Saturday, 7 January 2017

Mercury Solar Transit

So it has been ages since I posted on here, mainly because I hadn't actually had my gear out much since the last post. However, I did use it during the Mercury Transit and I have no excuse for not posting about that!

I am therefore going to try and cover it now, many months later!

Firstly, I was amazed that on the morning of the 9th May 2016 I got up and found the Scottish sky was clear and the sun was shining. This was great news to me as I had already spent the day before designing a Solar Filter to fit over my Skywatcher 80ED in the hope of catching the Transit of Mercury. If I had missed it then it would have been 2019 before I got another chance.

Anyway I took some shots with my Canon 700d and with my QHY5II-L Planetary camera. First up however, I may as well show you a cropped image of Mercury's first moment of transit.

I actually took quite a lot of images over the first hour and even managed to make a short film out of it!

It is a shame the image is so small as it isn't always that easy to spot the tiny wee planet crossing the solar disc but that I suppose is part of the charm. To make it easier to spot, I actually took a picture and annotated it which is something I don't normally do, but some of my non astro friends on facebook needed it pointed out to them!

One of my favourite images though was the one I took with my planetary webcam, mainly because I got a bigger image of Mercury, but also because it really brought out the sunspots as well.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable day for me and of course I couldn't do some solar imaging without a little solar projection which was useful when my kids came home from school!

It isn't easy to see but Mercury is there a tiny dark spot. What I don't have pictures of however is the point at which I left a cap on my eyepiece and took the filter off which resulted in a little bit of smoking, nor am I am showing you images of the terrible sun burn I got!

Either way it was a fun afternoon and I am glad the Scottish weather actually let me see it!

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Messier 42 (Orion Nebula) - Everyone's Favourite Nebula!

I think everyone loves Messier 42 also known as the Orion Nebula. Visual astronomers are treated to a lovely view in the eyepiece of even the smallest telescope and for astrophotographers it offers a wonderful bright and colourful target.

One evening I was trying to take images of various targets with my 80ED scope and didn't really get anywhere so in a last throw of the dice I decided to take a few exposures of the Orion Nebula. I set my camera to ISO 800 and ended up with 16 x 90 second usable images.

Whilst my image taking was a rather quick and messy process as I hadn't planned to image the nebula, my processing was not. I read up all sort of guides to try and work out how best to bring out the nebula in all its glory. I wanted to try and capture some of the fainter dust clouds but also didn't want to over expose the core. The result all several hours of processing work is below and for a first attempt I am incredibly proud of it.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

A Couple of Clusters

I haven't yet had the courage to try and undertake guiding with my new astro-imaging set up so I tend to limit myself to exposures of 2 minutes or less. This means I lack the confidence to try and image some of the really faint objects in the skies and tend to limit myself to the more obvious clusters etc. Recently I spent a night trying to image two such clusters, the first of these is the famous Double Cluster in Perseus. Also know as Caldwell 14 or NGC 869 and NGC 884, this naked-eye open cluster is a regular target for visual astronomy due to how wonderful it looks in a wide field eyepiece.

I have to admit I didn't spend that long imaging it because I had decided I would spend more time on it when I get a Field Flattener but I did manage to still get 27 x 90 Second exposures at ISO 800.

The lack of Field Flattener has caused some distortion around the edge of the image but the cluster itself is quite well defined. The camera has actually picked up a fair bit more colour than I have ever managed to see visually which was nice to see.

The next open cluster of the night was one which is a little less known, The 37 Cluster (NGC 2169) in Orion. What I really loved about this cluster is that when I had previously looked at it visually it actually looked like its name.

The image I ended up with is composed of 15 x 90 second exposures at ISO 800.

The image has been cropped a fair bit to increase the size of the cluster in the image, although now I can't decide if I prefer the original wider field.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

First Light with the Sky-Watcher 80ED Pro

So only a few days after moaning about the bad weather, we actually had a couple of nights with clear skies. It was also about -5ยบC across the two days so I felt a little bit cold when I was out trying to use my new Telescope and Camera.

As it was my first night out I decided to be boring and pick everyone's favourite target, M31, aka the Andromeda Galaxy.

So after setting everything up and getting on target (which took about 2 hours) I was ready to start imaging! I basically took 16 x 90 second subs at ISO 800. I failed to get any Darks or Lights as I was beginning to feel the cold and just didn't have the dedication to stick it out any longer.

I processed the image in Photoshop and whilst I know I lost a bit of data in the processing, I am happy enough with this first attempt.

You may notice there are some issues with the focus on the stars along the left hand side of the image. This is because I believe I had some issues in the optical train which resulted in my DSLR sensor not being square to the optical path. The reason was that I struggled to get focus so ended up setting up a very badly held together "botch" job.

Since taking this image however I have found a little extension tube in my telescope case which states "DSLR Adaptor" rather obviously on the side of it. This would have given me a much more firm extension system to help achieve focus. I probably should have checked it out first but I was just a bit keen!

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

New Equipment = Terrible Weather

So for Christmas I got some new Astronomy gear to play around with. I got permanent control of the Modified Canon 700D DSLR I had played with previously which is basically a Canon 700D with the IR filter removed to increase the sensor response to red light.

In addition, I also got a Sky-Watcher Evostar 80ED DS-Pro Telescope. This scope is a Apochromatic refractor which will provide me with a much wider field of view than my 127 Mak.

In addition to the wider field of view it is also a "faster" scope meaning that more light will get to my camera during an exposure than would do on the Mak.

For anyone out there who likes the official specs then here they are:

Diameter: 80mm
Focal Length: 600mm
F/ratio: F/7.5
Fully Multi-Coated Doublet Objective Lens
FPL-53 ED Fluorite Glass Objective Element
Backlash-free 2” Crayford Focuser

Now all I need is the chance to use it!

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Trials with a Modified DSLR - The Heart Nebula IC1805

So I am a lucky man and am going to get a Modified Canon 700D DSLR for Christmas. Basically the modification removes an IR filter from the camera which increases the amount of red light now getting through to the sensor.

However, I needed to test it when it was received and was allowed one night to play around with it in the back garden to make sure it worked.

I decided to pick a target that my standard DSLR would struggle to pick up from my back garden with only a couple of minutes of exposure. The target chosen was the Heart Nebula also known as IC 1805 and the image I took is a stack of 8 x 120s Exposures at ISO 1600 using a Canon 55-250mm IS STM Lens.

I am really chuffed with this considering the Lens I used isn't the best and I had to do a lot of processing to remove light pollution. The heart shape is still visible and hopefully once I get a Light Pollution Filter I can get something even better.

The Camera is now packed away for Christmas Day but I am looking forward to getting more time using it in the future.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Widefield Fun

So I have been having fun recently with taking widefield images, both from my own back garden and during my recent holiday in the Cairngorms.

First up, I have an image of Ursa Minor aka The Little Dipper which I took using in the backgarden using my HEQ5 Mount enabling me to take reasonably long exposures.

To be honest, Ursa Minor is in quite an empty area of sky so my image isn't the most exciting but I still wanted to share it.

The image I took of Cassiopeia the same night is much more interesting as it is in a much busier section of the sky.

In this image I can actually make out several Deep Space Objects such as the Owl Cluster (NGC 457) and I am sure I can see the Pacman Nebula (NGC 281). I really love this image as I every time I study it I make out something I hadn't noticed before.

My next two images are both taken using a fixed tripod from the Cairngorms and capture different sections of the Milky Way.

I don't know if I can say much about these images but I really enjoyed getting the chance to get to see the Milky Way at a dark site although as the next picture of Orion shows it wasn't perfectly dark.

Here you can see Orion hanging over the village of Tomintoul which was producing some light pollution but it was still a wonderful place to see the night sky.