A Better Mars?!

Posted in astronomy, astrophotography, Open cluster, Photo, photography, Planet, Solar, Space, Uncategorized, weather on April 18, 2014 by Andrew

Now that Spring has sprung, which is up for debate. Our temps here in Vermont have been up and down this week. On Monday, we had sunny skies,and high temps near 80 degrees F. By Wednesday,those temps were seemingly a long ago memory,with high temps of 32 Degrees F. Might I also add that we had received 1″ of fresh snow,and a low Wednesday morning of 16 degrees. Note: Our temps have rebounded and is now a balmy 48 degrees. Sorry, that was just a little bit of venting!.
Ok,back to the post.

As everyone knows, Mars is putting on quite a show in the early evenings,and with clear skies is not disappointing. I have imaged every planet in our solar system over the years,and most have been easy imaging except for one. That’s right…… Mars!. It seems that the Roman God of war doesn’t like it photo taken!. I have made attempts many times,with the same results. The fuzzy blob blues!. Being in a climate that is transitioning from Winter to Spring, having clear,clean skies is a novelty. Last night was just that novelty,even for a short period of time.
I stepped out early last night,and noticed clearing skies. The stars twinkled due to a upper air disturbance, and radiational cooling from the days warmth. Remembering last weeks fiasco of trying to image Mars. I gave the planet more time to rise higher in the sky. Rule of thumb for astrophotography is to let the desired object rise as high as possible before imaging.The reason for this is, light coming from a object has less atmosphere to go through as apposed to the same object just rising in the East. This is why stars twinkle more at the horizon than they do when they are over head.
Last night,as I focused on Mars via my Pc monitor. the first thing that jumped out at me was seeing occasional detail from the red planet. Something I haven’t seen at this level!. I immediately, started imaging. Giving short image stacking a go as I tweaked the settings. The more I tweaked the better it looked. Until finally, I was stacking 300 AVI formatted images in Registax6. The results were not the greatest,but the best I have ever gotten before.
Below is the outcome of last nights session. I will continue trying until I get the desired results I am looking for.


The Orion Nebula

Posted in astronomy, astrophotography, Constellation, Nebula, Open cluster, Photo, photography, Space, Star, weather with tags , on March 19, 2014 by Andrew

Now that Spring arrives tomorrow…. (rolls eyes) . I cleaned the snow away from my observatory,which was no easy task. Our latest snow storm dumped almost 2 feet of the white miserable stuff,adding to the already 2 feet that we already had on the ground.Not including the 5 foot drift piled up against the obs. I used a tractor with a bucket attachment,and it only took 45 minutes.
My other excuse for not getting eye piece time in was/is….THE COLD!!. Most every night the temp has been well below zero. A couple nights it had dipped to -30F. My cutoff is -5 below zero.
Our temps warmed to a balmy 37 Degrees yesterday. This gave me a much needed boost in ambition that lasted until 9:30 pm last night.
The sky was quite clear last night,although the transparency turned bad as a new weather system was approaching from the West.
I did get a few shots of Jupiter with the Neximage 5 ,and will post some pix when I get a chance. My main goal was to get some images of the Orion nebula. Last October,I drift aligned my scope in hopes of taking longer exposures. Last night was the first night I was able to really check my alignment. It didn’t disappoint. I was able to pull off a 4 minute,unguided image of my favorite nebula. A feat that I have never achieved before. My usual exposure times were in the 1.0 min-1.5 mins range before seeing star drift. WOOHOO!. I honestly believe I could have gone 5+ mins with minor drift. I had some very slight drift at 4 minutes,and was only noticeable when zooming in really deep. I took care of that in PS 6 .
AS I posted on FB,
This is the Great Orion Nebula, located in the Orion constellation. It is approximately 1,300 light years away. That is,the light that we see today, began it’s journey around 700 AD.
The image is a 240 second ,single shot at ISO 200.
Image credit: Andrew


Comets comets everywhere

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on November 18, 2013 by Andrew

It has been a while since my last post. This 2013 has been quite a busy and stressful!. To set the scene; earlier in the summer,I was helping a friend move some granite pieces. Well, I managed to crush my fingers. Being quite far from my home (and not wanting to travel 3.5 hours for follow ups) I drove to Dartmouth Hitchcock hospital. The flopping fingers drew the Doc’s conclusion to amputate. Ummmm….NOT happening!. They fixed me up and “Hey, I can still give a high five instead of a high 3 and a half….lmao!”.
The garden: The weeds grew faster than the veggies !.
The weather: Clouds,rain. Not good for observing!.
…and finally..
The move: Not exactly moving ,but more of a replacement. This has kept me busy all by itself. Plus, my other obligations.
Once in a while I have been able to get out to the observatory for some imaging.
The past few months have been dedicated to stellar events. With a few typical objects tossed in for good measure.
As we all know,our skies have become a play ground for comets. Currently their are 4+ in the Northern hemisphere.
The headliner for the season is Comet ISON. Which seems to have come alive in the past several days. Currently comet ISON is at a visual mag of + 5.28 ,and will reach perihelion on Nov 28th at UTC 18:24:48
The image below was taken at 5 am on September 12th. At the time,it appeared through the scope as just a ever so slight smudge when using averted vision. Since it was low in the Eastern sky and at a visual mag of about +11.44. It was severely washed out from the approaching sunrise.
Comet ISON

The next comet in our North skies is Comet Lovejoy. This comet although considerably dimmer than comet ISON is actually much easier to see. It is located East of the constellation Orion. Even though it is dimmer,it is almost directly overhead. This means it has less atmosphere to go through and is also away from the morning twilight.
The striking part of this comet is,it appears as a bright smudge of light. Much like seeing M13 on a hazy night.
The morning I shot the image. I had just awoken ,and didn’t have my morning wake up coffee. I fired up the scope and got the comet centered on the Pc monitor. The imaging program I use,requires me to draw a box around one star,and then another box around another star. This allows the program to track and adjust the images as they are stacked.
As I began stacking images,I was suddenly getting severe star trails. I fought with this for over a hour. All the time using choice words. I couldn’t get my head around what the problem was. I mean,after all,my scope was drift aligned and every other image I had taken was fine. I ran out of patients ,and was about to shut down. When suddenly…. it struck me. Like a addict without his coffee fix,I had drawn a box around the comet nucleus instead of two background stars. The program was doing what it was instructed to do,and use the comet as a tracking tool. The comet is moving MUCH faster than the back ground stars. Fast enough for me to actually watch it move through the star field.
I quickly drew a new box around two background stars ,and suddenly I was getting decent images.
Comet Lovejoy ,like ISON appears green in color.
Comet Lovejoy

This and that

Posted in astronomy, astrophotography, Photo, photography, Solar, Space, Star, Sun, Sunspot, Uncategorized on June 17, 2013 by Andrew

I am still around,just in case you were wondering. I Have been extremely busy for the past month or so. The electronics for my mount have been repaired ,so I have a fully functional scope again…WOOT WOOT !!.
The gardens have been planted,although I am in need of re seeding the corn field since the crows have feasted on the first plantings. Gotta love fresh veggies!!
On a sour note, While at work building a stone wall,I managed to crush my pinky finger. People asked when I was all cast up,what had happened. I just told them ,I got my hand caught between a rock and a hard place….literally !. The tip was broken into 3 pieces,and it is still up in the air if they will amputate. I am in a plastic splint for the next 4-6 weeks….ugh!!!!!.
Luckily, I can still use my scope,since it will goto whatever I want to see,and track the object. Big plus!!!
I did manage a few images from a couple days ago. I see a huge,and long prominence on the sun!.

Sunspot # 1734

Posted in astronomy, Astronomy links, astrophotography, Photo, photography, Solar, Space, Star, Sun, Sunspot, Technorati, Uncategorized on May 8, 2013 by Andrew

It has been a very busy few weeks. With Spring finally arriving,it means yard work,gardening,and money making work.These activities are the normal for this time of year…ugh!.
The other hold up on posting here is,I have been having some hardware issues with my scope.I install a updated firmware version for Losmandy Gemini 2.and all hell broke loose. The dlitch seems to have shut down two major ports on the main unit. I now have the scope functioning,but I have had to adjust the baudrate on a different port,which has totally shut down my GPS unit. I will be sending the main unit,and HC back to Losmandy for repair. This makes me nervous for a couple reasons.
A). Past experiences with telescope manufacturers have been less than satisfying. I don’t want to wait months for the unit to be returned.
B). Cost!. The potential for spending hundreds of dollars for a repair makes me nervous. IMHO, for the amount of money invested.I should think that they would do the right thing and fix the issue with only a shipping cost!.
I guess the first step is to send a email to Scott Losmandy to tell him my issues?!.
Luckily,I still have my LXD75 to fall back on! :D
We have had a string of incredible weather lately. The sky has been clear and transparent. Again,I couldn’t take advantage due to the ….well…. see above.
I did have the scope out a few times,and was treated to a big sunspot #1734. The image below shows Sunspot #1734 ,which also features two dark filaments. One of which appears to have extended from the sunspot. Much like a rubber band,the filament closest to the sunspot has apparently broken away due to the magnetic field becoming unstable. A filament is actually a prominence,and the reason they look dark is due to being cooler than the surrounding areas. A sunspot has the same effect.

Sinus Iridum and the Neximage 5

Posted in asteroid impacts, astronomy, astrophotography, Luna, Lunar Craters, Moon, Photo, photography, Solar, Space, Technorati, Uncategorized on April 25, 2013 by Andrew

Here is a image of the moon from earlier in the week. It shows what is called the Sinus Iridum which is located on the lower left of the moon. The darker crater just North of Sinus iridum is called “Plato”. Most of the large craters seen in this image can easily be seen with binoculars. Plato is quite large at 61 miles across!.
This is without question the most detailed shot of the Sinus Iridum I have ever taken!!. :D

Our busy sun

Posted in astronomy, astrophotography, Photo, photography, Solar, Space, Star, Sun, Sunspot, Technorati, Uncategorized on April 18, 2013 by Andrew

I am still cleaning the yards,which is why I haven’t posted lately. Ugh…never ending raking…lol
We had a clear day yesterday with good transparency. Which makes a huge difference when observing or imaging. Those of you with telescopes will know what I mean.Picture looking down a paved road on a really hot day. That is what bad transparency looks like. It makes it almost impossible to achieve a decent focus.
So anyway, in between raking,and other cleaning, I kept sneaking out to the observatory to do some imaging….hehehehehe!.
During my seemingly back and forth trips to the scope.I was treated to actually seeing a difference in prominence shape.I see a time lapse vid of a prominence in full breathing action!.





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