January 23, 2018. Last night the near quarter moon made a great target to focus the two cameras attached to my ONAG/focal reducer on the C14. After capturing two 90 second videos of the moon (that's all it takes to "cover" the moon with the ASI-1600MM at f/6.7) I went on to my learning experience with using TheSkyX for autoguided exposures of stars in the Pleiades star cluster. The presence of an intermittent breeze made it difficult for the autoguiding routine to keep up. Next chance, I will try using PHD2, a free, open source autoguiding program. The PHD in the name has nothing to do with a doctorate. It means "Push Here Dummy", which is pretty much the level I am working at on long exposure imaging...
January 20,2018. The above crescent moon image was taken as a test through the focal reducer of my new ONAG (ON-Axis-Guider) that I constructed for taking many hours worth of 10 minute or so autoguided images of star fields to observe exoplanet transits. The moon was a convenient target (even through some haze and light clouds) to get both of my cameras focused with each other. The focal ratio of the C14 with the focal reducer in the light path was f/6.667. This would normally result in an undersampled mage, however, because seeing was so bad, I was sampling a 2 or 3 arc second seeing blob, not a 0.5 arc second diffraction disk. Because of the wider field, it only took two videos to cover the moon and allow the reconstruction of this HDR image of the 3.67 day old crescent.
April 29, 2017. Around 8 pm I noticed a nice crescent moon in a slightly hazy, but mostly cloud free sky. I set up the ASI-1600MM with the red filter at the f/11 focus of the C14 and took a set of three videos covering the crescent in three different exposures, 1.19 ms to properly expose the terminator region, 0.74 ms to properly expose the intermediate region and 0.54 ms to properly expose the brightly illuminated limb. The videos were taken between 8:27 and 8:49 PM and had 760 frames each. They were aligned and stacked in Autostakkert, keeping the best 50% of the frames. The stacks were then sharpened in Registax6 and turned into three mosaics of different exposures using PhotoShop Elements. PhotoMatix Essentials turned the three exposures into a single HDR image which is shown below, an annotated version is shown above.
April 2, 2017. Tonight was the first relatively clear night with a chance of decent seeing in a long time. I had two objectives: get a good mosaic of the nearly half moon early in the evening, and after midnight when Jupiter is approaching the meridian, get a sequence of images showing the transit of Io and its shadow. Got the first one using the C14 and the ASI-1600MM camera through a red filter, no Barlow, f/11. Six videos of 60 seconds duration giving 759 frames each. Best 15% aligned and stacked in AS!2, sharpened in Reg6, stitched in Photoshop and converted to HDR image in Photomatix. Result is shown below. Check the Jupiter Current page to see how I did on my second objective.
Here is a "Terminator Strip" from the image of March 6 with the exposure optimized for the lighting conditions along the sunrise line or terminator. In several places you can see the tips of mountains poking up into the sunlight, surrounded by the dark of night. This makes the slightest surface relief stand out sharply.
The seeing was good enough to permit some enlargement of selected regions. The pictures above show the Alpine Region northeast of Mare Imbrium featuring the craters Aristoteles, Eudoxus and Cassini.
March 5, 2017. Reasonably clear tonight with average seeing predicted. Set up the ASI-1600MM with red filter at the f/11 focus of the C14 and took a set of seven videos between 8:21 and 8:35 pm EST. The exposure was 0.15 ms and 1423 frames were obtained in a 120 second video. The videos were processed with AS!2, keeping the best 50% of the frames, subsequently sharpened by wavelets in Registax6 and assembled into a mosaic in Photoshop Elements. Three additional successively over exposed versions of the original image were made by dragging the white point of the histogram from 255 down to 200. All four images were then used in PhotoMatix Essentials to form the HDR image shown above. Note the dramatic detail along the terminator while normally overexposed details are shown on the more sunlit parts of the moon.
February 4, 2017. This is the mosaic of the images of the moon taken on the evening of February 4. Note Plato on the terminator about 20% down from the north cusp (top). The interior appears quite dark, but in fact the western half of the floor is dimly illuminated by the rising sun. See higher magnification view below.
February 4. 2017. Seeing was a bit better tonight, but variably hazy. Made things difficult getting consistent exposures for my mosaic of the just past half moon. Still working on those. Here is a reduced ROI of the region around Plato. I caught the terminator (shadows of the eastern rim wall) right in the middle of the crater. Makes a very dramatic picture. Note also the narrow rille (collapsed lava tube) to the east of Plato and partial resolution of the very narrow rille in the middle of the Alpine valley, lower right corner. Seeing was not good enough to resolve any of the craterlets in the floor. North is up in this image.
February 4, 2017. There was a brief clearing tonight with enough time to take six subimages covering the moon with my ASI-1600MM camera fitted with a red filter and mounted at the f/11 focus of my C14. Each sub was a stack of the best 42 frames in an 85 frame video of 60 seonds duration. Processed as usual in Autostakkert, Registax, Photoshop and Photomatix.
February 2, 2017. Got a rare clear night tonight, and even more remarkably, I had just opened a box from High Point Scientific with a new 5 position motorized filter wheel from ZWO and a set of LRGB filters. Apparently Murphy was looking the other way. Too much moonlight to do some more imaging of Deep Sky Objects, so after getting the filter wheel mounted between my motorized focuser of the C14 and the ASI1600MM, and installing the ASCOM driver for the filter wheel, I told it to rotate to the red filter and then took a series of four partial images of the crescent moon. I took 60 second videos, but because of the enormous size of the chip of the 1600, I only was getting about 1.4 FPS. This gave me 85 frames. I aligned and stacked using Autostakkert as usual, keeping the best 50%, then sharpened a bit in Registax and finished up with Photoshop and Photomatix on the Mac computer back up at the house. It was getting damned cold out in the observatory anyway. Supposed to get down to the 20’s tonight. The final result is attached.
December 5, 2016. Conditions were a bit murky tonight, but the moon was clear enough to image. I used the ASI-1600MM camera at the f/11 focus of the C14 Schmidt Cassegrain to take 4 videos providing complete coverage of the waxing crescent. I processed them in AS!2 and Registax6 and assembled the 4 pieces into the complete crescent using Photoshop Elements. I prepared 4 successively lightened versions of the image by dragging the white point from 255 down to 200 on the histogram tool in Photoshop. These were combined in Photomatix Essentials to give the high dynamic range image shown.
November 23, 2016. The sky was clear this morning at 5am, but the seeing was very poor. I obtained 4 videos of the moon with the ASI-1600MM camera at the f/11 focus of the C14. I am now using the 64 bit version of FireCapture 2.5.10. Two minute videos give me about 1400 frames with this huge sensor camera. I processed the videos with the new 64 bit version 2.7.7 of Autostakkert and Registax. The mosaic was assembled in PhotoShop Essentials and then HDR processed in Photomatix Essentials to give the final result shown below. Sinus Iridium and Copernicus are well displayed on the terminator, and the ray systems of Kepler and Aristarchus are prominent.
November 22, 2016. Here is an HDR processed version of an image of the Straight Wall taken by my friend Ralph Taggert with his 180mm f/17 Maksutov and ZWO ASI120MM. I love the way the sunlight "peeks through the blinds" to illuminate the otherwise dark floor of the crater Thebit P to the right of the lower end of Rupes Recta. The break in the rim wall of the crater Birt created by the impact that created Birt A is also well shown in this image.
November 8, 2016. I have had a 72 mm, f/6 Astro-Tech ED semi-APO refractor for about a year but have not done anything with it other than put it on a camera tripod and use it as a spotting scope. I obtained a Losmandy dove-tail rail for the C14 and built a clamp for it to mount the Astro-Tech. Tried it out for the first time on the moon tonight. I used the ASI-174MC video camera, a 2x Barlow to take the images, processed in AS!2 with 3x drizzling (EFR = f/36). Result shown above. Not bad for such a tiny scope. I will probably be using it mostly for large deep sky objects, and I may make it my grab and go scope for the eclipse next year.
A colorful moon...
October 14, 2016. Most folks don't realize that there IS color on the moon. Remember the Apollo 17 astronauts' excitement about the orange soil they encountered in Shorty crater during one of their moon walks? Well, here is one of the most colorful regions on the moon, the Aristarchus volcanic region. The image below was obtained with my ZW Optical ASI174MC digital video camera coupled to my C14 with a 2x Barlow lens. After aligning and stacking 10% of the best frames from a 2 minute video, the result was sharpened with Registax and further processed in Photoshop to increase the saturation of colors. The original colors were really quite subtle. Note the brownish rectangular region in the top left. This is an ancient volcanic shield with a lava composition quite different from that of the surrounding mare. The crater Aristarchus is a latecomer to the scene. Note the rays emanating from the crater that overlay both the mare and the volcanic highlands. To the left of the bright crater Aristarchus (the brightest spot on the moon is the crater Herodotus, filled in with lava. The snaky rill is the collapsed lava tube that probably delivered the lava to fill Herodotus.
October 13, 2016. Seeing was average tonight when I imaged the Aristarchus region with the ASI224MC coupled to the CPC-1100EdgeHD with a 3x Barlow giving f/30. I took a raw video of 240 seconds duration and captured 15349 frames. I processed it in Autostakkert 2.5, recovering the color using the Bayer pattern RGGB and drizzling. I aligned and stacked 10%, 5% and 1% of the best frames and sharpened them with Registax, used the RGB shift to tune out atmospheric dispersion and converted to black and white. The above results show a slight improvement in resolution but an increase in noise going from 10% to 1% frames stacked.
July 19, 2016. The full moon tonight is called the buck moon (Larry told me that). Above is a six panel mosaic taken with the ASI-1600MM on the C14 at its native focal ratio of f/11. The best 30% of the frames of 30 second videos were aligned and stacked in AS!2, sharpened in Registax6 and the mosaic assembled in Photoshop Elements.
July 14, 2016. Seeing was again quite poor tonight so I did another lunar mosaic, again with the C14 and the ASI-1600MM. Six 30 second videos of 373 frames each were sufficient to cover the moon with the 23 mm, 4656x3520 pixel sensor. The native f/11 focal ratio was used. Processed in Autostakkert 2.6.6 keeping the best 50% of the frames for stacking. Sharpened in Registax6 and the mosaic assembled in Photoshop Elements.
July 12 2016. Tonight in rather poor seeing I took a set of 6 videos of the moon using the ASI-1600MM at the f/11 focus of the C14. Processed in Autostakkert, Registax6 and Photoshop to give the mosaic shown above.
June 18 2016. This partial mosaic of the moon showing the preceding limb was taken with the ASI-1600MM camera at the f/11 focus of the C14, just retired from its long service at the Jenny Jump remote site of Amateur Astronomers Inc. The old C14 has been replaced there by a new CPC-1400EdgeHD. The ASI-1600MM has a whopping large sensor (23mm diagonal) with tiny 3.8 micron pixels, 4656x3520 of them. I was unable to process the 30 second videos I took with Autostakkert 2.5, which was for some reason limited at 2400x2000 pixel frames. I downloaded beta version 2.6.6 and it did the job just fine. After sharpening in Registax6, I assembled my six sub frames, only to discover two strips that I had managed to not include in my image. Below is a section of the mosaic showing the preceding (east in the sky, west on the moon) limb having most of the terminator.
June 17, 2016. This is a first light for both my C14 and ASI-1600MM. I had intended to do an entire lunar mosaic with this system, but I discovered that the 4656x3520 pixel sensor could only be processed in a 2400x2000 subframe by Autostakkert. Above is that portion of one of my videos. Seeing was only average.
March 12, 2016. Here's an almost 4 day old crescent moon image that I put together from 18 thirty second videos taken with the ASI174MC and a 2x Barlow on the CPC-1100EdgeHD. The videos were taken raw, undebayered, and processed as greyscale with Autostakkert 2, and sharpened with Registax. A bit of denoise in the wavelets removed the grid pattern remaining from the Bayer matrix. The sub-images were then assembled into a mosaic in Photoshop Elements and saved out as a set of four images with different amounts of histogram stretch applied. Finally, Photomatix was used to prepare an HDR version from the four differently stretched versions. Note that formerly hidden detail in the terminator region is well displayed without blowing out the detail in the brighter parts of the crescent. Click on the image to enlarge and browse around.
June 29, 2015. Here is a mosaic of a nearly full moon captured in 12 videos of 60 seconds duration using the ASI174MC at the f/10 focus of the CPC-1100EdgeHD.
FireCapture, AS!2, Registax and Photoshop Elements used to create the mosaic.
June 24, 2015. Here are some closeups along the terminator taken with the same equipment as the elements of the mosaic below, CPC-1100EdgeHD with ASI174MC camera.
Seeing was average. Above the grouping is an enlargement of the area around Rupes Recta, the Straight Wall. Note that the phase is just right to illuminate the plane to the east of
the fault, but leaving the west side in darkness. The leftmost image was taken as part of the mosaic, the rightmost image was taken an hour and and 39 minutes later.
May 29, 2015. Seeing was good enough last night for me to do another lunar mosaic, but not for decent results from Jupiter or Saturn. Attached is my mosaic of the 12
day moon, taken with the ASI174MC at the f/10 focus of the CPC-1100EdgeHD. It took 10 videos to cover the whole visible moon, a lot less than it took back when I was using a smaller format
camera (30 or more). Processed in AS!2 as a grayscale image with no drizzling, sharpened in Registax, stitched in Photoshop. Note the edge on view of Mare Humboldtianum near the very
top of the image above the crater Endymion.
April 1, 2015. Clear tonight, but the seeing was no better than average. Not good enough for planetary imaging, but ok for the moon shot shown above. This is a
mosaic of eleven images prepared from videos taken with the ASI174MC camera at the f/10 focus of the CPC-1100.
The above image is the HDR (High Dynamic Range) version of the image shown below.
February 20, 2015. Here's a couple of telephoto shots of the Moon, Venus, Mars and an accidental jet plane taken with a 200mm telephoto lens on my Nikon D40.