M3 Globular Cluster

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Since I got my telescope, I haven’t tried to shoot a Globular Cluster, it was one of my favorite structures when I was young. So I decided to give it a try, but Hercules Globular Cluster was not available, so I went to M3 instead.

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Globular Cluster M3
Celestron AVX 8″ SCT
Filter: Astronomik CLS-CCD
Focal Length: 1278 mm
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 1000
Shutter: 60s
Stacking: 21
Total exposure: 21min
Aquisition: BackyardEOS
Post processing: PixInsight
Taken Mar 10, 2015 around 22:42 CET

It is impressive how so many stars can be all packed together orbiting our galaxy. In the case of M3 there are half a million stars packed together in a orbital dance.

For this picture I used this tutorial designer to this kind of clusters. I had to change a lot of steps because they didnt fit my image, but the end was a good result nonetheless.

Fun fact: Here is some deep sky objects comparing the apparent size with the moon. You see that many structures are very big, we only dont see it because they are very dim.

Another try Orion Nebula, and AstroBin

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I was graced with another nice night and decided to try Orion again, but now with longer exposures and using the light pollution filter, and autoguiding. So instead of several short exposures I aimed for longer exposures. As long as I could hold the mount aligned.

For some strange reason, my first picture had a deep blue hue, and that is more a red. Neither of which is what I would expect the true color of Orion Nebula. But that was what I got.

20150310_ORION_1000iso_26x30s_28x90s_CLS-CCD

Orion Nebula (M42)
Celestron AVX 8″ SCT
Filter: Astronomik CLS-CCD
Focal Length: 1278 mm
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 1000
Shutter: 30s / 90s
Stacking: 26 / 28
Total exposure: 55min
Aquisition: BackyardEOS
Post processing: PixInsight
Taken Mar 10, 2015 around 20:48 CET

It is incredible what a longer exposure can do. This picture have way more details and more of the faith nebula than the first picture. It is an amazing sight.

Well, I want to talk a bit about AstroBin now. This is a site where you can store and showcase your astronomy pictures. It is very easy to use and you can set up the equipment required to take the pictures and then see what other people with similar equipment was able to do. This gives you a direction to aim for in the future.

But an amazing feature they have is a image analysis that finds out where in the sky your picture was taken, and detect several structures present in your picture. And all automatically. I was quite impressed.

I uploaded some of my images there and i will send some more. Hover the mouse over the image and check out the detection of many stars and structures of my picture: http://www.astrobin.com/163678/

*UPDATE* I did a bit of research to find out the true color of Orion Nebula, since I found weird to have a blue and a red picture. And I found out that the real color is Red due to Halpha emissions

The Sun

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In about two weeks (March 20th) we are gonna witness a total solar eclipse. It is not gonna be total where I am, but 80~90% of the Sun will be covered by the Moon. Another one like that here in Europe will be in 20 years.

In preparation for the eclipse I got myself some solar filters to be able to observe it. I got this inexpensive Baader glasses for me and a simple 8″ filter for my telescope. And since there is a nice weather outside, I went to test my new filters.

Those solar filters are ND 5 and transmits only 1/100,000 of the sunlight.

20150308_SUN_640iso_1000xTv1-800_RGB

Sun and a sunspot
Celestron AVX 8″ SCT
Filter: Baader Astro-Solar Folio ND5 C8
Focal Length: 1278 mm
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 640
Shutter: 1/800s
Exposure: 1000 frames
Post processing: RegiStax 6, Pixinsight
Taken Mar 03, 2015 around 13:18 CET

My first trial of a solar imaging I was not very sure how it should be done. So I tried many different ways and got my first results. I was lucky to catch a nice sunspot.

Also post-processing was a mystery to me so i just did some basic processing. Not the best of works, but it was quite nice. Will try to edit in different ways later.

But I was surprised to be able to see some texture in the sun with this filter. It is not a H alpha filter, only a simple folio filter but already is possible to see nice textures. Now, waiting for a good weather on March 20th to be able to take some eclipse pictures =D

Orion Nebula

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First time since I got my telescope that i got a good view from Orion. The moon was quite bright so I was not expecting much, but gave it a try with short exposures without my Light Pollution filter. Since the exposures were short, I took an enormous amount of them. I got about 270 frames in various exposure times.

Once I was post-processing them, i found out it was impossible to align the frames. My pictures contained a unbelievable amount of hot and cold pixels. And they where all over the pictures, and in the same places in each picture. So the star detection algorithm was always detecting the bad pixels as the main stars to align. It was very frustrating.

I tried to relax the star detection algorithm, try to only detect big stars and structures, tried many different ways, and my image was never aligned. So i started to try to use “Cosmetic Correction” tool to remove the bad pixels from the reference image so I could use a cleaner picture to detect the reference stars. Also in vain. There was too many bad pixels.

Another idea was to make a “Star Mask”, and try to use it as reference to alignment. But even trying to fine tune the arguments of it was not possible to avoid the bloody hot and cold pixels.

I was about to give up, there was already a week of trials and errors and no signal of success.

Then i tried “Dynamic Alignment” where i could select myself each of the stars i want to use for alignment in one picture, and show the correspondent star in the second picture. That effort was a good one. It worked! The issue now is that this tool only align ONE picture… and i have 270 of them. It is not possible to manually do each one of them.

So I had a epiphany. I could do a couple of manual alignments just very few of them, and stack only those few pictures with a aggressive noise reduction settings to remove the bad pixels. And so, it worked. I had now a reference image without bad pixels that i could use for the real job of aligning the other 270 images.

So, after all that, this is the final result:

20150227_ORION_LIGHT_800iso_99x5s_96x10s_41x15s_HDR_LRGB

Orion Nebula (M42)
Celestron AVX 8″ SCT
Focal Length: 1278 mm
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 800
Shutter: 5s / 10s / 15s
Stacking: 99 / 96 / 41
Aquisition: BackyardEOS
Post processing: PixInsight
Taken Fev 27, 2015 around 20:52 CET

I used a very nice tutorial to edit this picture in HDR with distinct process for RGB and Luminance. And I must say, this is probably my best work so far.

I could to a lot better, in a Moonless night, with longer exposures and all, but for a sloppy photo session, and so many challenges for editing it, I am very proud of this result.

 

Stacked Moon

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The Moon is always a “easy” target, it is big and bright. But I always wanted to try to stack Moon pictures to see how it goes.

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Moon
Celestron AVX 8″ SCT
Focal Length: 1278 mm
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 160
Shutter: 1/800s
Exposure: 10 frames
Post processing: PixInsight
Taken Fev 27, 2015 around 20:31 CET

Stacking Moon pictures on PixInsight is not straight forward. StarAlignment tool which is used for Align all pictures does not work, because, well.. there is no stars in the picture. And without aligning the pictures, you cannot stack them.

So I found out after some research that FFTRegistration can do the trick. And I also found a small tutorial to post process the picture, which i adapted to my needs.

The result is very good. I could say it is one of the best Moons i have so far. It still a lot more to improve, but it looks very good already.

*UPDATE* I got informed by my girlfriend that this Moon is green. As my blog’s name says, I am colorblind, and I edit the pictures to look nice in my eyes. And I do not see green in here.

My setup

My stargazing place is my terrace. There are no tall buildings around, and it gives me almost complete view of the sky. And the light from neighbors are not so bad.

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Using BackyardEOS to take the pictures. Here i have the Moon framed on my laptop.

11004537_10206107155703733_3801737167874511466_oIt is quite dark in there. This picture have a lot of stretch to be able to see anything.
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One chair to sit, one for the laptop.

Jupiter

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I haven’t updated this blog for a long while, but it doesn’t mean I stopped with my astrophotography hobby. It is a frustrating hobby, because depends on the weather conditions, and with the weather in Netherlands, there are a long period where all nights are cloudy, so I have to wait for a great span of time to be able to shot some more pictures. But every session is a learning experience.

I have always being more interested in Deep Sky, galaxies and nebulae, so that is my first attempt of a planet. Two different post processing of the same frames:

Jupiter_Tv1-800s_1000iso_1024x680_stacked_processed

Jupiter_Tv1-800s_1000iso_1024x680_stacked_processed-1Jupiter and 2 Moons
Celestron AVX 8″ SCT
Focal Length: 1278 mm
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 1000
Shutter: 1/800s
Exposure: 200 frames
Post processing: RegiStax 6
Taken Fev 27, 2015 around 20:16 CET

Planet astrophotography is very different than deep sky. First place because eventhough it is very small, planets are very shinny. So you need actually very short exposures. And since they are small atmospheric disturbances are a big issue.

So for planetary imaging, it is very common to use videos, instead of pictures. So you make a 100 or more frames video (which is nothing more than 100 pictures). The more frames the better, but not too much, because the planet is spinning in its rotation, so if you make the video very long, the features of the planet will shift slightly and you lose the details.

Another difference, is that the software to edit them is also a different one. I used RegiStax 6 for that task. I used this tutorial to get the best effects: www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yUNMnIBOVM

For my first trial, I am very happy with the result. I think i could improve a bit in the focus. And I believe I could have taken 1000 frames, instead of the 200 I did. Also, in the scope, I could see 5 of Jupiter Moons, but once you set up the configuration to see well Jupiter’s features, the Moons disappear. In the second picture I manage to have some few pixels in there that are 2 of the closest big moons.

In this same night I also got some shots of Venus, but they were to bad to get any nice picture. Will try again when the weather let me.

Moon, Jupiter and Telescope

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My new toy arrived! A Celeston AVX 8″ SCT plus accessories. Unboxed everything, so many pieces, bolts and screws, took me a while to figure out how to put everything together. Some pieces just didn’t fit. So now I had to wait for the weather. And lately it is horrible. I had the opportunity to have some half ok-ish sky for 1 hour for 2 nights… But there is so much to learn. It took me ages to be able to focus, and to find anything in the sky. Still didn’t have the opportunity to some serious photo session. Still getting a hang of it.

But other night, it was kind of cloudy, but the Moon was there, nice and shining. But my balcony don’t have view to it. So I set up the equipment in the bedroom window, and pointed to the Moon. Such a nice view. Still took me quite a while to focus, and I have the impression that the focus was never perfect. Don’t know what I am doing wrong yet. But I had the opportunity to shot some pictures. I thought: well I can take a bunch of them and stack in Pixinsight, but I did not manage to stack it in there. The alignment tools don’t work for it =/ So I got just one frame and post-processed there. Took me very long to get something I liked. Moon edition is harder than deep sky, so far…

20131115-MoonFull Moon
Celestron AVX 8″ SCT
Focal Length: 1278 mm
Aperture: f/6.3
ISO: 200
Shutter: 1/400s
Post processing: Pixinsight
Taken Nov 16, 2013 around 00:30 CEST

I think it is the best Moon picture I ever had. Still I am not happy with it. I saw some so amazing jobs when I was trying to find out how to post-process it. That I got spoiled. I want to get much better pictures than that. Ok that in my bedroom window, I had to that the picture though the glass window, since it doesn’t open. And probably I lost a lot in detail in there. But well… it is not at all bad, but still gotta try again =D

After some high excitement with the Moon, Jupiter was already in a nice position for observing as well. So I put the eyepiece, and enjoyed a view of Jupiter and 3 of its moons. But after better seeing I could identify 3 more moons, where 1 was in the same plane as the 3 first ones, and 2 were way out almost 90 degrees from the plane. Tried to find out later which moons did I see… But I wasn’t successful.

Really looking forward for the next clear sky, to make some real imaging =D

Auriga Constellation and New Equipment

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Since I always took pictures with the biggest possible zoom in my camera, I decided to try the opposite. Go for the minimal possible and do some very wide angle. I wanted to see a piece of the Milky Way, but still 70mm is too much zoom for it. And is actually too much zoom to fit a full constellation. So I got just half of it.

201310-aurigaAuriga Constellation (Capella on top, β Aur on the left, and at the bottom right M38 and IC405)
Focal Length: 70 mm
Aperture: f/5.6
ISO: 800
Filter: Astronomik CLS-CCD
Shutter: 300s
Tracker: Astrotrac
Stacking: 5
Total exposure: 1500s
Post processing: Pixinsight
Taken Oct 06, 2013 around 22:30 CEST

Lots of stars, some star clusters, even some nebula. Quite nice wide angle. Not exactly what I expected. I should get a 17mm lens for a really wide area and to be able to get the Milky Way. But still a nice result.

So, after going to the Star Party, I could not stop thinking about getting a telescope. What I take hours to make, align, frame, get the shots, fix the star trails and all, I have seen it in a single frame of 30 sec exposure with a telescope. It was amazing. If I can get this degree of quality in one sub with a short exposure, what could I archieve with a long exposure, and many stacked frames?

So I spend all my free time reading, researching, seeing tutorials and videos, reading in forums to decide what should I buy. So my research came to an and, and I ordered it =) Now I am waiting to come.

My new equipment will be a Celestron Advanced VX 8″ Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope. I found that the SCT are lighter and smaller than the Newtonian, but have comparable power. So for the imaging I needed to get also a T-ring, a T mount and a reducer/flattener. Also got the shades, so that light from the sides don’t interfere with the subs. And then I learn about the auto guiders. Those are equipments that helps with the trackers to make the stars seems completely still in the sky. An auto guider is a webcam and a scope that will lock onto one bright star near the area you want to photograph and will send small corrections to the mount-tracker to go a bit faster, a bit slower and make sure that the star the webcam is following never moves. So I got this Orion Mini Autoguider Package, that will fits perfectly with my new setup.

Still need to get somethings that the store didn’t have. I need a Bahtinov Mask for focus, a Flatfield Panel for the flat subs, and if possible get a simple solar filter, so I can use the telescope for Sun pictures as well. Can’t wait to check up the new equipment =D

Pleiades, Sun Eclipse and ISON

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I was waiting for months until Pleiades (M45) was high in the sky. It was usually just appearing late in the night, and I couldn’t get a shot of it. So, finally it came up with some time, and it was in a good position for photographing. But the structure passes right between a building and my wall of the balcony. Giving me only ~20 minutes of clear view from here.

So I got set up my equipment to be ready to get this window of opportunity for a couple of nights to get some 5 min subs of Pleiades each night to stack them together later. The result is my first nice diffuse nebula:

20130900-pleiadesPleiades (M45)
Focal Length: 300 mm
Aperture: f/5.6
ISO: 800
Filter: Astronomik CLS-CCD
Shutter: 30s / 300s
Tracker: Astrotrac
Stacking: 25 / 17
Total exposure: 5850s
Post processing: Pixinsight
Taken Sep (Several Nights)

Pleiades is huge in the skies, and very hard to miss. But only with photography you can truly see the nebula and the nice blue color it has. Still I think i need longer exposures, since there is much more nebula to see that is not in there. But I got very happy to be able to see this blue color everywhere.

So this last couple of days were of high celestial activities. We had a solar eclipse last Sunday (Nov 3rd, 2013). It was not possible to see it from here, unfortunately. And it was, as always, very cloudy day.

Also we have ISON Comet, the “supposed Great Comet of the century” which is just giving disappointment to people because it is not as bright as it should be. I am trying to check on the weather forecast to see if it will be a clear sky some day around 4AM so I can take a look on the Comet. Never seeing one in my life. I am very curious what can be seeing. Also it is not in the path of my balcony, so… no pictures.