Some lunar vistas – September 19, 2014

Posted in ASTRO on September 19, 2014 by maxpho

Finally, after an extremely long period of basically no lunar imagery for me, I’m re-learning the once normal procedure of getting my scope to the car, drive 6 kilometers to an empty field, and freeze a few hours (in some months) until the Sun rises…

This is what I’ve finally decided to do on a rather cold September morning (only 6 degrees Celsius at sunrise), to “revisit” the Moon with my C11 SCT.

All of the following images were acquired with the C11, a TeleVue 2x Powermate, Baader Red CCD filter and the ASI120MM mono camera. The seeing was variable, with a mean value of around 6/10, with some excellent moments but also with some truly boiling images at times.

Yet the best thing about this morning was the rather rare aspect (rare for those observers who don’t get up very early in the morning, including myself) of Sinus Iridum. The following image, which for the purpose of enhancing it’s subject I will entitle it “the T-Rex smile”, is a mosaic of four images, each a 900 frames stack.


The image shows some interesting details on the floor of Sinus Iridum, including a ridge and something that looks like a rima. Speaking about rimae, there is one crossing the upper part of the image, being one of the longest on the Moon actually, but not so obvious in my image: Rima Sharp.

There are also some abrupt variations of the relief surrounding Sinus Iridum, from the smooth mare lavas to the apparently abrupt edges of this large lunar feature. The most striking details are in my opinion the knives-tips shadows inside Iridum, they surely give a 3d effect to the entire scene.

Another view of Iridum from a few moments after the above mosaic was acquired, with a slightly higher gain setting to better show the details on it’s floor:


This second image was selected as the LPOD for September 22, 2014.

I’m still working on the other images acquired on this session, which will be published here after processing.


(September 19, 2014)

ISS crossing the Sun disk – September 11, 2014

Posted in ASTRO on September 11, 2014 by maxpho

Yet another transit of the International Space Station occurred close to my home on September 11.

This time the angular size of the ISS was around 51 arc seconds which is still enough to catch some of the main details of it’s structure. The apparent close proximity of the ISS to sunspot group 2158 also had it’s advantages, in term of size difference: the main sunspot of that group is around four times larger than our planet, but the ISS itself is about 120 000 times smaller than the Earth. So the two main “spots” have a true size difference of around 500 000 times, despite their similar size in the images below.

Using the prediction from CalSky, I was able to catch the ISS in two frames using the following equipment: TS APO 115mm F/8 Refractor with full aperture Astrosolar filter, TeleVue 2x Powermate, Canon 550D at ISO100 and 1/3200s exposure.

transit a

transit b

And a detail from the second shot:


Lots of activity in the Sun these days!


(September 11, 2014)


The last image above was featured on the first page of SpaceWeather on September 12, 2014.

Moon and Saturn – August 31th, 2014

Posted in ASTRO on September 2, 2014 by maxpho

It’s been a while since my last post, and this was due to a lot of field trips in search of animals and insects. This was the main reason, along with some not so clear skies that didn’t allow me to make any type of Astrophotography. But finally, after weeks and weeks of waiting, I’ve succeeded in taking a few images of my long-time friend in the sky: the Moon.

In a very short trip in the village of Dumitrana (Ilfov) together with my brother-in-law, Mihai, and with my re-acquired small TS APO 65Q refractor (after I’ve sold it to another amateur astronomer at the beginning of this year and re-buy it from him), I had the chance to capture a series of images of the Moon at dusk accompanied by Saturn.

The series themselves were acquired in order to create a High Dynamic Range image of the pair, showing both the Sun-illuminated part and the Earthshine of our satellite, but also the star-filled background and Saturn with some of it’s satellites, including Titan.

The first such image, acquired at the nominal focal length of the instrument (420mm) with a Canon 550D camera working at ISO 200 is presented below:


The final image is composed of 11 series each a 20 frame stack with exposure times ranging from 1/250s to 6 seconds.

The image shows both the Moon and Saturn (upper left) with some of it’s satellites.

The second image was acquired with one more optical component placed between the camera and the scope: a TeleVue 2x Powermate, increasing the focal length to around 800mm. This image presents a view of the Moon similar to what we were looking at through the refractor at 100x. It’s also a multi-image composition, 9 series each 20 frames being merged to form a HDR shot.


Hopefully I will get more and better views of celestial objects in the very near future, since I really miss the dark hours of lunar and planetary observing/imaging sessions and I’m looking forward to get my bigger scopes out in the field.


In cautarea lui Osmoderma eremita – 26 Iulie 2014

Posted in Concedii on August 1, 2014 by maxpho

In fauna Romaniei exista specii de nevertebrate, in special insecte, de care majoritatea populatiei nu au auzit si nici nu vor auzi prea curand. Si asta pentru ca pe locuitori ori nu ii intereseaza cadrul natural in care se afla ori speciile respective nu sunt usor observabile. Una dintre cele mai importante astfel de specii, si foarte rara in acelasi timp, este Osmoderma eremita (Scopoli 1763), un coleopter de talie medie inscris (din pacate) in lista rosie IUCN a speciilor amenintate cu disparitia.

Unul dintre motivele acestei amenintari este taierea arborilor batrani din padurile rezervatiilor naturale. Taieri ce pe langa ilegalitatea de rigoare sunt executate si intr-un mod stupid si rauvoitor, fara cunostiinta de cauza si fara alt interes in afara banilor…Astfel de cazuri am cunoscut pana acum destul de bine, insa de departe cea mai sustinuta operatiune de acest gen am intalnit-o in Padurea Comana, la sud de Bucuresti.

Un motiv al observarii foarte rare a acestui coleopter este localizarea pe/in arbori, inaltimea, orientarea si perioada de activitate.

Avand ceva informatii in legatura cu preszenta acestei specii in zona Rezervatiei Naturale Cheile Nerei (Jud. Caras-Severin) dintr-un articol scris de Florin Prunar et al., cu care am avut placerea de a schimba si cateva mesaje in legatura cu aceasta specie, am plecat cu noaptea-n cap impreuna cu sotia si fratele ei spre aceasta zona superba. Pe traseu am oprit si la celebra Cascada Bigar:

Bigar 2

Bigar 1

bigar 3

bigar 4

Dupa inca o ora si jumatate am reusit sa ajungem in chei, si sa ne asezam cortul nu foarte departe de Cantonul Damian, pe traseul ce strabate cheile de la vest la est. Dupa pregatirile de rigoare am inceput cautarile.

Primele exemplare de coleoptere gasite au apartinut speciei Rosalia alpina Linnaeus, 1758, o alta specie inclusa in lista amintita mai sus:

rosalia 1

rosalia 2

rosalia 3

Dupa nu foarte mult timp de la gasirea exemplarelor de Rosalia, stand mai mult cu ochii in sus, pe la scorburile aflate in trunchiurile copacilor, observ o sclipire metalica la aproximativ 8 metrii inaltime pe trunchiul unui arbore batran. Prima impresie a fost ca gasisem un exemplar de Cermabix cerdo, umbrele ducand la simularea aspectului unui astfel de gandac-croitor. Totusi, ma gandesc sa fac si cateva fotografii cu obiectivul de 100mm plus teleconvertorul 2x, deci la o distanta focala suficient de mare pentru a-mi permite identificarea coleopterului:

osmo a

osmo b

Succes !!! Exemplarul in cauza, aflat chiar la gura propriei “case” era un Osmoderma eremita.

Evident ca doream sa il fotografiem/filmam de la o distanta mai mica, astfel ca “asamblam” o unealta specifica entomologilor cautatori prin copaci, si incercam sa il convingem pe Osmoderma sa o ia in jos. Scena cuprinzand cei doi protagonisti (eu si cumnatul meu) a fost fotografiata de sotia mea (in cateva cadre, deoarece scena se intindea simtitor pe verticala):

osmoderma search 1

Dupa aproximativ o ora de chinuri, de la ruperea betelor folosite, pana la manipularea nereusita a “uneltei”, dupa cateva intrari si iesiri din casa ale exemplarului de coleopter, avem parte de un imens noroc: un gargaune (Vespa crabro) testeaza vizuina coleopterului, iar acesta, intr-un gest de aparare, isi da drumul de la acea inaltime apreciabila, fara zbor, aproape direct in palma mea. Evident, am inceput sarbatorirea evenimentului prin cateva (zeci) de fotografii si scurte filmulete:

osmo 3

osmo 2

Fiind destul de multa umbra in zona respectiva am fost nevoit sa apelez si la flash-ul din dotare:


osmo 7



Un scurt colaj de filmulete cu subiectul in cauza:

Lasandu-se deja seara ne-am intors la cort, unde am asteptat lasarea intunericului, si am plecat la o foarte scurta plimbare prin imprejurimi, pe langa peretii calcarosi.

Aici, intalnim diferite specii de carabizi…


si multe exemplare de Euscorpius carpathicus cautandu-si prada:

eurosco b

euroscorpionus 1

Si ceva lepidoptere, printre care si un exemplar de Lymantria monacha:


Somnul ne copleseste la un moment dat, astfel ca scurta plimbare ia sfarsit.

A doua zi, frontul de nori ne alunga din chei, nu inainte de a mai realiza o ultima fotografie:

poiana nera

Pe drumul de intoarcere ne mai oprim in zona Portile de Fier, din nou pe un drum laturalnic, unde pe langa cateva exemplare de Cerambix cerdo, gasim si o omida de Mimas tiliae:

omida 1

Un week-end superb, in ciuda drumului de intoarcere lung atat datorita aglomeratiei cat si ploilor masive…

De abia astept sa ma intorc.


(1 August 2014)

Saturnia pyri – Evolutie

Posted in Comana on July 15, 2014 by maxpho

Si ultima larva de Saturnia pyri si-a facut coconul si se transforma incet-incet in crisalida.

Acum, dupa aproape doua luni de la emergenta din oua, misiunea omizilor s-a incheiat cu succes, cel putin pentru trei dintre cele 37(!) de larve initiale.

Acum nu pot decat sa astept emergenta adultilor, in Mai 2015.

Pana atunci, o retrospectiva in imagini a evolutiei larvelor, cu imaginile scalate functie de dimensiunile aproximative ale subiectilor la momentul fotografierii:

Saturnia evolution b

Si o secventa cu aceleasi imagini insa aduse la o dimensiune comuna, pentru a se observa diferentele de morfologie de la stadiu la stadiu:

Saturnia evolution


(15 Iulie 2014)

Goodbye AR2108 and AR2109 – July 13, 2014

Posted in ASTRO on July 13, 2014 by maxpho

This is, for sure now, my last view of the large sunspot groups AR2108 and AR2109 for a while. I say “for a while” because some of the larger sunspot groups can survive for a few solar rotations, so it could be possible that in a few weeks time we will see this pair again. But until that moment comes, some last pictures of these “cooler regions”, in poor to very poor seeing conditions, part due to the very hot day (34+ Celsius). This time I’ve went to my observing location together with my brother in law, Mihai, who helped me with the collimation of my C11, using two interesting methods for daylight collimation (method one, method two).

The images below were all made using the C11 at F/10 and F/20 with full-aperture AstroSolar filter, and ASI120MM with Baader Green-CCD filter, in 2-3/10 seeing conditions. Of course, due to poor seeing, the scope was a bit off from perfect collimation (seen from the images below), but in those conditions I think our first test of daylight collimation of an SCT was a success.

The first image, depicting AR2108 and AR2109 on and near the limb:

Goodbye July 13

The image above was featured on the first page of SpaceWeather.

Same subjects, but at lower magnification:

Departing sunspots 1

And two other sunspot groups…



and AR2116:


Hope the Sun will come up with another set of large sunspot groups soon!


(July 13, 2014)

Saturnia pyri – Omizi (Stadiul V) – partea a IV-a

Posted in Comana on July 12, 2014 by maxpho

Si cu o oarecare intarziere, revin cu informatii noi legate de evolutia larvelor de Saturnia pyri.

La momentul actual, doua dintre cele trei larve si-au facut coconii si se transforma in crisalide, pe cand cea de a treia inca…mananca.

Fotografiile de mai jos prezinta cea mai mica dintre larve, pe 10 iulie (cand au fost relizate fotografiile) avand “doar” 90mm lungime.

Acum (pe 12 iulie) are deja peste 100mm lungime.

IMG_9848 9CM prel



Astept cu nerabdare transformarea ultimei larve…


(12 Iulie 2014)


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