Jupiter, the king of planets.

Tags

,

So i had my mind on Saturn the last days, but it is not the only planet in the skies those days. Venus is incredibly bright on the skies those days but it is so bright that I didnt manage to take a picture of it. I need to try it again some day. But Jupiter is there. High up and just enough brightness to take amazing pictures.

So in my Saturn imaging session, some nasty clouds were covering it. So I just for a moment aimed in Jupiter and took some shots of it.

Jupiter_Tv1-30s_100iso_1024x680_20150514-00h18m38s

Jupiter
Celestron AVX 8″ SCT
Focal Length: 2032 mm
Aperture: f/10
ISO: 100
Shutter: 1/30s
Exposure: 6000 frames
Post processing: RegiStax 6
Taken May 14, 2015 around 00:18 CEST

For my amazement the result was very good. Way better than Saturn. I believe it is as of yet my best planetary picture. No moons though. But no chromatic aberration and not much atmospheric disturbance.

Saturn: Another Try

Tags

, ,

I was unhappy with my featureless Saturn, so I decided to try again. This time, I started with some more fine tuning collimation. It never seems to be right in the dead center. But I believe it improved quite a bit. Also I followed closely some collimation techniques. Chose a more suitable star on the Zenith, not to bright, not to dim. Zoomed in as much as I could and work my way in.

Another difference this time, was that I decided to take way more frames. From a thousand last time, I changed to 6 thousand. Why is that? Planetary imaging suffers a lot with atmospheric disturbances, since we are trying to see such tiny details. So we use the technic called “lucky imaging”. Where we take a gazillion of pictures, but only actually uses a small fraction of it. Only the lucky pictures where the atmospheric disturbances are minimal or nonexistent. It is, of course detected automatically. Trying to select the couple of hundred pictures on a several thousand set of pictures would take forever.

Another difference in the acquisition was ISO/Gain and Shutter speed. I have read in a planetary imaging tutorial that longer exposures and lower ISOs are better to spot better details. So I’ve tried that as well.

Saturn_Tv1-4s_125iso_1024x680_20150514-00h32m44s

Saturn with its rings
Celestron AVX 8″ SCT
Focal Length: 2032 mm
Aperture: f/10
ISO: 125
Shutter: 1/4s
Exposure: 6000 frames
Post processing: RegiStax 6
Taken May 14, 2015 around 00:32 CEST

Although it still not a very good sharp focused picture, it looks way better than the previous one. It is possible to see some features on the rings, and the color difference. Almost possible to see the gap on the rings what should appear there.

It still far away from a good picture, but with practice and experimentation, I believe I can improve it even more.

Saturn, Focus and Collimation

Tags

, , ,

So for a while now, Saturn is appearing in the night sky. A couple of weeks ago, it would just barely show up in the end of the night, but now it is present for almost the whole night time. Saturn is the most amazing looking planet, with its majestic rings.

So I always wanted to take a picture of it. But still planetary imaging is not what I am used to do. And the process is very different from Deep Space Imaging. First thing, I just upgraded my telescope to Hyperstar, and since then I hadn’t collimated my telescope secondary mirror, because I wasn’t using it.

So for the first time I tried to collimate it. It is a very sensitive and precise adjustment, and I found it quite hard to achieve. Spend a long time screwing and unscrewing the collimation screws and never seems to be perfect. Once I was satisfied with it, I pointed the telescope to Saturn.

Saturn_Tv1-40s_1250iso_1024x680_20150513-00h21m00s-2-crop

Saturn with its rings
Celestron AVX 8″ SCT
Focal Length: 2032 mm
Aperture: f/10
ISO: 1250
Shutter: 1/40s
Exposure: 1000 frames
Post processing: RegiStax 6
Taken May 13, 2015 around 00:27 CEST

First thing I struggle a lot with focus in here. It never seems right. And since Saturn was quite low in the sky, it had a lot of atmospheric disturbances. Second struggle is to set proper ISO and exposure. They never seems good enough. It is to bright or too dark.

I tried with the Reducer on, and off, and tried with the Canon and the Atik cameras. Every time I changed the configuration, i would spend a lot of time focusing again. It makes me want an auto-focus very much. Maybe in the future…

In the end I got this featureless Saturn. It doesn’t give the credits it deserves. But I will try it again other times, and see if I can get better results in the future.

Whirlpool Galaxy

Tags

, , , ,

This picture I took before I got my new equipment, using still my DSLR Canon 60D instead of the CCD Atik 450. I was planing to make more sessions and get the double of frames before editing and posting this picture. But now, I dont want to use the old camera and old setup anymore, so I guess I won’t be getting more frames for this picture.

After the disaster with the dew, I used the Dew shield that I had forgotten when I did my first session. And I was able to take way more pictures before the Dew started affecting it. And with the Maxim DL and the auto-guiding at errors bellow 1 pixel, I manage to take very good frames.

Master_Light_5184x3456_Bin1x1_ISO1000_final Master_Light_5184x3456_Bin1x1_ISO1000_DBE_nr_Annotated

Whirlpool Galaxy (M51), IC4263
Celestron AVX 8″ SCT
Filter: Astronomik CLS-CCD
Focal Length: 1278 mm
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 1000
Shutter: 600s
Frames: 11
Total exposure: 110 min
Aquisition: Maxim DL
Taken Apr 14, 2015 around 23:32 CEST

The result is amazing. Very long exposures gives such an amazing result. And I could catch several tiny galaxies on the background, where IC4263 in the upper right corner is the biggest of them, but there are 6 other tiny galaxies visible on this picture.

Vote in me for astrophotography award:

STAR OF EUROPE ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY AWARDS 2015

Bubble Nebula, Narrowband and Hubble Palette

Tags

, , , ,

So after trying out the LRGB filters for last post, I wanted to try out the narrowband filters. Those filters are built in a way that only very specific light emission lines mass through. Those filters are used for pictures of nebulae, because stars and galaxies emits light in all wavelengths. The most common narrowband filters, which are the ones I got, are:

  • Hα: Only emissions on a specific wave length given by Hydrogen
  • OIII: Emissions of a kind of ionized Oxygen that can only occur on the vacuum of space
  • SII: Emission lines of Sulfur, also ionized.

This narrowband pictures are used to create fake color pictures, where we assign each of the filters to one of the RGB colors. Which filter go to which color is completely up to you. But there are some well known defaults. For example, the Hubble Palette, used for narrowband pictures from the Hubble telescope.

The Hubble Palette assigns SII to Red, Hα to Green, and OII to Blue. In my first trial with those filters it is easy to see that the Hydrogen Alpha filter got the most details out of the nebula. Since the Bubble Nebula is mostly composed of Hydrogen.

After taking the pictures I notice that they were not very well focused, which is bad. I need to get used to change filters and refocus every time. Anyway I did two editions with the data I got. Initially stacking the pictures with Pixinsight cleaned well the hot pixels, but made the stars have a odd bright halo around it. But stacking with Maxim DL gave better results on this matter, and way worse results on hot pixel removal. I had to remove all the main hot pixels myself to be able to use the Maxim DL stack.

2015-04-25-ngc7635_Ha20x30s_OIII20x30s_SIIl20x30s 2015-04-25-ngc7635_Ha20x30s_OIII20x30s_SIIl20x30s_bBubble Nebula (NGC7635)
Celestron AVX 8″ SCT
Hyperstar 3
Filter: Baader Hyperspeed Ha, OIII, SII
Focal Length: 425 mm
Aperture: f/2.1
Shutter: 30s
Stacking: 20 / 20 / 20
Total exposure: 30 min
Aquisition: Artemis Capture
Post processing: PixInsight, Maxim DL
Taken Apr 27, 2015 around 23:18 CEST

 So, both those pictures are exactly the same, just different post processing. The first one is more smooth, but the second one shows more faint details around the main area of the nebula. I didn’t specially like neither. I believe I need to go way further than 20 exposures to get something smoother.

Something weird happen when i was getting my calibration frames. It seems that Artemis or Maxim DL mirror the saved image. I dont know which. But I took the light frames with Artemis and the calibration frames with Maxim DL, and I could see the hot pixels were mirrored. So all my calibration frames were useless.

Still a lot to learn, and a lot to try =)

Vote in me for astrophotography award:

STAR OF EUROPE ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY AWARDS 2015

M81, M82 and telescope upgrade

Tags

, , , , , ,

Two month ago I start checking for some new equipment to upgrade my telescope. And today I finally got everything and could install it. I bought a Hyperstar setup, a CCD astronomy cameras, and some filters and accessories. Took a long time but now everything is here.

A Hyperstar setup or a Schmidt camera is basically introduce your camera on the place of the secondary mirror. This have the advantage to gather 23 times more light (for my Celestron 8″). It transforms the f/10 system to a f/2. So a 30 seconds exposure will have a similar result to a 11 minutes exposure in the normal system. The downside is that you lose a lot on magnification, so if you have a very tiny object, it might not be a good idea to use the Hyperstar.

The CCD camera, is another very important component. It is basically a digital camera made for astronomy, so there is no shutter, no lens, no nothing. All controlled via computer and with a amazing cooling system. The Atik 450 camera that I got can go to -20C decreasing greatly the amount of noise generated by the camera. The “downside” of this camera is that it is mono… there are CCD color cameras, but they have less quality and less light gathering power. So to deal with this problem, it is necessary filters. I got the conventional LRGB (Luminance, Red, Green, Blue), and I got the narrow band Hα (Hydrogen Alpha), OIII (Doubly Ionized Oxygen), SII (Ionized Sulfur).

2015-04-25 13.29.34

So, for my first light, I did a very bad job at aligning the mount, didn’t use any autoguiding, and took some pretty short exposure pictures. Just to see what I could get. Tried to find something big and easy to photograph, only as a first test. Weather was not very good so I would not be able to have a nice night of pictures.

2015-04-25-M81_LRGB_L20x10s_RGB10x10s

Bode’s Galaxy, Cigar Galaxy (M81, M82)
Celestron AVX 8″ SCT
Hyperstar 3
Filter: Baader LRGB
Focal Length: 425 mm
Aperture: f/2.1
Shutter: 10s
Stacking: L20 / RGB10
Total exposure: 500 sec
Aquisition: Astemis Capture
Post processing: PixInsight
Taken Apr 25, 2015 around 22:27 CEST

Only 500 seconds total (less than 10 minutes) and the session was finished with 50 shots. Had to change filters 4 times, one for each LRGB. It took me almost the same time to prepare the next filter than to take the pictures with the previous filter. It is unbelievable fast system. And even in one only sub, I already see a lot of details of the galaxies.

I didnt use any calibration frames (which is bad) but i just wanted to see what the new equipment was capable of doing. It took me several days and a lot of long exposures and hard job to get those in the past. And it was super easy to use it with the Hyperstar. I never had such a easy picture like that. And the stars are very round shaped all across the picture. Very nice…

Next time I will do the proper guiding, proper alignment and try some pictures a bit longer. And see what will be possible to get. I am very happy with the new acquisition, and looking forward to may pictures in the near future.

Vote in me for astrophotography award:

STAR OF EUROPE ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY AWARDS 2015

Dew, the destroyer.

Tags

, , , ,

There is a long time I don’t have such a great night. From dawn to dusk no clouds, no wind, perfect. And now that I learn to use properly the autoguider, i can do very long frames.

So I setup to get some shots at Whirlpool Galaxy (M51). It is a very beautiful merger galaxy where the bigger is feeding on the smaller one. I manage to have some very good aiming and tracking. And everything seems great. To take 20 frames of 10 minutes it is almost 3 and a half hours.

After my first picture I was amazed. I could clearly see the galaxy without any editing. Just the raw one frame was there a beautiful galaxy shape. But I notice that after a while, I couldn’t see it as good anymore. I thought it could be some passing clouds? But there was none. Maybe it get some good and bad frames? But the quality was just degrading with time.

Since my target was to pass at Zenith and I would need to do a meridian flip. And after that was not possible to find the galaxy again. And it was late so I decided to stop the process. I had taken 14 from the 20 shots, it was good enough for a day.

But, I am aware that my corrector plate is always getting dew. And I could do the math. Dew + time = each shot has less light passing through. So in the end, my 14 shots are useless. Because of the annoying Dew. I made a GIF to show what happen. Each frame of the GIF is one of my frames, raw data, not processed. It starts as a nice galaxy, and finishes as a small dot.

M51

Whirlpool Galaxy (M51)
Celestron AVX 8″ SCT
Filter: Astronomik CLS-CCD
Focal Length: 1278 mm
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 1000
Shutter: 600s
Frames: 14
Total exposure: 140 (wasted) min
Aquisition: Maxim DL
Taken Apr 14, 2015 around 23:32 CEST

Luckily I already have a Dew shied (which delays but don’t avoid it to happen), and in the way there is a dew heater band, to be able to end this horrible nightmare.

Note that the sky looks blueish, it is because of light pollution of the sky, which lit it up very bight for long exposure pictures, in combination with a light pollution filter I always use, to avoid that the picture is just a completely orange and no galaxy or stars can be seen.

Vote in me for astrophotography award:

STAR OF EUROPE ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY AWARDS 2015

M101 complete and personal exposure record

Tags

, , ,

Luckily I got another clear night so soon and I could try out my very long exposures. Since I wanted to finish the M101 project, I decided to use the night only for that. I wanted 10 minutes frames, and some more 5 minutes frames. With the autoguiding error maxing out at 0.3 pixels (a third of a pixel) I was very confident I could get whatever exposure time I wish, which is a felling I never had before, always afraid my polar alignment was not precise enough.

But, well… the down side of very long exposures, are very clear. It takes longer time. And it is a LOT longer time to get all the frames for stacking. So this is also my record exposure time of more than 3.5 hours.

20150410_M101_2000iso_6x120s_18x300s_11x600s_CLS-CCD

Pinwheel Galaxy (M101)
Celestron AVX 8″ SCT
Filter: Astronomik CLS-CCD
Focal Length: 1278 mm
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 2000
Shutter: 120s / 300s / 600s
Stacking: 6 / 18 / 11
Total exposure: 212 min
Aquisition: Maxim DL
Post processing: PixInsight
Taken Apr 6-10, 2015 around 23:30 CEST

20150410_M101_2000iso_6x120s_18x300s_11x600s_CLS-CCD_annotated

This picture was way easier to edit than the one before it. Since the details of the galaxy was already way more visible. I had also much less noise, since I had more frames to stack. I particularly like a lot of the faint long leg of the galaxy, at the botton left of the image. Detail that was not present on the later picture.

I am also thinking about the advantages of having different exposure times, to make a HDR photo. Maybe for Andromeda Galaxy, and Orion Nebula, it makes sense, since it has a very long range of magnitude. But for M101, I would probably have a better result only getting several 10 minutes exposures extra, with the time I spend taking the shorter 120 and 300 seconds exposures.

Another thing to help make better images, is the Blink feature of PixInsight. It shows all frames in a “gif” like format. One after the other. This helps to find issues with the star alignment, and find artifacts caused by some pass by satellite or airplane. CloneStamp helps to remove said artifacts and not to lose the frame completely. And also CloneStamp helps a lot to make good galaxy masks to use in the post-processing.

Vote in me for astrophotography award:

STAR OF EUROPE ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY AWARDS 2015

M101 and Autoguiding

Tags

, , , , , ,

So I am trying out Maxim DL and it is a amazing tool. Very complex, very complete, but very good. So this night I decided to use Maxim DL for all my acquisition needs. But already started bad. The live view feature dont have a decent bull’s eye feature, and i could not use it to focus and to align the telescope. Still had to use BackyardEOS for that. I was a bit disappointed.

But the disappointment vanished when I made the autoguiding work. The very small less than half-pixel errors and readjustments, I think i never had such a good guiding with PHDGuiding. It didnt work out of the box, I had to read the manual and tweak the parameters, but when it worked, I was amazed. I could never do more than 90 to 120 seconds exposure, because my alignment and guiding was never good enough. That changed with Maxim DL, and I was able to make a 300 seconds exposure. But to be honest, with this level of tracking error of less than half pixel, I am excited to try much longer: 10, 20, 30 minutes exposure in the future.

I spend quite a lot of timing configuring and understanding Maxim DL, so I end up not taking many pictures. And until I got the guiding right, there was lots of lost shots.

20150406_M101_2000iso_6x120s_7x300s_CLS-CCDPinwheel Galaxy (M101)
Celestron AVX 8″ SCT
Filter: Astronomik CLS-CCD
Focal Length: 1278 mm
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 2000
Shutter: 120s / 300s
Stacking: 6 / 7
Total exposure: 47 min
Aquisition: Maxim DL
Post processing: PixInsight
Taken Apr 6, 2015 around 23:30 CEST

20150406_M101_2000iso_6x120s_7x300s_CLS-CCD_annotated

So about 79% of my frames I had to reject, so there was just 13 usable frames. Not enough for a good stacking. But I used it anyway to generate a noisy picture. This is a work in progress. I will get more frames on that. maybe 20/20/20 of 120/300/600 seconds. But need to wait for the weather.

I really like the annotation feature. But i also like the clean picture. So I will be putting both in the blog for a while.

Anyway, this was another very hard image to edit. Since there is too few frames, and not enough noise-to-signal ratio, I had to make some very aggressive editing to bring up some details in the galaxy. This made the image look fake.

So i edited it once, twice, tree times until I found a balance between showing details and not be too much aggressive. I still dont like Maxim DL to post process the pictures. So I believe i will be keeping Pixinsight for that task. But calibration and staking works quite wonders on Maxim DL.

For that processing I used a mix of several tutorials. The begin to use HDR imaging I used the same tutorial as in the Orion Nebula post. After that I found this picture already edited with a workflow, with very interesting ideas. And lastly this page with a tutorial and a couple of Pixinsight addons to download, which works wonders. I specially liked the remove hot and dark pixels using PixelMath.

One of the big secrets is the LocalHistogramEqualization on the galaxy. It brings a lot of details from very faint regions. Using with a mask only on the galaxy to not bring up extra noise from the background.

Vote in me for astrophotography award:

STAR OF EUROPE ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY AWARDS 2015

M31 and Annotation

Tags

, , , , ,

A while ago I took another picture of Andromeda Galaxy, using the telescope. My previous picture was only with the zoom lenses. Eventhough I knew Andromeda didn’t fit on the picture frame, I thought it would be a good idea to make it with more details.

20141027_M31_1000iso_17x30s_22x60s_8x120sAndromeda Galaxy (M31) and M32
Celestron AVX 8″ SCT
Filter: Astronomik CLS-CCD
Focal Length: 1278 mm
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 1000
Shutter: 30s / 60s / 120s
Stacking: 17 / 22 / 8
Total exposure: 46,5 min
Aquisition: BackyardEOS
Post processing: PixInsight
Taken Oct 27, 2014 around 23:35 CET

First post-processing I did looked very nice, but i found out in the last steps that there was some very nasty artifacts on the picture. Seems like when reading one for the shots, the external HDD hiccup and corrupted the data of one file, messing up the result. So I had to re-process everything, and the second result is not as pleasing as the first.

Anyway, lately I am trying out Maxim DL. Pretty powerful piece of software, can control everything from the camera, telescope, autoguiding, to weather station, dome, focus and filters. It is not easy to use, but I am trying it out. And doing so, I discover some nice algorithms that analyze the picture and find where in the sky it is.

And it seems that Pixinsight also have one of if. So i tried to Plate Solve my image, it finds the celestial coordinates the picture belong, and then Annotate the image with a celestial grid, and some data of what is inside it.

20141027_M31_1000iso_17x30s_22x60s_8x120s_Annotated

Annotated Andromeda Galaxy

The annotation can be very simple, as it is in this example, or very detailed. With star names, constellations, and much more. Not all my pictures works to Plate Solve and Annotate, maybe because they have always too much field rotation. But it is a nice feature.

Vote in me for astrophotography award:

STAR OF EUROPE ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY AWARDS 2015