The Red Planet Returns 
Mars comes close to Earth every 18 months or so. This year opposition was on 8 April, and I was able to image the planet that night.

This image was captured from my Orion SPX 250 telecope using an AE 3x Imagemage. The camera was Philips ToUCam 740 and I captured separate colour (using a Baader IR blocker filter) and luminance (using a home-made IR-pass filter). Each of these was around 2500 frames stacked in Registax 6, using 2x drizzle, sharpened with wavelets, and post-processed in The Gimp.
Click the picture to see it in a separate window.

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Jupiter at the Beginning of 2014 
In this very wet UK winter I found some gaps between cloud banks and took some images of Jupiter.
The two images shown here show a stack of 740 frames from around 1200 captured at 00:44 and a stack of 800 frames from around 1700 captured at 00:55.
Both the images show the red spot moving around the planet to the left, and also Jupiter's largest moon Ganymede in its orbit.

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First Jupiter image of 2013 
Here is an image of Jupiter I captured a few days ago - my first of 2013. The Galilean moon Io is visible on the right of the picture.
Click the picture to see the full-sized version.

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Jupiter, 23 November 2012 
Seeing and transparency were not good in the sky on 23 November and there was a lot of humidity and mist in the air. However Jupiter was shining bright and I knew the Great Red Spot was going to be on view, so I captured a couple of AVIs of 3000 frames each with varying settings.
I stacked 300 frames for this picture, using Registax 6 and The Gimp for processing:

Click the image to see the full-sized picture.

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More pictures of Jupiter 
Here are a couple of recent pictures of Jupiter.
Each is 300 frames stacked from a capture of 3000 frames. I have found recently that best results seem to be from capturing on the ToUCam 1/33sec exposures at 10fps, at least it takes less time than capturing at 5fps although in theory 5fps should be better due to no compression.
On the night of 1-2 November, it was pretty windy and seeing wasn't good. The image turned out not too badly though.
Seeing was also not great on the night of 5-6 November, and the second image below was the result.
Images were both aligned and stacked in Registax 6, manually specifying alignpoints, and for better alignment and frame selection I use a two-stage process, selecting 50 from the first run and clicking "Align with Processed" from the Wavelet tab - after first having applied a light wavelet and no RGB alignment.
Then I align again and stack 300 from the full 3000. This time in the wavelet tab I use RGB align, slightly more wavelets, and a little adjustment via histogram.

Click each image to see the full-sized version.

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Jupiter 15 October 2012 
Jupiter is now rising early enough that I can see it rise above my house around 3am. I imaged it on the night of 14 October, capturing 3000 frames and stacking 300 to create this picture.
Imaging was done using a ToUCam Pro with 3x Imagemage on a SPX250 f6.3 Newtonian telescope.
Capturing in K3CCDTools, alignment, sorting and stacking in Registax 6.
Wavelet processing in Registax and further sharpening and resizing in The Gimp.

Click for full-sized image.

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Saturn and some of its moons 
The weather in the UK has finally improved and yesterday was the hottest day of the year here in Eastern England. I took the opportunity of a clear sky to have a look at Saturn, now just past opposition in the southern sky.

Seeing was fairly good and I captured a couple of streams of images using my venerable ToUCam 740 attached to my Orion Optics SPX250 newtonian telescope, which is my standard planetary imaging setup. I used an Astro Engineering 3x Imagemate for two pictures of the planet itself, then removed it for a wider field showing the planet and some of its satellites.
Click the image to the left to see the full sized picture.

At the time of writing, we know of 53 moons around Saturn which we have given names to, plus another 9 provisional ones with numbers.
My picture shows Dione, Rhea and Titan, the latter of which is the largest and most easily seen moon. All three were discovered in the 1600s and were among the first ever found.

Click the image to the right to see the full-sized version.

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A bright pairing in the evening sky 
Recently it's been exceptionally good for seeing planets in the night sky. Mercury has now sunk out of sight but a few weeks ago you could see that planet plus Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and if you were willing to wait up a few more hours, Saturn - all in the same night.

The recent pairing of Jupiter and Venus even made the TV news since they are two very bright objects in the sky. Here is a more common pairing, that of the crescent moon with Venus. Since Venus is closer to the sun than Earth, when Venus is high in our sky and the moon is in an early phase, they often appear close together after sunset.

When the moon is a slim crescent you will often be able to see the rest of the lunar globe dimly lit by "Earthshine" or the light reflected back from the Earth. Such light has been reflected twice on its journey from the Sun to your eyes - from the Earth to the Moon, then back to you on Earth. This is also known as the Moon's "Ashen Glow", or "The New Moon in the Old Moon's Arms".

This picture was taken with a Canon 300D Digital SLR using a cheap Optomax 300mm lens (found on Ebay for 10). The image was converted from Raw mode using RawDrop, then contrast was tweaked slightly before presentation here. Click the picture to see the full-sized image.

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Jupiter and Ganymede 
The weather cooled significantly here in England recently and the sky cleared for a couple of days. I was able to get this picture of Jupiter on Saturday night. I captured 4000 frames using my Orion SPX 250 telescope and used Registax 6 to stack the best 1400. The image was enhanced using that program's wavelets, and further tweaked using The Gimp.
Just off the edge of the disc of the planet in this picture is Jupiter's moon Ganymede, That is the third moon out from Jupiter and was one of the original four identified by Galileo. Ganymede orbits in about 7 days.
Here is the image, click for bigger version:

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Jan Timmermans: 1941 - 2012 
On Wednesday 4 January I was saddened to receive the news of the death of amateur astro-imager Jan Timmermans.

Jan was an active member of several online groups and in the amateur astronomy community. I first came into contact with him in 2004 via the QCUIAG (QuickCam and Unconventional Imaging Astronomy Group) on Yahoo ( and soon discovered his amazing website "The Firmament" ( documenting all his efforts in the astronomy field. We met at the two QCUIAG conferences in 2004 and 2006, when he travelled from his native Netherlands to England to meet his fellow astro-imagers.
Jan was a huge inspiration. From humble beginnings (astronomy-wise) imaging the moon and planets with a webcam and relatively cheap TAL telescope, he progressed, making many pieces of equipment himself - using such things as drawer handles, plumbing tubes, and pieces of metal and nuts and bolts from the local D.I.Y store, through to deep-sky pictures using a modified camera and a Meade LX200 scope, then more recently extremely impressive hydrogen-alpha solar imaging, frequently accompanied by a favourable comparison with the corresponding image from NASA's SOHO probe (
Jan was always helpful and frequently offered advice about pictures I shared, even when not asked! When advice was sought on the various internet groups, Jan was usually there with a pointer to a relevant page on his site, which contains an extensive set of tutorials and highly detailed descriptions of everything from his home-made focus aids, SLR lens clamps, and dew heater, accessories he bought and made, software he used, "outreach" to his local community and so-called "special conjunctions", that is, meetings with fellow astronomers, and even the local weather and current universal time.
Of course in addition to all of this, "The Firmament" contains practically every astro-image that Jan ever made, up to his last solar image in November 2011. Each in his standard form, carefully catalogued, with description and details of when it was captured, and how.
It was shocking news when Jan revealed his diagnosis with cancer in August 2010 but in characteristic fashion he didn't immediately retreat or withdraw but instead documented his progress and treatment on a new "My Health" page, at one stage admitting he had revealed perhaps too much detail. Optimistic to the end, at least to outside observers, Jan commented on 16 December 2011 that he was unable to reply to emails but welcomed receiving them, and maintained his Christian faith that perhaps helped him keep going so strong, longer than the doctors originally suggested.
My thoughts go out to his close friends and family at this time, and although Jan will be very much missed I hope that his memory via his work in the amateur astronomy community will live on for many years to come, as will his legacy in the many amateurs that he inspired, myself included

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