The Sun, Moon, and Planets

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 Last weekend occasioned a rare day for this time of year.  Saturday was a day of high visibility, high transparency, and moderate seeing.  It would have been irresponsible of me to not take full advantage of that, and so I did.   Starting at about 10:30 AM I was set up and shooting the sun.  I wanted to focus on detailed surface areas more than the full disk this time so I started pointing at active regions.  I have discovered, and I should have expected, that the narrower the bandwidth I tuned into, the smaller the sweetspot became in the field of view.  I wanted to get award winning detail with a 60mm aperture that would rival a space satellite image.  OK so I was over ambitious a little bit, but that’s how I roll.   The narrower I squeezed the bandwidth (I was well within 1/2 angstrom) the less total surface area I collected.  I did get some good detailed shots of AR11704 but I can only get so close.  I have also discovered increased difficulty of producing a flat frame with the new larger camera.  The level of detail makes a blurred flat frame too detailed and when registering the frame the software over-corrects and produces noise in the image.  I will have to find a new solution to this.  There are a lot of DMK41 users out there, so I’m sure I will find the answer.  All in all I snapped about 100,000 images but in the end I didn’t actually get much I could work with.  I am still trying to pull data out of the raw images at night after work, but have had little success.  I was able to get a nice prominence  or two and will continue posting them as I get more processed.

The sun reaches a point in the afternoon sky where the atmosphere becomes too thick at low angles to get anything good.  I packed it away around 4pm and went out for dinner.   I was amazed at how clear the skies were well into the evening.  I decided to pull out the big guns and go for some night shots. I started with the intent to image only Saturn and the Moon.  Saturn was not visible above my horizon until about 11:30 pm so I had time to kill.  I pointed to M51… but I discovered serious problems with my scope.  I was drifting again and the collimation was again off.  I have been having trouble with this before.  Saturn.jpgI recollimated and did a full focus limits test along with several 2 star re-alignments.  I was able to fix the collimation, at least for the night, but I must have a drag in one of the tracking directions.  It’s an Alt-Azimuth fork mount so both directions have to move to track the earths rotation.  By the time Saturn crested above my horizon I had gotten things ‘good enough’ for Saturn.  I started shooting in monochrome only as I didn’t have my filters set up for the new camera yet.   It didn’t turn out too bad.  I did’t trust my histogram on this one, the images appeared overexposed so I dropped the f/stop back 2 spots and took some darker images.  I was able to get better ring structure and then I just increased the exposure with software later to show the detail.

The Moon made it’s expected appearance at about 1AM through the trees.  I started focusing in on the terminator waiting patiently for a full disk so I could a get a flat frame.  My field of view was pretty narrow, so I decided to get as much as I could to put together a composite.  I took 22 .avi files consisting of 1500 images each.  The air was getting pretty turbulent and I was getting worried about losing detail.  I spent a few hours trying to get every region lined up in the histogram.  I wrapped it all up at about 3:30AM.   The telescope was still dry and we hadn’t even hit dew point yet.  I wish this would happen more often.

12 hours of stacking  post processing on Sunday pretty much encapsulated my day, but it was cloudy so it all worked out.  I had to get some beta

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software from microsoft designed for panoramics to stitch the images together because the Moon had rotated in the field of view over the 90 minutes or so I was observing.  While I did not get the level of detail I wanted at the full resolution size of each part, the overall composite, after reduced in size, turned out to be quite nice.  No complaints this time.  I also developed a new set of goals specifically focused on the Lunar surface. I hope we have more clear nights this summer.

 

I’ll post more stuff as I get it processed.  As you can see, it takes much longer to process the images than it does to collect them.

Clear Skies

-db