Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Sun on 12/12/12

At this time of the year, the sun is in the trees from my observation site even when it is highest in the sky. You can see the tree limb shadows in these shots.  The first is a processed stack of 200 of the best frames from a 1117-frame capture (640x480).  Tree limbs cause stacking and alignment problems (the linear artifacts in this image)

This next image is a processed single shot from a 1000 frame AVI. The sun was deeper in the trees in this shot and  Registax could not produce a coherent stack.  There were some nice prominences and filaments visible.  Images with PST, SolarMax II and Microsoft Lifecam,  This image is a crop from an original image of 640x480 pixels.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Jupiter Gallery--December 5, 2012

Jupiter is just a day or two past opposition and the closest it will be to earth in 27 years.  This gallery of images was taken with an ETX 125 and Microsoft LifeCam.  Images were stacked and processed in Registax 6 with some minor tweaks in Windows.  Thanks to Joe Rome of QCUIAG for color balancing the first image--I will try to do as good a job with the other at some point!

Jupiter and the Galilean Moons

The King of the Planets

One More for Luck!
This overexposed pic shows 3 of the Galilean satellites
The last image is overexposed to show 3 of the Galilean Moons.  Above Jupiter in the image is Callisto. Below the planet is the fainter Ganymede and to the left is Io.  Europa is further out, beyond Io as is outside the field of this image.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Jupiter/Moon Conjunction 11/28/2012

Taken through the trees in my yard, this is an image of the full moon and the planet Jupiter. Of course, the conjunction is simply a line-of-sight effect.  The planet Jupiter is never closer than 628 million km and can be as far away as 928 million km.  Our moon, on the other hand, is only about 384,000 km distant.  Below is another image captured later (9:45 local time) when the pair had cleared the trees. Both pix taken with a Nikon D40 DX lens zoomed to 200mm.  ISO 3200.  Exposure 1/125.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Observatory Part 12--It Works!

A major milestone was achieved last Friday--I rolled the roof off the observatory!  Conditions seemed optimal; the morning was very still with no wind, so I figured it was a low-risk as it was ever likely to be to roll the roof off by myself.  I rolled it very slowly--it took about a minute to roll it off completely.  It was very easy to move and required little effort.  I'm delighted by the result.  This week, I will begin cutting holes for the scope tripod.

The Sun on November 16, 2012

Here are a few images I captured of the sun on Friday.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Solar Imaging November 13, 2012

Today, those lucky enough to live in the southern hemisphere will enjoy a total solar eclipse today.  I am watching a live feed of the sunrise from Australia as I write this. Even though we won't see an eclipse in the northern hemisphere, the PST makes the sun exciting every day!  Here are some images I took today with the PST/SolarMaxII.

Active areas and a nice edge prominence

Dark filaments, active areas, and a prominence

An active solar disk
Here are some pix of my rather primitive PST setup.  As you can see, the whole thing is completely manual.  I use the slow motion knobs to drive the PST as I image.  I typically take around 1000 frames at 30FPS and stack and process them in Registax.
Here are a couple of pix of the PST and SolarMaxII. The converted Microsoft webcam can be seen in the second image.
PST and SolarMaxII on a cheap equatorial mount
The converted Microsoft webcam

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Observatory, Part II

This is a big update.  I've made lots of progress since the last post.  Things have gone more slowly than I would like, but since the roof went on, this has been a solo project.  The roll-off frame is now finished.  The support posts are concreted in and only very small shims were required to align the runners on the observatory interior with the runoff frame. I used offcuts as "stops" at the ends of the rails.  Here are some pix:

It was quite a job attaching the support timbers by myself.  Jamming the bottoms with a chairback while I aligned and attached the top to the runners worked surprisingly well.  I was tempted to roll the roof off, but it was quite breezy today and I was by myself--any difficulties could have been a real problem.  The side weather boards will keep the roof on the track, so I don't need to use side rails. Note that the run of is on the same side of the shed as the door.  I wanted to have the door pointing away from the nearby country road for security reasons. As you can see in one of the pix, that horizon (the west) is also blocked by a plantation of trees (walnuts, hence the observatory's name--The Walnut Ridge Observatory). It made sense to have the  runoff frame on the same side of the building.  As you can see, access is not restricted by this arrangement.

The interior is finished.  I attached hardboard to the insulated stud walls and taped the joints.  Hardboard was not a good choice as it buckles a little in differing humidities, but drywall would have been an even worse choice!  Here's the interior:

When I get the scope in as well as my desk and some posters, it should look halfway decent.  Next steps--cleanup and then scope move!

Monday, November 5, 2012

M92, November 5, 2012

It's Bonfire Night for our cousins in the UK.  IN celebration, I took this pic of M92 as an example of celestial fireworks. The image was captured on the 14 inch with a Nikon D40 at H1 (3200 ISO).  The Nikon performed auto noise reduction and the final stack was of nine 30-second exposure (using Deep Sky Stacker). The final image was processed in Windows.  Even though polar alignment was rather rough, the image shows almost no field rotation.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

An Active Sun

The sun showed some nice activity today, with roiling active areas, prominences, and filaments.  Imaged and processed as usual.  PST plus SolarMax II.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Solar Gallery

Here are a few images I took today.  Captured PST with SolarMax II and MS Webcam.  Average stack size of around 840/1000 frames.  Processed in Registax, Corel, and Windows.

Friday, October 12, 2012

AR 1589 Double- and Single-Stack

Although the sky was a clear, deep blue today, seeing was not good.  Crisp air and local ground heating produced lots of turbulence.  However, I think I am getting the hang of the doublestack now.  Very, very fine adjustments make a huge difference.  Here is AR 1589 with the DS:

And here it is with the plain PST:

The differences are something I have noticed about the DS filter.  It produces images that are more detailed and yet "softer" and more "photographic."  I hope to have some good seeing soon, so that I can see what the DS is really capable of!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Active Area with Trailing Filaments

Double-stacking really brings out the dark filaments on the sun's surface, as this image illustrates:

The "tweaking" of the SolarMaxII etalon is very subtle; I've found that very small movements (around a 16th of an inch in rotation) really do make a difference to the final image.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

More Dramatic Prominences

There is  dramatic activity on the limb of the sun, today.  These prominences hint at increasing solar activity.


There was some dramatic prominence activity on the sun yesterday--things seem to be heating up again!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Better DS Results

Dumping the Barlow Lens seems to help...

AR 1585 and Prominence

This is a doublestack image.  Artifacts are due to grunge on my imaging chip!

More DS vs Standard Experiments

I followed some excellent advice I received from the Yahoo PST group and spent a good deal of time setting up the DS filter on the scope.  I found that the "sweet spot" for the SolarMax II had the tuner hard up against the pin.  I carefully removed the pin and repositioned it 5 holes away in the middle of the tuner slot.  This gave me extra capabilities when it came to tuning, although at the other end of travel, the image was too dark to see.

Visuallty, I could really see a big difference with the DS in place--much more surface detail was visible, but prominences seemed a little fainter and not as detailed.  I took the following images for comparison.  I cropped then to about 25% of size, and oversharpened them to exaggerate differences.  Here is the DS image:

And here is the standard image:

The DS image had more features and a more balanced look.  The standard seems better focused, which highlights one of the issues I'm having when imaging.  The DS is very hard to focus optimally.  Unstacked, you have a real sense of "snap: as the scope reaches focus.  I don't get that with the DS and I seem to be hunting for he least hazy image position on focus.  I should point out that this is only an issue when imaging.  Visually, focus using the DS is sharp and clear.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

DS vs SS PST--part 2

I tuned the filters visually, rather than trying to adjust them via the imager.  Here are two more images to compare after that process:



The edge detail looks better in the SS, but much more detail is visible in the DS image.

The difference between SS and DS when using the scope visually is very apparent.  Operating in DS mode, visual images have much more detail and contrast.  The images don't capture this difference quite as well.  However, for speed of comparison, the above images were smaller stacks (500 as opposed to 1000) and captured at 640 x 480 as opposed to 1280 x 720.

Single vs Double Stack PST

My goal was to compare the scope operating in both modes.  Here's the DS image:

And here is the SS image:

I found DS harder to focus; I'm not sure if the image is actually better....

I suspect the problem is with tuning the SolarMax filter.  I tuned for this image via the imager itself and this might not be the optimal way to tune it.  I'll try again, this time with visual tuning.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

PST Double Stack

I came home today to find this package sitting on the kitchen counter:

My double stack filter had finally arrived!  I hurriedly opened the box and found the following case inside:

It felt impressively heavy.  I opened it and found a beautiful piece of engineering inside.

I lifted the filter out.  Like the PST, it feels like a solid, high-quality product.  The build and finish were impressive. Here is a view, looking into the back of the filter.

Fitting to the PST was simplicity itself.  It screws right into the threads on the lens hood.  The fully-assembled instrument looks like it means business!

The DS PST is obviously too long for the cutout in the Coronado case.  Increasing the size would require cutting  the foam and reducing the cushioning between the scope and the case at both ends of the instrument.  My plan is to store the PST and the filter in their own cases and assemble them each observing session.

I can't wait to try it out!

Monday, September 24, 2012

AR 1575 and some long filaments

AR 1575 has the potential to create M-Class flares, but it looks quiet in this image.  Captured and processed with my usual workflow.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Observatory Part 10

Insulation!  I am insulating the roof and walls of the observatory to reduce heating in direct sun and also to reduce condensation.  This is just R5 polystyrene and I have installed it rather crudely, but it will do the job and (most importantly) it is very inexpensive. The next step is to install the rest of the studs and to install the drywall to give the interior a more finished look.