Category: "Astrophotography"

Saturn attempt 4

My forth attempt at imaging Saturn. Conditions today were pretty rubbish. However I had built a new eyepiece adapter - so I had the right focal length to use my 3x barlow. The adapter itself is nothing special, in fact it's just some rolled up paper. But it works.

First up, an image composed of two images of Saturn, both taken with the camera at price focus. Using two different exposures to capture the satellites and planet itself.

Saturn

Conditions were so bad I had to hugely increase the brightness to reveal Rhea and Tethys - Dione was no where to be seen. It's obvious how much smaller Saturn is over last month's viewing - no trickery, both images were scaled up 2x and this month's is about 15% smaller.

Now for the first shot with the 3x barlow, the barlow provides more magnification so this allows the camera to use more of it's pixels on the target - bad point, put's glass in the way which decreases brightness and contrast.

Saturn

Need some decent seeing conditions fast, the Earth is leaving Saturn in it's dust, and I've gotta get some better images. :)

Jupiter in my sights

Jupiter

Over the next few days I hope to bring the power of my 150mm reflector to bear. This was just taken through the 40mm finder scope - through a window - with a webcam - with the help of Catherine.

Solar eclipse

Two images so far from the eclipse, more shall be processed and uploaded later.

Solar Eclipse UK 29th of March 2006 @ 0948 UTCSolar Eclipse UK 29th of March 2006 @ 1017 UTC

Note the sunspots 865 and 866 on the right side of the image (east side of the Sun - they've just rotated around from the side of the sun a couple of days ago).

There's a cool animated map of the locations and times of the eclipse across the surface of the Earth, you can find this here.

What does the Earth look like from space when it's blocked out by the Moon...? Well some cosmonauts onboard the space station Mir took this image:

The August 1999 solar eclipse, from the Mir space station

This photo was taken during the August 1999 solar eclipse, and shows the Moon's shadow racing across the Earth at nearly 2000 kilometers per hour.

Saturn attempt 3

Had some clear weather this evening. Took the scope out initially just to have a look around. Had a look at Saturn noticed the image didn't look as good as it should so - couldn't quite get it in focus and it had a red hue I did a star test to check the culmination of the optics. I was losing at least 30% of the damn light which was just being reflected into the side of the scope, now I knew it was pretty bad but the star test confirmed how bad. So I decided to go for it and sort the thing out. After about 2 hours of tweaking with a spanner and screw driver managed to get a real improvement. Probably the best the scope has been in about 7 or 8 years. Now if only I could get the mirrors recoated as they're filthy.

Went back to Saturn and was blown away. The Cassini Division was easily visible, a major cloud band was easily visible - usually they're pretty tough due to the lack of contrast.

Then I moved on to one of my favourites the nebula M42 which as usual looks awesome.

Then moved back to Cancer and the open cluster M44 from there it was just a short hop back to Saturn - and the Tablet PC and webcam.

This time I went for some of Saturn's satellites too - I'm surprised the webcam picked them up - I never bothered in my last set of images as Saturn was in front of M44 making it impossible in a single session to determine star from moon, now it's moved off they're easy to identify.

The resulting image is actually composed from two images. The first being Saturn itself stacked from around 800 frames with 1/500th of a second exposure time - the next stacked from about 10 frames each one having a longer exposure of about 1/10th of a second to pick up some of the moons, resulting in Saturn appearing over-exposed.

4 of Saturn's moons, Saturn appears over-exposed because of the slower shutter speed needed to capture the moons

Quickly pasting the good Saturn on top of the over exposed one results in this:

Saturn, Titan, Rhea, Dione and Tethys

The amount of detail is much better over previous attempts. Cassini Division easy to spot - cloud bands easy to spot and best yet the shadow of Saturn casting over the rings behind it (resulting in the black wedge cut out of the rings) - and even the shadow of the rings in front of Saturn. The four moons imaged were Titan, Rhea, Dione and Tethys.

Next up is to get a barlow lens with the right focal length - then I'll be able to get much more detail on Saturn as more of the camera's resolution can be used on it. Then we've got Jupiter racing into the sky, which is my second favourite planet after Saturn, it'll also appear quite a bit larger hopefully revealing a lot of detail even without the barlow lens.

Saturn attempt 2

Saturn

Made some further progress. Then the cloud rolled in again.

The Lord of the Rings

Saturn

This was taken through my TAL 2M 150mm reflector with a Toucam Pro II webcam at prime focus, the resulting image was stacked and processed from 5 frames.

It's just a shame the barlow lens I've got is too long for the webcam to be in focus, so I'll have to consider my options on that. As I'll need a longer focal length to get more resolution on Saturn.

Seeing tonight was terrible constant clouds rolling in, the telescope also needs some work done on the alignment of it's optics, as I believe they're slightly out, the primary mirror appears to be the biggest problem. Although I'll need to wait for some crystal clear skies so I can perform a proper star-test.

Overall relatively pleased, although I'll still need an infra-red filter to get some perfect focus, and a barlow lens that actually works, and I need a way to holding the camera's adapter onto the scope better - because the focal point is about 2cm beyond the reach of the focus mount - paper isn't a long term solution.

Update: This is the video that was captured.

http://files.dasmirnov.net/20060126saturn.wmv (10MB).

Saturn fading in and out is due to cloud. The reason Saturn is drifting to the bottom right is because of the Earth's rotation. Other vibrations are probably a combination of me moving, a car going down the road or the wind.

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