Archive for April, 2014

Crater Grimaldi – a different view

Posted in ASTRO on April 20, 2014 by maxpho

After the Mars session resulting in the images from the previous post, I’ve also acquired a few images of a not so often imaged lunar region, depicting craters Grimaldi and Riccioli.

The image was acquired on April 13, 2014 using the C11 at F/20 and the ASI120MM with the IR-pass filter. The mosaic is composed of three images, each a 1800 frame stack. The seeing was rather poor at 3-4/10 due to the low altitude of the Moon above the horizon.


And a second image. This time, I’ve processed the image using the 3D Rendering filter in Photoshop CS2 to correct a bit for the perspective and show the craters as they would be seen from an observer in lunar orbit just above them. When I got to the end result, I was surprised and was thinking that if I would see for the first time this image, I wouldn’t figure it out which craters are presented.


The second image was selected as LPOD for April 20, 2014.


(April 20, 2014)


Mars – April 13th

Posted in ASTRO on April 16, 2014 by maxpho

After too many nights of cloudy skies I’ve finally managed to get some images of the Red Planet. And almost at the maximum approach to Earth.

The seeing conditions were a bit strange, with some fine details visible at times, but with the entire disc of the planet dancing on the laptop’s screen.

Again, missing the Green filter, I had to manage only with the Red and Blue channels. Some very interesting details in the Blue channel, with a lot of clouds activity and a very bright polar cap. This was also evident in the eyepiece at 550x.

Mars April 13, 2014_

And the image with some technical details and the Red and Blue images:

Mars April 13, 2014

Also, a small animation showing the rotation of the planet in the 19 minutes I’ve imaged it:

Mars animation 2

This is my best observation of Mars for this apparition, and hopefully not the last.


(April 16, 2014)

ISS transiting the Moon

Posted in ASTRO on April 9, 2014 by maxpho

After a few mostly cloudy days, I’ve finally got a clear night for some Astrophotography.

But not just any Astrophotography; it just happened that on the night of April 8 the International Space Station (ISS) passed over the Moon not too far away from my home, at a distance of about 40 kilometers.

Together with my wife I drove towards the small town of Daia in the Giurgiu county. We had the precise time of the passing from the Calsky website, so we didn’t hurry too much, since there was plenty of time left. After installing our gear, we’ve looked for a few moments at the Moon at various magnifications and wondered in which of the craters we’ll catch the ISS silhouette.

And eventually the moment arrived: the ISS was rapidly rising from the South-West.

Just a few seconds before it passed over the Moon, we’ve started shooting at around 3fps. Immediately after the ultra-fast pass (~0,6 seconds!), we’ve unmounted our cameras from the instruments and looked at the images to see what we have captured.

My three frames capturing the ISS, with just a bit of processing (some saturation enhancement to reveal a bit of the Moon colors, and some increased brightness and gamma also):

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The above frames were acquired with the TS APO 115mm F/7 Refractor working at F/14 with the aid of a 2x TeleVue Powermate. The camera was my trusty Canon 550D working at ISO400 and 1/800s.

And a small animation:

ISS over Moon animation

The above animation was selected as April 9th 2014 LPOD.

The above three frames were processed into a single final image:

ISS over the Moon

If you still didn’t see the second position of the ISS it’s because I’ve captured it near the southern limb of crater Deslandres (the big lava-flooded crater below the dark straight line near the terminator, which is actually called Rupes Recta or the “Straight Wall” in English):

Bright object

My wife also captured the ISS in three frames using her’s 550D mounted on a SW 90mm Maksutov telescope:

ISS and Moon EliT

Despite the smaller aperture of her scope, the first frame capturing the ISS (lower right ISS position) shows some better structural details compared to my images. She was placed only a couple of meters away from me, so the only reasonable conclusion is that she had a very brief moment of good seeing just a fraction of a second after I’ve shot my first ISS frame. This is just how fast the atmospheric conditions can change.

After a few more minutes I’ve decided to shoot again the Moon, this time to acquire frames for a stack, in order to present the phase of the Moon and it’s colors.

The image below is a stack of 77 frames with the same setup:

Color Moon April 8, 2014

And a Full HD wallpaper version:

Color Moon April 8, 2014_wallpaperl

The images above were also mentioned on the first page of SpaceWeather.

I can’t wait for the next ISS transit to happen…

I just wonder if the weather will cooperate…


(April 9, 2014)

Prin Padurea Comana 29/30 Martie 2014

Posted in Comana on April 8, 2014 by maxpho

O a doua si respectiv a treia iesire in mijlocul Naturii din aceasta primavara, prin Padurea Comana.

Desi in dupa-amaiza zilei de 29 vremea nu a tinut cu noi aproape deloc (doar 11 grade, cu vant, iar Soarele a stat mai mult ascuns), tot am gasit cate o necuvantatoare dornica sa fie fotomodel pentru cateva minute.

Cateva exemplare de Nymphalis polychloros zborau la liziera padurii, uneori incalzindu-se in ultimile raze ale Soarelui pe trunchiurile copacilor. Fotografia de mai jos este un montaj realizat din doua imagini, “subiectii” fiind de fapt un singur exemplar femela ce isi schimba rapid pozitia pe trunchiul de copac.

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Un mic gandac-cu-cioc a fost deranjat de prezenta noastra, si incerca sa ramana nemiscat, in pozitie “de camuflaj”:

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Din pacate cam astea au fost necuvantatoarele pe ziua respectiva, vantul facandu-le pe restul sa dispara in interiorul padurii…

Si Soarele a renuntat sa mai lupte cu frigul, asa ca ne-a trimis si pe noi acasa, nu inainte de a poza in cateva ipostaze…noroase:

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Urmatoarea zi insa, am avut parte de mai multe grade (+15, si fara vant) si de mult mai multi subiecti fotografici.

Incep cu un exemplar femela de Guster (Lacerta viridis) incalzindu-se in plin vaz, fara prea multa frica de fotografii curiosi ce ii urmareau fiecare miscare:

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Si un alt reptilian, ascuns prin iarba, atat de bine camuflat ca, din greseala, era sa calc pe el…

Noroc ca ma mai si uit pe unde calc.

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Multi fluturi de data aceasta, insa nu am reusit prea multe fotografii, si asta pentru ca era ora lor de varf, adica “zbor de voie”.

Polygonia c-album:

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Anthocharis cardamines:

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Si “gandacii-bijuterie” (Fam. Buprestidae) incepusera sa apara pe trunchiurile incalzite de Soare:

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Insa pentru mine (ca intotdeauna primavara), subiectii zilei au fost paienjenii-saritori (salticizi).

Un exemplar ratacit de Heliophanus cupreus:

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Un exemplar femela sp. Evarcha cautandu-si o pozitie cat mai buna la Soare. Imaginea este o compozitie din doua cadre consecutive departate de 3-4 secunde, timp in care exemplarul si-a schimbat pozitia.

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Un alt exemplar al genului Evarcha, de aceasta data un mascul, cu a sa prada “bogata”:

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Si primele exemplare de Asianellus festivus.


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Si femela:

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Cativa dintre subiectii de mai sus au fost imortalizati si de catre sotie intr-un mic montaj video:

“Life on the Grassroots”

Astept cu mare interes urmatoarea “sesiune de fotografie” cu salticizii din Comana…


(8 Aprilie 2014)

M3 – the fireworks globular

Posted in ASTRO on April 4, 2014 by maxpho

The globular star cluster M3 is one of the most striking globulars at the eyepiece for amateur astronomers in the northern hemisphere. It’s quite similar to M13, and it’s also a very interesting object to photograph. Especially for longer periods of time; the main reason for this is the great abundance of variable stars inside the cluster. A great number of these variable stars are of the type RR Lyrae.

This variation in magnitude was the main goal for a 3 hour long imaging session on the night of March 25, on a suburban sky, together with a friend of mine, Bogdan. While he was imaging some other deep-sky objects, I was acquiring hundreds of frames with M3.

The final result is made up by stacking 550 frames, each a 15 second exposure. They were acquired using the 4.5″ F/7 APO Refractor and the ASI120MM camera without any filter.

So, the result of 2.3 hours of total exposure, showing some galaxies with magnitudes close to +18 (!):

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And a larger version:

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And now the truly interesting result: one of the animations showing the variation of some RR Lyrae stars. The sequence was put together from stacks of 50-70 frames in the order of acquisition, after which these stacks were again inserted into the animation but in reverse order. The final result shows a much smoother change in brightness of the stars compared to a single ascending sequence.

M3 wide animation

And a close-up of the central region of M3, showing some variable stars close to it’s inner regions. This time it’s a three-image sequence, arranged in both ascending and descending order.

M3 core animation

Both of the above animations span a 2.5 hours period, much smaller compared to the full cycle of each of the variable stars, but we can still see rather well the increase and decrease in magnitude.

This can be a nice one-night (or even a two-night) project for this Spring: to gather much more images of this “fireworks-globular” on a much longer period, so I can better observe the rapid variation of these distance beacons.


(April 4, 2014)

One more Jupiter…

Posted in ASTRO on April 3, 2014 by maxpho

Another try at the Giant of our Solar System. It’s been a while since I’ve imaged Jupiter, mostly due to bad seeing conditions.

The present result was not acquired in good conditions either, but they were a bit better compared to so many other sessions I had this opposition.

Jupiter March 30, 2014

Hopefully I will eventually have some truly “good” seeing moments before Jupiter gets both smaller and to low in the West.


(April 3, 2014)

Sirius B

Posted in ASTRO on April 1, 2014 by maxpho

Sirius is the brightest star above us in the night sky. And it has a companion known by astronomers as Sirius B.

Since Sirius A (the main component) is part of the constellation Canis Major (the Great Dog) it was only natural to give it’s name “the Dog Star”. And since it’s companion is much fainter, the nickname for Sirius B is “the Pup”.

Well, there are many double stars in the heavens, so this pair shouldn’t be so special, but…it is. Besides the history, it is one of the toughest pairs to observe through a telescope, mainly due to the great difference in brightness of the components. But things have started to change in recent years, since the Pup is apparently moving away from it’s bigger companion, and that means that it becomes easier to observe in amateur telescopes. The separation variation between the two components is shown here.

Unfortunately, the negative declination means for my location that the Dog Star never rises to high in the sky. That being said, to properly observe component B of the system one must have some rather good seeing conditions.

Conditions which I just had on the evening of March 30, when, after a few weeks of planning, and one failed test with the 4.5″ APO Refractor (due to bad seeing mostly) I’ve finally motivated myself to get out with the C11 SCT.

This is what eventually resulted:

Sirius B

The strange shape of Sirius is due to atmospheric dispersion, which at the focal length of 2800mm is very well observable (unfortunately).

The “Pup” is easily seen at the 12 o’clock position.

Of course I had to confirm initially if what I was observing on the laptop screen was indeed Sirius B, so I’ve made a few experiments, including rotating the camera, using different filters and comparing the position and distance from the main component with the Rigel double system.

Sirius B observation

Well, maybe I shouldn’t have made so many tests, since component B was actually visible directly on the live recording window, as can be seen in this short movie. (Please watch the video at the highest resolution, since only then the small white dwarf will be observable).

Hopefully I will also get a chance of imaging Sirius B with the 4.5″ APO also. Soon I hope…


(April 1, 2014)