Saturday, March 30, 2013

Move-In Day!

With the indispensable help of family and friends, the 14 inch is now installed at Walnut Ridge.  It was a close thing.  We arrived at the site to find that the proprietors of the land had changed the padlocks on the gates, so we could not get in.  However, the group were undeterred and at great personal sacrifice, lugged the scope (in its box) and the mount plus ultrawedge several hundred yards over an open field and uphill to the observatory.  So--Scott (my son), David (my partner in crime), Ken (a friend of David's and all-around good guy), and Declan (David's son)--thank you all for service above and beyond the call of duty!

From L to R:  Scott, Declan, Ken and David at Walnut Ridge
We also took the time while we were there to do some solar observations.  The weather was a little hazy, but the sun was definitely worth a look.

Next steps--alignment and setup!
The 14 inch installed at Walnut Ridge--finally!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Closeup Sun

A filament and bight area near the center of the solar disk today.  The area does not have designation as it is not associated with any spots.  I used a 400 frame capture and stacked the best 20% of frames in Registax 6.  Processed with wavelets and finished in Photoshop. Captured with PST-DS, 2x Barlow and LifeCam.

A dark filament and bright area near the center of the solar disk

The Sun on March 21, 2013

We finally had some clear weather and I was able to take some solar images.  The sun is rather quiet, but there are still some things worth looking at (active areas, filaments, etc.).  I've noticed that my imager, a LifeCam, sometimes produces "mosquito noise" on images.  I'm not sure why this happens.  Eliminating it in Photoshop is relatively easy, but the process also degrades the image.  I may try experimenting with exposure times and contrast settings to see if that helps. Images were taken with the PST-SolarMaxII without a barlow.

Active areas, filaments and prominences

There are some interesting features around the active area to the upper left of this image

A close up of the active area in the image above.  Note the "mosquito noise" to the left of the feature

An inverted close-up of the solar surface

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Another shot at processing the Great Nebula

The issue is that I am working with a stack of only 3 images for a total of around 150 seconds of exposure--a very small amount of data.  I did some more reprocessing of the image I posted earlier, reducing noise and manipulating levels.  This is the new result.  I think the center of the nebula is improved tremendously.  The rather grainy nature of the outer area is caused by insufficient data due to the relatively short exposure time,

Solar Image Reprocessing Workflow

One of the great things about being a part of an online community of people with similar interests is that you learn a lot from people who are more expert than you are yourself.  A case in point is the two images below. The first was posted last week, the second, color image of the same, is reprocessed with my workflow, but with the addition of a step called "image squaring."  The process was described by the co-author of the excellent tool I used, StarMax, Sylvain Weiller. As you can see from the images below, it is a powerful technique to bring out fine details and enhance contrast even in a simple 640x480 capture like this one.  Thank you, Sylvain!  Your PST images are an inspiration!

Image reprocessed with "image squaring"

Original Image

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Sun, 03-13-2013

Here are two images of the sun taken this afternoon.  Each was a 1000 frame capture with the best 20% of frames stacked and processed in Registax 6.  Because I am on vacation, my normal processing workflow could not be followed, so these images are just the output of Registax. The lack of processing tools was more than offset by the rustling of palm trees in the breeze and the sounds of the surf as I captured these images. Equipment was PST-DS and LifeCam.

The Solar and Deep Sky/Planetary Observatories the Isle of Palms, South Carolina :-)

Orion Nebula 3-12-2013

This is a roughly processed image of the Great Nebula in Orion taken with my ETX 125 from the Isle of Palms.  I used a Nikon D40 with no darks or flats.  The image is a stack of 3 exposures for a total of 1 minute and 30 seconds.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Jupiter from the Isle of Palms, 03-12-2013

I'm taking a break off the coast of South Carolina on the Isle of Palms.  This pic of Jupiter is a quick stack and process taken this evening off my balcony with my ETX 125 and trusty LifeCam.  I don't have access to my usual processing tools, and the atmosphere was rather unsteady, but the pic shows the planet and three Galilean moons.