ISS transiting the Moon- November 30, 2015

Posted in ASTRO on November 30, 2015 by maxpho

As I’ve mentioned in the previous post, a lunar transit by the International Space Station (ISS) occurred not far from my home, in Magurele (Ilfov), Romania.

Together with my wife Eli, I drove for 5 minutes near a field where we’ve mounted our gear waiting almost an hour for the 0.65 second transit to occur. My equipment was the TS 115 mm F/7 APO with a TeleVue 2x Powermate and Canon 550D onto the EQ6 equatorial mount. My wife used a Maksutov telescope (127 mm) and her Canon 550D placed on an EQ3-2 mount. Both of us used ISO 800 and 1/1000 s exposures.

The first shot is a composite image, of one of my two frames in which the ISS was captured, overimposed onto another image which was acquired immediately after the event. This second shot was a 72 frames stack, and was processed in order to reveal the colors of the lunar surface.


And the colorful Moon image, in a small-size version:

MoonInColorsNov30, 2015.jpg

Now, the two frames (at 50% from original) in which the ISS was captured, with a bit of saturation added:



And two crops from the original images. Despite the bad seeing conditions (and some wind) a lot of structural details of the ISS are discernible:


And finally, my wife’s image, with her two frames overlayed, showing the ISS’s apparent path on the lunar disc (the Station moved upward in her images). Note that the ISS is also visible, beside the obvious dark silhouette,¬† very near the terminator, in the lower part of the Moon.


Comet C/2013 US10 (Catalina) – November 30, 2015

Posted in ASTRO on November 30, 2015 by maxpho

After almost two weeks of clouds and bad luck in searching for this comet, I’ve finally succeeded in imaging comet Catalina.

After imaging together with my wife another event, a transit of the International Space Station over the Moon (which will be posted shortly), we’ve decided to get towards the town of Fundulea, some 40 kilometers East from our location, to get ahead of the clouds. While setting our equipment in a field there, and waiting for the comet to rise, the clouds made a destructive appearance and closed the skies. “No luck this morning” we thought.

On the way back, almost while we were arriving at our home, we saw a small break in the clouds, just beneath Venus, where the comet was located.

A short stop on the side of the road and the mount plus a small refractor were assembled in no time, thanks to team work.

Looking through the finder I’ve spotted the comet which was nicely visible as a small diffuse patch of light with a defined stellar nucleus.

Only nine shots were possible due both to clouds and the advancing morning light. Despite all that, the two tails of the comet are visible.

Equipment: Teleskop Service APO 65Q, F/6.5 (420mm F.L.) and Canon 550D on the EQ-6 mount. Only 9 frames, each a 15 second exposure at ISO 3200.

Catalina Nov30, 2015 A.jpg

And a slightly cropped version, showing the nucleus and a small star nearby:

Catalina Nov30, 2015 b.jpg

Now I’m waiting for a better morning to get a truly nice shot of this comet. It deserves a better view…

High resolution lunar images – November 6th, 2015

Posted in ASTRO on November 27, 2015 by maxpho

A short imaging session with the Moon. On this date the seeing conditions were very poor at first, which almost made me pack the gear and go back home. But, gradually the seeing conditions improved a bit, and by the end of the session they reached an almost perfect¬† value. Too bad the Sun got up and I had to get back home for some sleep…

The best result from this morning, using the 14 inch scope at F/20 and the ASI 120MM-S camera with a Red filter:

The Vallis Schroteri region with many smaller rilles around the region. Note the terraces inside Aristarchus, and parts of the inner rille of Vallis Schroteri:


Next, Gassendi with its complex rille system and Mare Humorum nearby:


A wide view of Sinus Iridum and the lunar limb with crater Pythagoras:


Sinus Iridum is a very large crater (240 km wide) but its missing half the rim; to better grasp the actual form of the feature I’ve transformed the perspective from the above image in an aerial one, with an almost perpendicular view towards the lunar surface. Note that the left part of the rim is almost straight.


And the last image, which was actually acquired at the beginning of the session in horrible seeing conditions: a small lunar mosaic.


High resolution lunar images – November 4th, 2015

Posted in ASTRO on November 26, 2015 by maxpho

The excellent seeing nights of September are far gone now, but November still had its good moments, despite the cold, foggy mornings. This were the conditions on the morning of November 4th, with the Moon high in the sky, a lot of fog, and dew on the secondary mirror of the scope. And unfortunately only a few very good seeing moments. Despite this, the views at the eyepiece of the 14 inch scope were fantastic.

The equipment for the following shots: 355 mm F/5 homemade Newtonian (SkyWatcher optics) at F/20, ASI 120MM-S camera with a Baader Red filter. Seeing (mostly) 6-7/10.

The first shot presents two of my favorite large craters, under a superb illumination: Alphonsus and Ptolemaeus:


The above image was extracted from a large mosaic that also shows Rupes Recta, Rima Birt and the now well-known smaller rille perpendicular to the Straight Wall:


A view showing crater Tycho (upper left) with Pitatus (lower centrer) and the concentric crater Hesiodus A (right of Pitatus):


The South Pole was as always a superb sight with a lot of shadow-filled craters and mountains. The largest shadow-filled crater in the image is Moretus:


Copernicus and Eratosthenes were well placed for a group photo. Note the secondary crater chains between the two. What a show must have been at the moment they were formed…


One of the larger impact craters, with half the rim covered by lava, and a future landing place for lunar-probes: Sinus Iridum (the Bay of Rainbows).


The above image is part of a larger mosaic presented below.

This view also includes the well-known crater Plato. Note the smaller craters on Plato’s floor, and also the multitude of rilles all around the image.


At the end, just for fun, I’ve made a comparison image of Sinus Iridum at the same scale with the island of Cyprus (the island is in white, and tilted to give the correct perspective). Sinus Iridum is quite a large impact crater!


Inside the Orion Nebula – November 14, 2015

Posted in ASTRO on November 25, 2015 by maxpho

During the imaging session of November 14, I’ve spent some time imaging the core of the Orion Nebula M42. This was just as a test for a future dedicated imaging session, perhaps in a month or so.

During this session, I’ve “only” acquired 1600 frames with both a Red filter and an UV/IR-cut filter using the 14-inch scope at F/5 and the ASI 120MM-S camera with 1 second exposures. The seeing conditions were good, but the fog and the low altitude of the nebula almost destroyed the result.

The colors in the image come from an older image, with a bit more processing and a different color balance.


At a second look, I saw that some proplyds (proto-planetary discs) were well visible in the image.

The grayscale version shows some of the identified objects:


Can’t wait for a cold crystal-clear night up in the mountains to resume this winter project…

I shall acquire an RGB sequence this time also…

Lunar images with a half-meter scope – August/September 2015

Posted in ASTRO on November 24, 2015 by maxpho

At the end of August and beginning of September, Adrian Sonka invited me for some imaging sessions at the Astronomical Institute of the Romanian Academy, placed in Bucharest.

Usually, I would refuse any type of astronomical imaging from inside large towns due to light pollution and bad seeing conditions that are a trademark for such locations, but this time the size of the scope which we were to use was all that it took to lure me towards the capital of Romania. The telescope itself is a half-meter (500mm, F/15) Cassegrain, placed well inside the Observatory’s yard, surrounded by enough trees to be partially shaded from light pollution and local seeing variations.

The very first session occurred on August 25th, with Saturn and the Moon placed rather low in the sky, but with some of the best seeing conditions that Bucharest has ever allowed.

Following are two views of Saturn, in both Red light and RGB color, with some fine details visible, like the Encke division. At the moment of the imaging session, Saturn was only 25 to 28 degrees above the horizon!

SaturnAugust25, 2015.jpg

Next, a detailed view of crater Clavius, with some image distortion due to the low altitude of the Moon.


And another two well-known craters, Copernicus and Plato, with the Moon low above the horizon:

copernicus plato.jpg

Following are some image-pairs from the next few lunar imaging sessions, all under poor seeing conditions:

hercules atlas proclus.jpg

hesiodus rupes recta.jpg

gassendi cleomedes.jpg

messala petavius.jpg

High Resolution lunar images – October 28th, 2015

Posted in ASTRO on November 23, 2015 by maxpho

Finally, I’m starting to catch up with the processing of the October imaging sessions…

Following are some lunar shots acquired with the 14 inch F/5 homemade Newtonian at F/15 and the ASI 120MM-S camera with a Red filter, in 6-8/10 seeing conditions.

First shot presents craters Hercules (left) (with a diameter of 70 km) and Atlas (88 km), with the second one showing a complex rille system inside its rim:


Second image shows Petavius, one of the most easily recognizable craters on the Moon, due both to its large diameter (177 km) and complex rille system:


Another recognizable crater, Langrenus (133 km), with its central mountain and sharp rim:


One of the most intriguing small craters on the visible face of our Moon, the double crater Messier, with the left-most component named Messier A (13 km) and the “main” crater Messier (of 12 km):


A large mosaic showing part of Mare Crisium (at right) and crater Cleomedes (126 km) at left with some rilles onto its floor. Notice the small rille at lower right, at the tip of Mare Crisium:


And the last image for that session, a mosaic showing crater Langrenus at lower left and some of the surrounding terrain:




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