Great start!

At 2128 GMT I caught a faint sporadic meteor in Cassiopeia. The other trail in the photo is a satellite trail.

At 2132 GMT I caught another faint sporadic meteor in Cassiopeia. On processing, I found a faint meteor trail to the bottom right that appeared to be a Perseid.

At 2136 GMT, I caught a brighter Perseid on camera.

At 2138 GMT I caught another.

At 2150 GMT, I caught another Perseid.

At 2220 GMT I went out to reset the camera and move it slightly westward. I stayed out for about 5 minutes and saw a "reverse Perseid" flash from Lyra towards Perseus.

I caught a Perseid on camera at 2211 GMT.

I watched from 2244 to 2252 GMT. At 2250 GMT, I saw a bright magnitude -4 Perseid meteor flash northwards.

I tried to stack the frames of Cassiopeia but DSS kept crashing. The stack using MICE was OK but there was too much haze near the horizon.

A later stack did the job.

Aug 12th 1445 GMT

In contrast to the forecast, there was some clear sky and I caught a break in the cloud to observe the Sun in hydrogen alpha light with my PST. I could not see any sign of the sunspot and there was just minor shading, so I just took some shots of the full disc.

 At 2145 GMT, I caught a faint Perseid on camera.


Aug 10th 2100 GMT

I decided to dust down my old Konica Minolta DSLR to shoot 2 cameras at the Perseid meteors. My plan was to use both cameras at 18mm focal length, the Konica at ISO 1600 and 10 seconds exposure and the Nikon at ISO 6400 and 5 seconds exposure.

I started off by taking blanks and counted 6 meteors in just over an hour. I started off taking  dark frames. I used the intervalometer to take frames automatically on the Nikon and used the Konica manually. I switched camera positions after about 20 minutes.
Unfortunately, I was unable to retrieve the photos from the Konica, so would need to try other things.
I caught a Perseid on camera and the date/time stamp was 2122 GMT. Processing was difficult, as the sky was still light.
... and another one at 2127 GMT

The stacking was an adventure in itself. The first stack produced the horrible vertical lines. The second caused Deep Sky Stacker to crash! Finally I used the TIFF master dark and stacked the last 24 frames which were in full darkness. The result was Cassiopeia.

The next set of frames contained no meteors but a stack of 110 images produced a nice shot of Cassiopeia and Cepheus. Only took about 3 hours to stack!

I caught a faint sporadic meteor at 2205 GMT.

At 2206 GMT I caught a faint Perseid meteor.

At 2207 GMT I caught another faint sporadic meteor.

I stacked 110 frames to get a shot of the Plough and Ursa Minor.

Getting the photos off the "antique" Konica Minolta was an adventure in itself! I found an old Windows 7 laptop and managed to power it up and log in. I took the files from the camera and used a memory stick to transfer them to my PC. Apart from not getting great focus, the camera produced a lot of false colour and lines. Perhaps high ISO was just beyond it, unlike my Nikon.

I caught a few stars on the Cepheus/Cygnus borders.

After that, I was having with Deep Sky Stacker getting stuck. I tried re-booting the computer but it didn't fix the problem. OK, 5 frames of Cygnus and Lyra.

At 2123 GMT, I caught a very faint sporadic meteor on the top right.

I stacked some images using Microsoft ICE to catch Cygnus and Lyra.

The final result shows Cassiopeia and Ursa Minor.

With some much more convincing photos from the Nikon and just one meteor, it showed that the Konica Minolta was not suitable for this type of use and was best kept for low ISO 30 second exposures. At least I'd had a go, though, and part of experimentation is as much finding out what doesn't work, as well as what does.

Aug 10th 0700 GMT

I woke up to clear sky but I waited until the Sun had risen above the murk. There was cloud predicted for late morning and afternoon, so I took some photos in white and hydrogen alpha light.

The sunspot was obvious, even in the finderscope. I took 10 frames at ISO 400 and 1/4000 second exposure with my DSLR. The frames did not stack but the sunspot was clear when I processed a single frame.

The Sun seemed quiet in hydrogen alpha light. I tried tuning the etalon on my PST but could not seem to get much detail.

Aug 9th 2145 GMT

Dusk had been very cloudy but a small patch of clear(ish?) sky had opened up around the Pole Star. I took a few shots of the region with my DSLR at 18mm focal length, ISO 800 and 30 seconds exposure. The haze dissuaded me from using a brighter ISO setting.
I saw 2 bright meteors, both about magnitude -1 at 2145 and 2149. One flashed under Polaris, the other above Cassiopeia. Early indications suggested that I had not captured either of them on camera.

Just after 2200 GMT, the haze was closing in on the area and the limiting magnitude (around 2.5) became more restrictive.
OK, no meteors but a stack of 14 images produced a half-decent widefield shot.

Aug 8th 2150 GMT

I poked my head out of the door, despite the poor conditions. I hoped for a lucky peek at a Perseid meteor but the whole area was covered by thick cloud. The Moon and Saturn were marginal, at best.

I took a few frames of Saturn with my DSLR at 300mm focal length, ISO 6400 and 3 seconds exposure. Early indications were that I had caught a background star.

I used 1/4000 second exposure and ISO 800 to take a few frames of the lunar disc. Almost within seconds, the sky was completely covered by cloud.
Unfortunately, both sets of photographs were out of focus.

Aug 8th 1555 GMT

A rare shaft of sunlight broke through the cloud but the solar disc was still partly obscured by moving cloud. I found the sunspot and noticed that it had rotated again.

August 6th 1035 GMT

I had tried to get the Mak and DSLR out but cloud kept moving in. I caught a minute or so of clear sky to bin scan the Sun and noticedthat the sunspot ad rotated again.

Aug 6th 1218 & 1220 GMT

I went out to retrieve my camera and go to bed. I decided to watch for meteors just in case. I saw a faint sporadic meteor in Cassiopeia about magnitude 3 at 1218 GMT and a Perseid meteor at 1220 GMT of magnitude 2 in Andromeda travelling 5 degrees anti-clockwise to horizontal.

Aug 6th 2355 GMT

I re-ran the sequence of shots on my digital camera, this time at ISO 400, due to bright moonlight. I aimed towards Andromeda. Unfortunately, all frames were blank! Not a great session.

Aug 6th 2330 GMT

After fiddling about with my webcam, missing Saturn and having 3 computer crashes, I took some full disc lunar shots with my DSLR.

Aug 5th 2220 GMT

I pointed my camera towards Cassipoeia and set it at ISO 800 18mm focal length. I set the intervalometer to take 12 exposures of 45 seconds and 45 seconds interval.
The last 3 frames were ruined by cloud. I did not see any meteors on any of the images. Stacking in Deep Sky Stacker was tricky. It crashed once, the first result produced the dreaded vertical lines but I finally achieved a result when I stacked against the master dark file and not the individual frames.
I adjusted the stacked image in GIMP, brightening it and boosting the contrast. I also cropped out some stars at the edge of the field that were showing star trailing. Even though I say it myself, not bad, considering the moonlight and low elevation of the constellation.

Aug 5th 2157 GMT

I was checking the sky to see whether it was dark. It wasn't completely but I saw a Perseid meteor flash upwards at magnitude 1.

Aug 5th 0930 GMT

There was a clear patch of sky in an otherwise cloudy and wet day. I noticed that the sunspot had rotated again.

Aug 4th 2100 GMT

Conditions were generally rather poor but I had a small gap in the cloud to photograph the Moon. I took 179 frames with my Mak and DSLR at 1.54m focal length, ISO 400 and 1/2000 second exposure. I stacked the images using Microsoft ICE then finished in GIMP, as usual.

Aug 4th 0720 GMT

There was a gap in the cloud, which gave me the chance to photograph the Sun in hydrogen alpha light. Visually, it looked quiet, apart from the sunspot.


August 4th 0700 GMT

I bin scanned the Sun through moving cloud and noticed tht the sunspot had rotated.

Aug 3rd 1010 GMT

Finally, some action! I bin scanned the Sun through thin cloud and saw a single sunspot near the edge.