Thursday, September 21, 2017

great american eclipse shot: casper wyoming travelogue

I chose Casper Wyoming for the eclipse for several reasons:

1 historically it had the greatest chance of clear skies at that time and date of any region on the eclipse track

2 it has a local airport making it easy to get in and out, important given dire predictions of crowds traffic jams and gas shortages

After a smooth flight to the airport, i found the google satellite image of my hotel somewhat disconcerting:
Hotel not yet built in google maps images

needless to say i paid triple that rate at eclipse time.

so what gives?

north view from hotel:
Casper's Eternal Flame and cloud cover...

locals informed me, Casper is a boom or bust town, currently driven by natural gas,  not booming at present.

so i had a brand new hotel with brand new shopping malls at the edge of town designed for expansion that wasn't happening.  so much for the crowds. 

i had allowed 3 hours for the 20 minute ride to the airport after the eclipse...

and made it in 15 minutes.  all the traffic was north south after the eclipse, not east west to the airport.

that being said, folks that attempted to drive north to the eclipse track on the morning of the event were basically stuck on the freeway, unable to make it. 

spent one late night stargazing up in casper mountain.  the views were stunning, but no pics (another story):
Sunset, Casper Mountain Wyoming
Casper Mountain Panorama
click for full size


despite long term predictions, and near term forecasts for clear skies, i came very close to being clouded out. 

after a beautifully clear morning, here's the sky to the northeast 15 minutes before totality:


weather radar from eclipse day:
note thin line of clouds moving right over Casper
Thanks to Dave Kodama for the image


I actually viewed and imaged the eclipse through clouds:
Great American Eclipse
8/21/17

overexposed, but you can see a hint of the corona's triangular spikes, and of course the thin clouds.
i think scattered light from the clouds kept the sky lighter than most eclipse accounts. 

by 4th contact (end of partial eclipse)
the sun was completely obscured by clouds:
4th Contact
More to follow...

Image details:
cell phone Droid Turbo ;)
Casper Wyoming
42,50.9694N 106,15.5688W
8/21/2017
Casper Mountain
8/18/2017

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

2017 total solar eclipse composite images

First here's a different version of an image of the faint outer detail of the corona (be sure to click on images for full size): 
8/21/17 solar eclipse

Used a radial blur subtraction technique to enhance the contrast of the corona, compensating for some of the bright light from the inner corona scattered by clouds by bringing out more detail, especially the subtle loops lower left.    

An issue with images of the eclipse is that there is an extremely large range in brightness, more than can be encompassed by a picture on a video monitor or print out.  A "composite" image combines the faint detail from an image that over exposes the bright inner sections (see above) and the bright detail from an image that misses the faint detail.  

Here's my attempt at a composite:
8/21/17 solar eclipse composite


Unfortunately, all my attempts at compositing seemed to yield a mediocre version both the bright and the faint detail.  

Here are a few alternative versions, using tricks to provide maximum detail in both versions by inverting the color of one:
8/21/17 solar eclipse exclusion composite
8/21/17 solar eclipse inverted exclusion composite



Just for fun in the last set, I colored the bright detail red, which is appropriate as the chromosphere is actually red:


Image details:
DMK 51 web cam, Takahashi FS-60C, 60 mm aperture at f/4.2 with a reducer.  Baader solar film, Fotga IR/UV cut filter.  The full field of view is approximately 96x72 arc minutes with a resolution of 3.6"/px.  video capture at 12 fps, aligned in autostakkert, wavelets in registax.
Casper Wyoming
42,50.9694N 106,15.5688W
8/21/2017

Sunday, August 27, 2017

2017 total solar eclipse images

partial phase, moon about to gobble up spots:
a few sunspots are noted in the photosphere, the bright visible surface of the sun.  

almost there...


"diamond ring"--final flash of direct sunlight at the start of totality (click for full size):


TOTALITY 
bright prominences in the chromosphere are visible with direct sunlight blocked:
8/21/2017 Total Solar Eclipse
with the bright photosphere hidden, prominences in the chromosphere can be seen.  the temperature increases from 6,000K F in the photosphere to up to 20,000K in the chromosphere.  

longer exposure brings out the outer corona, easily visible to the naked eye, note the magnetic field lines arcing out of the poles, and the subtle arcs lower left (click for full size):
8/21/2017 Total Solar Eclipse
click for full size
The temperature in the corona reaches 1,000,000 K, the reason for this remains unclear.  

Image details:
DMK 51 web cam, Takahashi FS-60C, 60 mm aperture at f/4.2 with a reducer.  Baader solar film, Fotga IR/UV cut filter.  The full field of view is approximately 96x72 arc minutes with a resolution of 3.6"/px.  20 second video capture at 12 fps, aligned in autostakkert, wavelets in registax.
Casper Wyoming
42,50.9694N 106,15.5688W
8/21/2017

Saturday, July 29, 2017

saturn, so close to a hex

if you look at the top of the planet, you get a hint of an angular structure at the north pole, rather than a circle,
but i'm pretty sure it's artifact, not the polar hexagon which is smaller :(
Saturn 7/4/2017 7:45 UT

image details:
Meade LX850 12" f/8
televue 2x Barlow
FocalLength~4100mm
Resolution~0.19"

ASI120MM-S mono camera
ZWO RGB filters, Baader IR pass "685" nm
2 minute captures for each filter R G B
captures with firecapture @ ~22-55 fps
exposure 15-45ms ms per frame
stacked in autostakkert, combined in WinJupos, sharpened in registax 6

7/4/2017
Eastbluff, CA


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Solar rotation Active region 2665

like the earth, the sun itself rotates.  its period is once every 24 days at the equator, but only once every 35 days at the poles.  this was determined by watching sunspots rotate across the surface.  
This animation shows a group of sunspots (AR2665) rotating across the disc of the sun over the course of 9 days, from July 8th to the 16th 2017: 
Sun 7/8-16/2017, AR 2665
interestingly, today (7/23/2017) this "active region" lived up to its name and spat a gigantic coronal mass ejection out into space.  fortunately, it's facing away from us, though apparently right at mars, potentially affecting satellites there.  more at spaceweather.com
a few wacko preppers are predicting earthquakes as a result.  a more balanced perspective can be found here.  In any event, if a really big one of these things hits earth, our electronics are fried.  the active region should be rotating back towards us in about a week, hopefully bringing nothing more than a few auroras.   

Hydrogen alpha versions of this region at the beginning of the rotation can be seen in a previous post:
http://astrowhw.blogspot.com/2017/07/big-prominence-this-weekend.html

Image details:
DMK 51 web cam, Takahashi FS-60C, 60 mm aperture at f/4.2 with a reducer.  Baader solar film, Tiffen 77 mm green and IR ND.6 filters.  The field of view is approximately 96x72 arc minutes.  20 second video capture at 12 fps, aligned in autostakkert, wavelets in registax.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

jovian animation

on 6/17/17 Jupiter put on a show:
both io and ganymede transited jupiter's face while the great red spot was showing.  unfortunately, the seeing was not great.  here's what i salvaged:
Jupiter Ganymede, Io's shadow
6-18-2017 05:23 UT
the animation shows ganymede (upper left) rotating across the face of jupiter and then fade from view.  io has already begun its transit, but is lost in the northern equatorial belt.  just as ganymede fades from view, io's shadow races across from the left side.  towards the end you can again see a hint of ganymede again, (brownish spot) rotating across the surface up top.

here's shot from the night before with a bit better seeing, but no exciting events:
Jupiter
6/17/2017 05:28 UT
imaging notes
Poor seeing on the night of the animation
combining all the images in winjupos smoothed things out dramatically, 
but required way too much time in photoshop combining the win jupos and standard versions.  
The mono camera/filters do seem to give better color (previous night).  

image details:
Meade LX850 12" f/8
televue 2x Barlow
FocalLength~4100mm
Resolution~0.19"

for animation:
ZWO ASI120MC (color camera)
approximately 40x1 minute captures spaced by a minute
captures with firecapture @ ~134 fps
exposure 5 ms per frame

for still image:
ASI120MM-S mono camera
ZWO RGB filters
3x2 minute captures for each filter R G B
captures with firecapture @ ~190 fps
exposure 5 ms per frame
stacked in autostakkert, combined in WinJupos, sharpened in registax 6

6/17-18/2017
Eastbluff, CA



Tuesday, July 11, 2017

big prominence this weekend

variety pack of images:
solar prominence 7/8/17 (occulted)
Hydrogen alpha
H alpha composite
Ha exclusion
Ha colorized composite
full disk, full spectrum

image details:
full disk:
DMK 51 web cam, Takahashi FS-60C, 60 mm aperture at f/4.2 with a reducer.  Baader solar film, Tiffen 77 mm green and IR ND.6 filters.  The field of view is approximately 96x72 arc minutes.  20 second video capture at 12 fps, aligned in autostakkert, wavelets in registax.

Eastbluff, CA 7/8/2017

Ha:
Lunt 60 PT double stacked
manually guided on a shaky alt-azm mount
ASI 120 MM-S camera
20 second video 57 fps.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

testing 4-5-6: summer sun, salvaged sunspot.

in testing a tracking mount for the eclipse, i encountered an unpleasant surprise: the sun is brighter in the summer!  so bright that the sun is now completely overexposed, blowing out any sunspots and surface detail.  a few more filters and voila granulation and a few small sun spots (click to see surface detail at full size):
Sun 6/24/2017
click for full size
Here's an image of the monster sunspot of October 2014 showing a close up of surface detail (click this link for more info on sunspots and granulation):  

AR 12912 10/25/2014
click for full size
salvaging sunspots:

A monster sunspot stole the show during the partial solar eclipse of 10/23/14 (see this link, and this link for more details on sunspots and granulation).  The sunspot was so big that i couldn't capture the whole thing in one frame except at a slow frame rate so i kludged together a mosaic.  several days later i imaged it again with the full field at slow frame rate, but for some reason the software wouldn't let me process it after i extracted the green channel (best contrast, see below).  gave it another shot with updated software and was able to pull out a nice image despite the low frame rate (12 fps).  

full disk filter discussion:
potential solutions to overexposure on the full disk:
1. additional filter in front of camera--too hard with takahashi adapters
2. stop down aperture--worked provisionally, but hate to throw out light
3. neutral density gel film in front of telescope--not optical quality so blurs image
4. larger filter in front of objective--an opportunity to test more filters :)
tested two types of filters: 
-0.6 neutral density IR blocking
the advantage of this is that IR is poorly focused by refractors so it blurs the image a bit, so blocking IR should give a sharper image.
-green filter
why green? turns out the solar granulation has the highest contrast with a green filter.  furthermore, refractors tend to handle green light best.   
fortunately, the 77 mm filters fit perfectly on the dewshield of my takahashi FS-60, though it's not threaded. 

results: both filters blocked enough light to prevent overexposure.  hard to say whether the ND or green filter gave a better image, but stacking the two gave the best results in terms of granulation contrast (subtle difference).  

Technical notes:
full disk:
DMK 51 web cam, Takahashi FS-60C, 60 mm aperture at f/4.2 with a reducer.  Baader solar film, Tiffen 77 mm green and IR ND.6 filters.  The field of view is approximately 96x72 arc minutes.  20 second video capture at 12 fps, aligned in autostakkert, wavelets in registax.
Eastbluff, CA 6/24/2017
sun spot:
camera ZWO ASI 120 MC, telescope Celestron Nexstar 8 GPS (8" SCT), Baader film and IR/UV block filter.
20 second video at 13 fps, 5 ms exposure.
green channel extracted with PIPP, aligned in autostakkert, wavelets in registax.
Eastbluff, CA 10/25/2014

Sunday, June 18, 2017

bigger jupiter, saturn's coming

finally able to take advantage of larger aperture
for a higher magnification jupiter
Jupiter 5/28/17
still a bit mushy, but showing some promise

meanwhile saturn reached opposition this week
coming up on prime viewing season
here's a wide field with a few moons:
Saturn and Moons 5/14/17
a bit closer on another night:


Saturn 6/14/17

will get to higher magnification when it rises earlier in the evening

Imaging notes:
The larger f/8 scope allowed me to use a 2x Barlow on jupiter, increasing the magnification by a factor of 2 compared to my old system (C8).  
Several other issues were critical to getting the system to work:
1. internal thermal tube currents are a major problem with the new big scope, it takes hours to cool down.  a "cat cooler" made a huge difference.
2. dark subtraction.  this makes sense as i'm trying to minimize expsosure shooting at ~30% max histogram.  the love/hate issue with my ASA DDM 60 mount continues.  the issue here is that most mounts move around so much that the subtle grid pattern in the camera is dithered out.  my mount tracks so well that the planet sits dead center even at very high magnification, so the pattern becomes evident in processing.  this is actually a good problem to have.  for example last night i took a series of images of jupiter at this focal length over the course of an hour and didn't have to budge the mount, even though the pointing model was made with a much lighter scope 6 months ago.  
3. diagonal: didn't test that rigorously, but shooting through the diagonal didn't seem to make that much difference.  
4. made a bit of progress working on LD compensation in win jupos which is necessary with jupiter so far from opposition, you can still see a darker section at the limb on the left (might be processing artifact in part).  
5. more on the mount: the mount is very sensitive to weight changes, the act of switching from eyepiece to camera with barlow felt like this classic scene from raiders of the lost ark. the key is to balance the mount with the camera, not eyepiece.  forget about binoviewers.  

image details (jupiter):
Meade LX850 12" f/8
televue 2x Barlow
FocalLength~4100mm
Resolution~0.19"
ZWO ASI120MC/ASI120MM-S
ZWO RGB filters
4x2 minute captures for each filter R G B
captures with firecapture @ ~140 fps
exposure 3-4 ms per frame
stacked in autostakkert, combined in WinJupos, sharpened in registax 6
5/28/17 (2017-05-28-0446_7)
Eastbluff, CA

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Jupter's out, IR test and a new scope

the bright star in the east after dark (which is pretty late these days)
is in fact Jupiter. 
seeing has been lousy this season, but i finally gave it a try on a night of mediocre seeing and got this:
Jupiter 4/11/2017

ran a few tests with an infrared (IR) pass filter to see if it would yield a sharper image.  In theory the redder the light (longer wavelength), the less it is distorted by atmospheric seeing, so images should be sharper, but...
the optical resolution limit of a telescope is defined by the wavelength of the light: longer wavelength reduces the theoretical limit of the telescope.  furthermore, the IR pass filter typically allows less light than a standard red filter.  therefore, exposures may need to be longer (leading to more atmospheric motion) and/or higher noise.  
so in practice is the IR image sharper than the others?
here's a blink comparing red to infrared (no contest comparing to blue and green):
red vs infrared
clearly sharper, but perhaps a bit more noise.  

However, for the combined image, it was difficult to appreciate any difference:
here's RGB vs IRGB (substituting IR for red):
RGB vs IRGB
the difference is very subtle, with perhaps a bit more detail in the short blue stripe just above the middle white band.  

lastly, i used IR as the luminance channel which changed the colors dramatically, but probably a bit too far from the RGB:
RGB vs IR-IRGB

this, i think, is my first successful image with a new (used) larger scope
which i picked up on astromart almost a year ago
in order to catch saturn's hexagon,
explaining a year of poor seeing.
the new scope is pretty friggin' big and a PITA to haul around in the dark at 2 AM so i hope it works out

new scope specs
Meade LX850 12" f/8 ACF OTA + Feathertouch focuser
2438mm
0.38"
56 lb (25.4 kg) tube weight
UHTC coating
primary 12" (305 mm)
secondary 4.72" (120 mm) / 41%

image details:
ZWO ASI120MC/ASI120MM-S
ZWO RGB filters, Baader IR pass "685" nm
2x90 second captures for each filter R G B IR
captures with firecapture @ ~140 fps
stacked in autostakkert, combined in WinJupos, sharpened in registax 6

Southern California
4/11/17







Thursday, May 11, 2017

starburst nebula NGC 1569, narrow band

Here's starburst nebula NGC 1569 in hydrogen (Ha) and oxygen (OIII)

this sat on my hard drive for a year as i was initially disappointed for 2 reasons:
1 there was little difference between the OIII and Ha at this resolution besides signal strength
2 the narrow band and LRGB (below) were so discordant, i couldn't imagine the combine working well.  the Ha didn't enhance the image, it overwhelmed it.

here it is in LRGB:

when i finally combined the narrow and broad band images i was pleasantly surprised to see the sum adding up to more than the parts, even though some details of each were lost in the combination.
the combined image gives the classic appearance of stars clearing out and illuminating the surrounding hydrogen:
in this case the two bright "stars" appearing to illuminate the surrounding nebula are unresolved globular clusters containing thousands of stars (anyone fooled?), making this dwarf galaxy the largest "nebula" i've ever imaged

here's an interesting slow motion blink of the two images
some structures disappear, others appear, and others seem to move (lower left) as if being illuminated by a nearby source:



lastly here's an annotated mosaic:


more details on dwarf galaxy ngc 1569 at this site including observations of the "elephant's trunk" to the right
hubble image resolving the star clusters and more details at wikipedia
interestingly, the galaxy is blue-shifted, which means it's moving towards us, rather than moving away with the expansion of the universe.  

thanks to rick johnson for pointing out this galaxy with it's extreme narrow band emissions.

image details:

8" LX200R, SX Trius 694 binned x2 to 0.8"/px,
astrodon 5nm Ha, 3nm OIII, LRGB E SERIES GEN-II
ASA DDM60
L 472x1 minute, 24x3 minutes, R 64x3 minutes, G 59x3 minutes, B 55x3 minutes (RGB included in luminance)
Ha 25x20 minutes, OIII 11x20 minutes.
1/29/16-2/8/16, bortle white skies
eastbluff, CA

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Abell 30, the born again nebula

March has been a difficult month for me in recent years, 
a number of events have prevented me from completing this project, but finally,
here is my image of Abell 30, a rare "born again" planetary nebula who's central star re-ignited after turning into a white dwarf,
creating a new system of complex knots of oxygen (blue-green)
inside a mature spherical shell of hydrogen (red) and oxygen:
Abell 30 in Hydrogen (red) and Oxygen (blue-green)

Here's a blink first in Helium showing no nebulosity, only stars, then hydrogen with spherical shell, then oxygen with complex inner knots:
Abell 30 He II, Ha, OIII

The O III signal was faint, Ha signal extremely faint, and He II nonexistent.  
I remain baffled by sources stating that the knots have strong He II emissions, e.g., 
Osterbrock's Astrophysics of Gaseous Nebulae and Active Galactic Nuclei p. 264.
My He II filter is spec'd at 468.6 nm with a 4 nm band width, but detects no signal, might have to confirm it with a spectroscope.  

A few findings regarding exposure variation and binning:
for OIII 3 nm 
40 min binned 2x not much deeper than 20 min binned 2x, if at all.
but 
20 min binned 4x (4 subs) much deeper than 40 min binned 2x (2 subs)
though it was difficult to be sure conditions were identical.  

filter band width:
for 40 min binned 2x 3 nm OIII deeper than 5 nm or 8.5 nm; not much difference between latter two
older unbinned subs with my SX H9 (0.6"/px) were far worse than either, threw all subs out


8" LX200R, SX Trius 694 binned x2 to 0.8"/px, binned x4 to 1.6"/px, (final image at .8"/px)
astrodon 5nm Ha, 5nm, 3nm OIII, chroma 4 nm He; custom scientifics 8.5 nm OIII
ASA DDM60
OIII 10x 20 min bx4, 28x 40 min bx2, 44x 20 min bx2
Ha 2x 20 min bx2, 15x 40 min bx2, 60 x 20 min bx4
HeII 13x20 min bx4
2/16/13-3/6/17
eastbluff, CA

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

crescents and earthshine

what's missing from my previous crescent moon image is this:

no, earthshine is not a drink served at california dispensaries.

Earthshine is a glow which lights up the unlit part of the Moon because the Sun’s light reflects off the Earth's surface and back onto the Moon, best seen during the crescent moon.  It is also sometimes called the old Moon in the new Moon's arms (or vice versa), or the Da Vinci glow, after Leonardo da Vinci, who explained the phenomenon for the first time in recorded history.

yes, i know this lies far in the realm of cub scout merit badges, but i was reminded of it when i tried to cut and paste an image of the first quarter moon for the eclipse test/comparison and could not define the edge of the moon.  i had to eyeball it by empirically fitting a circle to the part that was visible.

when the moon is a thin crescent, it means the moon is almost directly between the earth and the moon, so the part of the moon lit by the sun is mostly facing away from us, while the dark side faces us.  now from the lunar point of view, the earth is almost directly opposite the sun, so all the reflected light of the earth lights up the night sky (a full earth).  this light brightens the surface of the moon just as a full moon lights our nights, the "earthlight" makes the dark surface of the moon easier for us to see.

in an odd twist, astronomers have used earthshine to detect life on earth, testing a technique that could potentially be used to detect life on other planets.

while shooting this image, i turned my low power imaging rig on the "dusk star", the bright star visible at sunset this month:

caught a tiny crescent venus, matching the moon.

Technical notes:
web cam, 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.  Each image is a one minute video capture at approximately 12 fps, aligned in autostakkert, wavelets in registax.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

crescent moon, hollywood style

What's wrong with this picture (click for full size)?

nothing really, except that the crescent is facing the wrong way. 

though few people can say which way the crescent moon should be facing

they have a visceral feeling that this isn't right.

when the moon is a thin crescent, it means that the sun is illuminating the side which is not facing us, so the moon has to appear very close to the sun in the sky: the crescent moon is seen just after sunset or just before sunrise, with the crescent facing down at the sun below the horizon (tips pointing up).  in the northern hemisphere it points down and to the right at sunset (looking west with sun setting in the southwest).  
you morning people may know that the crescent lies down and to the left in the east.  
it's the opposite in the southern hemisphere.
OK that was really confusing
here's a better description.  

for bad astronomy blogger Phil Plait, this knowledge turned his world upside down

DOH!
he concluded that springfield must actually be in the southern hemisphere based on this scene from the elon musk episode of the simpsons.


the only way the crescent can be on the top of the moon is if you're standing on your head, or in outer space where up and down doesn't matter.  or perhaps some strange partial lunar eclipse.


i chose this orientation as the unnatural rotation gives it a spacey feel

kubrick was well aware of this:

by the way, here's one of the most over-the-top analyses of a movie i've ever seen
tons of fun


but for the clouds you may see the crescent moon in the next few nights
take a look and see what's missing from my image
to be continued...




-bill w

Technical notes:
web cam, 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.  Each image is a one minute video capture at approximately 12 fps, aligned in autostakkert, wavelets in registax.