H-alpha Sun – May 5, 2018

Posted in ASTRO on May 5, 2018 by maxpho

Not the best seeing today, and not the best activity on the Sun either, but from time to time it is nice to image the Sun in the light of ionized Hydrogen. SO, a few shots from today, using the homemade 150mm refractor and Quark Chromosphere filter with the ASI 174MM as the imaging sensor. Seeing 5/10.

Active regions May 52018.jpg

new active region.jpg

And a couple more proms:



Astronomical drawings

Posted in ASTRO on May 4, 2018 by maxpho

A few years back, having no money for large size scopes or very expensive CCDs, I was observing the sky only visually through either homemade small scopes or the larger (up to 12 inch) scopes of the “V. Urseanu” Astronomical Observatory in Bucharest.

This is the case with the following collage showing the planet Mars at its closest opposition in 2003. Back then I was using my recently homemade 114/900 mm  Newtonian on an altazimutal mount from the balcony of an apartment on the fifth floor of a building not too far from the center of Bucharest. Again, in 2003, Romania’s biggest city was way friendlier to Astronomy compared to these days: not too much light, fewer cars, more trees… The seeing was rather good and occasionally I could see the Milky Way…

Now, the Mars drawings: you may notice that a few of the drawings show something reminiscent of Giovanni Schiaparelli’s “canali”. Interesting 😉

mars 2003.jpg


One galaxy, two galaxies…many galaxies

Posted in ASTRO on May 4, 2018 by maxpho

Galaxies…the islands of the Universe.

They are the furthest objects in the Cosmos that you can either see at the eyepiece or photograph. And normally, except for some very few cases (Andromeda Galaxy, the Magellan clouds, and our own Milky Way), you cannot observe or image such objects without the “right” instruments (large diameter scopes on good tracking mounts and high tech imaging sensors).

Well, technology has advanced so much in the last few years that you can glimpse the island of the Universe with a relative simple and highly portable setup.

This is the case with the following image, acquired by my wife and processed by myself. The setup included a small 100mm lens and a Canon DSLR camera (quite old actually). These were mounted on the very small and thus portable mount Star Adventurer from SkyWacther. The whole setup is light enough to be carried around and assembled by a pregnant woman 🙂

With the right alignment procedure this mount allows for shots of up to 3 minutes with a 100mm lens to be acquired, with pinpoint stars.

Of course some manual dithering is required to get good shots, and my wife did this perfectly, despite the fine requirements of such a procedure.

So, the shot now, which shows the Virgo Galaxy Cluster, with Markarian’s Chain, and a lot more galaxies all around; please zoom in 😉

Virgo Cluster.jpg

And the color version:

Virgo cluster Color.jpg


Jupiter in Infrared – April 28, 2018

Posted in ASTRO on May 2, 2018 by maxpho

My first shot of Jupiter this apparition. Since the giant of the Solar System is hanging at only 29 degrees above my Southern horizon, my hopes for high-resolution Jovian images are not high. Despite this I did give it a try on a night with rather good seeing for the altitude of the planet. Only the IR (near infrared) channel was acquired since the other filters showed nothing similar to the giant planet…

First, the animation showing 28 minutes of rotation. The strange looking satellite in the upper right corner is Europa. I did not process the images to show it better…


And the derotated image:


The South of the Moon – April 28, 2018

Posted in ASTRO on April 29, 2018 by maxpho

A very brief lunar imaging session with the 355mm Newton under poor seeing. The poor seeing was mostly due to the low altitude of the Moon above the horizon, otherwise higher up, it was quite good. The value that I’ve settled upon was 5/10. This required the use of the IR pass filter (>685nm). Not happy with this result, but the image does show some superb formations towards the South Pole of the Moon, including the very large crater Bailly.

The South.jpg

Another shot from this session, under poor conditions. Nevertheless, Aristarchus is always a nice view:


And another view of the same area, this time in slightly better seeing.


ISS solar transit – April 25, 2018

Posted in ASTRO on April 25, 2018 by maxpho

And yet another solar transit by the ISS. This time I was not sure that I could get to the location predicted via CalSky, so I did not have great expectations…

But, luckily, after going a bit over the speed limit ;), I found myself in a nice field of…green stuff. Nevertheless, this type of astrophotography is never easy, so a few clouds had to cover the Sun just 5 minutes before the event…

Again, luckily, the clouds dispersed 1 minute (!!) before the transit, so that I could focus and wait for the black silhouette of the ISS to pass. Seeing was terrible, but the pass was favorable with many details of the ISS structure well resolved.

I might have been speeding on the roads, but it is nothing compared to the speed of the ISS in orbit…the transit lasted about 0.5 seconds…

The setup: homemade 150mm F/5 refractor (iStar lens), Herschel wedge, 2.7x APM coma correcting barlow, Baader green filter, ASI 174MM.


The cloud that formed 5 minutes before the event:


A short animation (resized) showing the event at a very low frame rate:

ISS APRIL 25.gif

A single frame (the best out of about 36), showing the ISS near sunspot 2706:


And the sequence:

ISStransit April 25a.jpg



High Resolution Lunar images – April 23, 2018

Posted in ASTRO on April 24, 2018 by maxpho

A lunar session under almost perfect seeing conditions. Well, not all the time, but for about 30 minutes the seeing was very close to perfect. It is definitely one of the most memorable imaging session in recent years for me.

Equipment: 355mm F/4.5 homemade Newton, 2.7x coma corrected barlow, and 2.5x Baader barlow (for green light only). ASI 174MM with either a Red filter or a Green one! Yes, I could finally use a Green filter for lunar imaging, which is extremely rare.

First, the higher magnification Green filtered images.

Atlas and Hercules:








The prominent trio of craters Arzachel, Alphonsus and Ptlemaeus in good seeing (7/10) at the beginning of the session.  Another better version, in 8-9/10 seeing, is being processed.


Crater Moretus and the southern mountains.


And a wider view of the Moretus area, this time in Red light and very good to excellent seeing conditions:

Moretus Wide April 232018.jpg

Craters Petavius and Humboldt in high Sun illumination. One of the shots I was aiming for some years now…


A sharper view of the Arzachel, Alphonsus and Ptolemaeus area, in 8-9/10 seeing conditions, this time including the nicely iluminated Rupes Recta into view. Note the small rille perpendicular to Rupes Recta.


And a reprocessed view of Rupes Recta area only, showing the stuff that lurks in the shadows:

in the shadows.jpg

in the shadows notes.jpg

Another well known trio of craters, Theophilus, Cyrillus and Catharina. Bu this time, under high illumination, it is the smaller craters that look more interesting.


And some of the more interesting smaller craters, some with very interesting floors:

small craters.jpg

A wider view of craters Atlas and Hercules, this time including crater Burg at the center of Lacus Mortis.


An “in orbit”-like view showing Mare Humboldtianum on the lunar limb.


A view of perhaps the most intense rimae region on the Moon: Hyginus, Triesneker and Ariadaeus. Also, look at far left, deep in the shadows; there is a very long sinuous rimae hidden there.


If I were to be asked which is my best astro image of them all, in terms of resolution and aesthetic value, my answer will most definitely be pointing to the following image. A five image mosaic, acquired under close to perfect seeing conditions, and showing some of the most interesting and dramatic features of the northern half of our Moon. I would recommend to view it slowly, otherwise some of the finer details might be missed.

Long strip April 232018.jpg

And a selected list of formations from the above image. Note the details on the floor of Archimedes and the domes near Mt. Huygens.

Plus, this large image has the smallest details ever captured by myself on the surface of the Moon: some small rilles are only about 270 meters wide!

Details of the strip.jpg

The last image of this session, crater Maginus under “more normal” seeing conditions (7/10) and Green filter.

maginus april 2018.jpg