Most of the night of 4/26 was wasted, as the camera inadvertently shut off or lost power after inaging for about 3 hours worth of deep sky objects, but I was able to capture Saturn a day before opposition. The rings were bright enough to see the C ring, which I later enhanced to make it more visible. Seeing was rather poor, the planet was bouncing and dancing on the preview screen. I am surprised how well the pictures came out under such conditions.
Saturn - original stack
This was what I got directly from Registax. You can see the C ring in this image. The next day, I loaded the image in Photoshop, flipped the image so north is on the top, and I also enhanced the dark areas, to enhance the C ring.
Enhancing the C ring also seemed to sharpen it up somewhat.
I finally imaged C/2012 L4 PanSTARRSthe evening of 4/5/13. It is still quite low, but now northwest, where I have a slightly better shot with a lower horizon. The problem is, the glow from the city is terrible in that direction. Fortunately the comet is still bright enough to punch through the haze. I shot 30 - 15 second frames with the 8 inch at iso 800. I could not shoot longer, as the skyglow washed out the background. Yes, the light pollution is bad in that direction. Here is what I got:
It was actually a crystal clear night, so I thought I would do some deep sky imaging after capturing the comet. The mount tracked quite well and the go-to worked perfectly. I must not have had the scope balanced well enough before, as I have had problems with the go-to working well. Tonight everything worked as it should. I wouldnt have found PanSTARRS if it wasnt.
When I imaged PanSTARRS and this second image, I had the focus off a little. I corrected it after imaging M96. This is not a real good picture of this galaxy, as the focus was off and I took very few frames.
As you can see, it is quite noisy and the stars are kinda big.
After correcting the focus, I went to image some members of the Virgo Cluster. These came out FAR better, starting with M99. I need all of the Messier galaxies in the Virgo Cluster, so I concentrated the rest of the evening in that region.
There was some decent wind blowing that night, the guider was going crazy, that is why the stars arent round. The galaxy came out pretty good, even though I only shot 7 frames at 5 minutes per. This new scope, being its so big catches the wind a lot more than the 6 inch. I just hope this does not become a problem in the future.
After M99, I imaged M100 (or maybe it was the other way around). This image of M100 was the best picture I got that night. The detail is quite good.
I cropped this one a little big to include some of its nearby friends. I count possibly 7 galaxies in this frame, The little ones look like fuzzy stars. This was taken with the 8 inch, 7 frames 5 minutes long each, stacked. The long thin edge on spiral just left of center is NGC4312. The 2 fuzzy stars just above M100 are NGC4328 and NGC4322.
The 8 inch, because of the slightly larger focal length allows the objects to be a bit bigger, which allows more detail. M100 is almost 7 arc minutes across. A galaxy this small in the 6 inch would show up in that scope but only about half of the detail would be present. There would be no detail in the little edge on spiral. I've imaged small galaxies with it, but most have been rather disappointing.
The Virgo Cluster is roughly 55 million light years away, plus or minus... This is a nice increase in detail on objects that are this far away. I will be imaging more from the Virgo cluster as springtime brings more clear nights. Most of the galaxies however are irregular galaxies and will not have so much detail.
Had a nice clear night, so I thought I would try some deep sky imaging with the 8 inch. Although I dont see much difference on deep sky objects, the planetary resolution still amazes me. I had some problems with the go-to working properly. I think I finally fixed it. I first attempted Jupiter, but the quality wasnt what I expected, so I'll post my next image, that of the Leo Trio. The moon was rising when I took ththese, so for the Leo Trio, I limited it to 9 frames.
I then went on to M3, being I've had good luck imaging globular clusters during a full moon. This came out quite well, I think.
It does appear the scope is resolving more stars, which I would expect with the larger aperture.
Lastly, I inserted the Lifecam and the 2X and 3X barlows and imaged Saturn, which I believe is my personal best. I'll post 2 images from 2 different AVI's. Both contain about 2000 frames. The second one was processed to show the Crepe Ring a little better.
Actually, I'm not sure which is the better image. The second image is a little crisper, but might be a little over processed, however the inner crepe ring is more visible. It also appears that I captured an additional belt on the planets disk with the second image. Saturn is rather low in the sky for me, it never gets more than 25 degrees above the southern horizon. Considering that, I feel these images arent too bad. I can just imagine how crisp they would be if it was 40 - 50 degrees like Jupiter was.
After imaging Saturn in my last post, I wanted to see if there was a low cost camera currently available that would be a little more sensitive but be available off the shelf. I have read an article and a modification of the Microsoft Lifecam camera online, by Camera Modification expert and imager, Gary Honis who says a lot of good things about this camera. Therefore, I went to the store and purchased the camera and removed the lens per Gary's instruction.
The next clear (or reasonably so) night, I tried it out. The pixel size on this camera must be quite tiny, as this is the image I caught of Jupiter using only the 3X barlow.
When I processed this 3500 frame image, I was really happy, being I was able to see detail in the polar regions of the planet. This camera was able to capture at 30 fps all the way up to its full resolution, which is quite impressive!
There are 2 moons visible. On the right, thats Io about to duck behind the planet, and Europa has just started its transit in the lower left. The moons are round and sharp,
I also attempted a shot using the 2X and 3X cascaded. I found that the planet was still plenty bright with less noise than I was able to capture with the Quickcam. However, the conditions that I was imaging in was quite windy, and with the larger telescope, the wind rocked the scope too much to do a useable image. I'm going to post a very blurry, but bright image of Jupiter. Keep in mind, this is not a focusing issue nor is it a problem with the camera, but is mainly an issue with the wind shaking the scope at such high magnification. I believe that under less windy conditions, an image this size should be even better than the smaller one above.
I'm posting this only to show the brightness of the disk. The avi's I imaged in the wind were totally unuseable, but you can get an idea as the sensitivity of this camera, and the exposure was still turned down substantially.
A couple of days ago, I imaged the moon with the 8", and what I was able to get was pretty impressive. Seeing was about a 4 - not real good. The moon was bouncing around on the screen somewhat. Nevertheless, the images I got were quite good. I'm curious to see what really good seeing will do.
Lets begin with Clavius. Not only do we have the usual 5 craters inside the big crater, but numerous small craterlets are visible and are well resolved. The edge of the moon also has a more realistic look, with much less blur.
I also discovered that I have been imaging the moon "wrong" all this time. I found that instead of looking for a histogram that peaks as close to 255 (but not over that), you want to image the moon at a dimmer level - lets say no greater than 200 on the histogram chart seems to prevent overly bright crater walls when processing the image. The above image was taken using this technique.
Here is Gassendi. Notice the bright crater wall on the west side of the crater. This was taken a little too bright yet. The over-exposure limits the detail in those areas. The rimae are nicely resolved in this image.
Here is Mercenius. There are a few washed out areas, but overall this is a good image. A fair amount of detail is present, with small craterlets visible as well as some small rima's.
Here is crater Schilller. Again, nice detail. The rough landscape in this area of the moon is quite apparent.
And lastly, Sinus Iridium. The lava flows are visible, but not so apparent as the sun was striking this area more directly. There are some small craterlets visible in the sea bottom. The maria floor is quite smooth as you would expect, and the terrain is quite rough to the west.
As a bonus, I stayed up late enough to image Saturn. Saturn is quite low this year, only attaining 25 degrees above the horizon at the meridian. This image of Saturn was taken just before reaching due South in my sky, around 3AM.
The Cassini Division appears narrower in this image than previous images. The size is also a little bigger, but it still is somewhat dim, which I'm beginning to think is a result of camera sensitivity. Saturn will be a very difficult object this year because of how low it is.