Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 Solar System Mashup - Venus' year!

What a Joyful 2012 and best wishes for an awesome 2013!

Click image for large view, 

Click image a labeled version of the same resolution as above img click

This is my fifth consecutive year and all previous are here:

This was Venus’ year beyond a doubt.  There was a transit that I was able to view and share with the world on our marathon +Virtual Star Party .  For me it was extra sweet as I added some seasoning to the Year of Venus with a wide field nestled in M45 Pleiades and a false color shot in InfraRed and UltraViolet.  For these yearly reviews that I’ve been doing since 2008 (Inspired by +Mike Salway ) I have always tried to pick the best single photo of a subject and represent it as a sort of mock up solar system family photo.  I felt like having three shots of Venus broke this standard I hold myself to.  I decided that the transit alone wasn’t enough to break this.  What forced my hand is that Venus is “the Roman goddess whose functions encompassed love, beauty, sex, fertility, prosperity and victory.” (

What  made this fact important to me?  Well if you know me, my fourth child was born mere weeks after the transit.  Somehow it seemed fitting that my personal live overflowed into the grandness of this event.  Somehow these events blended a busy and energetic year for me and it stuck, a trifecta of Venus to sweeten 2012’s photo!

Other amazing things that rounded out my personal year were being featured in Google’s Virtual Star Party featurette as well as having the illustrious, Chris Go visit my house with many other local amateur Astronomers for a warm get together, the day after Google visited!

For the rest of the year’s fun, I found a love of the small things in the solar system this year.  I captured a record number of non-planets too.  Two comets, and four asteroids and two dwarf planets.  I had the pleasure of photographing Eros near it’s closest approach during a Google+ hangout with Dr. Pamela Gay ( +Pamela Gay ) !  Later it turns out that there was another asteroid lurking in the same field!  Yes a two for one with Eros and Tyche at the same time!

While I missed Mercury this year, I got Pluto which has been missing for me since 2009.

I had lofty goals of shooting Eris, the Pluto killer, but perhaps this is a 2013 goal now.

Noteworthy is that this composite photo consists of 17 separate observing sessions.  New objects not photographed for me before were, both Phobos and Diemos on the Mars opposition, as well as Eros, Tyche, Libera (a unplanned surprise near some galaxy clusters), both comets, and the grand Venus transit, which I missed with my 1st child in 2004!!!

Here’s the full list of images, some of which I will need to individually post in the coming months of 2013:

Sun and Venus:
20120605 (Transit - Virtual Star Party - )

Venus in False Color:

20120813 (Morning)

Earth, Venus near M45:

20120402 (Evening)

20120831 (Full)

Mars, Phobos and Diemos

Comet Garradd (c/2009 P1)

Comet Hergenrother (168P)

Eros and Tyche:
Pamela didn’t get the Virtual Star Party Uploaded to YouTube :~(

20121011 (Accident when photographing NGC7803)

Ceres, Vesta and star compare:


20121025 and animation!




Uranus and Neptune:
20120909 (Virtual Star Party - )

Pluto in M25:
20120716 (Virtual Star Party - )

Sunday, December 16, 2012


One of my tops of this season.
Sadly the collimation was off, I think there's some slack in the optical train after the filter wheel that I hope to fix with some new adapters.  The seeing wasn't perfect, perhaps only average.  My cooling power supply has died and not been replace.  Some of these will get fixed and the results should be BETTER!

Rest of the season is here:

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Telescope name - Did you know?

In honor of the upcoming "The Hobbit" movies, I am re-watching the "Lord of the Rings" DVDs.  I almost called my telescope "Shadowfax"

I still like Akule!  (

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Comet 168p/Hergenrother

I managed to find the comet in it's early phases on October 12, 2012 around 0430UTC.  It shows a good amount of tail in this 30s x 34 = 17min total exposure. The comet trailed during this duration and what you see is a composite of both a star align and comet align.  Towards the right of the frame you can see a galaxy or two which I identified as: KUG 2351+271, a 15th magnitude gem.

Here is the full field of view:

and a full camera resolution of 0.5 arc sec per pixel:

Astrobin listing with platesolve RA/DEC:

Growing list of comets I've photographed:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

New animation method

So I figured out a nice way to script the animation!  I touched this  set of 14 rgb captures VERY minimally during the day today.  From this AM, processed automatically and gtk-recordmydesktop using a sikuli script to move the static tiff images at a set pattern of slow and faster loops.  w00ts!

Today was day 4 in a row and the best seeing of the season, for certain I have a LARGE backlog of data to test against the new scripts.

Something very strange that I noticed while capturing was Europa was unseen and nearly invisible, despite the good conditions. Then over the course of the session it became bright, contrasty and very prominent!

Here's the 'final' image

Monday, October 8, 2012

Little Dumbbell

Bad, NOISE and lack of darks killed this images.  A few good things... OAG works flawlessly with some PHD tweaks **AND** stars are clear down past 17th magnitude.  Next stop, Eris, yes the  status killer!  Thanks  

Friday, July 13, 2012

Finally Finished Jupiter 2011/2012 Season

A total observation count of 28.  Of which, some were only live streamed on Google+ or not processed because of just terrible seeing.

Some highlights include winning the November 2011 Cloudy Nights Imaging Contest Finals:

The almost lost ones are here, starting with this nice gem of Io transiting the GRS!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

M14 and another for the Messier collection!

I don't know where to keep good, unlimited, full-res photos.  Even Picasa/Google/Plus keep shrinking them down as does Multiply.  Perhaps I need to put the thinking cap on.  Either way, here's one more for the Messier collection.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Comet Garrardd (C/2009-P1) from back in March 2012

1st real light with this camera, my Canon 7D.  Soft focus and not many subs.  Better luck next time, but I think I'm hooked on using a DSLR with my 14" Akule!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Venus' clouds!

Venus taken on February 26 from 2311 to 2347 UTC in UV.

I wouldn't have ever thought to look but Emil Kraaikamp had found rotations in the clouds of Venus in a short 30-60 min of time. I had some captures laying around from Feb 26 and may have found moment in the following animation of 3 frames: 2309, 2340, and 2346 UT. Look in the lower left hand portion near the 'pole' for a high contrast area that shows the progression of what I think to be a cloud. Venus has been a tough target this year due to weather, work and family but I'm excited for the upcoming transit of Venus over the Sun!

This is an Ir / sG / UV - false color composite:

Here's is the 3 frame animation:



Friday, May 4, 2012

Sunday, April 29, 2012

M78 DSO Catch up

A few things to note.  I have a 65 lbs scope mounted on a CGE and I can guide and DSO image!  More on that in the future.  Here's quick test.

Secondly I have a new noise filter to play with thanks to Chris Go's advice, Topaz Denoise!



Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mars Limb Removal Techniques in Gimp

I made a tutorial on how to remove the limb artifacts on your Mars images. You'll see in this video tools in Gimp like layers, opacity and selection tools. I hope this is useful. It's 8 minutes long, but be sure to full screen and set to 720 to see all the little things going on in it.

Others here:

Friday, February 10, 2012

Mars 20120208

I think this is my 1st post of Mars this apparation that I'm proud of! Only my 3rd of the season. Weather was avg to just above avg, I ranked it 3+ of 5. Right now I'll take what I can get, but Mars peaks at such a late / funny hour I loose soooo much sleep....

anyway, TIA and enjoy!


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Asteroids Eros and Tyche

Yes a two for!

I was attempting to catch Eros, which is a Mars-crosser asteroid, and the first known to come within the orbit of Mars.  Eros was also the first asteroid to be orbited by a probe, NEAR Shoemaker. (

Fighting rain, clouds and bad seeing I missed closest approach by a few days. I also found I didn't know how to find the proper ephemeris.  This did cause me to miss imaging Eros the 1st time out.  That ended up ok, as I learned a lot about asteroid hunting and found a 2nd named asteroid, Tyche lurking right nearby!  Pleasant surprise!

So, the good stuff.   The following 17 sub-exposures of 2minutes each are taken on February 2nd, 2012 from 0528 to 0602 UT.

*WARNING* I didn't get perfect darks and there are some hot pixels drifting, but they're pixel sized, whereas the stars and asteroids are not.  The stars are bloated and oversized due to slag in focus over the capture period, bad seeing, surface winds knocking the mount, overexposure and some coma in the optics of my Newt.

Look for two 'streaks' in this 34minute stack.

Labeled view with Eros near the large arrow on the left and Tyche in the lower right. (Click for larger view 40% original sized)

Click here for the mouse over finder chart

Close up of Eros' motion

And Tyche, which is a mere 13.2mag and 40km in size.

Here's a link to the larger, 67% size version 

Some things I learned:

 - How to use edit Stellarium database with new objects

 - How to lookup information in the MPC ( by object, date and time

 - How to lookup a random area of the sky to find out what known objects are there in the MPC database (

 - I also found some discrepancies between the MINOR PLANET CENTER ORBIT DATABASE (MPCORB) orbital elements for #Eros located here ( Don't seem to agree with the +MPC listing here: 

 - A program called Astrometrica can perform field plots for Asteroid ephermis discovery and measurements.   Thanks Dr. Pamela Gay!

Things I want to learn more about:

 - How to use Astrometrica to do what it's supposed to do.

 - Contribute my own observations to the community.

 - My 14" F/4.5 Newtonian scope has fairly noticeable coma that I'd like to understand more.

 - I may have  a budding asteroid hunting fever and may want to learn more about search strategies!



Sunday, January 29, 2012

1st Mars of 2012

From 20120125 at 0600UT
Reprocessed using AutoStakkert2 Beta

and for comparison, the Registax version

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