The Moon is spherical

Posted in 3D, ASTRO on November 13, 2017 by maxpho

On November 2nd, I was out with my scope for a lunar imaging session, at my usual observing location just south of Bucharest, Romania. At almost the same moment, another lunar imager was doing the same thing, but 2200km away. His name is Pete Lawrence, award winning astrophotographer, who does his lunar work from Selsey, UK.

Just by chance, posting my own images on the same Facebook Group as Pete, I’ve noticed that his images show the same lunar areas, at the same observing time and with similar resolution. So an idea came to my mind: would it be possible to combine my data with Pete’s and process the images in such a way that a true tridimensional lunar image could result?

The core of the idea was that the Moon, being so close to Earth, exhibits a rather strong parallax effect.

The parallax effect can be easily noticed on images depicting the whole Moon against the background stars, but no such effect was observed, until now, on amateur high magnification images. To accomplish this, the observers must have similar seeing conditions and equipment, and also to observe at the same time. This is, just by chance, what Pete and I did on November 2nd.

So, after some talks with Pete, who offered his images and encouraged me to try and see if any effect is noticeble, I’ve started the work. A bit of processing, resizing, aligning and…WOW:


The parallax effect is more than obvious! Craters Struve, Russel and Edington show different viewing angles!

Combining the two shots in a 3D analigraph, the result is a bit more interesting.

The following image requires Red/Blue glasses.

HINT: use your mouse and move on the image, this way you will feel the depth of field much more easily 😉


And another area which we’ve both imaged at the same time: crater Pythagoras.


And the 3d analigraph (don’t forget to move the mouse on the image to accommodate your eyes/brain):


As far as I now, this is the first time amateurs succeeded in this kind of imaging (parallax lunar imaging in High Resolution).

Our results show that, indeed, the Moon is spherical 🙂

Next project is to prove that the Earth is not flat :))), but this requires two lunar imagers to go to the Moon, and image our planet from two different lunar locations.  It may take some time to finish the project…



Many faces…and eyes

Posted in Salticizi, Supermacrofotografie on November 13, 2017 by maxpho

A collection of spider faces acquired during the last seven years. All these nice eyes belong to spiders in the Salticidae family, or better known as “jumping spiders”. Somehow the reason for such large eyes is obvious from their popular name: in order to get a good measurement of the distance to subject, they need some rather good resolution and thus large lenses 🙂

Many eyes.jpg

And my personal favorite, with a 2 mm head width, an individual of the species Mendoza canestrini.



Some Macro-Photography

Posted in Supermacrofotografie on November 12, 2017 by maxpho


A few test images using a rather cheap macro setup. The goal was to test a new technique (new for me) in which a large mosaic showing a subject can be made from multi-frame stacking. The setup: Canon 550D, macro tubes, SMC Pentax M 1:2.8 28mm used as an inverted lens, and a Nissin MF18 Macro ring flash. Individual areas are stacks of 10-15 frames, and each mosaic is a made up from 8 to 12 images. Stacking software: Zerene Stacker. Mosaics were assembled with Microsoft ICE. All images were resized to about 30-40% from originals.

The head and antennae of a male Polyphylla fullo. Length of the individual approx 28mm.


The head of Carabus gigas. Length of the individual: approx 54mm.


A species of “Jewel beetle” (Fam. Buprestidae). Length approx 14mm.


And the hindwing of a small butterfly (Fam. Lycaenidae). Wingspan of the individual approx 35mm.


Entomological plates – Moths of Romania

Posted in Specii rare on November 9, 2017 by maxpho

Romania has a rather rich insect fauna, but despite this, there is not much information on the Internet regarding the species present in the country. Any amateur photographer may find in Nature some species that he or she will not be able to identify due to this lack of information.

Of course, the most photographed and observed insects are the butterflies and moths, since they have larger sizes and fly often around flowers or at night around light sources, and they are also widespread in different habitats.

To try and give some information regarding these species, I’m starting to post here a number of plates which will present different species with their scientific names. In this way anyone interested will be able to find information more easily on the internet, just by searching the name of the insect.

First, a plate showing some of the moths species from the Family Sphingidae:

Plate 1.jpg


High resolution lunar images – November 2, 2017

Posted in ASTRO on November 3, 2017 by maxpho

A new imaging session under the light of the Moon…

The almost full Moon phase is only rarely imaged by me. So this time, with our satellite at an respectable altitude above the horizon of 50 degrees,  I’ve decided to image some of my least observed lunar craters. The seeing varied greatly, but on some occasions it reached estimated values of 7-8/10.

First, three large craters, Grimaldi, Riccioli and Hevelius. Note the many terraces inside Riccioli and near Grimaldi.


Craters Russel, Struve and Eddington in 7/10 seeing conditions. Note some small rilles on their floors.


Crater Pythagoras in RGB colors. This sequence was acquired in 6-7/10 seeing conditions:


And the Red image:


And another image of Pythagoras, this time under very good seeing conditions, despite low transparency due to cirrus clouds. Note the very sharp mountain slopes inside the crater, in great contrast with all the rest of the area.


A mosaic showing a large part of the South-Western areas towards the limb. So many interesting craters, especially Wargentin with its lava-filled floor. One other interesting  crater is located to the right of Schickard: a small striped floor crater. Can you locate it?

WargentinNov2, 2017.jpg

Another area which I might have never imaged until now…Lavoisier craters.

There is a nice rima and something that looks like a small lava lake at one end. The rima is about 600-700 meters wide. Also managed to get most of the gigantic volcanic dome of Mons Rumker is this shot…


Perhaps my own personal favorite lunar image of the year: another infrequently imaged area showing so much diversity in lunar formations. A wealth of rimae and some rather strange looking terrain. Most is due to ejecta material resulted from the formation of the large impact named Mare Orientale.


And the last mosaic of the session, in very good seeing, showing again Pythagoras but also a lot more of the North-Western lunar areas.


3D Focus on crater Gassendi

Posted in ASTRO on October 29, 2017 by maxpho

From time to time the skies are covered in thick clouds…

As an amateur astronomer I’m not having much fun in these weather conditions. But one must find the good in bad, so sitting at my computer I’m experimenting with some of my older lunar images. One way to experiment is to try and improve yourself at image processing; another way is to learn new software. Well, this time I’ve selected the second way.

It’s been a log time since the FREE (!) LTVT software is around, and I must confess I’ve never used it until now. It is a very nice little software that can do apparent miracles with your data. Combined with the FREE (again!) LROC QuickMap this software allows an amateur to view his images under a corrected aerial view (and many other things, but this is what I did for now). Something that until today I was trying to do manually in Photoshop (and almost every time it did not go well).

The best part is perhaps that these two tools (LTVT and QuickMap) are so easy to learn and operate that in about 10 minutes I was already creating my first good quality aerial view of the lunar crater Gassendi.

This post presents the results obtained after processing some old images of this crater.

First, the initial shot of Gassendi:

20 MARTIE 2016.jpg

The image above was acquired on March 20, 2016 with the 355mm Newtonian under pretty good seeing conditions. A number of small rilles are well visible in and around Gassendi. There is one rille of just 450 meters (!) wide crossing a dome on the lower part of the image.

This view shows how the area is normally observed from Earth with a telescope. The craters are viewed at an angle due to their location on the Moon.

To have an aerial view of the area one must use a tool such as LTVT. This is how the next shot shows Gassendi from directly above:


The most striking feature that is now obvious is that the central mountain is not directly in the middle of Gassendi’s floor, but slightly shifted to one side.

Next, I was hoping to create a tridimensional (3D) image of the area, using another image of Gassendi under a very similar illumination. This second shot may be found here.

Having also corrected this shot for aerial view using LTVT, I’ve assembled the two resulting aerial views using Anaglyph Maker  into one Red/Blue 3d image. To view this shot one must use RED/BLUE viewing glasses. If you have them, just click on the image:


A second 3d image shows only the crater Gassendi with a slightly better tridimensional effect:


And for those who don’t have these RED/BLUE glasses, two animations showing the depth in such a 3d view. One animation has a slower fps compared to the other and simulates a little better an orbital forward-backward flight over the crater:




gas 2.gif

These first results using the LTVT software show me just how much more I can extract from the lunar shots I have acquired until now.

It opens the way for many more images to process…







A refractor is born

Posted in ASTRO on October 22, 2017 by maxpho

Sometime in September I’ve decided that an upgrade for solar imaging is a must.

The goal of such an upgrade would be to have a very portable yet powerful scope that can be easy to set up and without many of the problems encountered with other instruments I have. I’ve concluded that a diameter of 150mm is the minimum, and that the instrument will be a refractor due to lack of the collimation procedure required with a Newtonian for example. Other optical systems were considered but my budget aimed at a homemade instrument. That, again, pointed at an achromatic lens.

The main purpose of the instrument would be H-alpha solar work, but with the ability to do some white-light solar imaging also, and the occasional ISS transit. The Moon would also be fun for such an instrument, and perhaps some deep-sky views at the eyepiece.

I’ve decided that I should go with the iStar company (US based) and their 150mm F/5 achromatic lens. Unfortunately this lens was not on stock, so I’ve reconsidered and selected an improved version, an anastigmatic R50 slim lens. I was hoping that by the time the lens would get to Romania the instrument’s frame would be completed.

So…I had one month to put on paper, select materials, build components and assemble the “thing”.

September 22: The design was more or less selected. Initially I’ve built the lens and focuser flanges by hand, using an aluminum plate and sawing by hand the desired shape.


I was not happy with this setup, so I’ve decided to get some proper flanges built using Laser-cutting techniques. The process took quite a while, so at the end of September I was still lacking the main parts of the frame.

October 5: The new flanges arrived. Using some new components built the days before, I’ve assembled for the first time the frame of the instrument. The focuser system was also modified, with the electric motor now connected to the focuser by a pair of  toothed wheels.


A few more components had to be built by hand, and aligning/realigning the frame took some time.

October 15: One of the most delicate procedure of the entire project was to spray-paint the components. The job was done after 7-8 days of painting/drying/painting/correcting/painting/drying procedures:


Finally, the components were now ready to be permanently assembled.

October 17-18 (the night between): Like some furniture from IKEA or a LEGO set, the components of the soon-to-be optical instrument were “carefully placed” on the carpet:


And they were not left alone until the final shape of the refractor was formed:


Verifying the alignment showed me that the frame was stable and could now receive the main component: the lens.

October 20: The lens was in my hands. I must thank my friend Alin Tolea for the many talks and help with acquiring the lens from the US 😉

Now I was finally touching the “untouched” lens. No dust, nu scratches, no signs of ever being in contact with the air. The first and last time a lens would look like this…


Thanks to my friend Vlad Dudu for this shot.

Of course I’ve rushed back at work, drilled a few more holes, and went home only to start the final and most rewarding procedure: “put a lens on it”.


Now, this strange-looking piece of aluminum, was finally looking almost like an optical instrument. The Lunt 50mm ERF filter was also housed into a homemade cell, and mounted on the focuser; one more component finished.

Next phase: tests. Under the stars at first, to have a proper collimation and some first views of the sky.

The same evening I had the refractor ready, I drove to my usual observing site and had a go at the eyepiece of the new instrument. With a 32mm eyepiece the views of Dumbell Nebula and M 15 globular cluster were very nice, despite the very poor transparency due to cirrus clouds and some light pollution. I did not have much time to do the adjustments, but I did however acquire some frames of M 15 using the ASI 1600MM camera at the focal plane with no filters. This was before I had the lens collimated, so some defects are easily visible on the 50% resized image. Only 50% of the frame was selected due to the uneven star shapes (very normal for such a lens). Using no filters showed that the chromatic aberration is present, but at rather low levels compared to other achromats I’ve used (SkyWacther 150mmF/8, 100mm f/5, 90mm f/8). Of course no match for the Teleskop Service APO 115mm F/7, but again, deep-sky imaging was not the purpose of this lens, at least not in full-spectrum. Some H-alpha might be a possibility as soon as I find a suitable field-flattener. So, the M 15 shot (40 frames, each a 10 sec exposure, no binning, no calibration, just some mild Photoshop):


Pretty nice for a 6 minute-equivalent shot under poor conditions. This scope proves to be a very fast one.

Of course I had to wait a little longer for the true test…

October 21-22: Some H-alpha work was finally in sight. On Oct 21 the seeing was very poor, and the results were not confirming my expectations for the instrument…I was a bit disappointed actually. But on Oct 22 the conditions were not so bad, with some cirrus clouds and 4-5/10 seeing. The Sun had an altitude of only 30-35 degrees, which did not help much…

Still, the “first H-alpha light”looks promising:


Also, this was the first time I could actually see (on Oct 20 I was observing at night) the refractor onto the EQ6 mount. They look happy together 🙂


I still have to build a dew shield, a shroud and some lens caps, but the shape of the refractor will not change.

At the end, I can say that this 1-month project was very rewarding, as I could build the frame in time to receive the lens, and also test the instrument just before the arrival of  a bad weather front.

This time the well-known phenomenon “I’ve got a new telescope, so it will rain for days” did not occur 😉


 UPDATE (October 23):

I’ve managed to save a few more H-alpha shots from the first-light tests on October 21-22. All were acquired in poor seeing conditions…


ar2685 oct 21.jpg


2685 wlOct21.jpg

ar2685 oct 22 b.jpg