Thursday, May 3, 2018

May 2018

May 23rd 1055 GMT

After a cloudy start, it cleared to show the Sun. I was not sure whether I could make out a solar prominence on the bottom limb or not. I took some full disc shots in hydrogen alpha light. There was some sign of activity in the photo.

May 22nd 2135 GMT

I took a few frames of the Moon with my DSLR at 300mm focal length, ISO 100 and 1/1000 second exposure.

May 21st 2030 GMT

Conditions were not perfect, with lots of moving cloud but it had seemed a long time since  had used my Mak and DSLR to photograph the Moon. I took 38 frames at 1.54m focal length, ISO 100 and 1/100 second exposure.


May 19th 2230 GMT

It was dark but there was a lot o haze scattering the moonlight. I took some light and dark frames of Jupiter with its moons.

May 19th 2125 GMT

The Moon was just about to disappear behind a tree, so I took some full disc shots at 300mm focal length, ISO 100 and 1/500 second exposure.

May 19th 0900 GMT

Again, the Sun was quiet but I managed to find some detail in hydrogen alpha light.

May 18th 0715 GMT

The Sun seemed quiet and I could not see any more detail by tuning the etalon. Unfortunately, I did not capture any decent shots.

May 17th 2035 GMT

I was out and about and knew I would not be home before the Moon set. I took a photo of it with Venus with my phone camera.

May 17th 0830 GMT

I could see some granulation on the Sun in hydrogen alpha light but no features.

May 16th 2150 GMT

I tried to photograph Jupiter with its moons with my DSLR at 300mm focal length, ISO 6400 and 2 seconds exposure. I found that there was lots of haze around Jupiter, so I tried some shorter exposures to see what would happen. I removed some but not all of the haze.


I also tried a few shots of the Beehive (M44) and missed totally but caught a few Cancer stars and thought I might have caught M67.


May 15th 0645 GMT

It was clear but the Sun seemed quiet. I took a few full disc shots.

May 13th 0940 GMT

I could see some granulation on the solar disc in hydrogen alpha light.

May 7th 1440 GMT

I could see some shading near the solar limbs but the Sun was quiet, otherwise.

May 6th 0930 GMT

It was warm and sunny. I did a hydrogen alpha shoot with my DSLR and PST. The sun appeared quiet in the eyepiece but I could see some granulation in the camera viewfinder.

May 5th 2220 GMT

I set up the camera at 70mm focal length, ISO 6400 and 7 seconds exposure and took several frames of Lyra. I took 74 light frames and 18 dark frames.


While waiting, I had a session with the review binoculars. By the end, my arms were nearly dropping off, as they are quite heavy. At least I had a great session. I started off with Jupiter and I used it to adjust focus. The planet showed a small amount of red fringing but it was much more sharp than I had ever seen through binoculars and I could see all four Galilean moons, even though two were very close to the planetary disc. Lyra was about 20 degrees above the horizon. Epsilon  split easily into two stars and so did Delta. Despite the low elevation, I was able to see the Ring Nebula (M57), usually a tough target for binoculars of this size (15x70). I was able to see the Leo Triplet (of galaxies), which contain the spiral galaxies M65 and M66, plus a slightly fainter galaxy whose name I forgot!


This encouraged me to have a go at the Virgo cluster and I identified four fuzzy patches of light that were clearly neither comets nor stars, so must have been galaxies. I was able to pot the globular star clusters M13 and M92 in Hercules and M3 in Canes Venactici. I also saw the galaxy M51 there, plus M81 and M82 in Ursa Major. I tried to find the global star cluster M5 in Serpens but my arms were too tired.


After a short rest, I could not resist the temptation to look at the Beehive Cluster (M44) and Melotte 111, even though I had seen them a few days before. They looked so good, I did not regret a second visit.


I moved the camera to aim for the Beehive cluster but I could not make out in the viewfinder whether I had caught it or not. No I didn't but there were lots of stars east of Cancer.

I caught a meteor a few degrees east of the Beehive.


I changed to 300mm focal length and 2 seconds exposure on Jupiter then took some dark frames.

May 5th 0810 GMT

The Sun was quiet in hydrogen alpha light. While I was tuning my etalon, I saw an aeroplane fly across the solar disc and leave a vapour trail.

May 3rd 0750 GMT

The Sun was quiet but I had a go at photographing it in hydrogen alpha light anyway.

May 2nd 2130 GMT

I missed the Sun because of work. I wanted to snap Leo, as I did not have a good shot of it. I took some photos with my old Konica Minolta at 18mm, ISO 800 and 30 seconds exposure. Unfortunately, I was unable to extract the photos from the camera. 

I then took 2 sets of shots of Leo with my Nikon at 70mm, ISO 6400 and 8 seconds exposure.
While checking the images, I found a sporadic meteor near Regulus. By checking the preceding and following image captures, I knew that it was not a satellite trail.
Now for the first Leo shot.
... and the second.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

April 2018

April 26th 1026 GMT

The Sun looked very quiet in hydrogen alpha light and I took some full disc shots.

April 25th 1440 GMT

Not only was the Sun quiet in hydrogen alpha light but I could not see the sunspot.

April 25th 1115 GMT

I tried my own binoculars on the Sun. Although the images was not too bright, I was still unable to see the sunspot. It also looked to have faded somewhat on the Big Bear images.

April 22nd 2000 GMT

The Moon and Venus were out. I took some full disc shots of the Moon with my Mak and DSLR at 1.54m focal length, ISO 100 and 1/1000 second exposure.

Venus was showing a very small disc, so I wasn’t too optimistic about detecting a phase other than 100%.

April 22nd 1800 GMT

After a cloudy middle of the day, it cleared to show both the Sun and Moon. I checked the Sun through the review binoculars and my solar filters. I came to the conclusion that my filters were letting too much sunlight through and that was why I could not see the sunspot.

The Moon was simply quite superb, at first quarter. It really looked just as impressive as through my 127mm Maksutov. I could make out the southern craters and most of the north. I noticed that the chromatic aberration changed as I moved the binoculars so that the Moon was at different positions in the field of view. However, daylight seemed to suit the Moon, as the chromatic aberration was much less than at night.

April 22nd 0920 GMT

I decided to live up to my e-mail address and photograph the Sun with my Mak and DSLR. I used 1.54m focal length, ISO 100 and 1/1000 second exposure. I could make out the sunspot but further attempts to make it more visible resulted in lots of rings.

I proceeded to take a solar hydrogen alpha shoot straight afterwards. I could see the sunspot in my PST and some granulation.

April 21st 1730 GMT

I checked the Sun in hydrogen alpha light. It looked quiet again.

April 21st 1515 GMT

I checked the Sun in white light with my bins but did not see any sign of the activity that I saw on the SOHO images.

April 20th  2135 GMT

I was late back from work, so did not have time to do much. I took some DSLR shots of the Moon then aimed my DSLR at the head of Draco, with an outside chance of catching a Lyrid meteor or two.

I did not catch any meteors but I did catch Nu Draconi, in the top left of this image.

I caught some other stars in Draco in further exposures.


April 20th 1250  GMT

I checked the Sun in hydrogen alpha light and took some afocal shots with my PST and DSLR. It was quiet again.


I had seen some activity on the SOHO images and it was natural for me to check it out. The review binoculars gave me a great view the Moon, with great contrast. There was some minor chromatic aberration. I had some difficulty getting the solar filters on, as the caps are attached. The view of the Sun was brighter than with my own bins but I did not see any activity. The chromatic aberration was minimal.

April 19th 2110 GMT

I went out again with the review binoculars. I started off with the Beehive (M44), one of my favourite objects. It did not look much different to the view through my own bins but the lack of astigmatism at the edge of the field of view showed the background stars. Next up was Melotte 111 and I saw a satellite pass through it. I started generally browsing around and the review binoculars really showed their capabilities! Melotte 20 showed better than with my bins and I was able to pick out M36, M37 and M38 in Auriga. This was at an unfavourable elevation and with the Moon only a few degrees away. I could also see M35. I picked off Mizar/Alcor and Nu Draconi but no surprises there. What really surprised me was being able to see M65 and M66 in Leo. Seeing M81 and M82 was more difficult, as I had to rest my neck. M13 looked superb, despite the poor elevation and I also saw M3 and M51. I only regret that I had to work the next day, so would not be able to stay up after moonset.

April 19th 1940 GMT

I was tempted to snap the Moon and Venus but had a review to write. First Light Optics had lent me some Helios Stellar II 15x70 binoculars. This was especially interesting, as I had bought their predecessor in 2002. My first impression is that they were much more sturdy by design but heavier, too. The build quality was much better than my existing bins. I first tried them on the Moon and the general impression was favourable and the “earthshine” showed much better than with my bins. The only negative was that there were some yellow-orange colour fringes near the limb on the light side but these were worse in my bins. There was no astigmatism, even at the edge of the field of view, unlike my bins.


To both bins, Venus showed a full disc and the brighter stars were clear and sharp. The Stellar II binoculars picked up many fainter stars in the twilight conditions.

April 19th 0750 GMT

I checked out the Sun in hydrogen alpha light early, as not to miss it. It was still quiet.

April 18th 2015 GMT

It was a day of glorious sunshine. From an astronomical point of view, I missed it due to work but at least I was earning. I was home for a late dinner and caught the Moon and Venus in the evening sky with my DSLR at 70mm focal length. I also took some frames of the Moon at 300mm focal length.

April 16th 0715 GMT

There was some hazy sunshine. I decided to take an early look at the Sun in hydrogen alpha light, as the forecast for later was cloudy. Again, the Sun was quiet.

April 14th 2230 GMT

There was lots of haze. Jupiter was low in the south east but I could not see any moons. I was able to see the Beehive (M44) and Melotte 111 but neither were at their best and I did not fancy my chances of getting even a half-decent photo.

April 14th 1950 GMT

It was clear, with Venus in the west. Unfortunately, I was unable to obtain an image using the Bresser Electronic Eyepiece. I saw the planet through an eyepiece but could not tell it from 100% phase.


April 14th 1540 GMT

The Sun was quiet in hydrogen alpha light but it was great to see it again. I caught only part of the disc, though.

April 5th 0900 GMT

The sky was clear, for a change, so I had a go at photographing the Sun in hydrogen alpha light with my PST and DSLR. Although the Sun was quiet, I also tried quadrant shots.

had some detail on one quadrant shot but I had a little idea I was thinking of.

April 4th 2015 GMT

 I set up my DSLR at ISO 6400 (yes, really this time) and aimed it at the pole star, Polaris. I also used 70mm focal length and 7 seconds’ exposure. Some of the frames were ruined by cloud but, yes, I stacked 80 frames in Deep Sky Stacker and actually used dark frames! I was quite pleased with the result, with the Engagement Ring Asterism showing nicely in the centre.

I did a little bit of bin browsing in the west. I could just about make out M41 in Canis Major. The Orion Great Nebula (M42) showed the classis butterfly shape and the Pleiades (M45) and Hyades showed quite well. Melotte 20 in Perseus showed well but the Double Cluster and M34 were tough. I decided to have a go at the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), possibly for the last time in spring. I was amazed to still see it.

April 3rd 2110 GMT

I aimed the camera at M35 at 70mm focal length, ISO 6400 and 7 seconds’ exposure.
Doh!! I had left the ISO on 100 for M35. I went out to check and it was hazy around Gemini, so I aimed it at Leo’s back, once I had set the ISO to 6400.
I could not stack the M35 shots, nor the shots at Leo's back but one of the second set of shots showed Melotte 111 from a single frame.

I took a photo of Arcturus as a separator between two sets of darks and processed it to reveal a few stars.

On the morning of April 5th, I decided to commit a mortal sin by re-running Deep Sky Stacker without dark frame subtraction. It worked on Melotte 111.

April 1st 0900 GMT

Conditions were not perfect, with a lot of thin cloud around. The Sun appeared featureless in hydrogen alpha light but I took some full disc shots anyway.