Spots on the sun 
It's been a while since I imaged the sun. The last time was in fact the ISS-Crossing in August 2010.
Today the sun is much more active than back then, and there are quite a few spots on the sun.
Click the image to enlarge it!

To identify all these sunspots I looked at This Image from the SOHO daily image which revealed that Active Regions 1338 to 1346 are visible in this image.
The picture was captured using the TouCam Pro at prime focus of my Megrez 80 Super Apo telescope (fitted with a filter made with Baader solar film), which results on a bigger image than the camera sensor, therefore this is a composite of four separate images, each stacked and sharpened in Registax 6 and put together using IMerge.
The image is not perfect and there are some artifacts of the slightly cloudy sky and of the imaging process. The colour is as it came from the camera, which for Baader-filtered images should normally be monochrome, but which came out as a pleasing sun-like colour.

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Jupiter with Great Red Spot 
After a lot of cloudy nights, I got a clear sky before the fog came down on this November night.
I captured three sequences of frames using my TouCam Pro and this was the best after stacking in Registax and processing with The Gimp.

Click the picture to see it full-sized.
In this picture you can see various details in the clouds including the dark spots in the northern equatorial belt and what looks almost like another spot next to the GRS.
It is interesting to compare this with this earlier image to see the development of that cloud feature.


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GRS at last 
You have probably seen many images of Jupiter with the Great Red Spot prominent. This huge storm has been raging for hundreds of years (it was observed in the 1600s) and is large enough to fit the entire planet Earth within it.
However most of my images in this blog so far have not included the GRS. Why? Timing. Jupiter rotates once every 9.9 hours and you have to catch it at the right time to get a decent image of the red spot.
Tables of GRS transit times, the times when the spot is visible in the centre of Jupiter, are published, or you can use a page such as this one to calculate when the GRS will next be visible.
Last night I was prepared for the moment of transit and captured three sequences at various camera settings. The best was this one, using the TouCam camera at 15fps with 1/33sec exposure time.
The innermost moon Io is also visible, as it often is in these images.

Click the picture to see the full sized image.

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Jupiter and Io 
No...not that Jupiter and Io but the planet and its innermost moon.
These two pictures were taken within 15 minutes of each other a few days ago on the night of 7 October.
Click the pictures below to see them in full size.

Each one is the result of stacking 3000 webcam frames captured with K3CCDTools. I stacked them in Registax 6 and processed further with The Gimp.
Some artifacts of the capture and stacking process can be seen around the edges...the infamous "ringing" that often shows up in stacked images of Jupiter. However plenty of genuine detail did show up on this occasion.

Captures of Jupiter have to be done in a short time due to the fast rotation of the planet. You can see the movement in the two images above. Capturing for too long a time would result in blurred pictures.
For the same reason, the USB 1.1 webcam is best at 15 frames per second, allowing more frames to be captured (and therefore a better result after stacking) than using potentially higher quality but fewer frames when capturing at 5 fps.
My captures were limited to 3000 frames at 15fps which takes 3 minutes, limiting the motion due to rotation to a tiny amount.

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Tranquility Base 
It may be a long time since I got a decent image of Jupiter (see previous blog entry) but it's even longer since I did one of these. A mosaic of the lunar surface.
This image was composed of four sections covering Mare Tranquilitatis, Mare Crisium, Mare Fecunditatis, and part of Mare Serenitatis.
For each part I captured and stacked 1000 frames using a TouCam Pro on my Orion Optics SPX 250 telescope. Stacking was done in Registax 5, and the mosaic was put together in Jon Grove's relatively ancient but still excellent iMerge.

Click the image to see the full picture.

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Jupiter is back 
After a long gap, I have made a reasonable picture of Jupiter again, and with the Galilean satellite Europa, too. I have had a few tries recently but the weather here has been pretty bad and even when it was clear it was very windy, leading to very bad astronomical seeing.
I captured this one on the night of 17 September, actually it was 18 September by the time Jupiter was high enough. I captured 4000 frames and stacked 1200 of them in Registax 5, with some final finishing in The Gimp.

Click the image above to see the full photo.
This picture was captured using my Orion Optics SPX 250 Newtonian telescope on my new mount, a Losmandy GM-8, of which more later.

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First full narrowband - M42 in Hubble Palette 
I recently acquired an S-II (Ionised Sulphur) filter, to go with my Hydrogen Alpha, and O-III (Doubly-Ionised Oxygen) filters. I can now do tri-colour narrowband imaging, assigning each of red, green, and blue to those three filters.
I imaged the Orion Nebula using the new S-II filter, and combined it with H-alpha and O-III images from January 2009.

Click the image to see the full-sized picture.
I decided to use the "Hubble Palette" for this image, which assigns the S-II image to Red, the H-alpha to Green, and the O-III to Blue. I also used the H-alpha for luminance.
There is a lot of H-alpha in this image, which is why there is quite a lot of green.
Due to bad imaging conditions, the S-II image is not as good as the others, but this shows the principle.
Images were captured using an Atik 16HR camera, with Baader filters as described above. The telescope was my William Optics Megrez 80 Super Apo.



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Jupiter and a Comet 
On the night of 6 October I captured some more pictures of Jupiter. This one is a stack of 1440 frames, selected from 4000 captured with a ToUCam Pro 740 using K3CCDTools. Stacking and wavelet processing was done in Registax 5, while some further sharpening and cleaning up in The Gimp.

When capturing the images I thought that it looked rather steady. In fact the seeing turned out to be pretty good, and a reasonable result came out.


Click the picture to see it full-sized.


Earlier that evening I went looking for comet 103P/Hartley 2. This comet is getting slightly brighter, it is hoped that it will be visible (just) to the unaided eye over the next few days. After that the moon will be getting too bright to see it so well. It's currently in Cassiopeia, moving towards the double cluster in Perseus.

This picture was taken using my Canon EOS 300D. I took 14 photos of 40 seconds each, at ISO 800. They were combined using Deep Sky Stacker and further processed using PixInsight LE.


Click the picture to see the large version

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Comet 103P/Hartley2 
On 4 October I got my first view of a comet that's been raising hopes among amateur astronomers of seeing a brightish comet in our sky.

I still haven't seen Comet 103P/Hartley2 in binoculars, but I saw it the other day through my Megrez 80 telescope and captured this image.

This is a stack of 14x40second images, stacked using Deep Sky Stacker and processed using PixInsight LE.

The night was humid and hazy and getting more hazy - I tried to capture some more images through colour filters but by then the humidity in the air had increased to the point that even brighter stars were looking like comets.

Click the picture to see the full-sized image.

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Eclipse on Jupiter - Io passes by 

Io is of course one of the four Galilean moons of Jupiter. As these moons orbit the planet they from time to time pass by the planet leaving a shadow on the disk of Jupiter. These shadows can be easily seen from Earth.

I imaged Jupiter using my TouCam Pro on the night of 24 September. The first image (above) shows the shadow and Io itself.

Here are a couple more images of Jupiter from the same night, with Io now having passed by - Eclipse over!

Click these images to see full-sized




These were all processed in Registax 5, with further tweaking in The Gimp.

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