Try increasing gamma if dark sections aren't distinguished

Try increasing gamma if dark sections aren't distinguished

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Leo Galaxy Cluster aka Abell 1367: Part 3 quasars and cosomology

Caught a number of background quasars in the field of Abell 1367.

quasars (quasi-stellar radio sources)
look like faint blue stars
but they have *very* high red-shifts
which made them somewhat of a mystery

turns out they are actually extremely distant galaxies
with black holes that are actively feeding on matter
generating massive amounts of light.
though light cannot escape the black holes,
energy is generated just outside the event horizon
by massive gravitational stresses and friction acting on the incoming material.

the most distant quasar in the image
(blue dot just below the S in QSO lower left)
has a red shift (Z) of 3.36: 

recall that the redshift of the galaxy cluster 330 million light years distant was 2.3% or .023
the QSO's red shift is 3.36 or 336%!

so how far away is it?
well here's where things get *relatively* slippery
the universe is expanding
it's taken light a really long time to reach us from this object
do we want to know how far away it is now or how far away it was when the light left the galaxy?
when it left the galaxy, our planet, solar system and sun didn't exist.
now, due to the expansion of the universe, the galaxy is moving away from us faster than the speed of light
it's current distance can never be observed

dirty cosmology trick:
nothing can move through space faster than the speed of light
but the universe itself can expand faster than the speed of light
(my head hurts)

the commonly used figure is
light travel time
which is neither where it is now, nor where it was when it emitted the light
but a measure of how long it took the photons to reach us

it gets even worse:
redshift versus distance is not linear for large distances
so in order to calculate the distance
theoretical models with various parameters including the shape of the universe!
have to be used
best estimates for the parameters change over time by one of the more commonly used estimates*, this one is
11.8 billion light years away
the big bang happened 13.7 billion years ago
the universe was a lot smaller place when light left this object

here's another small crop from the center of the image
including the Ha emitting galaxy from last time
with 3 quasars (distance in billions of light years):

interesting cosmological explanations (laymen's terms):

life the universe and everything
(be sure to mouse over the answer)

Ned Wright's FAQ on cosmology and the big bang

*Ned Wright's Cosmology Calculator

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Leo Galaxy Cluster aka Abell 1367: Part 2 Red Shift

when distances get very large, astronomers measure the "red shift" of light to determine distances:
more distant objects are moving away more rapidly due to the expansion of the universe
and therefore the light from these objects is shifted further to longer wavelengths (more red) by the Doppler effect*

this was part of Hubble's big thing,
took two very cool discoveries:
1 certain fuzzy patches had shockingly large redshifts suggesting they are "island universes" (galaxies) much further away than we had imagined.
2 a special type of variable star has a period proportional to it's absolute brightness, which means they can be used to measure distances with reasonable accuracy by comparing the measured brightness to the absolute brightness.

Hubble combined these discoveries, plotting distance to galaxies versus red shift
 and found more distant galaxies were moving away more rapidly
 proving the expansion of the universe

Abell 1367 has a redshift of 2.2%
this means that hydrogen alpha emissions at 656 nm will be shifted to 700 nm
completely out of the range of my narrow band Ha filter (5 nm centered at 656)
fortunately, i have an SII filter centered at 672 nm with a 12nm band width
allowing me to catch redshifted hydrogen emissions with a filter designed for sulfur
which is a cool trick, part of why i picked the cluster

though subtle, i caught one galaxy that definitely shows enhanced Ha emissions:

The upper right tail of this edge-on spiral galaxy (UGC 6697) is clearly blue (due to active young star formation) in standard images
but has a red patch in the middle of the blue with the SII (Ha) enhanced images
and possibly a more subtle red area around the bright core
due to hydrogen emissions in a large nebula (often found in star forming regions)
or active galactic nucleus = black hole feasting on stars emitting high energy photons as it rips apart matter

there were two much more subtle regions
the upper arm of the small spiral galaxy NGC 3861b:

and the red smile in this faint irregular galaxy KUG 1140+202A:

*technically not the Doppler effect in this context

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Leo Galaxy Cluster aka Abell 1367: Part 1 Deep Sky

factoid: Abell 1367 has more galaxies brighter than mag 14 than any other galaxy cluster

the term "deep sky objects" is used by amateur astronomers to denote
objects other than solar system objects and individual stars.
as some may have notice, all of my images since moving have involved objects in our solar system,
most sol itself.  the most distant object being saturn at approximately 8 million miles or 11 a.u. or 1 light hour

at 330 million light years, Abell 1367 goes to the other extreme.
to put things in perspective, the closest star is 4 light years away
the pleiades are 375 light years (ly) away
orion nebula 1500 ly
crab nebula 6000 ly
the black hole at the center of the milky way 27,000 ly
the andromeda galaxy 2 million ly
M51, the whirl pool galaxy 15 million ly
the virgo galaxy cluster 50 million ly

link to full size

most of the dots in this field are not stars, but galaxies each containing billions of stars.
here's an annotated version with galaxies circled
the large circle outlines the galaxy cluster itself which is a bit bigger than my field of view
objects circled with an arrow pointing away are high proper motion stars
more about QSO's later

link to full size annotated

FS102 OLV @ 618.8 mm, 2.15”/px, IDAS LPR filter/astronomiks 12nm SII filter, SX H9/H9C camera
Luminance 120x5 min, RGB 25x20 min, SII 24x20 min
4/24-5/5/2014 Newport Beach, CA

needless to say it took a lot of work to pull the galaxies out of the light pollution in the image

Saturday, July 26, 2014


a solar prominence is typically a structure seen on the edge of the sun against the black background of space.  it often looks like an arch.  it consists of hydrogen plasma held off of the surface by magnetic fields. 

a solar filament is a large dark line seen across the face of the sun.  again hydrogen plasma held off the surface, but over the surface facing the observer, rather than on edge. 

in a sense, they are two sides of the same coin:
the filament absorbs the intense light from directly beneath then re-radiates it in all directions, with only a small amount heading directly on a line to the observer. This is why filaments appear dark on the solar disk. On the edge, we see the weaker emission component of the filament against a dark background.

that being said, i had difficulty visualizing filaments as the same structure. 
this is in part due to the fact that most images which show prominences are processed in order to lighten them compared to the surface to show more detail, so prominences always seem lighter. 

...until i caught a filaprom.  a filament that continues off the edge of the solar disk, clearly showing a dark line arching up over the surface:

2/16/14 newport beach, ca
DMK 51, 2.5x Powermate, Lunt 60 PT B1200
*manually guided on an altazmuth takahashi teegul mount.
took quite some time to process as software would not track well on solar image moving all over the field

Sunday, July 13, 2014

lost disk in color

what color are the Ha (hydrogen alpha) images of the sun?
hydrogen alpha is red, but viewing thru my solar scope, it looks reddish orange to me
no idea why, the filter is clearly red.

the images below are composites, combining a short exposure which picks up the bright surface detail
with a longer exposure burning out the center in order to pick up the faint prominences projecting off the edge of the disk.  
when combining these the prominences typically appear brighter than the disk, an artifact of processing in an attempt to bring out the faint detail in the prominence

in the first colorized version below, i used orange for the central structure and pure red for the prominences
in an attempt to correct for this brightening:

seemed like a good idea, but a bit of the detail in the prominences is lost 
here's a more aesthetically pleasing version with yellow flames shooting off the surface:

Friday, July 4, 2014

4th of july fireworks from the lost disk

back in may i took a quick look at the sun and saw multiple prominences erupting around the disk.  one of which looked like it was lifting off, so i zoomed in on it and was lucky enough to catch a lift off (prior entry).

after processing the lift off images, 
i looked at all the full disk images 
and discovered all the images occurred after the lift off was complete, missing multiple prominences

found the original full disk image from the start of lift off
misfiled on my hard drive so here it is:

brief animation (single disk frame with multiple prominence images)

i also found one more frame for the start of the close up animation
here's a small version:

color versions later

happy 4th

5/4/14 newport beach, ca

DMK 51, Lunt 60 PT B1200, ASA DDM60 
images captured ~ every 5 mintues

Sunday, June 22, 2014

happy solstice

more solar work

first a prominence animation.  

I've increased the imaging frequency and animation speed to give more fluid motion in this one.  

here's the prominence image now that i've typed enough to avoid the annoying navigation bar to the upper right (animation link below)

Here's the animation (large file)

the animation is a total of 76 images taken every 2 minutes
starting 3:30 pm on 5/31/14
each image was constructed by stacking 300 frames 
captured at 11 frames per second

here's a crop off the lower left side edge with rapid, small scale eruptions:

this is full scale with a rate 5 fps (half the prior image)
(top is 75%) 

Here's a full disk animation which is...less dramatic
the interesting part is that you can see the sun's slow rotation
as the animation snaps back to the beginning:

full disk animation (large file)

here's a bit of activity upper left at full scale:

boring details:
5/31/14 newport beach, ca
DMK 51, 2.5x Powermate, Lunt 60 PT B1200, ASA DDM60 
76 images taken every 2 minutes
starting 3:30 pm on 5/31/14
each image was constructed by stacking 300 frames
captured at 11 frames per second
full disk:
5/4/14 newport beach, ca
DMK 51, Lunt 60 PT B1200, ASA DDM60 
images captured ~ every 5 mintues

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Saturn and friends

caught saturn the other night with fair seeing
a number of moons were evident visually

visually i was able to see titan, tethys, reha and dione
stretching in photoshop brought out enceladus and surprisingly, faint hyperion up top.
mimas is lost in the glare just below the planet and iapetus is way off the field to the left

6/1/2014 costal peak park, newport beach, ca
Nexstar 8 GPS, ZWO ASI120MC camera
for disc close up
Shutter=9.560ms Gain=97 Gamma=50 104 fps
Shutter=29.53ms Gain=97 Gamma=88
FPS (avg.)=13

Thursday, May 22, 2014

up up and away

saw a promising prominence on 5/4/14 and decided to image it:

here's the animation just over 2 hours imaging once every 5 minutes
a lucky catch as the magnetic field lines holding the hydrogen plasma in place above the sun snapped:

boring details:
5/4/2014, newport beach, ca
DMK 51, 2.5x Powermate, Lunt 60 PT B1200, ASA DDM60

using firecapture now which allowed a sequence
imaging one minute out of every 5 @ 12fps
and mostly automated processing with registax
still had to do final alignment by hand

Thursday, May 15, 2014

solar prominence, the movie: mother of a prom revisited

sent out an image last year of a solar prominence i'd captured :
mother of a prom

here's an animation from the same day:

same time scale as prior animation post), but higher resolution, focusing on prominence at edge.

Long winded processing notes:
i continued to capture video of the prominence for 160 minutes at 2 frames per second
unfortunately, the resulting avi file was so big, my processing software crashed on it repeatedly
(virtual dub and registax) so i abandoned the project

improvements in the processing software (and actually reading the manual) as well as newer editing software (pipp) allowed me to chop it up into more managable bits and process them as a batch
wound up with 25x400 second videos
edited with pipp and registax
then taken to photoshop for curves to smooth the background, spot healing to stomp out a spot left by a dust mote (sharp eyed viewer might catch artifact at the left edge towards the end) and final animation. 

5/12/13, los alamitos, CA 
DMK 51, 2.5x Powermate, Lunt 60 PT B1200, ASA DDM60 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

solar animation teaser

A while ago, captured over 2 hours of video of the sun, full disk in hydrogen alpha
hoping to animate some of the motion occurring in the hydrogen plasma.
here's the full disk image (click on image for full size):
after hours of processing, it was mostly a bust
learned i needed either much higher magnification or longer time course or luck
to get something interesting.

here are a few areas where there was a bit of motion:
lower left plage (bright spot)

upper left there was a small area with a mini filament bursting apart in a tiny eruption (scale still larger than planet earth of course).  had to up-sample it x2 to see it:

and upper right up-sampled x2 again:


-bill w

Monday, May 5, 2014

Farewell Mars, welcome Saturn

still a bit of detail visible on mars, but it's fading rapidly
learned this apparition how important the weather/time of day on mars is for imaging
in addition to whether/seeing here:

here's mars at opposition very bright, poor seeing:

guessing it's late summer on mars as the polar cap (upper right) is extremely small
there's not much more detail to see
as this portion of the surface is uniform
through a small scope with mediocre seeing you'll have trouble seeing much more than an orange/tan disc.

here's mars at closest approach:

a bit more contrast, but still not much detail, making this a tough one visually as well.
btw the white dot in the center is a cloud hovering on the left side of olympus mons,
largest mountain in the solar system

and finally, a night of decent seeing
with the low albedo (dark) regions prominently on display:

the surface structure was obvious in the scope on this evening
the mid to upper right dark patch is syrtis major i think.
the dark patches are areas where wind has blown away the tan iron oxide dust
showing darker rocks

after finishing mars on the evening above
i turned the scope on a bright object rising in the east:

low magnification as it was only 30 degrees above the horizon

8"SCT FL ~2000 mm, ASI 120 MC Camera 5ms video exposures
some images barlowed 2.5x or upsampled 2x

Sunday, April 20, 2014

blood moon

caught the eclipse last week
though looks a bit more easter egg than blood to me
with all the blood moon headlines, today's media is too obsessed with game of thrones me thinks
though biblical obsession with lunar eclipses around easter/passover abound
we won't mention the 2004 world series :(

i have to say a lunar eclipse is an event which is so difficult in dynamic range, scale, and time, that it can't be captured well in a photograph.
you start with a full moon which is slightly dimmed in the penumbral phase.  then over the course of an hour, a shadow crosses the moon--as if it's going through it's phases in an hour instead of a month, except the shadow is coming from the wrong side.  The tiniest sliver of white is still bright enough to blot out most of the stars and any color which might be seen in the dimmed section of the moon.  10 minutes later the moon appears full again, but much more dark with an eery orange color.
experiencing the event, it's easy to view orange detail in the lunar disk, and the broad background with colored stars in an instant, but photographically it's difficult to represent this due to limitations of image scale.

here's my attempt:
first an animation of the event combining images taken at 10 minute intervals:

a close up of the moon during full eclipse:

a wider field during full eclipse
the blue dot lower right is spica, a bright star in virgo
a close up of the orange dot upper right shows...
mars of course
best mars shot of the season upstaged by the eclipse 

photo details
nikon D 60 
AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR
fl 300mm
iso 100
1/400 sec exposures except 1/100 last crescent
eclipse phase too dark even at 1 sec on shaky tripod

wide field
nikon D 60
AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR
fl 50mm
iso 100
5 sec exposure

close up
Takahshi FS 60 C @ ~450 mm
DMK 41 astronomy camera

Celeston Nexstar 8 GPS @ ~2000 mm
zwo ASI120MC camera
5 ms exposures ~133fps
stacked best 5% of ~35,000 frames

the final eclipse image in the animation was too dark
so a composite image was used bringing in brighter detailed luminance from the close up
and color from the wide field.  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Mars Opposition, Ganymede

i know i've sent lots of Jupiter this season

but it's still up there and i caught something surprising the other night:
you can clearly see Jupiter, moon Io lower left and Io's shadow at the lower left edge of Jupiter.

look closely below the shadow lo
lower left and you can see Ganymede transiting the face of Jupiter
now look closer still at Ganymede and you'll see the bottom half is white and the top half brown...
meaning surface detail on one of Jupiter's moons has been resolved
which is a new milestone for me
(8"SCT FL ~2000 mm, ASI 120 MC Camera, stack of ~500 of 10,000 5ms video exposures)

Mars is at opposition right now!
prime viewing will last for another week or so, then it won't be back for 20 months, so go out and see it now
here's a shot from last night during poor seeing:

same specs as Jupiter

Monday, February 17, 2014

Jupiter's getting better

actually, i think best ever for me
it's all about seeing which was above average for a few days
allowing me to take advantage of a new planetary camera
(more details at picasa album)

2/16/14 Europa and shadow with great red spot rotating out of view:

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Jupiter Overview

Jupiter is up for prime viewing this month so here's an overview of the king of planets.
5th planet from the sun, largest, a gas giant covered with clouds. 
The white clouds seen on the surface are thought to be ammonia crystals. Darker shades may be due to phosphorus, sulfur, or hydrocarbons stirred up from lower levels. 
The great red spot is a persistent storm that's been visible for as long as we've been able to see it with telescopes. 

Known as the amateur's planet because there's always something going on:
-the 4 bright Galilean moons rotate around the planet, sometimes casting shadows as they cross over the face, other times disappearing from view as they move behind Jupiter or its shadow, only to reappear hours later. 
-the great red spot can be seen at times.  the spot rotates with the clouds on the planet's surface coming into view every 10 hours
-a number of significant planetary events have been discovered by amateurs including major meteor strikes leaving transient spots on the surface, formation and disappearance of normally consistent bands, spots, etc. 

Low power view with binoculars will show a disk with the 4 Galilean moons in various arrangements in a line around the planet.  modest magnification with a telescope (60-80x) will reveal several cloud belts on the surface:

the face of jupiter typically has two prominent dark stripes across the center along with grey/brown regions at the poles.

at higher magnification (100-200x) with good seeing and the right time you may see the Great Red Spot as well as smaller white ovals:

here's Europa and shadow crossing the face:

double, then rare triple shadow transit

One year, one of Jupiter's dark belts disappeared, returning several months later:

at one point, a second red spot appeared
here's red spot junior, barely visible at the tip of the arrow:

the slightly blue patches in the central white band are areas of clear sky, blue for the same reason ours is (i think):

a neat trick is to take two photographs of Jupiter 20 minutes apart.  the rotation allows you to create a 3D pair:

Friday, February 14, 2014

something red for valentine's

fair seeing last night
in time for a valentine's
shot of the GRS

20 minutes rotation:

stereo pair

put a paper between the two and view binocular style for a 3-D effect

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Jupiter Callisto transit

seeing has improved from poor to mediocre
here's a bit better shot of Jupiter with moon Callisto and shadow transiting the face:

Sunday, January 12, 2014

the king is dead, long live the king...comet lovejoy

another comet of the century turned out to be a bust
but despite comet ISON's demise during it's pass by the sun
there's another comet out

while comet lovejoy is by no means comet of the century
it's one of the best comets i've been able to photograph from light polluted skies:

this one is fairly bright, but low in the sky
rises above my treeline at 15 degrees in the east at 5 AM, too bright to photograph by 6
so only had a narrow window to image it.
this is a stack of 20x2 minute exposures tracking on the head of the comet
which is moving relative to the stars, explaining the trails

here's an animation of the 20 individual frames aligned on the stars
showing the comet's motion (big file):

comet lovejoy motion

should remain fairly bright thru the month of january, rising higher in the sky
shame it's been overshadowed by ISON. 

bill w