Thursday, November 19, 2009

Perseus Double Cluster

From the 1st night of the Veil work.

Late season Veil Nebula




I really still consider myself a DSLR beginner, but since this came out ok and I plan to add more subs, I thought I'd share now

Here's 2 nights worth of 1 hr:

360s x 5 @ ISO 1600
600s x 3 @ ISO 800
1hr total

Imaged: Meade OTA
6" Schmidt-Newt f/5
Guided: 4" Skywatcher
Mount: Celestron CGE

Guided, Unmoded
LPS-P2-FF Filter, Darks
& WB Flats applied

Manually dithered every 3 or so subs.

Hope you enjoy as much as I did seeing this for the 1st time (visually and AP-wise!)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Late season Jupiter with the kids


My kids, 5 and 3, could usually take or leave my hobby. Sometimes they just want to do what dad does and this was one of those nights. Perhaps it was all the recent rain and clouds we've had from Hurricane Ida but they we're ready to go. Conditions weren't the best, but some good views on the computer via the DMK and some eyepiece views got them pretty excited. That is until they got cold and didn't see any meteors from the shower. Ok, enough rambling. Here's my view that the kids helped capture!!

Mike


Today's Moral Story


 

                   MORAL FOR TODAY

One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a
well. The animal cried piteously for hours as
the farmer tried to figure out what to do.



Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the
well needed to be covered up anyway;

it just wasn't worth it to retrieve the donkey.

He invited all his neighbors to come over and
help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began
to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the
donkey realized what was happening and cried
horribly. Then, to everyone's amazement he
quieted down.

A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally
looked down the well. He was astonished at what
he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit his
back, the donkey was doing something amazing.
He would shake it off and take a step up.

As the farmer's neighbors continued to shovel
dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it
off and take a step up.

Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey
stepped up over the edge of the well and
happily trotted off!

*****

Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds
of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well
is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of
our troubles is a steppingstone. We can get out
of the deepest wells just by not stopping,
never giving up! Shake it off and take a step up.

Remember the five simple rules to be happy:


Free your heart from hatred - Forgive.

Free your mind from worries - Most never happen.

Live simply and appreciate what you have.

Give more.

Expect less


NOW .......


Enough of that crap
. The donkey later came back,
and bit the farmer who had tried to bury him.
The gash from the bite got infected and
the farmer eventually died in agony from septic shock..



MORAL FROM TODAY'S LESSON:


When you do something wrong, and try to cover
your ass, it always comes back to bite you.




 

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Michael A. Phillips' Planetary Processing Routine version 8.1

Was this tutorial helpful?

Yes, thanks very much!
 
 8

I think I like the v7 better.
 
 0

Yes, but I'd like additional information and will post in the comments below.
 
 0

No thanks, I like my own routine.
 
 3

No, I have something I'd like to add in the comments below.
 
 0















HINT: To download this tutorial as a Microsoft Word Doc, click here - http://www.mediafire.com/?yj4em1omomn




Introduction

1. This is by no means a replacement to the tutorials I learned the most from such as Mike Salway's (http://www.mikesalway.com.au/2008/08/26/planetary-imaging-and-image-processing) or Paul Haese's (http://paulhaese.net/planetaryprocessing.html). I am simply tuning, tweaking and automating some of the steps to suit my own taste and hope you find some ideas here to use for yourself!


    1. Incorporating a large portion of the v7 tutorial (seen here), I was able to skip the Registax application altogether. The advantage here is the I now stack in Iris direct from Ninox and Iris has a very robust scripting engine to automate stacking and saving of raw files.


    1. All the routines in this HowTo use applications running on Linux, even the windows only software packages run under Wine (http://www.winehq.org) running under Linux. All of the video screencasts are recorded and produced using applications running on Linux. I am confident that all software and processes detailed in this HowTo can be run on MS Windows with one exception. The capture software I use, Coriander, will run only on Linux. Even some of the bash scripts may be run under Cygwin (http://www.cygwin.com/) although I've not tried myself. Never fear, the main method of this HowTo still applies to users running on MS Windows.


    1. OK, HERE'S the SHORT METHOD!

All videos are best viewed in HD (click the button in the lower right) and full screen!!

      1. Acquisition: Using Anthony Wesley's custom coriander 1.0.0. This works well for me as I have a firewire camera and motorized TruTek Color Filter Wheel with PC control cable. - Part 1 Video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IF70aenFIq4)


      1. Sorting by quality, rescaling, centering and cropping in ninox: (http://acquerra.com.au/astro/software/ninox/ - A tool for processing planetary images by Anthony Wesley) – Part 2 Video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWZ7Gc8kmTM)


      1. Stacking in Iris: Major change in this version 8, is the absence or skipping of Registax for stacking. Move Ninox sorted and cropped images into Iris for stacking.


Stacking ninox sorted data right into Iris - Part 3 Video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjPwY5NQYnw)


      1. Processing in Iris: RGB combine, whitebalance, black point, sharpening and processing. - Part 4 Video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKlshHH3Zhg)




  1. Acquisition

      1. My equipment consists of

        1. I use a Celestron C8i SE (orange tube)

        2. Lenovo T61 laptop running Ubuntu 9.04 Linux and custom coriander (for firewire cameras – Thanks Anthony Wesley! )

        3. DMK 21AF04 (Firewire)

        4. 2.5x PowerMate

        5. Astronomik LRGB filters

        6. True Tek Color Filter Wheel with visu diag and PC serial cable (USB-to-Serial)

        7. Homemade Hand Controller extender or PC mount control for drift corrections

        8. some shots here:























http://picasaweb.google.com/maphilli14/MichaelAPhillipsAstronomyEquipment#5244213374458800210





























http://picasaweb.google.com/maphilli14/MichaelAPhillipsAstronomyEquipment#5244213381800624706



      1. Once everything is connected up I follow the 'custom coriander 1.0.0' modified by Anthony Wesley (aka Bird - http://acquerra.com.au/astro/software/coriander/ ).

      2. Before beginning capture, I suggest you get some basics covered - Michael A. Phillips' Astronomy Lesson on Seeing, Collimation and Focusing (http://maphilli14.multiply.com/journal/item/70/)

      3. Here is a screencast that demonstrates a regular capture routine that I follow for Jupiter. - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IF70aenFIq4

      4. After completing your captures you may move onto the next section that moves data from 'transit' to 'sorted'. It is important to note that this coriander outputs a static image stream of .fit files not a .avi or video file. This saves me a step extracting the movie to images later on!






Sorting by quality, rescaling, centering and cropping in ninox

      1. I prepare all captured source images that are really .fit files by passing it through ninox (http://acquerra.com.au/astro/software/ninox/) to sort and crop the images and then output to a new subdirectory called 'sorted'

      2. An optional, short getting started video on downloading, installing and using ninox - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpOJQxzyTnw

      3. Additional changes to the version 8 routine include batch processing of all the nights images in a single command as well as upscaling to 200% or 300% of raw images before stacking.

      4. The full script is a bash script and can be found here:

        1. Generate list of nights captures - http://www.mediafire.com/file/nfyimywxnny/MAPgenplanetlist.sh.zip


Execute looping ninox:

        1. In version 8 of my routine, I now have a simple loop that reads all the nights captures and allows you to selectively run Ninox against all or some of the captures. This script that will read the capture directories and use them to create all the sorted, Ninox folders. Per these guidelines (http://maphilli14.blogspot.com/2008/01/tips-on-organizing-your-computer.html).

      1. The key ninox syntax is:

        1. ninox -width=300 -height=300 -cutx=300 -cuty=300 -qestimator -qrenumber -outdir=Astronomy/Sorted/2-Scratch/Jupiter-$1/$2 /Astronomy/Transit/1-Corianders/$1/$2

          • This, “-width=300 -height=300 -cutx=300 -cuty=300” crops the images to a square 300x300 pixel size

          • This “-qestimator -qrenumber” sorts the data and renumbers the images based on quality

          • This “-outdir=Astronomy/Sorted/2-Scratch/Jupiter-$1/$2” allows me to specify a new folder in a sorted (not transit) folder for safer keeping. The $1 and $2 are the arguments passed to the script at runtime in which $1 is the ISO date that coriander writes ( IE 20081122) and $2 is the UTC time (IE 001122UTC).

          • There is another path following the outdir, /Astronomy/Transit/1-Corianders/$1/$2 this specifies the source files if not in the current directory.

          • Upscaling is in the format of -resample=3/1 scales all the subframes to 300% the original size after cropping. A tip from Anthony Wesley citing that it helps to remove artifacts made me want to try for myself and it in fact does work quite well on good data!! I've gotten fantastic results running a raw stacked, 3/1 upscaled image through AstraImage, which is part of my long routine, v8.2





Stacking in Iris: notes on skipping Registax and how to get 'Iris-ready'

      1. Why skip Registax? Only because I can automate stacking and saving of Red, Green and Blue with a single click!

      2. Skipping Registax is a two step process. First ensure the proper naming of files. Second, use the command window or Iris script to automate the stacking.

      3. The key to taking Ninox sorted data straight to Iris is in the naming. Iris has a fairly rigid naming scheme for any sequences of data that it works with. In particular if you are going to stack a series of raw monochrome data in the red channel it will NEED the numbering to appear as follows, as this is how Iris requires the images to be numbered, IE no leading zeros.

      • R1.fit

      • R2.fit

      • R10.fit

      • R99.fit

      • R100.fit

      • and so on...

This is not the same scheme that most image capture programs work with and I was able to solve this with the Linux package for batch copy / move called 'mmv' (mmv is a program to move/copy/ append/link multiple files according to a set of wildcard patterns)

In a nutshell your files need to get renamed from:

xxxx-yyy-q001999.fit → R1999.fit

or

xxxx-yyy-q00239.fit → xxxx-yyy-R239.fit

where all all leading 0's get stripped off as Iris does not like that.

I've not tested yet but for windows users this suggestion came across the Yahoo Group for Iris Software via Christian Viladrich:

The numbering rule in Iris is :
1, 2, ..., 10, 11, ..., 100, 101,

So, if you have a numbering such as :
0001, 0002, etc
you have to renumber your files.

You may renumber your files with "remultfile" software:
http://www.ptorris.com/windows.php

This is a French software, but very easy to understand.”” - Christian Viladrich



The fun part is starting the automated stacking and walking away for something more exiting!

Once the files are in the right format you may use this Iris script (http://www.mediafire.com/file/xzy3ihqamwt/MAPPlanet81.pgm.zip)
to convert and or stack the raw images in a manner similar to Registax's stacking scheme. Before using, test with one or both of these commands:



Non-FIT users need to convert to fit first! (For BMP users, use PIC settings not FIT settings)

BMP2PIC red redpic $1


add_norm red $1

Where $1 is simply the number of frames 'located in the iris working directory' that are to be stacked.

Some notes about the final image. First it is a After stacking you may find the brightness to be clipped or oversaturated. This is actually not the case and you should notice that Iris works in 48-bit space so you may fix this issue by using the following command:

mult $2

Where $2 is a number less than 1 to which all pixels are multiplied by. If you save the raw stack you may reload at anytime before you find the final desired brightness.







  • This image was a normal brightness image which I used mult 1.5 several times to give the over exposed view on, but using mult 0.8 or mult 0.5 a few times will bring it back to this. If it does NOT bring it back then you have gone beyond the 48-bit max value point and I've never encountered this before with my 8-bit camera and anywhere between 500-600 frame stacks.


























Processing in Iris

Flow – I like to follow a framework of a routine, that worked for me in the past under varying conditions. Here's my flow that I load from a text file and then paste into the Iris command window.















>run mapplanet81 500



>load r0



>--processing / wavelets-- 1,5,10,3,1



>unsharp 3 2 1



>save r81



>load g0



>save g81



>load b0



>save b81



>--view / rgb-- x81--



>white



>black



>save rgb81a



>scale 2 0.67 0.67



>--processing / wavelets-- 1.1,1.9,1.7,1,1



>save rgb81b



>--Saturation 1.3--



>gauss 0.5



>--processing / blur filter--



>visu 25000 200



>save rgb8a



>run rgb8a



>load rgb8a



>scale 2 0.75 0.75



>



Anything with a > is the 'prompt' and not a command

Anything with a >-- is just a note to find that in the menu system as it's not a command (not that I can see)







Step by Step Explanation:



stack per step 3 above with Iris script

Load each raw file (EG R0)

apply wavelets to taste

apply unsharp mask (optional and mixed success)

save as new filename (EG R81)

repeat for Green and Blue

RGB combine (EG Trichro – located in View RGB) - GREAT explanation of Whitebalance and black point by Sebastien Leboutte http://www.skyimaging.com/filter-wheel.php

whitepoint “

blackpoint “

save 'backup'

scale down to intermediate step (EG from 3x to 2x)

more wavelets

save new 'backup'

saturation increase to 1.3x

smooth with gauss

smooth with blur (again to taste)

adjust levels with visu

save as final

this final gets picked up by next iris script which saves as a variety of formats to get copied by bash script

At this point you're done and you can use Gimp or Photoshop or other similar editor to brush up and put in stats, logos etc...



Some additional Iris resources are found here:



Sebastien Leboutte - http://www.skyimaging.com/tutorials.php

and of course Christian Buil, author of Iris! - http://www.astrosurf.com/buil/us/iris/iris.htm (Scroll past halfway to find the TUTORIAL section)



TO DO's:



Include more MS Windows automation

Add Astra Image per my v8.2 routine.

Figure out how to use Deconvolution in Iris, in lieu of AstraImage.



HTH!



Mike




Monday, October 5, 2009

Jupiter 20091002



Yes, my C8i SE Single Armed Fork decided to take a break.  Ironically just after I got the CGE mount back!  The power wasn't getting to the hand controller just at the end of this session and the mount is on it's way to Celestron from out of warranty repair.  :(
Good news is the seeing was pretty good.
Not much else going on other than the Z-shaped / Zorro in the upper left!

Wish my mount a speedy recovery, The OTA will ride the CGE for a while... *sob* *sob* I'll have to one scope it for a while!  :)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Waxing Gibbous Moon from 20090929

After my Pluto shots, I tried for the moon.  I've never really gotten a good full disk photo of the moon before.  Not one I liked at least.  I was even able to load the Canon raws (.CR2) into Registax 5 and stack 12 of the best ones.  AstraImaged for most of the detail and some touches in Iris and Gimp.  Hope you enjoy!


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pluto on three nigts in Sept 2009

I had to make a correction to the original finding based on 3 nights (Sept 12th, 21st and 29th, 2009. 

Here you'll see the positions of Pluto marked with small lines.  The animation will change the current position's line blue and then rotate back through.

I used...
Optics: Meade LXD55 6" Schmidt Newtonian OTA
Mount: CGE mount on JMI Wheely Bars
Camera: Canon XTi with Hutech LP Filter (LPS-P2-FF)
Focusing Aid: STI focuser
Shutter control: Hap Griffin long exposure cable
Software: MaximDL
Guiding: DMK21AF04 with a piggybacked 4" SkyWatcher via PHD and ASCOM drivers
Operating System: WinXP Lenovo T61
Pre-Processing: Iris per automated Jim Solomon's Cookbook
Post-Processing: Gimp

Animation made with Gimp.

I also found it interesting that Pluto at magnitude 14 is pretty bright (other stars are 15-16 or fainter).  Pluto is over 4.7 Billion Kilometers away or nearly 3 Billion Miles.

I wish I could find a way to balance the background across the varying nights conditions.  The last night I fought the tree tops!

Cropped


FULL

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Messier 17 - Omega Nebula

  I think I could have benefited greatly from more subs on this one.  I ended up getting all .fits instead of raws on the 1st night.  The second night, MaximDL hung on downloading one of the raws, then the trees took over and I lost the autoguiding star.  I will try to add more sometime this season.  This nebula grabbed my interest simply because it was near Pluto (more on that object later).  I really like it.  Despite only 4 subs for a total of 14 min I think it came out well.

Stats

Optics: Meade LXD55 6" Schmidt Newtonian OTA
Mount: CGE mount on JMI Wheely Bars
Camera: Canon XTi with Hutech LP Filter (LPS-P2-FF)
Focusing Aid: STI focuser
Shutter control: Hap Griffin long exposure cable
Software: MaximDL
Guiding: DMK21AF04 with a piggybacked 4" SkyWatcher via PHD and ASCOM drivers
Operating System: WinXP Lenovo T61
Subs: Canon Raw 3x 180s @ ISO 1600 and 1x 300s @ ISO 800
Pre-Processing: Iris per automated Jim Solomon's Cookbook
Post-Processing: Levels, curves, selective gauss in Gimp alone.

Some additional subject details on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messier_17

Thanks,

Mike

Friday, September 18, 2009

2008 SCT-User Imaging Contest


http://www.darkatmospheres.com/contest/2008/
I came in 2nd place in this contest and won a great observing chair: http://www.buyastrostuff.com/store/Metal-astro-chair-frame-page.htm

I got my CGE back!!!!

I was very excited to get my CGE back from repair at Celestron and as luck would have I got a good 3 nights out of 4 of clear skies and an old moon!

I was tough getting back into the swing of things, but I'm happy to have it back.  The last night I split my time between the C8i SE (Orange tube on your Left) and the CGE with the DSO rig (White scopes on your Right).

As the haze and clouds began to build this last night I took off my DLSR from the white, DSO setup and had to pose as I was so excited to have both out and running at the same time.

I was sitting in an observing chair that I won from the SCT User Contest 2008 (http://www.darkatmospheres.com/contest/2008/).  It's actually a great chair!!

Now to process all my data!  :)

Mike

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Jupiter-20090822 - finally a break!



I got burned by lying, hiding clouds a week ago and a week before that was poor seeing.  So it has been 3 weeks since my last good night on Jupiter.

Finally a break in clouds and good seeing too!  I'd say the whole night's seeing was 6-8/10 and 3/5 transparency.  Rare indeed!

I wasn't diligent enough to catch the Io occultation of Europa.  I missed it by less than 30minutes!  :(   I did get setup and imaged this fine one before the clouds rolled back in.

I missed the occultation but didn't realize until after that the Wesley Impact Spot 2009 was nearing the CM.  I'm not sure I see it....  Is that it in the lower right???  It's nearly gone if I got it at all...

Thanks,

Mike

Friday, August 14, 2009

2009 - June - Skeet




My dad, brother and his girlfriend all came to the DCWC for some skeet before heading to the beach the next day. Hey, better late than never, this was from June. My dad took video that I'll post later!

Astronomy - Planetary - Venus (all years) Gallery




All my Venus photos in RGB or B&W (no UV or IR yet)

RocketFuelDump from 2007-12-12





When I 1st saw this I was thinking wow, what a huge comet, I don't remember hearing about this. I grabbed my binoculars from inside and saw it had moved relative to the stars FAST! Then I wasn't sure what it was. Of course I grabbed the camera and tripod. The result is here. I'm not sure why I didn't post it a year and a half ago?!


Animation of the fuel drifting in the upper atmosphere, note how it moves relative to the stars.

http://maphilli14.webs.com/Astronomy/Phenomena/RocketFuelDump-20071212/1.html

More detail here:

http://www.cloudynights.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php/Cat/0/Number/2042248/page/0/view/collapsed/sb/5/o/all/fpart/all/vc/1

and here:

http://www.cloudynights.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php/Cat/0/Number/2042270/page/0/view/collapsed/sb/5/o/all/fpart/all/vc/1

and if anyone has the news release please share!


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Jupiter 20090804 - GRS and Wesley Impact Spot



It would have been nice to have the seeing hold as Jupiter dropped in altitude towards the time of the Wesley Impact Spot, but it did not.

The image seems a bit crowded to me, but I thought it would be nice to have a dual view with 3 channel RGB all for comparison.

The spot is REALLY spreading out!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

My July 25th, GRS, Wesley Strike and Io Transit

Does it seem like Jupiter season is in full swing yet? :)

Thanks to Anthony for discovering the impact strike, which I will faithfully call the Wesley Strike of '09 (he'll find more).

Seems to me yesterday morning was magical, something special in the air even drew out my son at 5:30.  He woke on his own I swear!  I did dress him quickly and dragged him outside for some help capturing this one and gave him some stellar 8/10 seeing views of Jupiter.  Seeing was a bit better just before he woke up... more on those later.  For now, here is his and my image!  He pressed the start capture button and drove the scope around!  ;)



Rest of the night and full 2009 season is here: http://maphilli14.multiply.com/photos/album/75/Astronomy_-_Planetary_-_Jupiter_2009

Mike

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Baby #3's latest ultrasound photos!

He is growing so big now!  Here's a link to the whole album


remember if you cannot get access to all the kid photos, you may need to recover a lost password here or sign up and add me as a friend!


and a baby center update for this age:

Hello from BabyCenter!

Head to rump, your baby is approximately 5 1/2 inches long (about the length of a bell pepper) and weighs almost 7 ounces. He's busy flexing his arms and legs — movements that you'll start noticing more and more in the weeks ahead. If you're having a girl, her uterus and fallopian tubes are formed and in place. If you're having a boy, his genitals are noticeable now, although he may hide them from you during an ultrasound.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

Jupiter with 2x moon events & GRS 20090715

Jupiter with 2x moon events & GRS 20090715

This is some good work but not nearly as exciting as discovering an impact hole on Jupiter.

I took about 14 captures the morning of July 15 in some varied seeing. 

1st of the set (200% resize)
http://twurl.nl/nhudok

Best of the set (150% resize with RGB channels)
http://twurl.nl/p6ewuy

Animation!
http://twurl.nl/dvd56z

Full resolution (aka 150% resize) with Mike Salway-like fast rewind:
http://twurl.nl/fevpoy

I also took more time than usual to do RGB realign on the disk / Ganymede separate than Callisto.  In an effort to 'automate' my v7 Planetary Processing routine I decided to get fancy and I think I will revise as v8 soon.  I did all these without Registax at all!  - BIG TIME SAVER!

Stay tuned for the new routine.

TIA,

Mike

Sunday, July 12, 2009

How I got into Astronomy...

Like a few kids I was given a gift of a small refractor when I was a around 7 years old or so, I really don't remember.  I do remember not really knowing what to do with it other than look at the moon.  I really miss or am sad that I didn't know enough or wasn't fast enough to get out and look for Halley's comet!  :(

I lost interest until high school, when I resurrected that old 50mm red Tasco but got frustrated by lack of tracking on planets at high res...  my folks helped me find a nice 60mm on an equatorial head (Japanese model that simply said astronomy on it or something!)  I still have that one and have let the kids abuse it a bit time and again when they can stay up late...

In suburban Buffalo high school (North Tonawanda SHS),  I decided to 'get a degree in astronomy' and go to state school for college on Long Island at SUNY Stony Brook.  I found out the hard way studying astronomy is all physics and physics is all math.  Then while I was an undergrad research assistant, I realized that I had to get a PhD just to follow the scientific process of acquiring mass amounts of boring data only to have it painstakingly reduced just in effort to hold up and go look at this chart ... we still need more data.... BORING!

at that time in the mid to late 90's the Internet thing was taking off, so i hit the IT circuit in the NYC area for the years following graduation.

Living in the NYC area had me longing for a larger scope, but I knew it wasn't worth the effort with all the Light Pollution. 

Then in '03, desiring to start a family and a quieter life like I had growing up in Buffalo, wife and I moved to RTP with Cisco (I've been employed at Cisco since '00)

THEN, I got serious about a scope again, I had my eye's on the compact 8" SCT design for years and the C8i fit my need for lightweight portability.  I got it in time for the '05 Mars opposition and have learned a HUGE amount since then.

I do enjoy this as a hobby a bit more than as a career!  :)  Although, some days I do wish I got paid for it!

Mike

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Michael A. Phillips' Astronomy Lesson on Seeing, Collimation and Focusing

Why this subject?  There's not a lot of comprehensive basics to understanding the importance of these fundamental variables to Astronomy and Astrophotography.

I remember when I got started with my 8" SCT in 2005 for the Mars opposition.  I just could not see nor photograph the quality that I found on the Internet.  This was due to the main factors to be discussed in detail here:

1) Seeing
2) Collimation
3) Focusing


SEEING

Seeing as I've said is king especially for any hi-res views or photographs of planets.

What is seeing?  - This site has a good explanation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astronomical_seeing

Understanding that seeing impacts your views and photographs is important.  Perhaps even more important are how to judge seeing and how to 'predict' it.

Damian Peach has a wonderful lesson on the Pickering Seeing scale which most folks will use to say the seeing was S: 6/10  (http://uk.geocities.com/dpeach_78/pickering.htm)

Predicting seeing is like predicting any weather, it's not 100% accurate.  Basic info is obtained on the the Clear Sky Clocks: http://cleardarksky.com/csk/

Understand that this info is not 100% and augment with a look at the jet stream which will also greatly affect your seeing conditions:

Visible satellite for clouds - only works during the day
http://www.wunderground.com/US/Region/Southeast/2xVisSatellite.html

Geostationary Satellite - aka IR nighttime cloud cover threats!

University of Wisconsin-Madison: Space Science and Engineering Center
http://www.ssec.wisc.edu/data/geo/index.php?satellite=east&channel=ir2&coverage=conus&file=gif&imgoranim=8
and more
http://www.goes.noaa.gov/

Jetstream1 - BEST
http://weather.unisys.com/nam/init/nam_300_init.html

Jetstream2
http://www.intellicast.com/National/Wind/JetStream.aspx

Jetstream3
http://www.wunderground.com/US/Region/Southeast/2xJetStream.html

I can't stress the importance of seeing enough!



Collimation

As the owner of a Schmidt-Cassegrain I will talk mainly about it.  Thierry Legault has a great tutorial for the matter:

http://legault.club.fr/collim.html

The take away is once you've got the basics of collimation (aka USE BOB'S KNOBS!) and the out of focus collimation always make your adjustments in good seeing and using the airy disk described in Thierry's 3rd step and even use Damian Peach's charts as a reference.

If this guide appears complicated then try this rule of collimation...

it's a simple task... make it round!  :)

you can for the most part trial and error it, but the goal is the same, make it round by turning 3 knobs!  Do be careful to tighten one and loosen another to prevent over or under (aka mirrors falling) tightening of your secondary.

Also, over time you can refine your collimation, you may think you've got it right via your eyes or by metaguide, but stacking hundreds of frames in moderate to good seeing yields better results where you may go, humm, i though it was in, but it's off a  bit on the 4 o'clock position... I'll fix next time!  :)

Another good reference: http://celestialwonders.com/articles/seeing/

Focusing

Once you've got the above two steps under your belt then focusing is easy.  If time and space allow, slew to a medium bright (mag 2) star and focus on that in each channel until you see the airy disk.  Without touching the camera with respect to your OTA move back to your target and you'll see something very exquisite!

Hope this tutorial helps everyone!

Mike

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Saturn from spring of 2009 in good seeing




this is a monochrome capture from my DMK21AF04 Camera in the Red channel under good seeing on an unknown day in spring of 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Saturn 2009.06.08 - Near perfect seeing


Object: Saturn

Planet

Origin:ObservationManager - SolarSystem Catalog 1.0
ObserverMichael A. Phillips Mr.
SiteHome
Begin2009-06-08 um 20:30:00-05:00
End2009-06-08 um 20:40:00-05:00
Seeing1 (very good)
OpticsC8i
EyepiecePowerMate (V=812.8)
FilterAstronomik LRGB Color
CameraDMK21AF04
Sitzung2009-06-08 um 20:30:00-05:00
Visual impression

  • Capture notes:
    Excellent seeing was forecast for a brief 3 hour period after sunset
    and before a drop back to average seeing.
    Fought equipment issues but got tons of great data, including a mutual
    moon event.  I wasn't sure what settings to use so I ran my regular routine
    hoping for something.

    Processing notes:
    Initially I thought I had caught the dimming of Tethys, but I think that
    because I start captures at dusk the brightness of the sky washed out the
    fainter moons like Tethys.
    I'm still not 100% happy with my routine and feel that with great
    seeing there's always more tweaking to be done!  Take good notes
    everyone!

    Observing notes:
    I didn't spend anytime visually observing as the equipment issues with the
    laptop and being excited for great seeing kept me distracted until the
    seeing went back to the usual average.


References

Sessions: 2009-06-08 um 20:30:00-05:00

Begin:2009-06-08 um 20:30:00-05:00
End:2009-06-08 um 22:30:00-05:00
Weather:Seeing: Perhaps 8-9/10 judged on Saturn only, the collapsed to 5+/10
Transparency:4/5 with a small T-storm cell ~15 mi away and HUGE one 45mi away which was VERY visible despitenot having any haze or clouds nearby.  STRANGE
Forecast: Small window at dusk of 5/5 Seeing! 
Equipment:Ubuntu 9.04 Linux and custom coriander on Lenovo T61 (Cepheus)8" Celestron C8i SCTLymax Cat CoolerDMK 21AF042.5x PowerMateAstronomik LRGB filtersTrue Tek Color Filter Wheel with visu diag
Comments:Great weather locally, but horrible in surrounding areas (see Transparency report!).I made great work of some of the local seeing on Saturn and was excited for a mutual moon event of Tethys and Mimas.I am not sure I captured it or not.Then the inevitable happened I ran out of disk space on the laptop!  Wait that was after the crash, yes linux crashes too!Sill no remote control of the laptop via the computer or long HC cable.I grabbed an external USB drive (formatted fat32) but recording at 15fps was not an issue.Moral of the story is even a short window of great seeing is worth the threat of storms and always be preparedwith a clean hard drive or spare usb drive nearby!
>> Observations <<

Observer: Michael A. Phillips Mr.

>> Observations <<

Site: Home

Longitude:35.682°
Latitude:-78.743°
Timezone:UT-300 min
>> Observations <<

Optics: C8i

Type:SCT
Vendor:Celestron
Aperture:203.0 mm
Focal length:2032.0 mm
>> Observations <<

Eyepiece: PowerMate

Vendor:TeleVue
Focal length:2.5 mm                                                    
>> Observations <<

Filter: Astronomik LRGB

Typ:Color
>> Observations <<

CCD Camera: DMK21AF04

Vendor:The Image Source
Pixel:640x480
>> Observations <<

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fun with dancing Saturnian moons

Ful RES:

And animation!


And facebox labels!


Capture notes:
Seeing makes the rings quiver and nowhere as good as a few nights ago. I still have not touched the focus or collimation, but did capture Regulus in Red. My regular routine 1/15s per channel (still all channels full gain). Initially the fps were set wrong as I work the kinks out of this setup. That was not as bad as it sounds, I lost some frame per channel, but it was only 180s per channel. Fixed for the 2nd run at 300s per channel which is what I really like on Saturn especially with variable seeing. Seeing degraded towards the 3rd cap, despite more cooling between 2 and 3

ObserverMichael A. Phillips Mr.
SiteHome
Begin2009-05-30 um 21:00:00-05:00
End2009-05-30 um 22:21:00-05:00
Seeing3 (fair)
OpticsC8i
EyepiecePowerMate (V=812.8)
FilterAstronomik LRGB Color
CameraDMK21AF04
Sitzung2009-05-30 um 21:00:00-05:00











References

Sessions: 2009-05-30 um 20:30:00-05:00

Begin:2009-05-30 um 20:30:00-05:00
End:2009-05-30 um 22:30:00-05:00
Weather:Seeing: 7/10 Transparency: 3/5 Forecast: Initially, 4/5 for both, but recently clouds crept in, which didn't appear at all in dusk. I hope the seeing holds!
Equipment:Ubuntu 9.04 Linux and custom coriander on Lenovo T61 (Cepheus) 8" Celestron C8i SCT Lymax Cat Cooler DMK 21AF04 2.5x PowerMate Astronomik LRGB filters True Tek Color Filter Wheel with visu diag
Comments:Bad drift even after a rough leveling of the tripod and auto-two star eq align. I didn't check the errors per axis, but I can't survive the drift without a reposotion of Saturn after 1 - 2 minutes, which is only annoying as I've yet to get scope control in Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty jackalope in Kstars/Indi. Took a break from Saturn imaging ~2140 for re-cooling of scope... not sure it helped, but back imaging at 2202
>> Observations <<

Observer: Michael A. Phillips Mr.

>> Observations <<

Site: Home

Longitude:35.682°
Latitude:-78.743°
Timezone:UT-300 min
>> Observations <<

Optics: C8i

Type:SCT
Vendor:Celestron
Aperture:203.0 mm
Focal length:2032.0 mm
>> Observations <<

Eyepiece: PowerMate

Vendor:TeleVue
Focal length:2.5 mm
>> Observations <<

Filter: Astronomik LRGB

Typ:Color
>> Observations <<

CCD Camera: DMK21AF04

Vendor:The Image Source
Pixel:640x480
Created: 06/03/2009 20:14:11

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Multiply here to stay!

http://digg.com/d1sGzU

BTW, long tail is an economic strategy...

Good Saturn while dodging the clouds May 28


Capture notes:
The forecast called for ~50% cloudiness at the beginning of the evening and I wasn't really prepared to go out as my computers weren't setup for my captures software. I was able to get things running pretty quickly and with some luck caught some data before the clouds came in for good. Seeing was as good as predicted. Amazingly enough, I have not had this scope outside in over 1 month! I didn't even touch the focus or collimation for these captures! Clouds killed a straight up 3x min per channel run, so I mixed a few captures together. I hate shooting through the clouds, but the atmosphere was actually very steady so that made up for it.

Processing notes:
Being on the new Ubuntu 9.04 install I had to reinstall all my programs. Registax 5 is now out in full and I tried that out. Initially I thought my saved HowTo-v7 wavelets scheme's were too harsh, but I think they still worked well. I tried a different, lighter scheme but wasn't impressed so I went back to the old scheme.

Observing notes:
Despite varying cloudiness the RGB image came out well. Everything is well balanced. Does anyone know what the dark line is that is below the rings in the EZ area?

Friday, May 22, 2009

My best Galactic photo yet...



Since the major upgrade to the 6" f/5 Schmidt-Newt OTA on the Celeston CGE with the right LPS-P2-FF filter, I've had lots of variables to work with, including my post-processing routine.

Now I can drive up to and past 10min subs with guiding on the 4" piggybacked skywatcher.  It's pretty cool to work with, but the weather has kept me from practicing very often.

May 19th, I got a try at M101, the CN challenge of the month.

Mine is far from the best, but it's a personal best for me.

I followed my v1 routine which will end up as a blog here soon enough.

Enjoy,

Mike

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Astronomy - Planetary - Mercury (all years) Gallery




I don't get much more than 1 or 2 views of Mercury each year so I'm lumping them all in together in one album

Monday, May 4, 2009

Older focus and collimation test




Red filter on Castor in Gemini
Good illustration of focus and collimation on the airy disk of a star. Set gain to full, leave gamma off / default and set exposure to a spot near where the 1st diffraction rings appear 'bright'

My weekend photo shoot of the Bluebirds

2nd nesting season for them in NC, but 1st of this season for this particular location/box.
details on the photo page

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Spring's in full swing




That's honeysuckle or (Lonicera sempervirens) and one of the baby Cardinal's perched on the bushes right outside the garage door!

Nesting Cardinals 2




Tape25--2009.04.22_15-05-12.wmv

Nesting Cardinals 1




Tape25--2009.04.22_14-25-34.wmv

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Moon, M45, Mercury - then Saturn and Ceres

Tons of great data the night of April 26/27.

Here's a wide-field of the conjunction of Moon, M45 and Mercury.
Taken after the Mercury caps by moving the tripod a bit further
up the road, away from the trees.


High-resolution Mercury
My 2nd high res Mercury in 2 nights. I'm not sure if its artifacts or real detail, but the CM is 114 which is on this section of the map:

http://www.solarviews.com/raw/merc/mer07.jpg

You tell me! I've only gotten Mercury at this FL like 1 time before these past 2 days.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Moved the scope off the street back to the driveway.
Collimation and Focus on Regulus - Great!
kstars for adjustments and a good distance from the scope.
Long 300s @ RGB (no lum) caps
Seeing seemed to go bad after moving to Ceres, but moving
back to Saturn seemed it restablized and was the
best of the night and perhaps the best all year!

Saturn at 0159UT view 1:


Saturn at 0159UT view 2 - 200% OVERSIZE!! I think it held up well and am thinking it's time for a 5x PM and or scope upgrade!


....and finally Ceres. Someone help me find a site that details the angular size, but I do believe that Stellarium lists it as ~0.7"

Capture Notes:
I tried to get as much data as I could with 300s @ LRGB
NOTE: back to Saturn for last cap of the night

Processing Notes:
I didn't end up using the Lum, but took it anyway.
I had to manually align all the Blue data!  UGH!

Wrap up:
Great data all-in-all.  I still cannot find a good site for
the angular size of Ceres, but Stellarium says it's 0.7"
I am pretty confident that my exposures and processing
are giving a good view of the disk itself.



Now you pick your favorite.

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Loving husband, proud father, computer geek, astro freak, music lover, sports nut and general fun-loving guy

I think I'm the kind of person who doesn't like strong opinions.  It doesn't matter if I agree with your opinion or not, it's not factual, it never will be 100% factual and I don't care for it.  That's probably why I hate politics.

I've always loved facts, provable facts of nature and things concerning science.  

Over time, I found that most facts are mostly reference and it was the creation of and discovery of new things that intrigued me.

"A good friend once told me you are our memory
without them we equal nothing
And all I can see is the place I wanna be
Suddenly my life was so free
Leaves at my feet, blown to the ground
their echoes are reaching my ears
Nights coming fast, suns going down" - A7x