Flintstone Stargazing

April 19, 2012

Mars on 4/19/12

Filed under: astronomy, Astrophotography, Mars, Observation Journal, Planets — Ed @ 10:34 pm

Mars is shrinking quickly in the telescope, but I was still able to make out some detail and the camera was able to capture it. It’s about half the size it was a month ago.

March 25, 2012

Mars on 3/25/12

Filed under: astronomy, Astrophotography, Mars, Observation Journal, Planets — Ed @ 10:45 pm

I’m not willing to stay up until past 2 to try to image the recent Mars “anomaly”. (Which is probably just a high altitude storm) I did take this quick shot this evening, though.

March 9, 2012

Mars on 3/9/12

Filed under: astronomy, Astrophotography, Mars, Observation Journal, Planets — Ed @ 11:37 pm

Tonight was pretty nice for viewing and I was able to get a decent shot of Mars once it rose significantly above my roof. While not quite as clear as Monday’s image, I think this still shows off the red planet pretty nicely.

March 5, 2012

Mars on 3/5/12

Filed under: astronomy, Mars, Observation Journal, Planets — Ed @ 11:50 pm
Mars on 3/5/12
Mars on 3/5/12

Tonight was chilly but clear and once Mars rose above my house and moved away from the heat shimmers near the roof, it was possible to get it in very precise focus. I was able to visually see most of the details evident in this image (the polar cap, the dark regions and the clouds as well) in the eyepiece and they came through on the camera as well.

March 4, 2012

Mars at Opposition on 3/4/12

Filed under: astronomy, Astrophotography, Mars, Observation Journal, Planets — Ed @ 4:32 am

I got up early (3:15) to capture Mars at its largest for the year. It was reasonably clear, but windy and a fair amount of haze, but I got a decent image anyway. I hope to have a really good night for viewing soon – I’d like to get a really good image.

February 27, 2012

Mars on 2/26/12

Filed under: astronomy, Astrophotography, Mars, Observation Journal, Planets — Ed @ 12:27 am

Unfortunately, by the time Mars rose above my house, it was starting to get cloudy, but I still was able to make out surface features and the polar ice cap on the bottom of the planet.

January 16, 2010

Mars on 1/15/10

Filed under: astronomy, Astrophotography, Mars, Observation Journal, Planets — Ed @ 2:12 am

It’s been so cold, I haven’t been out at all this year yet. It has finally warmed up a bit (high 30′s) and so I went out tonight in spite of the light, but growing, clouds. Mars did not disappoint! Through my Maksutov-Cassegrain scope, with my 5X Barlow, I could clearly see the polar cap and a bit of detail on the planet. The camera could pick up even more as you can see. Mars right now is approaching it’s largest size for the next 2 years at the end of this month – it’s definitely getting bigger and I hope to get more images as it gets closer.

July 15, 2008

Night of the Planets


Jupiter (Io transit, GRS) on 7/14/08

This evening, which was very clear but had the Moon bright in the sky, I decided to start my imaging by focusing on the planets. Saturn and Mars, which are quite close in the sky, are getting lower on the horizon and harder to see. Soon, they’ll be in the Sun’s glare and I won’t be able to see them for a while. Meanwhile, Jupiter is rising early enough to be seen regularly, shining very brightly in the southern sky.

While I started with Saturn, Mars and the Moon, it’s the shot of Jupiter that is my favorite tonight. This is the first time I’ve captured the Great Red Spot (GRS). I’ve shot several images of Jupiter, but have never had the good fortune to be imaging while the spot is visible until tonight. it’s visible in the lower right quarter of the planet. The next thing that’s neat is that if you look very closely, Io is transiting the planet in the upper left – it’s just barely in front of the planet. The moons to the right were added in from a longer exposure – Gannymede is the brighter one and Europa is on the far edge of the image. I’m really happy with this image.

My image of Saturn didn’t turn out too well. I don’t think that it was quite in focus.

Saturn on 7/14/08
Saturn on 7/14/08

Mars is just really a red spot in the sky now. It’s quite far away and at least with my scope, there’s no detail visble. It will be about 8 or 9 months before I’ll be able to start seeing some detail on Mars again.

Mars on 7/14/08
Mars on 7/14/08

Next, I shot one of my favorite sights on the Moon, Sinus Iridum – The Bay of Rainbows.

Sinus Iridum-Bay of Rainbows on 7/14/08
Sinus Iridum-Bay of Rainbows on 7/14/08

I rounded out the night capturing an additional 6 more Messier Objects, which bring me closer to my goal of completing the entire Messier catalog.

April 21, 2008

Mars in Gemini

Filed under: astronomy, Astrophotography, Mars, Observation Journal, Planets — Tags: , , — Ed @ 10:15 pm


Mars in Gemini on 4/21/08 (labelled)

Tonight, I decided to do a bit of wide-field astrophotography. I attached the D50 camera piggyback on my SN-8 telescope. This way, I could take some longer, wide-field exposures without star trails. I took several of these, but just had time to process this one – Mars in the constellation Gemini. The image above is the labelled version – I also uploaded the file without the lines/text for comparison. The full versions of these are quite large, but you can see more detail there. Here it is:

Mars in Gemini on 4/21/08
Mars in Gemini on 4/21/08

I’ll try to get the others up tomorrow evening, if I can get a bit of time to work on them.

January 27, 2008

The Great Orion Nebula Shootout

Filed under: astronomy, Astrophotography, Equipment, Mars, Messier Objects, Observation Journal — Tags: , , , — Ed @ 11:52 pm

Tonight was beautiful – the Moon was not going to rise until late, and it was clear and about 40°F outside. All in all, really good conditions for me. I decided that tonight I would test out my new (cheapo) 70mm refractor that I blogged about the other day. I’d done some work on my mount, so I was hoping to also see if that had worked as well as I’d hoped and I’d be able to take some long exposures.

I set up the way I normally do, leveling the scope, using the polar scope to align the mount on Polaris and then running the alignment procedure with the Autostar software. I again got the magic, “You are less than 5′ from the pole” message so my alignment was very good. I then took a good amount of time to view some different targets comparing the views in each scope. I had a look at Mars, M42-The Great Orion Nebula, The Double Cluster and all looked really, really good in both scopes. I actually started to wonder how much better my 8″ scope was so I resolved to find out. I first hooked up my DSI II camera to the 70mm refractor and aimed at the Orion Nebula. Because I was using the diagonal on the scope, the image was originally a mirror image so I fixed it in the software afterward, but that’s why the image from that scope is not oriented the same way as my other one. Here’s the result:


M42/M43-The Great Orion Nebula on 1/27/08
Taken with my 70mm refractor

This is a combination of 18 15 second images plus 10 60(!) second images. The 60 second images were spot on – no movement that I could tell. It makes me want to try some 2-3 minute exposures on some of the fainter targets – I can’t wait. Overall, it did what I believe is a very creditable job on the nebula. My only complaint (and this is a known issue with achromatic refractors) is that there is a bit of a purple halo around the brightest stars.

I next took the exact same series of images through my 8″ Schmidt-Newtonian. Here’s the image I got:

M42/M43-The Great Orion Nebula (8
M42/M43-The Great Orion Nebula on 1/27/08
Taken with my 8″ Schmidt-Newtonian

Because the focal length is longer (812mm vs 700mm 600mm), the magnification is higher on the 8″ scope than on the 70mm refractor. (Magnification is calculated by dividing the focal length by the eyepiece size. The eyepiece of the DSI II is aproximately 8mm so the magnification for the refractor would be approximately 87.5X 75X and the 8″ scope would be 101.5X) That’s why it appears more zoomed in. It also is much, MUCH brighter – there’s quite a bit more detail. So I guess that answers the question as to whether they actually show the same amount of detail. The 8″ is clearly much brighter and more powerful. I am really anxious to try the refractor on the Moon however, the larger field of view means I may be able to get the entire moon in one shot and refractors are known for providing better contrast/clarity on planets and lunar views. I also took images of Mars with both scopes that I’m processing now. I’ll probably upload those tomorrow.

Overall, a really great night. I truly enjoyed the visual observation I did tonight – both scopes performed admirably and it was nice to be reminded of how much fun visual observation can be. I also was pleasently surpised at the results of my tests. I think I’ve got a great setup to capture a number of different types of images in the future.

Update: Here’s the Mars image from the refractor. Wow. Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell until I procesed it, but the image I got from the 8″ was slightly out of focus.

Mars on 1/27/08
Mars on 1/27/08
Taken with my 70mm refractor

This image was taken using not only the 70mm refractor, but the web cam that came with it. I paid $25 total for both (and a terrible tripod and eyepieces, which I didn’t need). What a deal.

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