clear sky chart

Job 9:9

Job 9:9-10
9 He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion,
the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.
10 He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
miracles that cannot be counted.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

First Attempt at Solar Imaging

Well, I couldnt resist.  It is only clear here in the late afternoon while the sun is still up, so that means there is only one thing to image.  The Sun.  Now keep in mind, that in no time have I actually LOOKED thru an eyepiece while I was doing this - in fact, I aimed the diagonal downward so that no one else could either.

The method of photographing this image was by projecting the image onto a sheet of paper.  I then photographed the paper with the projection on it.  I used a 9 mm eyepiece, and the paper was about one foot away.  I shot the image with a 14 MP digital camera.  The image came out blue with very little contrast.  The contrast and color was enhanced in Paint Shop Pro.  Here it is, I'm not certain which 2 sunspots are visible in this photo, I am just happy to have been able to capture them!

I also converted a 2nd image to grayscale, but it didnt come out near as well as this image.

So here you have it, my first solar images.  I'm still amazed at what one can do with a department store 70mm telescope and a little ingenuity.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Clouds and Deep Sky - Yes They Mix.

I was out playing with the GE X5 last night.  The sky I could describe it - "Variably Cloudy", conditions seemed to change minute by minute.

The idea of the test was to try out a "Barn Door Tracker" that I built a couple weeks ago.  The following image was taken with a 30 second shudder speed, which is just enough to detect star trailing.  I plan on doing some film photography on this mount this summer, and thought I would try it out with the GE.  I have taken other star images with it, so I know it will capture some things.  Here is a photo of Orion, part of  Monoceros and Canis Major.  The cloud cover rolling in looks kinda cool, so I decided to post this image.

The 2 dark streaks on the bottom of the image are 2 small ham radio antennas that made its way into the photo.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

More Image Processing - Still Learning

I was playing around with Paint Shop, and there is an excellent noise reduction filter in it.  With it, one can sharpen quite a bit more, and use the noise filter to get rid of some of the finer artifacts.  I was working with this image:
This image is posted down the blog a ways, you might recognize it.  I was talking about the focus on the telescope.

After doing some noise reduction and sharpening, I ended up with this image:
I also did a little contrast enhancement and a few other things I dont remember now, but it is a good deal sharper and detailed than the original.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

An Evening With Jupiter

As the sky was clear, and the temperature not too bad, and no wind, I wanted to experiment with Jupiter some more.  I do believe I'm at the limit of my telescope with these images.  I dont think I can make out any more detail than what you see here:







As with all of the images on this blog, if you click the image, you will get a larger image.

I was experimenting with different levels of saturation and contrast on the camera.  I believe I have the brightness figured out, but I was somewhat shocked with image #6, as the frames used to create this image looked absolutely horrible, but it sure produced a nice final image. I spent about an hour and a half outside with the 70mm refractor videoing these images.  The seeing started getting real bad towards the end, because Jupiter is getting pretty low in the sky.  This will be one of my last times shooting Jupiter this year as it is getting too low to get good pictures.

I also captured these final 3 images just before the seeing got really horrible:



Was still playing with the camera trying to squeeze out every little bit of resolution that I could, but it looks like that is about all I can do.  Still, for a 70mm refractor on an unguided mount, its not THAT bad.  I did some wavelet sharpening but tried to keep it to a minimum.  The only other processing I did was some color balance and saturation adjustment in software.  Some I resized, some not.

Also, I will mention at this time, I also picked up an old Meade 114mm reflector.  I havent tried it yet on Jupiter.  Basically it was a flea market special, I found it for $20 so I brought it home.  The optical tube has some dents, but they shouldnt interfere with the viewing, but the secondary mirror is in bad shape.  The primary mirror I believe is useable.  I'll be ordering a secondary mirror in the next few days to replace the one in this scope, and when I'm satisfied with it, I'll try some photography with it.

Stay tuned, till next time......

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mare Nectaris

One of my favorite areas of the lunar surface, due to the contrast of the Mare and the craters.  Here is an image of the area.  North is up in this image.
The Mare itself is about 360km or about 210 miles across, to put the sizes into perspective.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

First Saturn of the Year

Its the weekend!  And the sky is clear.  Trouble is, the wind was howling.  My goal tonight was to get some kinda image that I can post of Saturn.  It took a lot of tries, a lot of avi's, but I have 2 images of Saturn.

I've found that Saturn is a bit harder to photograph because its smaller and twice as far away as Jupiter.  The wind didnt help either, as I was unable to use the barlow.  Things were moving too much, and its a wonder I was able to get what I got.
The first image I think I had the camera set too bright.  Another round in the cold wind yielded the second image which more clearly shows the black gap between the rings and the planet, as well as the shadow on the planet's disk.

Watch for better Saturn images as the weather conditions here improve.  I feel I will be able to do better when the weather cooperates more.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Another Jupiter Image

Being it was cloudy this evening, I decided to go thru some old avi's and I found one that produced this image of Jupiter:

I did enlarge the image.  This consists of about 250 or so frames stacked.  This appears to be one of my better images, so I thought I would put it up on here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Crater Tycho

crater Tycho

The Moon on a Cold, Windy Night

70 mm refractor. Logitech C310 camera. No barlow lens, frame resolution 640 X 480.  digital zoom enough to get rid of brightness variation along the edges of frames.
This was a rather windy evening, so there is some distortion.  Seeing wasn't very good either.   This was an exercise to see if the digital zoom would produce a decent image along with removing the brightness variations that is visible in some of the other images of the moon previously posted.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


When I took my photos of Jupiter, I was not entirely happy with how they turned out.  I took the advice from a few in the email group about photographing the moon and getting good at that.  I think I learned a few things, and although they arent totally perfect, the photos are becoming quite respectable.  I have been experimenting with "How close can ya get", by playing with camera resolutions, zoom functions, etc.  I have learned that the higher resolutions still work VERY well.  I've taken a few really nice close up shots using 640X480 resolution.  Take this photo for example:

The trick was indeed focusing as one of my readers commented in an earlier post.  I had been somewhat hurried in focusing the telescope, and I have found that even with the higher resolutions, it will indeed focus, although because the image is magnified substantially on the screen, the focusing gets trickier.  I might still not have the focus perfect in this image, it is not bad, as you can see some mighty small craters in this picture.

The one drawback however, and you might notice it on this image, is that any tiny dust particles on the optics becomes very irritating.  The dust that I had on some pictures I took at this resolution was actually on the barlow, which I have since cleaned.

Now I need clear skies again so I can try again using the high resolution settings.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Image Processing

Its funny how you can see certain things on certain monitors, but on others you dont.  Anyway, the jagged edge on the moon posted previously was not noticeable on the desktop pc, but on my laptop, it looked horrid.  Therefore, I thought I would take the opportunity to eliminate that ragged edge and create a new mosaic (from the same images), but doing some wavelet filtering before assembly.

This is the final image.

This picture uses the same frames as the previous photo.  I tried using Iris to remove the jagged edge, but I couldnt get it to work for me.  One thing that happened when I tried to do a .bmp conversion, the program would crash.  Therefore, I took a dark frame which was in the frames that I shot while taking this picture and subtracted the dark frame from the images using registax.  I also did a little wavelet filtering at the same time.  After doing the dark frame pass, I did it all over again with a flat field that I took earlier that day to reduce the variation in brightness.  The center of each image is a good deal brighter than the edges, which is what caused the striping effect on the previous image.  Subtracting the flat field made a big difference in the irregularities in the raw frames.

The frames were then pieced together again in iMerge.  When I was finished, I saved the image, loaded it in Gimp and did some brightness/contrast work on it.  Then later, I added the fuzzy frame.

Well, that's about all there was to it.  Pretty easy, huh...  Yep, I'm learning how to do this pretty quickly with the help of the QCUIAG email group.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Moon Mosaic

After receiving some advice from some members of the QCUIAG email group, and some lessons learned while photographing the last batch of images that I had taken 2 days ago, I decided to take another batch of images and glue them all together with a program called "iMerge", which was specifically designed to do what I did with the following image.

The moon is about 8 days old, the images were taken just after sundown, Eastern time.  64 individual images were used to create the mosiac you see here:

This is by far the best quality image that I have taken so far.  I think it turned out pretty good, actually.  Again, click on the image for a full sized view.  This is one large picture.  The only issue I am seeing are what seem like diagonal lines toward the bottom of the image.  Leave a comment as to your thoughts.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Moon

Now that the sky cleared up some, and the moon's crescent was visible, I decided to take a few pictures.  The moon is an easier object to photograph, even when the seeing isn't very good as it was tonight.

I created a mosaic of 3 images, although the areas where they were patched together aren't perfect, the image isnt too bad for a first attempt at the moon.  Just as in Jupiter, I'm sure my moon images will improve.  
Here it is:

Click on the image to get a full size picture.    Equipment used was the 70 mm refractor, Logitech C310.  Image software, each consisted of 50 stacks in Registrax.  Each individual file was saved as a .fit file, as they provided the best brightness and contrast.  I did do a little unsharp masking on each image.

I also took the opportunity to try some different resolutions.  I took these next 2 images back to back, so no other settings were changed except the resolution.  Each consists of 50 frames stacked.

This image was taken using the 1024X768 setting in the camera.

This image was taken using the 320X240 setting. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Software Enhancement

As I continue playing with enhancement software, I'm finding I might be bringing out more detail, or perhaps I'm introducing artifacts that were not there before I began playing around with the images.  It appears that I have been able to enhance the following image, which I had taken separately from the image previously posted.

Here, I was working with the left photo in Gimp and ended up with the right photo.  As you can see, I started with an extremely faint and blurry image.  This image is not the same stack I posted previously, but one that I had discovered on the hard drive from a different avi file.  I do not know how many frames, etc that this photo is comprised of.

The image on the right has undergone a number of "enhancements", including some unsharp masking, rotation, some brightness/contrast enhancements,  some color modification, and not only that, it had a little bit of motion blur on the right edge which I cleaned up by selecting the portion of the planet and color filling around it to eliminate the "ghosting" on the right edge.

Everything seems to look correct from my perspective, however, I do wonder, because of the heavy amount of processing I did on the photo, how much of it is real.  One thing I did not do is "draw" in any features.  Everything was done with the image as a whole, with the exception of cleaning up the blur which I spoke of earlier.

Logitech C310 Settings

I was outside last night experimenting with the webcam and its settings for astrophotography, and I learned a few things I want to share with you. I was trying to find out what I did different to take the Jupiter photo this last time, so I was experimenting with camera settings.  Before I go on, let me point out that the seeing wasn't as good as a couple of nights ago.

Because the camera was set for 640 X 480 resolution for the decent Jupiter shot I took, I thought I'd try a little higher resolution, so I kicked it up to 800X600.  The image was a blurry blob.  When I set it back to 640X480, it improved dramatically.  I did not try low resolution 320X240.  I think that might be my next attempt.  This actually defies logic, as you would think the higher resolution would create sharper images.  The only thing I can think of is that it doesn't matter what resolution the camera is set at, it still uses the same number of pixels in the source image to create the final image, so the smaller the resolution might actually provide the sharpest images because more CMOS pixels are used per square inch of finished image.  The result would be more planet per percent of frame size therefore it will have a higher resolution of the object.

This is just a theory I'm developing as I continue to experiment with the settings.

Another mistake I think I made was that I had the image of the planet a bit too bright.  The last photo of Jupiter was on the dark side when I was shooting.  Apparently these low cost cameras overload very easily, and it is something you need to be aware of.  It seems you have to find a good balance between brightness - you dont want to compress the bright areas and you dont want it so dark that it limits contrast.  I've also found that the color intensity will have the same effect, it can overload certain colors causing a blur if the intensity is set too high.  This might explain why some monochrome photos come out with so much better detail.

OK, I'm still learning, but so far, this is what I'm finding out so far.  It is worth sharing, as past photos of Jupiter were downright horrible, and I was scratching my head as to why they were so bad.  It wasnt until I had time to experiment with camera settings that I learned that the largest resolution isn't necessarily the best resolution for this type of work.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Jupiter Again

I went outside again with the telescope and webcam, and I think I discovered what the problem was in photographing Jupiter.

I was able to get a much better quality image, and I really didnt do anything different.   Tonight's sky, the seeing was a good bit better, and it was much clearer, and I'm VERY happy with this image I was able to grab:
As you can see, there is a lot more detail in this image.  The equipment used was the Logitech C310 with a 2X barlow and the 70 mm Meade NG70, refitted to a polar mount.  There was no clock drive.  I used an avi of 20 frames, chose the best frames, which I think I ended up with 7 frames and stacked them with Registax.   Then with the saved image, I loaded it in Gimp 2.6.11.  There I adjusted the color balance very slightly, used unsharp mask, and adjusted the brightness and contrast very slightly.  I did VERY little processing in Gimp before I posted this image here.

So I believe the problems I was having was due to seeing.