Archive for March, 2014

Two planets, one moon – March 20, 2014

Posted in ASTRO on March 29, 2014 by maxpho

While at an deep-sky objects observing session together with a friend of mine, Bogdan, I’ve also wanted to do some planetary imaging. The seeing conditions weren’t good, but Mars and rising Saturn proved to show some nice details at the eyepiece.

I’ve waited for a while for the seeing to improve but it didn’t, so I’ve decided to do something new: image the moons of Mars. At that time only Deimos was far enough from the planet to catch it, so the final stack shows only one bright dot:

Deimos March 20

Eventually Mars got a little higher, so I did some imaging of the Red Planet also. Unfortunately the Green filter for the RGB sequence was missing (sometimes I forget staff back home) so I could only do an Red-Blue sequence, and also some Infrared. Luckily, the software for aligning the color channels (WinJupos) tries automatically to create a Green channel. So I did end up eventually with this:

Mars March 20, 2014 R(G)B

Now, having both Deimos and Mars imaged, I’ve placed them both on the same image, but not at the same corresponding time. The scale and orientation of Mars in relation with the distance to Deimos is correct, because while I was imaging Deimos, I’ve also imaged the disc of Mars briefly to have a relative scale and orientation of the images, but that sequence is of a too low quality to post here (and of a much smaller scale being acquired at F/10).

Mars with Deimos March 20

After just a few more minutes, I’ve change the target to Saturn and got quite impressed with the image in infrared, showing the Cassini Division rather well, despite the low altitude of the planet.

The initial image together with a WinJupos polar representation and a detail of the “Hexagon” polar formation:

Saturn March 20, 2014

Also, just for fun, I’ve made use of the WinJupos polar representation this time together with the rings.


It’s a rather interesting perspective. If only we could fly over the poles of the ringed planet…


(March 29, 2014)

The Eskimo Nebula

Posted in ASTRO on March 28, 2014 by maxpho

Another deep-sky object. This time is the Eskimo Nebula (NGC 2392) in Gemini, a planetary nebula that also goes by the name of “the Clown face”. The resemblance is evident in most images.

The image below was acquired on the night of March 21, 2014 at around 20:00 U.T., with the C11 SCT at F/10 and the ASI120MM camera without any filters. The image is a stack of 1000 frames, each a 3 second exposure to diminish as much as possible the seeing effects (which was terrible) and the tracking errors of my NEQ6 mount (which was not properly aligned for long exposure photography).

The image:


Despite the bad seeing, I did process the image in such a way that some fine details were revealed. Of course, the verification of the details had to come from a comparison with an image taken by a “better” (actually “the best”) telescope: the Hubble Space Telescope (HST):

Eskimo comparison

The original Hubble image can be found here.

The above sequence shows that even a small amateur telescope (8.5 times smaller than Hubble, and terrestrial) can show details in objects like these rather small planetary nebulae.

I should repeat this exercise on this object in better seeing conditions and in more transparent skies. Maybe an RGB image would also help a bit…


(March 28, 2014)


UPDATE (April 1, 2014)

I’ve acquired some color data, so now I’m able to post a color version of the above image. Actually it’s an LRGB image, with the Green being extracted from images using the Baader UV/IR cut filter, so it’s not the true green, but after some processing I was able to make a rather good replacement for this color channel. The Luminance channel is now composed from both the older no-filter data (basically the image above) and the new UV/IR cut data. The result is perhaps better looking, and shows the colors of the main details of the nebula.

Eskimo RGB

And a resized version, comparing the new color data with the new black-and-white one:

Eskimo in colors and BW


Some Astrophotography – March 22, 2014

Posted in ASTRO, Comana on March 27, 2014 by maxpho

After a warm Spring Saturday, together with my wife and her brother, I’ve went to the Comana Woods in search of dark skies. Well, at least darker compared to my suburban location. And I did find just that:


The above image is a single 32 seconds exposure with my Canon 550D at ISO 3200 and the Canon kit lens 18-55mm at 18mm and 3.5 aperture.

The main goal for that night was to acquire some frames for a future RGB image of the center of M 42, the Orion Nebula.

The equipment for this session was the 115mm F/7 APO Refractor from TS and the ZWO ASI120MM CMOS camera fitted with a Baader Red filter (610nm longpass).

The equatorial mount, an NEQ 6, was aligned at first manually using Polaris and the illuminated aligning reticule in the RA axis, and afterwards using the mount’s GO-TO 3-Star alignment. It did a rather good job for my short exposures and 800mm focal length.

The B-W resulting image:

m 42 43

Searching through my old image collection, I’ve found a color image of the center of the nebula, acquired with the Canon DSLR onto the C11 telescope.

I’ve overlayed the two images:

m 42 center

The initial B-W image showed some fine details, and comparing with the Hubble Space Telescope image, I’ve found out that there are some proplyds in my image, barely discernible, but definitely there:

Proplyds in M 42

This is a rather surprising result, since my instrument has an aperture of just 4.5″.

The next deep-sky object that I’ve wanted to image on that night was the M 82 galaxy. The main reason for choosing this target was the presence of a “galactic event”, namely the recent star explosion (supernova) that came to be called SN 2014J. Again, there are some small structural details discernible in the galaxy’s dusty lanes. The supernova is marked with two perpendicular lines placed on the outside of the frame. I’ve measured the magnitude at around +12.9.

SN 2014J detail

A wider view:

Picture saved with settings embedded.

And the final target for the night, just before some cold wind started to blow: planet Jupiter with Ganymede (upper left) and Io (lower right):

Jupiter with Ganymede and Io

Now I’m waiting for the skies to clear, and the end of the week, to go again deep inside the Comana Woods, at my closest dark(er) skies observing place.


(March 27, 2014)


Padurea Comana – 22 Martie 2014

Posted in Comana on March 26, 2014 by maxpho

In sfarsit primavara…

Desi oarecum de scurta durata cand scriu aceste randuri, mica primavara cu ale sale calduroasele zile cu peste 21 grade Celsius,  a fost binevenita.

Si ca la fiecare inceput de martie, imi place sa vad dezmortirea Naturii prin Padurea Comana.

Anul acesta am asistat la trezirea primelor necuvantatoare impreuna cu sotia si fratele ei.

Zeci de fluturi, albine, viespi si mii de furnici isi incepusera munca “la camp” cu mult inainte sa ajungem noi acolo.

Dar sa las fotografiile sa spuna in mai multe cuvinte ce as vrea eu sa povestesc.

Pentru inceput, campurile agricole proaspat muncite…

peisaj 1

Drumul prin padure, cu copacii scaldati in penultimile raze solare:

peisaj 2

Printre primele flori de padure:


Si printre primii fluturi, in realitate printre cei mai varstnici din speciile lor (exemplare ce au iernat)..

Nymphalis polychloros

poli 1

poli 3

Inachis io

inachis io

Viespi destule…(in imagini un exemplar din genul Hoplocampa, “viespi-cu-fierastrau”).

viespea 2

viespe 1

Muste si mai multe…(sp. Calliphora vicina).

musca 2

musca 1

Furnici peste tot…(sp. Formica fusca).


Si cate un “copil” (larva de coleopter gen. Cantharis)…ratacit pe drumuri.

larva 1

Si evident arahnide…

Un salticid…(sp. Heliophanus cupreus).

pai sar 4

pai sar 3

pai sar 2

pai sar 1

Si inca un paianjen (gen. Pisaura).


Apusul veni si el, un pic cam repede ce-i drept…


…insa noaptea a ramas superba, cu un cer “de tara”, negru, plin de stele si cu Calea Lactee frumos vizibila. In fotografie se observa planeta Jupiter sus-centru, si constelatia Orion apunand in spatele copacilor.



(26 Martie 2014)


Posted in ASTRO on March 20, 2014 by maxpho

And yet another color infrared image. But this time I have an RGB version as well.

The first one, the color infrared image, was acquired in 2012, and it’s actually a two-image composition: one for the higher resolution details and the other for infrared colors.

Technical details:
The color data: September 2, 2012. C11@F10, DBK 41 AU02.AS and IR-pass 685nm filter.
The higher resolution data: September 29, 2012. C 11, 2.25x barlow, DBK 41 AU02.AS, IR-pass 685nm filter.
And more recently I’ve also gathered data for an RGB version, using the Red channel image also for Luminance. To bad the seeing was not that good, especially for the Green and Blue channels.
Technical details:
March 13, 2014  20:44 U.T. C11@F/20, ASI120MM, Baader RGB filters. Seeing 4-5/10. 1500 frames per channel.
LPOD_Copernicus _Max
The Red channel:
Both color images were selected by Chuck Wood and placed in a comparison for the LPOD of March 20, 2014.
(March 20, 2014)

A few lunar features – March 14, 2014

Posted in ASTRO on March 17, 2014 by maxpho

The following images were acquired during a long and cold imaging session together with my brother-in-law and a friend of mine, Bogdan, at another friend’s house.

While Bogdan had the task of imaging an asteroid for 4 hours or so, I was viewing some of the most interesting objects in the sky (at least for me): the Moon and Mars.

Of course, besides looking through the eyepiece, I’ve also made quite a few images (more than 150Gb of data) of different lunar regions.

The imaging setup: C11@F/20, ASI120MM with Baader IR-pass filter (685nm). Seeing 5/10.

First interesting region: crater Gassendi and the nearby rimae:


The large crater Gassendi shows it’s inner system of rimae in the upper-right corner. Starting just West of it (to the left), the Rimae Mersenius goes alongside the western shores of Mare Humorum, pasing East of the lava-filled crater Mersenius and vanishing after crossing a few smaller craters.

I’ve found an older image of this area, acquired with a smaller scope and a web-cam, but in better seeing conditions. The image was selected as LPOD of February 16, 2009.

Another rimae-full region is the area in and around crater Hevelius:


Hevelius inner X-shaped rimae system is it’s most distinctive characteristic. Just to the north of it (below) is Cavalerius, with it’s sharp rim. To the east (left) is Reiner Gamma, one of the strangest lunar formations, situated a little South-West of the Marius dome-field. Another rimae system can be seen in the lower-right corner of the image: Rimae Cardanus, with it’s “parent” crater in the shadows.

Reiner Gamma is usually best seen under high-Sun, but image-enhancing can reveal it’s particular shape rather well:


An animation showing even better the revealing effects of enhancing the initial image:


The dome-field close to crater Marius is yet another very interesting lunar region, also with a few rimae present:


Another interesting crater in the region, Kepler, shows it’s rather young age by displaying it’s ray system onto the floor of Oceanus Procellarum to the West (right) and to the East in Mare Insularum:



(March 17, 2014)

Mars – March 14, 2014

Posted in ASTRO on March 16, 2014 by maxpho

This is my third image session for Mars this year, and the best until now due to some good seeing moments. It’s also my very first LRGB image of the Red Planet using the ASI120MM camera.

Mars March14, 2014

The main areas, easily recognizable, are Syrtis Major, Hellas basin, and the North Polar Cap (NPC). The Hellas basin is shrouded in clouds, and there is also some cloud activity near the terminator, in the Elysium area. The NPC has an irregular shape. The western area of the disk is brighter compared to the rest of the regions, perhaps due to some clouds or dust.

The above image was featured on the front page of SpaceWeather.


(March 16, 2014)

UPDATE: Yet another processing, this time also with some extra data from a few minutes earlier:

Mars March14, 2014

And a small animation. The variations between the two images are due to variable seeing conditions and transparency.

Mars March14 small


(March 20, 2014)