Thursday, April 10, 2014

New Ritchey Chrétien scope

Just a quick update to keep things flowing....
I have recently upgraded my kit to a 6in Ritchey Chrétien by Revelation Astro (from Telescope House).

Complimenting this I have a 1.25in quartz diagonal and the Celestron 8-24mm zoom eyepiece. (This beauty was first introduced to me by Al during the Sheffield Astro Star Party a few weeks ago and is a great eyepiece with a wide FOV through all the focal lengths).

Contrary to popular belief I bought the scope primarily for visual but the scope design is also superb for astrophotography as well. As both mirrors are fixed (with no corrector plate in the front) it acts like a Newtonian reflector but with the added benefit (in my opinion) of operating like an SCT. Two crucial differences are that (1) both mirrors are Hyperbolic - they bring all the wavelengths of light to the correct focal point and (2) It is coma free.
There is also a quicker cool-down time as the tube is open. There are also baffles down the length of the tube to avoid stray light, which in turn enhances contrast.

The pictures here show it mounted on the Celestron OMNI CG-4 with dual-axis drive.



First impressions are that it is a really (and I mean really!) great instrument giving pin-sharp, crystal clear images.

One of my first nights out (as I was itching to use it) was very, very poor seeing but Jupiter just sprung out. Now if a scope can do that on such a rubbish night then it surely can produce the goods when the sky is much better....

Here is a picture of Jupiter taken A-focally at about 12mm, giving 114x (I have only cropped the image to put here). The eyepiece has the great feature of having a screw adapter under the eye cup so that you can attach a DSLR directly. You have to be careful of the weight so as not to stress the diagonal, etc. but all was OK.


My next shot is of the Moon. This really can't be beaten and one thing to note is that the picture will not do justice to the shear amount of detail the scope gives, even at high power. WOW. I was not disappointed, I just wanted to see more and more. There was so much detail being shown that hadn't been apparent with other equipment. The optics of this instrument are truly AWESOME!


MJ

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Photoediting

As this blog drifts more into the black arts of astrophotography I thought I would impart a little of what I have learnt about processing.

Using a couple of images I have posted within the last couple of months and armed with a couple of hours reading tutorials on the internet I thought I'd give it ago.

My first target was the purple "noise" in the corner of some of my earlier shots.  This was removed using both the Chromatic Aberration sliders in Lightroom and also boosting the colour on the noise reduction slider in the same software.  Finally the last thing I did was change the white balance to as shot, rather than the custom settings which were being added as standard.  This was the result;


As you can see there is still a little "blow out" at the line of termination and that is due to me trying to sharpen it as best I can although I may sacrifice the extreme detail in future shots for a more rounded image.




The above is two pictures joined using photoshops automate feature.  It's OK but has the "natural" appearance and we all know the moon is grey, right?  Again I have my red hue down the line of termination.
As the last couple of blogs have been focusing on Mare Imbrium I thought I would steer towards that.  Using the above image I heavily adjusted the colour sliders in the hope that I could lose that redness;


As you can see I almost succeeded! By adjusting the colours, even though the image is black and white, it has bought out a little more contrast.  I particularly like the "wave-like" formation at the top left which is the area with the most unfortunate name of Mare Frigoris.

The starting images weren't my best so with a better starting point I'm hoping to improve on the above.

I'm quite happy I just need to spend as much time with the pc as I do with the telescope!

Al

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The game is a foot ....

OK, so more Moon I know, but what a Moon it is with a bit of The Belt of Venus thrown in ....


Belt of Venus


Mare Imbrium. Sinus Iridum (top left with the Montes Jura), Plato (top right), Eratosthenes (bottom - and bottom of the Montes Apenninus), Archimedes (centre right) moving more right to Autolycus (bottom) and Aristillus (top).
Cassini lies at the bottom end of the Montes Apenninus.
The Russian probe Luna 2 landed to the left of Autolycus.
Luna 17 landed below and to the left of Sinus Iridum.
Apollo 15 landed on Rima Hadley which is to the "top" of the Montes Apenninus in the darker area.

MJ

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Never Get Enough

Feeling a bit of healthy competition I thought I would try for the moon tonight, since it is absolutely perfect viewing.

I took about 30 pictures but my 2X barlow, while good means that the moon will not exactly fit onto my camera sensor.  Luckily Photoshop has the automate feature which stuck these twon together withouy me having to align anything, think I'll try a mosaic next!!


This clearly shows Mare Imbrium towards the top and Tycho at the bottom. The picture is a bit washed out because a) it was taken as a jpeg, b) it was taken in Mono c) it was taken at 1000ISO 1/250sec.  This was due to the fact I hadn't changed the settings from last time!

Next is almost the same image taken in RAW, stitched and converted jpeg.


Notice the redness creeping in along the line of termination.  This is something I need to work on in my processing.

Finally we have the Mare Imbrium with Sinus Iridum on the left hand side, Pinto at the top and the Apennines on the right of the sea.

 The three craters toward the Apennines are Archimedes (the larger lower one), Autolycus (small middle) and Anstillus at the top.  And finally the crater at the bottom of the mountain range is Eralosthenes.

A fine evening in all.

Al

Monday, March 10, 2014

We're getting there now....

Spurred on by our foray to the Sheffield Astro Society's dark sky meeting I have just come in from taking some shots of the moon. I just had to get these on the blog ASAP. Both are taken at prime focus with a 2x SkyWatcher barlow.
The top image shows crater Clavius (large crater at bottom) with craters Rutherfurd (bottom) and Porter (top) sitting on it's rim.
The lower image shows Mare Imbrium with crater Plato clearly seen (top). Montes Alples (to Plato's top right) and the Vallis Alpes (to Plato's bottom right) are clearly seen.




Canon EOS M ISO100 1/15sec manual focus. Cropped and processed.

MJ

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Sheffield Astro Society

Last night, 8th March, saw the Sheffield Astro Society visit one of their preferred dark sites at the car park for Surprise View, Derbyshire.  MJ and I decided to go as I had never been to an "event" like this before and MJ had only been to a meeting of the Baker Street Irregulars before and what a night.

The event was to showcase the Moon, Jupiter and Orion and judging by the ooh's and aah's by the 30 or so people who attended they succeeded in their goal.  It was great to see so many people, all of whom were very interested, MJ's telescope was getting quite a bit of attention, and the Society's staff were knowledgeable and polite.



The pictures above were taken on a Olympus Pen E PL1  using a one minute exposure and have been processed to get rid of some of the orange light

There was some cloud cover around 7pm which lifted slightly during the night but the Moon, Jupiter and Orion were visible.

 The Moon with Orion clearly visible to the left centre of the picture
 A rare shot of MJ and Al together.  MJ's Vixen scope is in the foreground and Orion over our heads.


Whereas I didn't bring my telescope I did bring my Celestron 8-24mm zoom eyepiece and camera, obviously.  So using my T-adapter we connected the camera to the scope and took the resulting images.  To say neither of us have combined each others equipment before we were reasonably happy with the results.  There were regulars of the Society there with laptops who were filming Jupiter, stacking and processing the image there and then.  Oh, to have such kit!

 The Moon. 1/80sec ISO 250
 An attempt at the Orion Nebula (from previous pictures you can see the moon was bleaching out a lot of the light)

Overall it was a great night, in fact MJ said it was his best night out with a telescope ever!   I think to be with like minded individuals who don't mind getting cold can only be a good thing.

The Dark Site (the idea for this comes courtesy of a gentleman called Karl I met at the event who's version was a lot better!)

Al

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Still Here!

After a month or more of cloud cover during all the optimum night viewing times the skies have eventually cleared over the last day or two.

I've been roaming the skies rather than constantly trying to take pictures.  With my new eyepieces I had a great view of the Orion Nebula (tried to take a picture but still suffered from movement) and Orion in general.

The moon has looked great for the last week and viewing it last night using my #21 orange filter was an absolute joy.  I have found this only works best when the moon is at least half full as it does take away a lot of light but the extra detail it brings is amazing.  I have tried to capture this but due to different exposure settings needed and extra focusing tweaks I haven't quite got it set up to use as an aid to astrophtotography.

I have included a picture from Monday 3rd March 2014 when the moon was in it's first quarter.



Al

Monday, January 20, 2014

Equipment, Belt of Venus and Jupiter

Had a really good viewing session the other evening (19th Jan) and thought it worth blogging about it!
As it looked like it was going to be a good evening for the stars (as it turns out very cold as well) I set up early so that I could get the equipment spot-on. So here is my setup.

A Vixen VMC110L (4.3in Modified Mak) mounted on a Celestron Omni XLT CG-4 that has the dual-axis motor drive fitted.

The Vixen has a red dot finder and flip-mirror system which is perfect for astrophotography - you mount the camera directly out of the back whilst still having an eyepiece at 90 degrees through the top (no need for a star diagonal).

I was also looking forward to using my new Skywatcher 2x Barlow lens.




Dusk started to arrive at this point and that is when I had a great view of the Belt of Venus - when you can see the Earth being put into shadow (looking east) by it's rotation. You get a lovely pink glow in the sky which seems to split the light from the dark.

That would be it until darkness fell....

By the time I got out at the scope was covered in moisture. The air temp had cooled very quickly, but due to the dust caps the mirror had cooled and had not been affected.






I was determined to get a good first (proper) try at Jupiter (which is now very good in the East to South all night).

Here it is.

Mounted at prime focus with a 2x Barlow.
Canon EOS M 1/10sec. ISO1600.
The image has also been processed using a high-pass filter to sharpen it.


Happy viewing.

MJ

Sunday, January 12, 2014

New Year, New Kit.

Just a quick note to say I got some new kit for Christmas; a 2X barlow, a #21 orange filter and a Celestron 8mm -24mm zoom which I hope I can utilise and show you the results on this blog.

Last night, 9th January, was the first night I've been able to get out since getting the new kit and even then I wasn't well prepared.  I did manage to try everything out though.  The filter is great for observing but I have yet to get to grips using it for astrophotography.  The zoom lens is great, no need to change EP's and it has a T-thread under the rubber eye comforter.  The clarity is by far and away the best I have used yet.

The barlow is also great and should allow me to take full frame pictures of the moon.  Again, I haven't much time to try it out but when I have the full disc of the moon fits onto my sensor exactly, sounds great but does mean it's tricky to get a decently framed picture.

What with the new kit and my little bit of editing and stacking knowledge I thought I'd show you 2014's efforts so far;
Jupiter, 1 sec, 320 ISO.
  The moon, below, 1/80sec, 320 ISO
The Appenines, zoomed in.
  (I'm unsure as to why this has a lot of purple noise around the line of termination.  This isn't visible in windows explorer.)

All the above images were taken using the 2X barlow.  Hopefully my next set will be using the zoom lens.

AL

Monday, December 23, 2013

Jupiter and The Orion Nebula

Well, last night started out as a great opportunity to catch Jupiter, but alas, all I got was a picture of the Galilean moons in a great straight line - from Jupiter they are Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. I think unless I invest in a decent barlow (for use with prime focus with the camera) I am never gunna get Jupiter "properly". I may get better results taking less saturated images and then staking them?

But now onto the best astro photo I have ever taken to date ....

So, before I got the Jupiter shot it was one of the best nights there has been for a long time, so I set up early in the daylight and got everything spot on. This also gave the scope time to cool down - and boy did it cool down - the deck was like an ice rink when I got out!

Slightly disappointed from the Jupiter shot I swung to an old friend in the South-East, Orion, and to the famous Orion Nebula. (My favourite since I was 10 seen as you can see it with the naked-eye, binoculars or telescope).
I simply set the camera to take a suitable exposure and then looked in expletive surprise at what appeared on the camera review screen.



Canon EOS M 30sec. ISO6400 mounted at prime focus on Vixen VMC110L (4.3in). Single shot processed.

MJ