Moon and the Ring Nebula – September 30, 2014

Posted in ASTRO on October 1, 2014 by maxpho

Lately I had time to do some night-time astrophotography due both to a bit of free time and to clear skies.

So, I’ve tried to catch up with lunar imaging and some short exposures deep-sky imaging technique.

All of the images below were acquired with the TS APO 115mm F/7 Refractor, at F/7 for the deep-sky images, and at F/18 and F/7 for the lunar shots. The camera used was the ASI120MM with Baader RGB and UV/IR cut filters.

First, a different lunar shot, showing the Earth-illuminated part (Earthshine) of the Moon within a few days of the First Quarter. The final image is a stack of 380 frames, each a 1 second exposure through a Baader Red CCD filter, with the refractor working at F/7.


The above image might not show many or interesting details, but the simple fact that it shows the Earthshine in close proximity to the Sunshine (overexposed area at right) is what is interesting. Normally one can observe the imaged areas under similar illumination at or very near the Full Moon phase.

The second image, again a lunar one, is an LRGB image, meaning that I’ve captured one series of frames using the Red filter, a second one with the Green filter, and the third series with the Blue filter; afterwards I’ve combined them into a single image to render the colors, then I’ve placed the result onto the Red filter image, in which the details were better resolved. All channels were stacks of 600 frames out of 1500, in 2-3/10 seeing conditions due mostly to the very low altitude of the Moon above the horizon (under 19 degrees). The refractor was working this time at F/18.

Colored Moon

The image above shows an area centered on the apparently double impact (could be possible that it is actually a double impact site?) craters Stevinus A and Furnerius E. Between the two lies Stevinus, the rather well defined crater without “blue” material on it’s floor. Another interesting formation can be seen in the upper-right corner of the image, a large crater with a rimae system inside it’s rim: Janssen. Part of the white-blue materials from the nearby impact craters is covering Janseen’s floor.

And now for the deep-sky images….

Well, I’ve only got enough time to acquire some sub-frames of a single object: the planetary nebula Messier 57, or “the Ring Nebula”. It’s name is in direct connection with it’s appearance both at the eyepiece or in not-too-long exposures.

The image above, with the refractor working at F/7, and acquired using the UV’IR cut filter, is a stack of only 50 frame,s each a 20 seconds exposure. The details inside the nebula are the result of 100 frames of 10 seconds each.

Due to the light pollution both from Bucharest (to the North) and from the Moon (to the South) the limiting visual magnitude was around +5, but there are some Mag +18 (!) galaxies present in the final image. I’m sure that on darker skies I could go a lot deeper with this setup on this object. For now, I’m posting two slightly differently processed versions of the same image (resized to 148% from original), each with it’s advantages and disadvantages.



I’ve also processed a detailed image of this object (resized to 300% from original), again in two ways, one in grayscale, the other being a LRGB version using the color data acquired in the same night (20x12s for each channel).

The result shows some rather fine details for a 4.5 inch refractor under far from perfect sky conditions.


While processing the images with M 57, I’ve stretched the results a bit to see if it could be possible to catch a glimpse of the outer ring of the nebula, which normally requires very long exposures. It seems that a glimpse I did catch, as is shown in the animation below where the outer margin of the diffuse glow is marked with a red ellipse:


I can’t wait to get to a dark skies location and try longer exposures with this object, and perhaps revealing the true shape of it’s outer ring…


(October 1, 2014)

Sunspot groups of October 1th, 2014

Posted in ASTRO on October 1, 2014 by maxpho

After the sunspot groups of July, I did not have another chance at getting some solar images except a very brief ISS transit…

Now, with some groups setting towards the solar limb, I’ve finally got a small window of opportunity to catch the departing sunspot groups designated as AR2172 and AR2173. Despite the very poor seeing conditions and some cirrus clouds, the view of the main spots near the edge of the Sun disk was a pleasure to watch both at the eyepiece and on the laptop screen.

The images below were acquired using the TS APO 115mm F/7 Refractor working at F/18 and F/35 using two TeleVue Powermates (2x and 2.5x), Baader Astrosolar filter (ND 3.8) and the ASI120MM camera with Baader Green CCD filter. I’ve estimated the seeing at only 3-4/10. To partially overcome the poor seeing conditions, I’ve acquired around 5000 frames for each of the following images, and selected only around 900 for each.

The first image shows the two mentioned groups at a lower image scale (F/18). AR2172 is the group formed by the large spot towards the limb, and the left most spots near the center of the image. The rest is a rather strangely orientated group AR2173.

I’m posting both grayscale and color versions of the image, since some may see details more easily in the first, while some may like the color version instead. I actually like both kind of images.



And the same area, with a different orientation, but lacking the tail spot of AR2172. The image was acquired at F/35. GRUP A LARGE BW


Beside this rather impressive sunspot groups, there were other groups on the surface of the Sun as well. I’ve only managed to image one other, with some rather small spots but of interesting shapes. It’s name is AR2177.



Hopefully, weather and time permitting, I will acquire other solar images before the end of this year.


(October 1, 2014)

Globular cluster M 13 with a small 65mm Refractor – September 24, 2014

Posted in ASTRO on September 25, 2014 by maxpho

The following images are part of some LRGB (Luminance, Red, Green, Blue channels) image acquisition tests that I’ve started a while ago in order to establish a workflow for my future deep-sky images.

This is why I’ve only used my very small Refractor, a TS APO 65Q with 420mm focal length, the ASI120MM mono camera and Baader RGB CCD filters for colors and a UV/IR cut Baader filter for the Luminance channel. They were all mounted onto the EQ6 SW equatorial mount with the “standard” three-star alignment procedure. That was one of the reasons why I’ve acquired 20 seconds frames instead of longer exposures (the full “technical” details would also include: Gain setting: 50, Gamma setting: 90. Only one dark frame was acquired during the entire session). The sky at my location was clear but the limiting visual magnitude next to M 13 was around +5.2, so rather poor conditions for serious astrophotography.

The main LRGB image below is made out of 136 frames for the Luminance channel, and 30 frames for each of the color channels. That would put the entire imaging session at 75 minutes, but the “true” exposure time was actually only 45 minutes. That seems to be enough to be able to capture the magnitude +16 (!) galaxy in the right part of the image.

So, the color version of the image:

M13 color

And a Black-and-White version:

M13 BW

A comparison of the above images, enlarged and cropped to better distinguish the details of the cluster:

M13 detail

For now it seems that the LRGB workflow needs more practicing, but what really surprised me was the amount of detail and limiting magnitude possible with such a small refractor on +5 magnitude skies. I think I will get the small instrument outside again very soon.


(September 25, 2014)

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.

And another region that I like a lot, being one full of rimae and interesting craters, including one of the most remarkable large craters with it’s floor full of rimae: Gassendi. The image is a two-frame mosaic, each a stack of 2000 frames in 5-6/10 seeing.



(September 19 and 25, 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)


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