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.


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.
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
Apr 302016

The last two nights were the first planetary tests of my ‘new’ Point Grey solar system camera. Up till now I have only used it to image the Sun through the H-Alpha telescope. Thursday night was a shakedown run to make sure all the correct camera drivers and software were installed and to see if I could find a planet sized target with the camera’s small field of view. I did not have any problems and the end-to-end ‘process’ worked fine but the images produced by the camera were very small. It also became very obvious that I really missed focus.

p_Jup_215141_g3_ap14 p_Sat_015834_g3_ap10

So last night I added a x2 Barlow to the mix. It made finding the planet a little more difficult but the image size is now large enough to work with. This image of Jupiter is the best 5,000 frames of a 10,000 frame video capture through the x2 Barlow. The dark spot visible near the right edge of the planet is the shadow cast by the Galilean moon Io. The moon has not left the disk of the planet and as such is in the image but I cannot reliably pick it out. The planet is displayed in the traditional orientation with south at the top. Unfortunately, clouds moved in before Saturn rose above the tree line so I was not able to include it in last night’s test.


This is also the first time I have used Firecapture to record the video stream. Firecapture is free software that supports many machine vision cameras and is a very popular package for solar system imagers.

I consider last night’s test a success and will, for now, use that configuration as my standard for planetary imaging. The next step is to integrate a filter wheel and RGB filters to add color to the images.

 Posted by at 16:05