Friday, March 15, 2013

One night of video meteors

    I was mentioning in my previous post that I've also used my video camera during the observations night. 

   A total of 10 meteors were detected, a quite good catch I might add, as the ZHR for a visual observer in the best conditions is only about 2 around this date. From the center of one of the most populated areas in Europe I could detect the same numbers of meteors as a visual observer with perfect conditions at hand, with much higher positional and luminosity accuracy, plus no frozen fingers. 

   I'm impressed and I can't wait to see a Perseid maximum with this kind of setup :) And hopefully with a nice double station setup back at home, in Romania. A little bit of science awaits!

  A short video with these first few meteors; just make sure to spot them all as some are quite faint and fast!

Cassegrain prime focus test

Yesterday I have received and email that looked very interesting: apparently we had anything in place to use our 50 cm Cassegrain also in prime focus. Looking at the weather I had no hope of seeing the CCD camera in prime focus operation anytime soon, but after I saw the comet (which was also hopeless just a few hours before), I stayed at the institute so test the setup.

It's rather easy: one has to remove the secondary mirror from its place and then uncover the corrector lens, fixing the camera into its place. The only problem is that the power cables were too short, but there's really nothing that some duct tape won't fix :D

As soon as I was reaching focus, David Muelheims join me for observations; we did not plan at the time to stay until 7 am the second day!

When we first saw our focusing frames our jaws dropped: the level of intricate detail with an exposure time of 1s was absolutely brilliant!! (we used M42 as a target for focusing)

Our next target was the Horsehead - Flame nebulae area. Unfortunately, as they were already quite low when we started, there was not much time to make a nice color image, so only about 60 minutes of H-alpha data are stacked below. After fiddling a bit with it I got this: 

Can't wait to get a proper color version of it!...

We then took some images for Cone nebula (I'll show that when it's nice and in colour) and we switched to the Leo triplet: M65, M 66 and NGC 3628. With the camera mounted in the Cassegrain focus, to get such an image would of  taken more than 110 hours!! This is the result of only 4 hours of data acquisition plus about two for post processing:

Processing the Leo Triplet image was a nightmare because it's very difficult to get good calibration frames with this telescope; the flats match the images badly. One can only get rid of this by exposing and dithering a lot more than we did. Maybe also observing in only one filter per night might help, I have the impression that the filters don't go back precisely the way they were before changing to some other one. 

   Besides all of this, I've made also some video meteor observations, but about that in another post :)

All images in this post have been taken jointly by me and David; data processing was only my task.

Comet PAN-STARRS (C/2012 L4)

  Finally, after 8 failed attempts to detect this comet, the ninth one brought luck with it!  I've tried during daylight, during sunset, during twilight and always that pesky cloud sat over it. But no more :)

    Initially I thought I lost it, but I was pushing my fingers just a little bit more (it was around -3C and windy), maybe I get lucky. Almost one hour of hunting through clouds later, I saw it! What a great moment! It was definitely much brighter than I expected it to be.

    Here are some pictures and a time lapse video, which is too short because not only my fingers were affected by the cold, unfortunately.... But I promise to have something of higher quality as soon as the weather gets better (which might be never, after all this winter was the cloudiest in 60 German years...)


     .... and the short time lapse can be seen below... 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Moon: close-up

This is my first attempt at taking high resolution images of some celestial object, in this case it was the Moon.  From about 1700 frames, the best 30% were stacked in Registax 6.0 to produce a "high resolution" image of a few craters. The smallest resolved detail is about 3 km large, all this with a rather horrible seeing of 3". I basically had no idea what I was doing with the wavelet filters, they always introduced some very unnatural plastic look for my taste, so I only used them to some moderate effect. 

Unfortunately, although the telescope I'm using is quite large for this kind of stuff (0.5m, f/9), the fact that it lies on the roof of a heated building means that my seeing will very rarely be better than 3" :( But I'll try more, who knows, I might get lucky one day! I'm using a Canon 600D to take the movies, which has the unfortunate side-effect that I have to transform the original MOV files to AVI, therefore loosing a bit more information in the process... 

   I have a couple more movies taken that night awaiting processing, so soon there should be an update to this post :)

Update: 02 March 2013

Two more images came through the processing pipeline, showing the immediate area around the close-up above and another, northern region: