Friday, February 21, 2020

RawTherapee app Conquers Chromatic Aberration!

While I have written before about this noisome issue of purple fringing on stars I have found that the RawTherapee (google it) app does a fantastic job of minimizing this chromatic aberration.

After few clear nights in a row here, I imaged the Rosette Nebula with a 200mm f/5.6 old Pentax telephoto on a Canon T3i unmodded.

The chromatic aberration as terrible... purple fringing on the edges of the brighter stars! Yuck! 

But RawTherapee photo program to the rescue! It has a function that can reduce/eliminate the objectionable color and rescue an otherwise useless image! You can see the difference is quite apparent! Then I was able to increase the color saturation without increasing the purple around most of the stars!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Occultation of Mars by the Moon Captured

Got up early this morning and caught the 4:38 am exiting of Mars from behind the Moon! 
Thank you, my wonderful wife, for helping me! What a trooper at 10*F   ! 
The Moon was only about 6 degrees above the east-south east horizon and some pine tree photo bombed my shot!
Camera: Canon T3i unmodded
Telescope: Celestron NexStar 4SE

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Finally, after 40 days and 40 nights of clouds, snow and rain...Two Images!

First up, The Rosette Nebula (north east of the constellation Orion).
Under a "first quarter" moon it finally cleared up last night and I attempted to image for the first time in 40 days and nights!  (We are back to rain and clouds again...)
The night sky was fairly bright because of the nearly first quarter Moon upon a thin haze of wood-stove smoke from all my neighbors.
The result was a strong bluish cast that I had to work hard to get out of my image. Enjoy!

Telescope: Daystar 480mm f/6.5 refractor
Camera: Canon T3i unmodded
Mount: Celestron AVX
Imaging software: BackyardEOS
Stacking software: DeepSky Stacker
Post-processing software: Luminar 2018
Data: ISO 1600 - 6 subs @ 360 sec each
Total exposure integrated time: 36 minutes

Finally, The Great Orion Nebula (M 42& M43) and the Running Man Nebula (Sharpless 279).
from Jan 31, 2020, again under a bright first quarter Moon and the neighborhood wood stoves pumping the air with smoke!

Scope: 480mm f/6 refractor, Canon T3i unmodded
Multiple exposures from 12 sec to 180 sec @ iso 1600
Stacked with DSS
Post-processed in GIMP, defringed in Luminar 2018, Aurora HDR 2019

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2019 Year In Review Poster

2019 is in the books and here are the stats:
For 64 nights of 2019 I was in the obs imaging ( 17% ) an average of only 5 days per month.

97 nights were clouded out totally ( 27% )
58 nights had partly cloudy skies unworthy of imaging ( 21% )
45 nights were rainy ( 12% )
34 nights were "clear" but mucky conditions ( 9% )
29 nights were snowing ( 8% )
_6 nights were clear but strong winds made imaging impossible ( less than 2% )
_4 nights were foggy ( about 1% )
_2 nights were of no use due to heavy smoke from forest fires ( less than 1% )
all the rest I was either too busy, sick, on vacation or out of town on business. ( 3% )

Nights in the Observatory By the month:

      Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr   May   Jun   Jul   Aug   Sep   Oct   Nov   Dec

9                                                                                       9
7     7                                   7        7                                          7
5                      5        5                          5                5
3                                                                     3                                  3
1            1

Friday, December 13, 2019

Total Solar Eclipse with the Citizen CATE Project UPDATE !

I have always wanted to do more than look at celestial objects and image them. To help do some actual science was a hope I thought was beyond me.

But then, just over two years ago I participated in the Citizen CATE Project with the National Solar Observatory under the direction of Matt Penn (principle investigator) to image the Total Solar Eclipse of 2017.
The goal was to provide data on this rare occurrence to investigate the inner corona of the Sun (which is only visible from planet Earth during a total solar eclipse).
You can find my blog report here.

This was taken during the total eclipse
with a 250mm telephoto on a Canon T3i DSLR.

Just today (December 13, 2019) Matt Penn released to the public the final findings of this project.
You can find the report here.

THREE points of interest in this report:

1. You will notice that myself and my wife are listed (at the beginning of the report) as two of the many "authors" who participated in the CATE project! Nice!

In this report the goal of the project is laid out in the "Introduction" (worth reading!)

2. Under the heading "3. CATE Volunteer Network" you will find on the line "cate17-005" the site that we observed and imaged from! We were about 4 miles north of Mitchell, Oregon, hence the site is called "Fossil, Oregon" though it was really close to where the Twickenham Road crosses the John Day River.
You will also notice that line is in bold type, which is explained at the end of that section this way:
"Note. The six sites used in the present analysis of the CME outflow are shown in bold text. Sites with cloudy conditions or instrumental difficulty are shown in italics."
Our site is in bold type, in other words, our data was only one of six that were useful for this project! WooHoo! SCIENCE was possible!

3. Under the heading of "6.2. Spatial Filtering and Velocity Measurement" you will find a set of images used as an "example" of the applied filters needed to gain real science.
The site "cate17-005"... that MY site! WOW! Unexpected!

Science was done! Something on my bucket list has just been crossed off!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Meade LX200GPS Mount communication issues SOLVED!

To do quality astrophotography with a Meade LX200GPS telescope (by the way, mine is the 8" model) you need to be able to use a computer program star chard, a guiding camera/scope and guiding software. You will be able to take LONGER exposures and image dimmer objects in the beautiful night sky.

However, if you have a Meade LX200 GPS telescope and want to be able to use the star chart program Cartes du Ciel AND the autoguiding software program, PHD2, you may have encountered issues with both programs trying to work together to control the telescope mount. Either one will connect or the other... but both? Good luck... especially if you are using a powered USB hub at the scope mount and another USB cable that transfers the info to your computer/laptop.

I was nearly going to defork the scope and put it on another mount... when I stumbled on to the solution... AGAIN !  It seems old age is catching up with me as TWO previous posts show: May 5, 2019 and May 11, 2019. I figured this out BEFORE! LOL!  Why the problem? Months of non-use and accidental disconnecting one of the key solutions to the problem.

All the same, if YOU are having this problem (not the memory one) THERE IS HOPE to get your scope up and running with a guide scope!

The issue is that the Meade hardware/software/driver will only allow one COM connection via a USB to RS232. Most of us use a device like this one:
It is a USB-A to Serial DB9 RS232 Adapter Cable (this one is 3 ft. long) and is know as a Keyspan (available through Amazon on this page).

with this cable (usually supplied with the telescope, or something like it):

The "phone cable connector" looking end is connected to the telescope mount here:

Here is the "fix" and solution to my problem:

You will notice, however that there are TWO RS232 ports on the telescope mount... and for good reason!

At least for me, I have to have TWO of these "Keyspan" USB to Serial DB9 RS232 adapters.

Each one is connected to the mount via the two RS232 ports and both are connected either to the computer (via the USB cable) or through a powered USB hub
Notice that BOTH RS232 ports now have an occupant!

The result is that one program will grab one Keyspan and the other can grab the other!
Occasionally I have to start the PHD2 program first, connect up with it AND then open up the star chart program and connect with the telescope with it. One might have to select which COM port the second program needs but that is no big problem to solve.

And... walla! You can control the telescope mount with the star chart program, Cartes du Ciel and have PHD2 do the fine guiding for long exposure imaging!

Hope it works for you!

Monday, November 11, 2019

The 2019 Transit of Mercury

Though the weather was mostly uncooperative (heavy fog and some clouds to boot) I was able to grab a few images of the transit of Mercury. A transit of the planet Mercury is when the planet moves between us and the Sun, making Mercury look like a black dot on the visible disk of the Sun.

I participated in a nation-wide effort called "The Citizen ToM Project" (ToM=Transit of Mercury) under the direction of Zach Stockbridge. Youtube

The goal was to recreate the experiment proposed by Edmond Halley (the great comet was named after him). He calculated that two people widely spaced on our planet timing the transit of Venus would be able to use basic geometry and calculus to figure out how far the Earth is from the Sun (the "AU" or astronomical unit). He died before he could prove it. After his death, several expeditions were launched (in 1761) to gather the data needed to determine the AU with good success.

My experience that day for the Citizen ToM Project:
The day of the transit started with heavy fog forcing me to travel about 45 miles from my home in La Pine, Oregon into the Oregon Outback. My final location was Fort Rock State Park, Oregon. I had intended to travel even more south-east to avoid the fog but that direction had even thicker fog. 

In my rush to set up the equipment in the hopes of making an early observation (using the Citizen CATE total solar eclipse project equipment) I forgot to polar align! But no need... I got lucky: my guess-timate was almost dead on! As the Sun would only peak out very occasionally (and even then it was through thinner fog) I found that I only had to barely move the scope as the Sun was always in the camera's field of view! 

I missed most of the early timings but was able to catch the egress of Mercury! Then... nothing but thick clouds over the Sun! It was awesome to have participated in this transit of Mercury experiment! - Richard Lighthill, La Pine, Oregon.

This is image is the first that I was able to make when the fog thinned enough for me to focus clearly:
If you look closely a little up and left of center you will see the dot that is Mercury.

Here is where I was located for these photographs: Fort Rock State Park:

Hours later I was able to catch Mercury
before it egressed from the Sun's disk.
(It is in the upper right quadrant of the Sun.)

Here the planet as it begins to leave the Sun's disk (cropped image)

And then it is gone!

Next time: November 13, 2032!