Try increasing gamma if dark sections aren't distinguished

Try increasing gamma if dark sections aren't distinguished

Monday, July 13, 2015


Pluto is getting a huge amount of press from NASA
due to the new Horizons probe's closest approach to pluto tomorrow. 
latest images can be seen here

Here's pluto back when it was still a planet in July 2006:

because of it's great distance, 
both visually, and photographically from earth, 
pluto is just another white dot in a field of stars
which can be distinguished only by the fact that it moves across the stars (in this case the images were taken over several different nights).  

here's a recent image by fellow OCastronomers member Tom Munnecke

pluto has 5 known moons, perhaps more to come.  it's largest, charon has half the diameter of pluto.  As a result, the center of mass of the system (and their combined orbit) lies outside of pluto; they orbit eachother (one of the less valid reasons for demoting pluto)

The book
How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown
gives an interesting account of why pluto should not be a planet (eccentric orbit, small size, etc), pointing out the fact that there were a number of asteroids (ceres etc) that had been planets, but were later demoted.  credit is due to the astronomical societies for waiting 5 years after the death of Clyde Tombaugh, it's discoverer, before demoting it.  credit is also due to Mike Brown who helped demote it, having discovered (with his team) 2 more "transneptunian objects".  Had he made the case for pluto's planet-hood, he would have made the case for his discoveries, becoming the only living planet discoverer, and the only one to have discovered more than one.  
It also gives a remarkably restrained account of one of the slimier moves in the astronomy world: a group from Spain saw an abstract title for an upcoming meeting,  peeked at the server logs, determining the location of the object mike brown was studying, then claimed the discovery as their own, without so much as a reference to the US group.  
The book is actually a good read, thanks chris

Here's one of his discoveries:

Transneptunian object 2005 FY9 a/k/a Easter bunny passing egg shaped galaxy ngc 4314 2/22/2006.  
This dwarf planet is now named Makemake (god of fertility in the mythology of the Rapa Nui people of Easter Island).  discovered around easter when his wife was pregnant...

Friday, July 3, 2015

revisiting the expanding crab

here's my biennial addition to the crab nebula expansion from 2006 to 2014(15)
it appears as though the pulsar wind is outstripping the filaments, especially mid lower left:
RGB only as my earlier images were limited.
a wider version 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 as well as a 540x50nm filter for the pulsar wind (I finally switched to north up):
In year’s past, the pulsar wind appeared bluish, but this was using an LPR fliter which knocks out a chunk of the spectrum in green including the pulsar wind.
This year I used astrodon RGB filters without an LPR filter and excalibrator for color balance, so I think this is more “accurate”.
Yes, this is actually my first LRGB CCD image with RGB from a mono camera
what's the pulsar wind?
I used a “green continuum” filter with a bandwidth of 50 nm centered at 540 nm which avoids the major emission lines of the crab nebula,
isolating the glowing pulsar wind caused by electrons accelerating in the rapidly rotating magnetic field of the spinning neutron star/pulsar.
the pulsar wind glow, rather than the central star, excites the gas filaments
which in turn give off the emission line signal.

Here’s the OIII:
Which gives a nicely defined outer shell, and a hint of the “jet” on top
Note that the upper right corner is a bit weak in OIII, the crab is stronger in broad band emissions there, not sure why.

And lastly here it is in red white and blue in honor of the date of the crab nebula supernova on July 4th:
Red is mapped to, um red, the continuum filter to white, and OIII to blue with an emphasis on the pulsar wind.
Maybe I can talk the APOD folks into posting it for July 4th

I captured the pulsar wind 2 years ago with a filter that had a narrower bandwidth and lower transmission, but failed to demonstrate any short term motion associated with the pulsar wind, which I caught with luminance in 2010.
Unfortunately, it was a bit of a fail as I was able to demonstrate very little if any motion with the new broader higher transmission continuum filter:
note slight expansion in the clear area around the central neutron star
The motion was a bit more evident on L/RGB than the continuum filter
(comparing 4 nights 2 luminance and 2 RGB pseudoluminance)
An analysis of the two RGB nights seemed to indicate the motion was better in the red channel, (subtle difference due to seeing/refraction?)
Not sure if that means it’s Ha/NII or red continuum…

Speaking of moving things I caught minor planet 541 Deborah (discovered by Max Wolf on August 4, 1904) on color images.  The seeing was so bad (FWHM>7) that I actually threw the subs out.

found another moving object, very slow satellite or fast minor planet trailing in 10 minute subs at .8”/px:
05 34 32
22 01 00
on 2014 11 28 8:25:35 UT
MP checker indicates this is (2945) Zanstra    
05 34 31.8 +22 01 00  16.4   0.0W   0.0S    33-     0+
a main-belt asteroid discovered on September 28, 1935 by H. van Gent

also see older posts:

and this animation

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)

Friday, June 26, 2015

planetary conjunctions: moon, venus, and late jupiter...saturn

After sunset on 6/21/15 there was a scenic arrangement of the crescent moon, venus, and jupiter--and it was clear (which has been problem here in June).  Though too wide to be captured in a telescope, I decided to turn my new mono planetary camera on the subjects. 

venus gave her usual inscrutable crescent:

Though very low in the sky I was able to get some detail on jupiter and lucky enough to catch the great red spot:

and the moon...well it's really big.  the widest field my planetary rig could manage was just a small section of the terminator:

a bit later i took crack at saturn:

while the moon has now wandered off, jupiter and venus will continue to close until tues 6/30/15 when they will be .3 degrees apart, and can be caught together in a medium power telescope field. 

Processing notes:
One of the problems with imaging jupiter with a mono camera is that it rotates so rapidly that the surface details move between red, green and blue filter images.  Here are the rotating originals:

I used a software program called WinJupos to "derotate" the images for the RGB combine:

nexstar 8 GPS (8" SCT on alt azm mount)
zwo RGB filters stacked in autostakkert, Drizzle 3x
wavelets in registax6 derotated and compbined in winJupos

red channel only was used for venus and the moon as it's less subject to atmospheric distortion due to poor seeing

RL deconvolution in maxim DL and finally reduced to 2x scale
except moon drizzle to 1.5x.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Saturn's out

prime viewing time for saturn
unfortunately i've been clouded out almost every night since Saturn's transit.

Here it is on the evening of 6/1

If you look closely you can see faint moons Tethys above and Dione below.

Also, if you look west after sunset later this week you should see a nice you should see a nice pairing of bright Venus and Jupiter along with the crescent moon.

interestingly, a year to the day from the first saturn of last season.

Imaging details:
nexstar 8 GPS (8" SCT on alt azm mount)
ZWO ASI120MM-S Camera
captured with firecapture @ 76 fps (exposure limited at 40% histogram with gain 82)
1 minute exposure for each color, zwo RGB filters
stacked in autostakkert, Drizzle 3x
sharpened in registax 6
RGB combine in maxim DL then RL deconvolution
downsized to 2x
6/2/15 fair seeing

~ (UT)=080100 (1 AM local 50 minutes past transit)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

M76 in Nitrogen II Oxygen III and Helium II a rainbow in space

what's black and white and red all over? image using an Ha filter. 

due to the abundance of hydrogen, you'll get some signal all the way from the highest energy to the lowest energy regions in a nebula right up to the ionization front, with rare exceptions.  thus hubble pallet images using SII, Ha, and OIII are typically teal and gold rather than red green and blue.

I chose a M76, a relatively bright planetary nebula with some detail, for the first image with my new narrower Helium II filter (4nm from chroma).

a quick blink of the mono channels for this one showed me that the brightest signal areas were not quite completely separated

which means a scientifically assigned color pallet will give the full spectrum...

a rainbow in space:

Helium II blue, (so faint it's stretched), Oxygen III linear green, Nitrogen II linear red

here's the color image with a log stretch which works quite well for bright planetaries with faint shells:

a healthy does of NII was applied as luminance

here's another variant with OIII assigned to teal rather than green:

mono NII

mono OIII

Helium II as blue with a green continuum filter as red and green (both new filters):

stretched blink

still looking for the pot of gold

8" LX200R, SX Trius 694 and QSI 660 binnedx2 to 0.8"/px
astrodon 3nm NII, 3nm OIII, chroma 4nm Helium II filters
NII 35x20min OIII 17x20min HeII 27x20 min
never enough exposure time...

Saturday, February 14, 2015

planetary nebula IC 418: a blue gem in a red cocoon

here's my first light with a new ccd camera: starlight xpress trius 694
believe it or not i've never used a filter wheel before
just manually screwed one filter on, imaged for a few nights, then went on to the next
not a big deal for super long narrow band imaging, but inconvenient for quick bright planetaries
so the filter wheel that came with the camera is more of a novelty to me
than the larger, more sensitive chip
thus a quick shot of a bright planetary as first light.

after seeing IC 418 listed as one of winter's best planataries in feb S&T
i decided to revisit the red planetary with narrow band filters
as my prior rgb effort yielded nothing but a red disk with a brighter spot in the center

so here it is in NII/OIII/OIII:

it's difficult to make out the central structure at native image scale
so i upsampled x2
for a final resolution of (EDIT: 0.2"/px)  (makes a difference to my eye)
straight linear stretch with a bit of RL deconvolution

in OIII there is a disk with a subtle central brightening:

here's the NII which shows a central star with an outer shell:


difficult to say whether the mottling is noise or a hint of the spirograph pattern detected in the hubble image

interestingly combining the NII and OIII in a color image
seems to create an unsharp mask like effect
making the central OIII brightening (gem) more evident

prior effort (RGB 2007):

i also shot HeII subs but found only a very faint ring around the central star
seemed matched continuum filter images with equivalent exposure (accounting for bandwidth)
meaning it's either broadband glow or artifact such as reflections, corrector plate dust etc.

of course after imaging it i came across this on Jim Kaler's web site
indicating there are no HeII emissions:
"The low excitation nebula, with its relatively cool central star, does not exhibit He II emission lines (those of ionized helium), just those of He I (neutral helium)"
i believe this is taken from a 50 year old reference:
From L.H. Aller and J.B. Kaler, Astrophysical Journal vol. 140, p. 936, 1964.
so i'm a bit behind the times...

i also shot a 20 minute sub binned x2 in NII and OIII
and found no evidence of any other outer shell (didn't check Ha)

8" LX200R, SX Trius 694  0.4"/px
astrodon 3nm NII, 3nm OIII filters
NII 22x30s, OIII 20x30s
no AO no guiding

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Comet Lovejoy C/2014 Q2

caught a bright comet with an impressive tail in January:

The image frame is approximately 2 degrees wide, making this the longest comet tail I've captured as it clearly departs the frame.  Some images from dark skies show a tail spanning 19 degrees.  
This was shot through heavy light pollution and passing clouds (explaining the gaps in the star trails).  Nevertheless, the bright, twin tail structure is still visible.  
The comet was easily visible in binoculars, brighter than the andromeda galaxy, though i could not detect the tail.  
Here's a video of the individual frames complete with clouds and airplanes:
Note the comet tail follows the direction of the solar wind rather than the comet motion in this instance.   
Though fading a bit from peak brightness
It should still be visible early evening  in Andromeda this weekend with the new moon approaching

FS60C@ f/42. with SX H9C color camera and chroma light pollution filter.  60x2 minute exposures with mount tracking on comet (ASA DDM 60).