Two planets with two clusters – April 11, 2015

Posted in Uncategorized on April 17, 2015 by maxpho

These days two beautiful gatherings are taking place up in the sky after sunset.

Venus is passing by the Pleiades (Messier 45) above the western horizon, while Jupiter, high in the sky, is also passing by another open star cluster, M44.

The following shots were acquired at an elevation of 1000meters, near Sinaia, on a night with good transparency, using three instruments (a 50mm Sigma Macro lens, a 100mm Canon Macro lens and a TS APO65mm F/6.5 Refractor). The camera was the Canon 550D at ISO 800 and 1600, with exposures of 60 to 200seconds on a NEQ6 equatorial mount.

The first shots are of planet Venus close to M45.

First, the 50mm view:

venus and m45 50mmThe 100mm view, showing some of the Pleiades blue reflection nebula:

venus and m45 100mmAnd the 420mm two-shots mosaic:

Venus and M45 420mmAnd now for the Jupiter-M44 gathering…

The 50mm view:

jupiter and m44 50mmAnd the 100mm view:

jupiter and m44 100mmNice coincidence having the two brightest planets in the sky passing by two of the brightest open star clusters in the same time-frame…

Looking in the eyes of a…

Posted in Comana, Supermacrofotografie on April 9, 2015 by maxpho

…jumping spider.

This female jumping spider of the genus Aelurillus was found in the Comana Woods in early April.

The following shots were acquired in the same manner as the ones from the previous post, in which the male of this species was photographed.

First, a “wide” shot:

salticid 2And a more detailed view:

salticid 1Also, a higher magnification view, using more optics in the setup. Only a grayscale view this time, since the chromatic aberrations of the 2x teleconverter used were quite annoying.



Some details from the insect world – March 22, 2015

Posted in Comana, Supermacrofotografie on April 2, 2015 by maxpho

Almost two weeks ago, on a short trip to the Comana Woods to see how Nature is waking up after the long winter, I’ve found some of the first invertebrates of the year.

Among them, a small jumping spider and a bee-fly.

I’ve spent a lot of time photographing this two small beings. The first one, the spider, was a little less cooperative due to the fact that it was very much alive at the time of the shot, and moving all-around.

I’ve used for both subjects the old super-macrophotography setup, the Canon 550D and the SMC Pentax-M inverted objective. The light used was from a macro-ring flash, not the best choice for artistic shots, but very efficient for high-resolution images showing small details on insect bodies.

First, the spider. Notice the reflection of the macro-ring light in the frontal eyes.


And the bee-fly (a fly that mimics bees) of the species Bombylius major, found already dead on the ground. First shot presents the head and most of it’s proboscis:

fly head

A detailed view of it’s right eye (large image!):

fly eye

And another of it’s wing:

fly wing

Spring is here now, so I’m very sure that many more shots like these (or better) will appear on this blog, since a lot of possible subjects are now emerging from their winter cocoons/shelters.

Partial Solar Eclipse of March 20, 2015 – Part II

Posted in ASTRO on March 30, 2015 by maxpho

I was mentioning in a previous post that I shall present soon some new images from the March 20th Partial Solar Eclipse.

Well, it’s not really soon, but better later than never…

The first new image was shot not in the usual way, meaning that due to the rather thick cloud layer, the Sun’s luminosity was greatly diminished, and it was necessary to remove the frontal solar filter of the refractor used (a 115mm F/7 APO). This should never be done without some serious thinking ahead (and risk management), since any luminosity variation (due to cloud movement across the Sun’s disk) could damage either the camera or the eye!!! But, since it was the camera that was actually seeing the Sun, I’ve gambled and won…the camera remained intact, and some shots were taken. The following is just one of them (acquired at 09:24 U.T.), where both the Sun and some clouds are visible in the same frame:

9 24 utThe above image is just a single shot, but the following one is a stack of 44 frames acquired in just one minute (at 09:29 U.T.), when the clouds did not interfered with the eclipse. A distinct sunspot group can be seen, and also some mountains/craters on the lunar limb!

09 29 UTTo better discern the lunar mountains/craters, a rotated view is presented below. Look especially at the left part of the lunar limb, where the lunar South Pole’s mountains/craters are more dramatic.

LUNAR LIMBAnd now for a brief sequence of the event, up to the maximum phase visible from the location where I was observing:

toateAgain, some of the frames were acquired through clouds, so the solar filter was removed; this is obvious for the center five frames in the above sequence.

To perhaps better understand the actual event, a more artistic view is shown below, with the Moon rotated to see which general lunar regions were near the limb during the eclipse:

COMPOSITIONAnd now for a small video made by my wife during different moments of the eclipse, using a 127mm Maksutov telescope and Canon 550D in Full HD filming mode:

My wife also shot this view at the end of our imaging session (ended by the very thick cloud layer), showing one of the instruments and the sky conditions:

pano eclipsaEven if this was not a total solar eclipse, the event, despite the clouds, was surely a memorable one.

Aristoteles and Eudoxus in Sky and Telescope

Posted in ASTRO on March 29, 2015 by maxpho

A few days ago a friend of mine, Adrian Sonka, announced me that he read the May 2015 issue of Sky and Telescope and that one of my images was on page 7:

proofThe image presents the lunar craters Aristoteles and Eudoxus, and was acquired on one memorable October morning with very good seeing conditions.

The full-resolution image:


This was good news for me, since it’s my first image presented in a well-known Astronomy magazine. Hope to have more in the coming years…

Moon and Sirius B – March 24, 2015

Posted in ASTRO on March 26, 2015 by maxpho

Despite some rather poor seeing conditions (3/10), with the Moon at only 30 degrees above horizon, I did get out for a brief imaging session together with Claudiu.

The designated scope for this session was again the 355mm Newtonian, at F/11 coupled with the DMK21 camera and a Baader Red filter.

The following images show some well-known lunar formations but under a less often observed illumination.

Hercules Messier North Pole rimae

Also, I’ve managed to capture again the elusive component B of Sirius, a second time. The first time I had far better seeing conditions, but still, in the following images Sirius B is well resolved.

Sirius B

Jupiter – March 21, 2015

Posted in ASTRO on March 23, 2015 by maxpho

Another session with Jupiter. This time I had the pleasure to observe the giant planet of our Solar System together with my brother-in-law. We both enjoyed views at 450x with stable moments when the Earth’s atmosphere allowed us to catch a few glimpses of the Jovian clouds.

I’m still very much annoyed with the rather low sensitivity of the DMK camera, for which, at the amplification employed, the gain has to be set to a very high value. This means that the noise is also quite high.

Jupiter March 21, 2015The rare moments of good seeing did not allow for a de-rotation procedure in WinJupos, so the above and below images are LRGB sequences only. Still, some interesting details are visible, besides Io and it’s shadow (and some details on the satellite itself). There is an interesting reddish spot near the South Pole (up in the images), marked with lines. Also, a rather large spot (named White Spot Z -WSZ) is visible and marked as well in the images below.

Two series of LRGB were selected.

Jupiter March 21, 2015 2006ut

Jupiter March 21, 2015 2134utFrom these two series, a small map in cylindrical projection was done, using the WinJupos software:


Still waiting for those superb seeing conditions…



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