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
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):
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:

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
56 lb (25.4 kg) tube weight
UHTC coating
primary 12" (305 mm)
secondary 4.72" (120 mm) / 41%

image details:
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

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
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