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)