Saturday, December 29, 2018

2018 Year in Review Poster

Annually I am making a poster (8"x12") of the best images I have taken that year. Though this year's imaging was sparse due to winter weather, summer forest fires and more than normal cloudiness, I was surprised to find enough images for this year (2018). Enjoy!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

20181227 - The California Nebula and The Pleiades wide field image

Taken with a modified Canon XSI camera with a Canon 50mm lens set at f/3.5, ISO 1600 and exposed for 75 seconds, Celestron Advanced GT mount.
The original image was "over exposed" but I have discovered that that isn't always a bad thing in astrophotography of dim objects. When one "over-exposes" it is easier to increase the contrast and draw more color out. However, I might have been a little over-zealous in this shot!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Preliminary Results from imaging Comet 46P/Wirtanen

To catch a comet!
It cleared up Monday night (Dec. 11, 2018) long enough for me to get a few images of Comet 46P/Wirtanen !
I am still processing them but here is a sneak peak:

Sunday, November 25, 2018

November 15, 2018 NGC 2175 The Rosetta Nebula (first effort)

Under less than ideal skies
Imaged with Canon T3i
250mm lens @ f/5.6
ISO 3200 - 6 frames stacked with DSS = 11 minutes total
(due to insufficient exposures and time this is the poor result)

November 15, 2018 M 42 The Orion Nebula & the Running Man Nebula FIRST CHANCE!

Imaged with Canon T3i (unmodded)
250mm f/5.6 (cropped)
ISO 3200 - 10
frames stacked with DSS = 19 minutes total

November 15, 2018 M 33 Triangulum Galaxy

Imaged with Canon T3i (unmodded)
250mm lens @ f/5.6  ISO 3200
6 exposures stacked with DSS = 12 minutes total

Full frame:


November 15, 2018 M 45 - The Pleiades

Imaged with Canon T3i (unmodded)
250mm  f/5.6  (image cropped 50%)
ISO 1600   5 image subs = 22 minutes
Stacked with DSS

November 15, 2018 The North American Nebula

Imaged with Canon T3i (unmodded)
250mm lens at f/5.6
15 images stacked with DSS for 40 minutes total exposure
ISO 3200 - post-processed with Luminar

November 15, 2018 Horsehead and Flame Nebula

Taken with Canon T3i (unmodded)
250mm @ f/5.6
Five 2 minute exposures = 10 minutes total
Stacked with DSS 4.1.1
Post processed with Luminar
Image Cropped 50%

November 15, 2018 Andromeda Galaxy M 32

Taken with Canon T3i (unmodded)
250mm f/5.6
ISO 1600
Four 4 minute exposures for a total time of 16 minutes
Stacked in DSS 4.1.1
Post-processed in Luminar

November 15, 2018 Moon and Mars Conjunction

Conjunction of the Moon and Mars (star at right center is Iota Aquarii)
Taken with a Canon T3i
250mm zoom @ f/5.6
Combined two exposures: 1/2 sec for Mars, 1/500 sec for Moon
Software: GIMP

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Asteroids Asteroids Asteroids

NASA has a brief video showing all the known asteroids in our solar system. While most of us know that there is an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and that occasionally an asteroid visits the vicinity of Earth... be prepared for a shock: There are FAR MORE asteroids in our vicinity than you believe!

NASA is vitally interested in discovering and tracking these space rocks (of all shapes and sizes) as they are a threat to Earth, granted rare in these days but still a viable threat.

The good news is that our atmosphere (not to mention the Moon) has protected us from these impacts for the most part.

Here is the link:

How to Detect Exoplanets with Inexpensive Astroimaging Equipment!

Hi, all. I ran across this youtube video about how one can use the ZWO ASI 120 MM monochrome camera with minimal equipment (an equatorial mount with motor drive) to detect (well, if not necessarily discover) stars with exoplanets by the changes in the light brightness as the exoplanet passes in front of the star.

Using SharpCap and AstroImageJ programs in conjunction with the Exoplanet Transit Database website one can practice with know stars with exoplanets.

The video is comprehensive enough to get going at it. It is a 6 minute video worthy of watching if you are interested in trying this. I am!

Now, just to have some clear skies, no Moon, not too tired, or work getting in the way!

I will report when I have a chance to try this!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Clear Skies: Day 1 M 33, Deep Sky Stacker in Mac OS and Guiding Tests

Clear Skies: Day 1
M 33 Galaxy (no cropping)
DeepSkyStacker 3.2.2 in Mac OS High Sierra (using Wine)
Total time: 20 minutes from 6 frames @ ISO 800
Canon T3i camera body (unmodified) , Daystar 80mm f/6 scope
Last night was the first of perhaps a week of clear skies here in central Oregon... at least until the forestry department kicks in "prescribed burns" and pollutes the skies with smoke. I can't figure out why they can't do that on cloudy days. Sure, they want it to burn "hot and fast" but hey, what's the hurry? Throw some fire starter on it and it WILL burn! Anyway, enough of that rant...

My goal was to do some more tests with my autoguider camera and scope. Here is a close up of the same galaxy image above so you can see that the stars are round and there is no drift!

The real problem was not "How long can I expose the camera sensor?" but "How long can I expose before the background sky light overwhelms the faint nebulosity of the subject matter?"
Though the nights are coming on earlier, the problem is that, at present, until it is 11 pm or later the background sky light is too much for any serious imaging.

Of course, as fall progresses into winter here in the northern hemisphere it will get darker much earlier. That's the good news. The bad news is that these objects will be too far down in the west to image (trees, more atmosphere to shoot through). The good news: I will be ready for it next year!

Another task was to install DeepSkyStacker onto my Macbook Pro running High Sierra 10.13.6
DSS was made only for Windows. While I could run it in a virtual machine using Virtual Box, the fact is that it would run far faster if not burdened down with another OS system.

Wine is a potential way of running DSS without the baggage of an entire Windows OS.

In my search for "How to run DSS in Mac" I came across this website:

This person has packaged Wine and DSS 3.2.2 into a SINGLE installable file! Sweet!

I used it for the above photograph (and the ones that follow) and it works GREAT on my Macbook!

Some functionality may be "limited" but that is not where I am going anyway (I haven't tested it fully).

Here is a screenshot of it running on my system:

The version of DSS is 3.2.2 which is older than the newer version 4.1.1 (available for 32 bit and 64 bit). I will try to find an easy way to install the newer version and see how it runs. Here is the DSS official website where 4.1.1 can be found.

Here are some more images stacked with DSS 3.2.2 last night:
M 27 - The Dumbell Nebula
about 20 minutes from 7 images stacked - ISO 1600
Taken with the same camera and scope as the M 33 pic
Zoomed in from the above shot (after post-processing with Luminar)
Notice there is no streaking, my autoguiding setup is WORKING!

In my haste (which does make waste) I did not take any "dark" frames which would have eliminated "hot" pixels, some of which are obvious in the above image.

Now, for another night to further perfect my astroimaging...

Friday, October 5, 2018

Surprise! A Clear Evening... Great for Tests with Auto-guiding

It was supposed to be partly cloudy and then before sunset a wind came in a surprisingly cleared out the clouds!
I have just received a 50mm guidescope and I needed to test it with my old autoguider camera (see previous post) on the CATE telescope (Daystar 480mm scope) with a finder shoe that a good friend in Salem, Oregon made for the telescope.
The old autoguider didn't seem able to hold the stars still for more than 2 minutes and sometimes far less... hmmm... need to figure out why. I would have thought it was an issue of polar alignment but I took care of that earlier. I think it might be periodic errors in the gears that the autoguiding program just couldn't correct fast enough. Ah, the joys of chasing errors!

Here are a few of the final images, not cropped. Click on an image to get a better view.

The North American Nebula
DeepSkyStacker: 21 minutes, 16 frames
Canon T3i (unmodded) ISO 3200
Postprocessed with Luminar

Same as above but greyscale to bring out more detail

M 33 Galaxy
DeepSkyStacker: 22 minutes, 18 frames
Canon T3i (unmodded) ISO 3200
Postprocessed with Luminar
M 32 The Andromedia Galaxy
DeepSkyStacker: 30 minutes, 27 frames
Canon T3i (unmodded) ISO 3200
Postprocessed with Luminar

M 34 Open Star Cluster
Single shot: 1 minute
Canon T3i (unmodded) ISO 400
Postprocessed with Luminar

Comet 64p/Swift-Gehrels (the small fuzzy blue in the center of the image)
DeepSkyStacker: 8 minutes, 6 frames
Canon T3i (unmodded) ISO 3200
Postprocessed with Luminar

The Pleiades - Notice the nebulousness around the primary stars !
DeepSkyStacker: 12 minutes, 8 frames
Canon T3i (unmodded) ISO 3200
Postprocessed with Luminar

Friday, August 24, 2018

Flashback to the Total Solar Eclipse of 1979 !

FLASHBACK! My wife, Denese, found three photos I took of the February 25, 1979 total solar eclipse from Goldendale, Washington! 

Camera: Pentax K with Kodak Ektachrome 64 mounted on an Edmund Scientific Astroscan, which in turn wa strapped via metal pipe strapping to an old wooden legged EQ (no motor) mount. Enjoy!


 Bailey's Beads

Diamond Ring Effect

Friday, August 3, 2018

A Short Night in the Obs !

After two weeks of smoke from forest fires hindering deep sky astroimaging, the skies cleared up last night! Whoohoo!

 The Gamma Cyn Region
The bright star is the center star of what is known as
the Northern Cross
Specs: 14 minute exposure (made up of 16 individual images)
stacked with DeepSkyStacker, ISO 12800, Canon T3i
Daystar 80mm scope at f/6.5

 The Andromeda Galaxy (M 31) and it's two smaller galaxies
Specs: 15 minute exposure (made up of 15 individual images)
stacked with DeepSkyStacker, ISO 12800, Canon T3i
Daystar 80mm scope at f/6.5

The Western Veil Nebula (NGC 6960)
Specs: 16 minute exposure (made up of 27 individual images)
stacked with DeepSkyStacker, ISO 12800, Canon T3i
Daystar 80mm scope at f/6.5

 The North American Nebula
Specs: 15 minute exposure (made up of 15 individual images)
stacked with DeepSkyStacker, ISO 12800, Canon T3i
Daystar 80mm scope at f/6.5

Tr 37 region
Specs: 4 minute exposure (made up of 4 individual images)
stacked with DeepSkyStacker, ISO 12800, Canon T3i
Daystar 80mm scope at f/6.5

Friday, July 27, 2018

Faux-Total Lunar Eclipse !

While we did not see the REAL total lunar eclipse (it was not visible from the USA), the smoke from the fires around Crater Lake pushed up into central Oregon and as the full Moon rose, I captured these "look-alike" images! They look almost like the real thing, though! Enjoy!

Friday, July 20, 2018

A Moon Crater With "A Ring of Beads!"

On a whim I imaged the Moon July 18, 2018 with my Explore Scientfic AR127 scope using a Canon T3i. I didn't think much about it until I thought I would take an over-exposed image to reveal the "Earthshine" (light from the Sun, reflected by the Earth on the Moon, which is then reflected back to the Earth). 

That's when I saw a kind of weird feature near the top of the Moon in the image.
It appeared to be a "ring of beads"!

Here is a cropped image of the normal exposure:

And this is a cropped view of the over-exposed Moon:

What this is showing is that the rim around this particular large crater was having the sunlight hit just the tops of the rim where there are taller peaks to catch the light, while the floor of the crater is still in shadow! Cool!

I am not sure but it might be the crater called "Goldschmidt"

Flyover by the International Space Station (ISS)

I got a heads-up that the International Space Station would be flying overhead on July 18, 2018 at about 10:36 pm. So I set up with a 24mm wide angle lens on my Canon T3i. I mounted it on a stationary tripod and took a long single exposure of about 3 minutes.
In the lower center you can see the roof of the La Pine Observatory.

First Effort at imaging the Veil Nebula

Things have calmed down some this summer and I was able to get out and do a little astroimaging with my Explore Scientific AR127 scope. I had not intended to make this a long session so I did not do any image stacking which would have improved the quality of the Veil Nebula. This is my first effort at capturing this lovely nebula!
Another day...
Eastern portion of the Veil Nebula region
in the constellation Cygnus aka the Northern Cross

The Western portion of the Veil Nebula region
in the constellation Cygnus aka the Northern Cross

Friday, July 13, 2018

Noctilucent Clouds over La Pine !

On my way out last night to the observatory some unusual clouds were hoovering high up in the atmosphere in the west to overhead. I realized what they were: noctilucent clouds!
See the Wikipedia info on them below the pics!
(Note: clicking on the images should show a little larger view)

This was taken facing south.

You can see the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper
in this image taken towards the west.

This image was taken a few minutes later
facing south again.

Noctilucent clouds, or night shining clouds, are tenuous cloud-like phenomena in the upper atmosphere of Earth. They consist of ice crystals and are only visible during astronomical twilight. Noctilucent roughly means "night shining" in Latin. They are most often observed during the summer months from latitudes between 50° and 70° north and south of the Equator. They are visible only during local summer months and when the Sun is below the observer's horizon, but while the clouds are still in sunlight.

They are the highest clouds in Earth's atmosphere, located in the mesosphere at altitudes of around 76 to 85 km (47 to 53 mi). They are too faint to be seen in daylight, and are visible only when illuminated by sunlight from below the horizon while the lower layers of the atmosphere are in Earth's shadow.

Noctilucent clouds are not fully understood and are a recently discovered meteorological phenomenon. No confirmed record of their observation exists before 1885, although they may have been observed a few decades earlier by Thomas Romney Robinson in Armagh.[1] Doubts now surround Robinson's out-of-season records, following observations, from several points around high northern latitudes, of NLC-like phenomena following the Chelyabinsk superbolide entry in February 2013 (outside the NLC season) that were in fact stratospheric dust reflections visible after sunset.

Noctilucent clouds can form only under very restricted conditions during local summer; their occurrence can be used as a sensitive guide to changes in the upper atmosphere. They are a relatively recent classification. The occurrence of noctilucent clouds appears to be increasing in frequency, brightness and extent.