A challenge was laid down on AstroChat last night to compare light pollution around the country. Here's my shots for the comparison. As you can tell the cloud pixies had it in for me last night
Looking towards Gatwick Airport
I think these also go to show how much difference the Astronomik CLS filter I use for my imaging makes.
Thursday, 30 October 2008
A challenge was laid down on AstroChat last night to compare light pollution around the country. Here's my shots for the comparison. As you can tell the cloud pixies had it in for me last night
Wednesday, 29 October 2008
Well, it started out clear, at 1930, so kids in bed, I lugged out the scope, powerpack, and went to fetch the camera. Having carefully fitted the CLS filter to the nosepiece, I removed the 55-250 lens, started to fit the T adapter, and watched as my prized and most used lens fell, in slow motion, crashing to the floor . I gingerly picked it up, half expecting bits of glass to come spitting out the end. Thankfully, the body didn't even appear marked, so I put the caps back on and securely put it back in the bag. Went back out, attached the camera and started the power up and align (I figured in true mastermind style, I'd started so I'd finish). Anyway, as I was slewing to Mirfak, the clouds moved in, in force. I packed up again. Shame as I could, before the clouds moved in, faintly see the ribbon of the milky way passing overhead.
After all was back inside, I popped the 55-250 lens back on and started testing. I've done more testing this morning, and it appears to have survived unscathed. Phew...
A word of caution... Make sure everything is secure before moving onto something else...
Having captured a shot this morning with the dropped lens, through the kitchen window, I can safely say it's working fine.
Monday, 27 October 2008
Twas a clear night on Friday, but we had visitors early on. Once they had left, I setup the scope on the grass, levelled and powered up. I used my usual one star align on Mirfak, and the 450d Liveview zoom mode to align. Centered and clicked the Align, and watched Mirfak drift up the screen. I thought nothing of it, although I should have twigged straight away, and used the goto to slew to M45, nicely in view over the houses. I left everything for a few minutes to settle down after the slew as normal. Came back, and tried some test shots. This is odd... I was getting trailing after only 15 seconds. I did a few more tests and yep, still happening. Then it occured to me, the view of Mirfak sailing up the screen. Damn. Powered down, and started again. Checked the level, that was fine, Made double sure of the date and time... Yep, correcty entered, aligned on Mirfak. Again it drifted up the screen. What is going on here. I pulled the power this time and considered trying a full SkyAlign. I decided to give it one more go, and this was better.
Having finally got to M45, I setup the timer remote for 99x90s and set it running. After no more than 30 subs, I had to stop the data collection and apply the hairdryer to remove the dew. I started the data collection again. After another 40 subs or so, my OH decided she wanted a bath, turned on the bathroom light and that scuppered my plans for M45 as the Sisters were sitting too near my bathroom window. Nothing like some induced LP from your own house. I set about taking darks, flats and flat darks.
Having completed that, the bathroom light gone off, I procedded to gather yet more M45 data. After about another 20 subs, I checked the images and noticed they were getting darker. I stopped once again and cleared the dew. Then checked an image in closeup. The last few all trailed. Damn. Ah well, I slewed to M33 to get some more data there. I left it for a few minutes to settle and setup for a bunch of 60 second subs. After about 40 minutes, I checked and the camera had hung and the dew had got so bad that the filters in the OTA had misted up. I gave up. So I bought everything in and waited for it all to dry out. The camera, once the battery was charged up, appears to be working fine, and has taken plenty of normal pictures since.
The data was stacked in DSS with the previous set of captured subs, and after much labourious tweaking in PS, this seemed much harder, maybe it was the double set of subs or something I don't know, I ended up with ...
M33, NGC1907, IC471 and Mr Smiley
They have worked, but the amount of effort to process these seemed excessive. I don't know if a better approach would be to stack each set of frames individually and then stack the resulting stacks or something else entirely that I've not found yet.
Friday, 24 October 2008
On Oct 22nd, I managed to get out for an hour. Good job my normal setup routine doesn't take long as clouds stopped play after that short a time. However, I was able to grab another 52x45 seconds subs of this area, and got the framing a bit better. I used DSS to stack all 132 frames, with Darks, Flats and Dark Flats, then processed in PS. This time I didn't double the unadjusted with the DSS adjusted, and only used the unadjusted.
I can't believe how much info is in the resulting image, given how bare the unadjusted DSS save is...
Thursday, 23 October 2008
First up, as Cassie is high in the sky was M52. I grabbed 80x30 seconds, darks, flats and dark flats. But I managed to get something wrong with the darks... Typical. Anyway I went ahead and stacked the subs anyway, and was surprised to find that I'd caught the Bubble Nebula. I then saved the resulting image with DSS adjustements embedded. I then tweaked the DSS adjustements to pull out more stars and saved that too. For some reason the DSS tweaks always lose colour and I end up with a B&W image. I loaded both images into PS and after making some adjustments to both, layered them as a Colour layer and tweaked a bit more. I processed both the combined and the non adjusted one and saved both. I thought the bubble looked better in the non adjusted one.
The combined image
The non DSS adjusted one
I then slewed around to grab some data on M45 as the sisters had now cleared the roof. I setup for 90x60s and fired away. I went to stack these, again with darks (correct ones), flats and dark flats, and I was going to include the 60 or so frames I'd captured previously. Only when I went to the image archive, the archive was bare. Not a sign of the M45 data.... NO... My bad, I must have deleted them to save space GRRR.. Ah well. Processed as the M52 once the stack was completed. The scope dew'ed up on me mid way through and I had to stop to use the OH's hair dryer.
Finally, Auriga had cleared the roof, so I slewed across to M38 and repeated. I had been intending on getting a load of subs. I used the hairdryer before starting, and within 25 minutes, the objective was dewed up again. Anyway, processed in the same way.
I gave up at that point, but the scope had been out capturing data for 4 hours, and I had a lot of data to process.
Wednesday, 22 October 2008
The day has been quite clear and bright with only a few wisps of clouds around. At about 10:30 this morning, I managed to grab a decent shot of the moon.
The sun set without a sign or hint of any cloud, a good sign. I setup the scope as normal at about 20:00 with the camera and remote timer, thinking to grab M52 before it got to high. After an hour, when I'd grabbed 80 x 30 second exposures, and darks, I used the goto to take me to Neptune. A bit low, barley over the hedge and my little scope doesn't have the FL to provide a decent scale. I couldn't pick it out from the stars. I tried NGC6885 and I'm not convinced the goto took me to the right place. However, by this point the Sisters were over the rooftops, so I went to them instead. Once aligned and settled, I took a couple of test shots to see how long I could get. At 90 seconds ISO1600 I was able to see a little nebulosity on the camera screen which was a surprise. I decided however to go for 60 second subs as I lose less to errors this way.
I went and grabbed the 15x70's and started having a meander around the heavens. M45, the obvious first target and one of my first from a year ago, also in bins... Cool. I had a look at the Hyades also, as this was up above the roog by the time I went out with the bins. Then onto the Mirfak association, the S very clear. I then realised that the peculiar shape to the north of there was in fact probably Auriga. The orientation had thrown me but hey, I quickly got my bearings, and went and found the little fish, followed by the smiley face. From the smiley face, M38 was easy, followed by the other two M's nearby, M36 and M37.
I moved from here to the Double Cluster, and easily found several others in the area, I think NGC633 and friends that I imaged the other week. Moving on up into Cassie, M103 and NGC457 were easy spots. A streaker dashed through the bins at about 22:30 heading West to East, so I doubt part of the Orionids.
I then went looking for M31. No problem at all, I looked around, star hopped along Andromeda and up, lifted the bins and there in the FOV a large dim shape, almost looking like a blurred propellor as seen from the side. I then star hopped on downwards and found the smudge of M33, first time I've been able to see this visually.
I then went back to Cassie, and drifted on down to Kembles cascade. There were a long line of stars. It's interesting how easy it was to find tonight. Also, there's a very clear marker. Follow to top of Cassie to the left of the W (from the centre to the left tip), until you come to a line of 4 bright stars in the same direction. The Cascade cuts this line just before the bottom one. At the end of the Cascade there's a cluster, NGC1502 and that was a very easy spot too.
I then had a meander along the line of the Milky Way. I always find it incredible at the sheer number of stars that even a humble pair of binoculars will reveal and I got lost again. At 22:35 another streaker shot past in the same direction as the first one, so again, not an Orionid I guess.
I then spent some time, just viewing the sky without any optical aids, hoping to spot some Orionids. At 22:45, a really bright fireball blazed it's way across the sky. It seemed to appear from between Perseus and Auriga heading west across probably 40 degrees of the sky leaving a bright trail behind it, seeing this certainly made me go WOW quite loudly. I then went back to scanning without the bins. I was amazed to find that I could clearly see the band of the Milky Way and it seemed to glow with an unearthly (an apt description if I do say myself) light. I was even more amazed when I found I could make out the faint glow of the Double Cluster and on a bit more the glow of M31.
After the M45 capture had completed. Well, actually I stopped it as M45 was drifting across the screen and soon to move off the edge. I slewed the scope to M38 which is capturing whilst I type this. I've managed to position it so I've got mr smiley in the FOV too. I then noticed the top of Orions head poking up above the roof and stepped sideways a little, and there was the belt and sword. Using the bins for the final time, I could clearly see M42. I'm really tempted to stay up and image M42 as well, but I have to get up for work early tomorrow, and he'll be around earlier each night for the next few months, so I'm not going to worry.
Typing this has allowed me to thaw out, that's even with wearing three fleeces and a coat... Hmm, need to think about the insulation a bit more.
I really enjoyed that, and I'm looking forward to more nights like that to come.
Monday, 20 October 2008
About a year ago I looked up for the first time with a pair of 7x35 bins as part of assisting my eldest with something he needed to do and that was it. I was hooked. Since then, I've bought several pairs of binoculars up to 15x70. A scope, a motorised mount, a bunch of eyepieces. I've spent many an hour studying the moon, been wowed by Saturns rings and the sheer wonder of drifting through the Milky Way with a pair of bins lost in the sheer immensity of the view and quantity of stars. I've found 43 of 88 constellations, 35 Messier objects, and 70 of the Lunar 100 objects. I've got a webcam and used that for imaging the lunar surface and Saturn (ok Saturn was a bit of a disaster). And since getting an SLR for my birthday earlier in the year, have been trying my hand at some Prime Focus astro imaging, and using the zoom lens for some Moon images. I also constructed myself a very simple tripod mounted device for helping me pinpoint satellite passes so that I could image them. This has allowed me to collect images of probably 30% of the Iridium satellite network as flares, and a fair few shots of the ISS. And finally almost as if it was a birthday present, I got an image published on the cover disk of the Sky at Night.
On Saturday night, there was an hour or so of clear sky from around 9pm. I setup as normal and had a second go at NGC7789. This time I nailed it. I shot 58 frames before the clouds moved in. I lost 3 to tracking errors, and took 10 darks, 10 flats and 10 dark flats. Processing in DSS, I saved 2 copies, one unadjusted, and one with the Histogram stretched with DSS. I then tweaked them in PS. The odd thing was that the DSS stretched image had no colour
But far more stars than the unadjusted one
I then combined the two images to get the detail and colour and it worked..
I really like that and that's my anniversary image.
I also managed to grab a couple of moon shots. One sometime after the above image when the moon poked her nose out of a cloud gap
And one last night through some misty cloud
I'm really pleased with how I've progressed over the year and I'm looking forward to the next year to come. Hopefully the weather won't be so bad.
Saturday, 18 October 2008
Ok, first off a few shots from the last few days. I'll start with the moons... These are all handheld
and as an example this is cropped from
A couple of daytime moons trying something out with a bit of foreground
Another night shot
And two more from this morning
On Thursday night, I ended up getting called and working till three. I glanced out the window and there was Orion. I popped the camera on the tripod, and after some experimenting to get the settings right (the moon was really bright and quite close by), took a bunch of 10 and 15 second exposures, stacked in DSS produced these..
I'm really surprised how much M42 has shown through there considering how short the exposures were and how few of them. I'm looking forward to a couple of months time when I can get the scope on it...
And finally some news. One of my Iridium Flare shots
Has been published on the cover cd of the Sky at Night magazine. I'm really, really pleased... YIPPEE!!!!!
Friday, 17 October 2008
Tuesday, 14 October 2008
Twas a dark, misty and cloudy night. Looks like the weather has turned again and that's put paid, for now, at least to imaging and viewing. However, the moon kept poking her head out through the clouds and the clouds were refracting into a corona, I thought it was a halo, but I've found that's not technically correct. I set the 450d on a tripod, using the 55-250 lens, adjust the FL till the corona nearly filled the frame in the shortest direction (vertical as I had the camera mounted in landscape). I set the Auto Exposure Bracket to +/- 2 Stops, adjust for a slightly blown centre image, and fired a sequence of 3. I then merged these to an HDR image and tweaked a little. This is the result.
Monday, 13 October 2008
The moon was quite low, bright and majestic in the early evening sky yesterday. I had a play and took a set of pictures using different things..
And I had a go at this in HDR also, but I don't think this looks as good.
I Spy Moon
Then as the evening wore on, remaining clear, unlike Saturday, I setup the scope. Another evening where I had loads of stuff to get done, but the timer trigger saved the day. I followed my normal procedure, plonked the tripod down, this time on the grass (I got fed up with everytime I moved, the motion of the decking bounced the scope), levelled and aligned on Mirfak. I used the 10x liveview to align and focus. I then used the goto to slew to NGC7789, as it was quite high, I kept a close eye on the camera as it got near to one of the tripod legs. I then left everything to settle down for 5 minutes before I started the timer capturing 30 second exposures. I checked it after a while, and stopped the timer as the objective was beginning to mist up, so I grabbed the OH's hair dryer and played it around the lens, this cleared the mist. I then thought I'd have a go at 60 second subs and tried a couple. There were not evident signs of trailing, but before I adjusted the timer, I grabbed 10 x 30 second darks. I reset the timer and let it get on with the 60 second subs.
When, finally, the camera stopped capturing, I grabbed another 10 darks for the 60 second subs. I used notepad on the lappy to grab some flats, and some flat darks, and cleared up.
Reviewing the frames after downloading, I realised that the last half of my 60 second subs were all affected with field rotation, so I binned those. 3 of the remaining half had tracking errors, and I binned them too. So I ended up with 62x30s and 17x60s. Processing and stacking in DSS took nearly 2 hours, then a tweak in PS resulted in
And I missed. NGC7789, is just off the bottom of this image. If I'd turned the camera orienation round from lanscape to portrait I would probably have caught it. This is always going to be a problem with objects that you can't actually see. I'd worked out I was in the right ballpark as I'd looked online and found some images, and there are 4 brighter stars in the area, unfortunatly the four I'd found were the wrong four, although the positions look very similar. Ah well. I'll return and try this one again one night, it doesn't look like it's going to be tonight through, it's cloudy.
Whilst it was a clear evening, I had too many things to get done on Friday night. So after setting up the scope, and setting the time remote to 30 second exposures, I left it running. After I while, I popped out to check, and the image preview was showing really dim stars, and not as many as I'd started with. I couldn't work it out. So, I stopped the timer trigger, and checked things over. Only to find that my objective lens looked like someone had been wiping it with a misty cloth. There was a huge amount of condensation on it. Hmm... thought I, scratching my head. Then I had an idea. I grabbed a long extension lead and the OH's hair dryer and set about the lens with it. (blowing hot air that is, not hitting it). That cleared the lens off nicely. I set the remote running again and went back in to get on with stuff. About 30 minutes later I popped back out, to discover that my cheapy bay battery had run flat. Damn. Quick change, onto the Canon batter, and set it running again. I let the run finish, shot 10 darks, 10 flats, and 10 dark flats. Downloaded the images, and set up DSS. I lost 3 frames to user error, walking about bounced the scope. I need to rethink the location, the decking is too bouncy... Maybe on the grass above the decking. I lost about 40 frames to thew dewing up. This left me with 154 x 30 second frames. Wow. I hadn't realised I'd grabbed quite so many. Oh Well. Stacking commenced...
Time Passes some more....
Eventually after 4.5 hours the stacking process was complete. That was painful. A little tweak in PS and I ended up with
Saturday, 11 October 2008
It was clear again on Wednesday, and I started off with a shot of the moon. I'd forgotten that I'd included my new (for me anyway, but it's second hand really) Astronomik CLS filter in the camera adapter, so when I setup and shot the pictures of the moon, they all had a green tint. I also used my "new" Vivitar OM mount 2x Teleconverter to increase the image scale. The result is:
I removed the TC and setup the mount properly, one star align on Mirfak, focused on Mirfak and slewed to M33. I set the timer remote for a stack of 100 x 1 minute exposures. I ended up throwing away 17 due to tracking errors. Once that was complete, I grabbed 10 darks, and used the laptop with notepad maximised to take some flat frames and then grabbed some dark flats too. This time I appear to have got these right as the stacked image showed no sign of vignetting. After much mucking about in PS trying to get the detail out, I ended up going with my first somewhat rough edit. I can't get it better than this... I think that shooting with ISO1600 has introduced too much noise.
On thursday, I managed to grab a few shots of the early evening moon. The sky got mistier until it clouded out later on.
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
Despite the cloud and mist that has been around, I managed to see the moon for the last couple of nights. Only enough to be able to grab a shot or two with the camera but hey.
From Monday night
And a wider field shot, I'm pretty sure Jupiter is in there too, upper left.
And one from last night, it was very misty up high.
Today started clear and bright, but it seems to be clouding over now. The forecast is for good weather this evening though.