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.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Saturn With Very Good Conditions

I had some time this evening to photograph Saturn and play with the settings.  Everything was taken using the 3X barlow and the 127mm scope.  Seeing was excellent, and the transparency was just as good.  I'm going to overdo it a little tonight, as I captured 10 AVI's and they ALL came out VERY nice.  I used different levels of digital zoom in the camera, and it didnt seem to matter how much I used.

Most of these images, I used 1/30 sec exposure, 10 FPS, 0 gamma and juse enough CCD gain to get a decent image (about 1/4 the way up).

Also I took some in greyscale, which I'll post first.

These show a fair amount of detail, and as you can see they all show the Cassini Division.

Now here are a few with the color turned on:

As you can see, these images are far superior to the others I took the other day.  I spent more time getting the focus perfect.  They all show varying degrees of detail, and again, all show the Cassini Division to some extent.

I really should buy a blue filter so I can experiment with RGB combining in photoshop.  I still havent got the hang of that.  When Jupiter comes up to the point where I can work with it at night, I'll try photographing it with different color filters and see what happens.

Anyway, I'm really happy with this batch of pictures.  Either I'm getting better or conditions were really good tonight and with the addition of that new barlow, I think my imaging will get better still.

New 3X Barlow and Some Saturn Pictures

I ordered a Meade Series 4000 3X Barlow last week, and it arrived on Monday.  Tonight was the first evening that I was able to try it out.  I think I had the focus pretty good, but its possible I could have done better.  I'll have more time to play with it, since it is supposed to be clear skies for the next few days.  Seeing appeared fair, but the transparency was excellent.  The Milky Way was visible it wass so clear.

Here are a couple of color images I took tonight with the new barlow.  I did not take any monochrome, although I should have.  I'll take a couple tomorrow night.  Here are the images:

possibly poor focus

camera zoom

this is the original size with the 3X.
I used the 127mm.  The effective focal length was 2100mm with the barlow.  My little trick sliding the camera in and out of the barlow really helped with the focusing.

I also tried using the 3X and the 2X back to back, but the image was too dim to get a decent photograph.  Notice on the 2nd image, the serpent storm is pretty clearly visible.  I am surprised that the Cassini Division wasnt as pronounced this evening.  Its possible I wasnt focused perfectly however, and that might be why.  Is the barlow going to make a difference in the image quality?  Right now, I'm not certain, the 2X may have the images at the limit of the telescope, but I thought being this is a much higher quality barlow than the 2X, that perhaps I would see a little more detail.  The serpent storm is pretty well visible, so perhaps the quality has improved.  It'll take a few more sessions to know for certain.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

New Clock Drive and Some Saturn Images

Built a new clock drive using a stepper motor that has far less vibration than the other one I used, and it appears to be pretty smooth.  Unfortunately, I didnt have the scope polar aligned very well, but it seemed to track in RA pretty well.  I'm not seeing any vibration blur, and I havent even attempted any vibration dampening tricks, so I think I have a winner.

I took a couple of Saturn images.  Seeing was about a 5 and transparency about a 3-4, so the conditions werent near as good as on the 14th.  It was clear enough however to test the drive, which was my plan.

Here is what I took.  One image I used the camera zoom, and used it to an extreme.  I think if seeing was better, I would have had much better images.  Weather is hot and humid, and even after sundown, it hasnt appeared to have cooled much.

This is the image which I used the camera zoom.

I was not able to get the Storm in any of these images, either because of seeing, or possibly the transparency, or perhaps I might not have had the focus as good as the other night.  It looked good on the screen, the rings seemed pretty sharp.  I'm thinking it was because of the conditions actually.

The clock seemed to work very well, it is geared down substantially, which may help with any vibration issues, but this motor has far less vibration than the one I had been using.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Yesterday's Saturn (6/14)

My friend Mike stopped by last night for a little  astronomy session.  Mike is the owner of the 8 inch dob I was experimenting with a couple months ago.  He actually came to do some viewing and take it back home with him.  He also got to see how I image Saturn, as the sky was clear and we saw it in both my 127mm and his 8" reflector.  The views in his 8 inch were nothing short of breathtaking!  I only wished I could have photographed with it, the view was unbelieveable!  It was certainly large enough to really get some nice detail if I would have been able to image it.  The trouble is, the focal length of that scope is on the order of 4 feet or so, so the magnification would have been huge, making the field of view quite narrow.  I just could not find Saturn with the camera.  I was able to plainly see the shadow of the rings on the planets disk as a very fine line across the disk, as well as the Cassini division was plainly seen.  I was not able to see the serpent storm but I believe it was because of how bright the image was!  I used my 9mm eyepiece, which appeared to be the limit to the resolution.  The barlow made the image larger, but did not show much, if any more detail.  My neighbors came by for a look as well, and were treated to a big Saturn with excellent seeing.

We also split a few close stars, and went looking for fuzzies, but didnt see any.  We would have looked some more, but it was getting late, we wrapped up around midnight.

While Mike was working with the dob, (my skies are a bit darker being he lives in a suburb of Pittsburgh), I took the opportunity to run some avi's with the 127 mm.  Here is what I captured.  The 4th image was shot in monochrome, and seems to have the most detail.

As you can see on the last image, I believe the Serpent Storm is resolved as a brighter area just above the dark band, between the band and the north pole.  This is the best I was able to see the storm in my equipment.  I sure wish i was able to photograph it using the dob, even to get a couple of frames.  Seeing was very good.  The moon was rising, so it pretty much ruined the sky for looking for dimmer objects.  The visual Saturn view however was well worth the time spent on it.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Crater Julius Caesar & Surrounding Area

The sky is clearing, perhaps I'll take some pictures tonight, but it is quite chilly, about 60F right now.  In the meantime, I'm processing more images that I've taken recently, such as this one that was taken on 6/9/11.  The subject is the terrain around crater Julius Caesar.  Again I'm going to show 2 images, one "blown up" and the original frame.  Just under the crater, Rima Ariadaeus is visible as a light line mostly horizontal. You might have to click the image for the full size image to see the Rima.  It is barely visible.

This area of the moon, roughly east of center is interesting because of the surrounding terrain, as you will see in the following frame:

The area west of Julius Caesar (the poorly defined crater just right of center) is interesting due to its terrain.  The two craters, bottom center are Agrippa and Boden.  If you click to expand thev image, Rima Hyginus is nicely defined just right of center in this image, running mostly horizontal.

Crater Proclus

A crater that stands out when photographing the first quarter but is rather small is Proclus.  Up till now, I didnt think I could do a sharp and close enough image to make it worthwhile to try to make it a subject for visual observation.  Well, I finally attempted it, but it was taken in this post under a crescent moon, so the ray structure is not fully visible.  I will, no doubt target this area again.  I was experimenting with the "drizzle" function in Registax 6, and created a 2X image and cropped the area around the target.  Here is the 2X image, then the full frame.

And now for the enhanced raw frame:

Crater Janssen

I was looking back on the images I had taken last week, as we are having another spell of cloudy skies lately, and was able to do a little experimenting with Registax 6, working on a couple of individual craters.  I processed 2 different areas tonight, the first was in the area near Crater Janssen.  Basically, I let Registax resize when I stacked, then saved the finished image and cropped it to create the illusion of a higher resolution than it seemed.  I then resized the image back down 50% in the resize window and saved that as a comparison.
Here are the 2 images, the first is the normal 640X480 image:

Next is the 2X resize and cropped area around Crater Janssen.

This was an experiment, taken with some pretty good raw footage taken on 6/6/11.  This feature might come in handy to zoom in on specific areas of the moon.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Focusing tip

I was imaging the moon last night, and I came across a neat little trick, maybe you guys know this, maybe not.  As you know, I'm using an f5.5, 127mm refractor.  The focusing is quite critical with such a fast lens.

When I image the moon, I use an el-cheapo Meade 2X barlow.

What I did last night to get an almost perfect focus was to focus as best I could normally.  then I de-focused just a wee bit on the inward side.  I then loosened the camera to barlow screw and slid the camera out of the barlow very carefully, and I was able to get a much finer focus.  The barlow acts something of a "vernier", making the focus a little less touchy.

a useful tip for us guys using fast scopes......which kinda makes sense, as a barlow actually increases the focal length by a factor of X, which would increase the acceptable focus adjustment by a factor of X.

I've done that trick on the 70mm which is a bit slower too.  Also, as you slide the camera out of the barlow, you get a little bit more magnification.  

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Daytime moon photo

On 6/6 I took a daylight shot of the moon using low resolution (700mm fl, no barlow) and compiled a mosaic, leaving the blueish background intact. I had trouble aligning and stacking the bottom frame of the image, until today I used Registax 5 which for some reason worked better with the lower contrast. All in all, not a bad picture, of course being I imaged in daylight, the detail isnt superb. Here is the picture:

Monday, June 6, 2011

mosaic, 6/6/11

Well, I got rid of the lines.  I'm not sure what I did.  Here is a big mosaic.  I think blogspot shrinks them slightly too, I may create an alternate download site for the full size images....

Anyway, here it is.  taken with only the IR block filter.

Full sized image is located here:

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Moon Mosaic, 6/5/11

I took 2 sets of images this evening, and I'm not sure what happened with the first image.  Maybe its just because its a bit darker, but I'm not sure.  The first image is sharper, but if you zoom in, there are diagonal lines across the image.  Click the image and click it again to see what I'm talking about.

Here are the camera params that the above image was taken:

[Logitech QuickCam Pro 4000]
Frame Rate (fps)=10.00
Colour Space / Compression=I420

The second set was taken with only the IR blocking filter.  This image is much brighter, but it does not have those pesky lines.
Although not as sharp - possibly focus, but the seeing definately deteriorated.  I also missed a small chunk on the center edge of the disk.  I will try to reconstruct, as I think the missing chunk was due to stacling, as the image moved a small amount.
Here are the params on this image:

[Logitech QuickCam Pro 4000]
Frame Rate (fps)=15.00
Colour Space / Compression=I420

Not sure what could have caused the flaws in the first image.  If you have any idea, leave a comment.

After posting, i see the digital zoom was turned on.  Possibly when I photo'ed Saturn the other day.  Normally I dont miss those things when taking pictures.  Perhaps thats why, although both images had it turnede up a little.

Saturn 6/2

Had a nice night, and so I thought I'd try again and this time I got some nice pictures.  I have come to the conclusion that I need something with somewhat of a longer focal length, although these images arent too bad, maybe some of my better ones.  I tried photographing using a couple of different filters.  It seems the red filter gets the most detail.  I used a little color modification to make the images look a little more pleasing....

Photographed with red filter
Green filter
no filter

I did not use the IR blocking filter on any of the images.  Notice how over-exposed the last image is of Saturn's disk in comparison to the rings.  These CCD cameras seem to be far more sensitive to infrared than the cmos cameras are.