Jun 182016
 

Dwarf planets are always a subject of discussion during Planetarium Night at the Emerald Coast Science Center. It just so happens a couple of them are well placed right now and I was able to image Haumea and Makemake last week before they dipped below my western tree line. The Moon was close to full so there is some background gradient, but it is not too bothersome.

These dwarf planets also carry classifications of trans-Neptunian objects (TNO) and Kuiper belt objects (KBO). By convention, KBOs are named for mythological beings associated with creation and each was named accordingly. Each object is marked by two tick marks near the center of its image.

Haumea (136108) [C:9x300s]

Haumea (136108) [C:9x300s]


Chart generated with Cartes du Ciel

Chart generated with Cartes du Ciel

Haumea is named for the Hawaiian goddess of fertility and childbirth. It is currently in the constellation Bootes. Discovered in December 2004, it is approximately 770 miles in diameter and takes 283 years to orbit the Sun. Variations in the light curve of Haumea shows it is somewhat egg shaped and additional observations in 2005 found two moons orbiting Haumea.
 

Makemake (136472) [C:9x300s]

Makemake (136472) [C:9x300s]


Chart generated with Cartes du Ciel

Chart generated with Cartes du Ciel

Makemake is named for Easter Island’s Rapa Nui culture’s creator of humanity. It is currently in the constellation Coma Berenices and is 52.3 AU (4,860,659,162 mi.) from the Sun putting it just about as distant as it ever gets. This distance also makes it the furthest solar system object that I have ever imaged. Makemake is approximately 888 miles in diameter and takes 309 years to orbit the Sun. In April 2016, there was an announcement that the Hubble space telescope imaged a 100 mile wide moon orbiting Makemake.

 Posted by at 21:33
May 202016
 

NGC 6426 is a small dim globular cluster in the constellation Ophiuchus. It is one of the 150 or so globular clusters that orbit the Milky Way galaxy.

(NGC 6426) [C:60x60s]

(NGC 6426) [C:60x60s]


This image is a stack of sixty 60 second monochrome images.

Chart generated with Cartes du Ciel

Chart generated with Cartes du Ciel


The cluster was discovered by German born English astronomer William Herschel in 1786. It lies an estimated 67,000 Lys from the Sun and above the galactic plane.

 Posted by at 12:07
May 112016
 

Cloud cover on the morning of the 9th prevented me from catching Mercury anywhere near first or second contact during its May 2016 transit. Ultimately, the clouds started to break up about two hours into the transit. I manually started the image capture as holes in the clouds revealed the Sun but once the clouds thinned significantly, I started taking 60 second captures automatically every 5 minutes. Very few of the captures were totally free of clouds, but several had only very thin clouds visibly moving across the field of view. Unfortunately, clouds moved back in during the last 10-15 minutes of the transit preventing any images near third or fourth contact as the planet left the solar disk

This image was taken at 1011(L) just 14 minutes after mid-transit. It is the best 178 frames (20%) of the 60 second capture. The image was taken through my double stacked 60mm Hydrogen-Alpha telescope using a Point Grey Flea 3 machine vision camera.

Mercury in transit.

Mercury in transit.

Mercury is the perfectly round black spot just below and left of the center of the solar disk. Other features visible are filaments (dark streaks) and plages (bright areas).

Typical cloud coverage during the transit.

Typical cloud coverage during the transit.

Last image before the clouds closed in.

Last image before the clouds closed in.

I am still working on additional images with the intent of making a composite showing the movement of Mercury across the Sun.

 Posted by at 00:26
May 092016
 

While doing a dry-run yesterday for today’s Mercury transit I captured several images of the Sun. This image is the sharpest 86 frames of a 60 second video stream.

p_Sun_160033_g3_ap4446

The dark features are filaments and the bright features are plages.

Right now I am processing the imagery from the transit. Watch this space.

 Posted by at 22:20
May 032016
 

Although there was no forecast for clear skies last night, it did clear up late and I got a short chance to try Saturn with the x2 Barlow.
p_Sat_011522
It was obvious that the focus was not close, but I was able to check the full capture process again. I think I had the gain adjusted too high during capture so that will be the focus of the next test. Clouds closed in fairly quickly so I was not able to do any testing other than capture.

 Posted by at 21:50