Try increasing gamma if dark sections aren't distinguished

Try increasing gamma if dark sections aren't distinguished

Sunday, April 22, 2018

re-revisiting the expanding crab nebula

here's my biennial addition to the crab nebula expansion from 2006 to 2016(17)
it appears as though the pulsar wind is outstripping the filaments, especially mid lower left:
This is an RGB image only as my earlier images were limited.
a wider version here shows a high proper motion star lower left:

Here’s is a composite of LRGB plus a touch of OIII luminance for the outer shell and faint jet up top:
M1 2016-17 LRGB OIII
Unlike most simple supernova remnants, the crab pulsar wind nebula is extremely rich in nitrogen.  so i elected to image it in NII, SII, and OIII.  Unfortunately, i didn't have time for Ha, but my impression is that the NII signal is similar to what one sees with a wide Ha filter due to the dominance of the NII.  The crab is probably not the best nebula for ultra narrow band imaging as rapid motion of the gas distorts the emission lines.  Here's a blink of the narrow band images:

The difficulty with creating a color narrow band image is that there's no apparent rhyme or reason to the SII signal, it makes no intuitive visual sense.  I tried a number of different color palettes...didn't like any of them.  then i created a blink of 3 different combinations and decided it was time to stop thinking, break out the lava lamp and play some hendrix:
Crab Nebula NII SII OIII combinations: NSO, SNO, NOS
OK coming back from outer space somewhat, here's an attempt to incorporate the SII data into a more traditional image, by coloring the SII gold/orange:
Crab Nebula LRGB NII SII OIII 2016-17
Lastly, a blink, of the narrow band images used above showing the addition of the SII in orange:
Crab Nebula NII red, SII orange, OIII blue
Last, but not least, if you haven't seen it, here's a very large/long animation i did in 2011 showing long and short term motion at the crab nebula as well as narrow band blinks (a bit grainy due to compression):
Large Animation File Link

8" LX200R, SX Trius 694 and QSI 660 binned x2 to 0.8"/px, ASA DDM60
astrodon LRGB E SERIES GEN-II, NII 3 nm, SII 3nm, OIII 3 nm
L 239 x 1 min ;)
red 96 x 4 min, green 67 x 4 min, blue 67 x 4 min (included as pseudoluminance)
NII 19 x 20 min
SII 11 x 20 min
OIII 27 x 20 min

8" LX200R, SX Trius 694 and QSI 660 binned x2 to 0.8"/px, ASA DDM60
astrodon LRGB E SERIES GEN-II, OIII 5 nm, chroma 540x50 nm filter (greenish continuum)
L 346 x 1 min ;)
red 33 x 4 min, green 22 x 4 min, blue 22 x 4 min (included as pseudoluminance)
OIII 24 x 20min
540x50 53 x 5min, 56 x 10min

8" LX200R @ 0.6"/px, SX AO, Astrodon OIII 5nm, IDAS LPR filters SX H9/H9C
RGB(IDAS) 14x20 min, luminance 35x5 min with idas, 35x5 min unfiltered, plus RGB pseudoluminance
OIII 19x20 min

8" LX200R, SX AO, Astrodon OIII 5nm IDAS LPR, SX H9/H9C
RGB 31x20 min, luminance 205x5 min plus RGB pseudoluminance, OIII 47x10 min binnned x2

forgot the details there was too much star trailing for me to complete the initial processing.
aborted HaRGB

nexstar 8 GPS, IDAS LPR filter, f/6.3 FR, SXV H9C
120x1 min, 240x30 sec (unguided)

Sunday, April 1, 2018

spikes and a detective story

Here's an image of open cluster M 25 taken with a small refractor.
Open Cluster M 25

An open cluster is a group of up to a few thousand stars that were formed from the same giant molecular cloud and have roughly the same age. Open clusters generally survive for a few hundred million years, with the most massive ones surviving for a few billion years. Open clusters have been found only in spiral and irregular galaxies, in which active star formation is occurring (wikipedia).  Most of the stars have the same appearance, though there can be variation.  Many open clusters are visually large objects in the sky, best seen with a small telescope or binoculars.  

diffraction spikes are those pretty lines that you see radiating from bright stars in photographs. interestingly, the spikes are not inherent to the starlight, but rather an artifact of light interacting with the optical system used to capture the image.

reflecting telescopes typically have the most prominent diffraction spikes, large cross shaped lines emanating from bright stars.  they are caused by cross bars in the light path used to hold a secondary mirror in place.

the classic vertical and horizontal line are created by "spider vanes' 
which hold a secondary mirror in place in many types of reflecting telescopes
wikipedia diffraction spikes
refracting telescopes (lenses only, no mirrors) have no such obstacles in the light path, they produce the "cleanest" stars without prominent diffraction spikes.

a few use curved spiders in their reflectors to minimize the effect, but they can have issues:
as you can imagine amateur telescope makers have tried all kinds of different curved shapes (modeling with fourier-transforms) to minimize the effect.  while curved shapes can mitigate the effect, they scatter a small amount of light throughout the field.  so many prefer straight spiders with spikes and a cleaner surrounding field.

I know what you're thinking now: wait a minute.  the brighter stars in your image have diffraction spikes which are caused by cross-bars suspending the secondary mirror of a reflecting telescope, but you said this was taken with a small refractor.  What is this, some sort of misguided...

April fools, I Photoshopped  the image, adding the spikes in to accentuate the stars in the cluster. 

some find the spikes aesthetically pleasing and will actually add them into their image by stringing fishing line across the front of the telescope, or using photoshop as I did above.  

A Detective Story:
Having an image selected for the astronomy picture of the day (APOD) is the pinnacle of amateur astronomy.  If you look at the caption for the APOD for 1/12/17, you'll see the following cryptic message:
"Editor's Note: The NGC 891 image used in today's APOD posting has been replaced and the credit corrected to indicate the author of the original work."        
Apparently, an amateur astronomer from Italy who had been boasting that his images taken with modest equipment were comparable to those of the major observatories (thanks to his excellent technique) posted the image that was originally selected.  It turned out, the image was plagiarized.  The astronomer had taken an older image from the Mount Lemmon Observatory and photoshopped it into his image.  

How did they catch him?  take another look at my December image below.  This was just a star test, an image of a bright star (Capella) slightly out of focus used to to diagnose a problem in my optical train (telescope, filters, filter wheel, off-axis guider, camera...).  looked pretty cool so i figured i'd share it:
Capella star test
The telescope used to take this shot doesn't have crossbars, so you don't see a single set of large diffraction spikes, but if you brighten it up like this, you see hundreds of tiny spikes radiating out from the star.  if you look closely, you can see a slightly more prominent set of lines going vertically and horizontally.  the vertical and horizontal line are caused by the rectangular architecture of the camera while the myriad surrounding spikes result from subtle irregularities such as dust on the lenses.  

Here's an image of a bright set of stars taken with a refractor.  The brightest set of stars have pairs of lines 120 degrees apart.  These are caused by 3 clips holding the lenses in place:
Omicron-1 Cygni, the Patriotic Triple 6/09
Thus, the pattern of lines around a star reveal the instrument used, just as ballistics on a bullet can be linked to a gun.  

The "author" of the original APOD image, claimed to have used a telescope that does not have crossbars, but the diffraction pattern around the stars in the plagiarized image exactly matched the diffraction pattern in the observatory image with large diffraction spikes.  someone thought the image looked familiar and compared the two...

why someone would do this is beyond me, but apparently it's not that uncommon. 

more sordid details here:

the smoking gun image comparing the two:

Sunday, February 11, 2018

lunar libration

After the recent lunar eclipse, I attempted to line up a before and after image, superimposing the full moon from the night before with the eclipsed moon just before sunrise, and found something odd: they don't match.  it wasn't just a matter of lining things up--which i can correct, or size--which i expected to be minor, but the surface of the moon itself appeared to have rotated:

lunar libration, full moon at sunset to eclipsed moon at sun rise 1/31/18
In a moment of doubt, i feared that a processing bug was creating horrific artifacts, since i know that the moon is tidally locked to the earth (it doesn't rotate, the same side always faces us).  then i recalled the term lunar libration, referring to minor rotation in the appearance of the moon relative to the earth.  a number of factors contribute to this, but the easiest to grasp is that as the earth rotates, the observer's location shifts.  in this case, viewing the moon at sunset and then sunrise, i had moved by the diameter of the planet earth, explaining why the moon appeared to rotate slightly.  

Here's a really cool animation of lunar libration throughout a lunar month:
as well as a more in depth explanation of the causes of lunar libration:

imaging details:
close up:
ZWO ASI120MC, Takahashi FS-60C at native F/5.9, 355 mm.
skywatcher star adventurer tracking mount  
full moon .325 ms exposure 12 seconds captured at ~17 fps
eclipsed moon 152.6 ms exposure 68 second capture at 6 fps
13:24 UTS
Eastbluff, CA

abell 33, the diamond ring nebula

Here's a spherical planetary nebula with a bright foreground star conveniently superimposed on the edge, providing the "diamond" for the ring:

Abell 33, the diamond ring nebula OIII RGB
click on image for full size
The small blue star in the center is the white dwarf creating the nebula.  A close up of the RGB version shows a hint of a second star to the lower right.  This is likely another superimposed star or a "visual double", as a double central star should (in theory with rare exception) create a bipolar, rather than a spherical nebula.  
central star of Abell 33
RGB, upsampled 2x
apparently an open issue in astronomy is whether the percentage of planetary nebulae double central stars matches the percentage of doubles in the general stellar population.  there are several recent surveys which address this, and may confirm my supposition, but i don't have access to them.  

The binary fraction of planetary nebula central stars - II. A larger sample and improved technique for the infrared excess search

The binary fraction of planetary nebula central stars: the promise of VPHAS+

The RGB image shows two other things:
1. how faint the nebula is, as it was barely detectable on the RGB image, requiring narrow band filters to bring it out.
2. how bright the "diamond" star is as it created a "bloom" (bright white artifact to the right of the brightest star).  
should have shot the RGB unbinned to better resolve the central star and minimize blooming.  

I did take a few trial Ha shots, but got only extremely faint signal in a circle, matching the OIII, but without detail.  

Image details:
8" LX200R, SX Trius 694 binned x2 to 0.8"/px,
astrodon 3nm OIII, RGB E SERIES GEN-II
R 18x4 minutes, G 16x4 minutes, B 8x4 minutes
OIII 24x20 minutes.
4/14/17-5/1/17, bortle white skies
eastbluff, CA

Sunday, February 4, 2018

super blue blood moon

here's the rising full moon on the evening of 1/30/18 followed by the setting super blue blood moon from the next morning (click on images for full size):

darker version with a bit more detail:

The full moon above is sharper than the eclipsed moon for several reasons:
1. the eclipsed moon was lower in the sky, therefore subject to more atmospheric turbulence
2. the faint eclipsed moon required longer exposure (500x), also increasing the effect of atmospheric turbulence.  

shot this one in lazy mode.  my garage faces west, so i set up my imaging rig the night before, taking a quick image of the full moon to make sure everything was working.  then moved the equipment into the garage facing west, closed the door and went to bed.  
got up and 5 AM, opened the door to my "observatory" and voila super blue blood moon over my neighbors house:

I'd checked the framing with the setting moon the week before.  this image took a fair amount of work in photoshop as the street lights gave the house a strange green tint. there was also star trailing evident over only 20 seconds (seen below), so i pasted the telescopic version over the moon image in the wide field DSLR image.  

imaging details:
close up:
ZWO ASI120MC, Takahashi FS-60C at native F/5.9, 355 mm.
skywatcher star adventurer tracking mount  
full moon .325 ms exposure 12 seconds captured at ~17 fps
eclipsed moon 152.6 ms exposure 68 second capture at 6 fps
13:24 UTS
wide field:
Nikon D-60, AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR, f/5.6 55 mm 20" iso 400

Eastbluff, CA

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Copernicus infra red

Here's a close up shot of copernicus, one of the most photogenic craters on the moon with its terraced walls and central peaks: 
Copernicus 9/10/16 infra red filter
click for moon-walk size

it's easily visible to the naked eye here:
7/8/17 IR/UV block filter

Interestingly, the crater was named by a jesuit at a time when church doctrine opposed the heliocentric model.  The crafty jesuit justified naming such a prominent crater after the father of the heliocentric model by noting that the astronomer was placed in oceanus procellarum, the "ocean of storms". wikipedia link with more information about the crater

The image of the crater was taken with an infra red filter and a telescope that is "mostly" a reflector (mirrors).  it was a test shot which proved that the IR filter was sharper than standard visible filters.  more on that in this post on jupiter.  
Interestingly, the full disk image was taken with a filter that blocks infra red.  why? it was taken with a refractor.  refractors use lenses to bend light.  since infrared light bends less than visible light (the same phenomenon that made it desirable in the previous image), it doesn't focus well in refractors, creating a blurry image.  

Technical notes:
Copernicus: celestron nexstar 8 GPS (8" SCT on a wedge)
captures with firecapture @ ~58 fps
stacked in autostakkert, Drizzle 3x, then reduced to 1.5x, sharpened in registax 6
Full disk: DMK 51 and the tiny tak, Takahashi FS-60C, 60 mm aperture at f/4.2 with a reducer.  The field of view is approximately 96x72 arc minutes.  1 minute video capture at approximately 12 fps, aligned in autostakkert, wavelets in registax.
Eastbluff, CA

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday Sundogs and a pillar

saw a pair of Sundogs while running in the back bay today.  pointed them out to everyone i passed.  most thought i was crazy, but one couple shouted a "thank you" after they found it.

Sundogs 1/14/18

Sundogs are caused by light refracting off hexagonal ice crystals.  if they are random a halo is formed, if they are horizontal, two spots are seen on either side.  Here's a nice explanation.  

Here's a phenomenal example of a double solar halo with sunddogs taken from a ski slope in sweden:

speaking of solar images, here's an Ha image of a "straight pillar"--a form of solar prominence:

Image details:
cellphone Droid turbo
Eastbluff, CA 1/14/18
Lunt 60 PT 
ASI 290 MM camera
20 second video 183 fps
Shutter=5.0 ms
Eastbluff, CA 1/4/18