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Stronge Astrophotography

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March 2004


For Astrophotography On A Budget resources
and links to the software we use, click here


Sucessful Messier Marathon
17/18th March 2004

On 8th March, ourselves (Mark and Nigel Stronge) and John McConnell, EAAS Chairman, setup 3 telescopes and started an evening's viewing and imaging. We had a Meade ETX90 Maksutov, an Orion ED 80mm APO refractor and the Meade LX200 10inch SCT all pointing skywards. Click here for John McConnell's astrophotography using his ETX90.

The high pressure and high humidity were causing a mist and haze to form but at the start of the evening the sky was beautifully deep for suburbia, around Mag5. By the end of the evening, after the Moon rose, the haze was much worse and this brought seeing conditions down to possibly Mag3.5 ???

Our first target of the night was Saturn. We recorded 1000 frames of which Registax selected 690 frames to align and stack. We then processed the image using Linear Wavelet processing which seems to give a greater degree of control for bringing out large and small features on planets. We captured at 10fps, RAW mode, with the gamma set to zero and saturation at maximum.

Raw mode is a new feature that can be accessed by using software to change the camera's behaviour and change the firmware within the camera from it's default settings. The frame compression can be turned off and the in-camera sharpening and debayer-to-RGB processing is turned off. More can be found out about this feature here. Raw mode is for advanced users only.

You'll notice below, that there are 3 of Saturn's moons just visible, though you will need a correctly calibrated monitor to see them. From left to right is Tethys, Dione, and Rhea.

Our next target was Jupiter where we saw a lovely Io transit with Europa off to the right side of Jupiter. For capturing we used 10fps, RAW mode, and captured 6 lengths of 40 seconds which are displayed in the animation, click on the image below for the animation.

In the animation you can see the last 5 minutes of Io transiting Jupiter. As Jupiter reached it's highest point in the sky we imaged again and got the result below. You can see how far Io and Europa have moved in just 2 hours with the Great Red Spot now visible.

Below is another capture of Jupiter using the TouCam in normal mode.

I have just acquired a new telescope. It's an Orion ED 80mm Apochromatic f/7.5 600mm F.L. refractor. It is mounted on a Vixen GP german equatorial mount with dual axis motors driven by WinCTC which gives computer control with Periodic Error Correction and GOTO capability. There is also a dedicated Orion ED Yahoo group that discusses this marvel of a telescope. Mark Stronge

Click here for a slideshow of my custom built Orion and Vixen cases.

The image on the left shows the 10inch Meade LX200 and the Orion ED80mm setup side by side.

First light of the Orion ED 80mm was at the EAAS Beginner's night where I pointed the scope towards the sky for the first time and I was not disappointed. The apochromatic refractor showed it's class when the gibbous moon, Venus, and Saturn were all resolved magnificently with absolutely no colour fringing! Saturn's rings were easily visible and the Cassini division was resolved clearly the whole way round.

On 4th/5th March, I took the opportunity of the clear weather to test out the Orion and Vixen GP mount by capturing the almost full moon. Again, zero colour and excellent detail were the order of the evening.

The image below was taken on 5th March 00:45hrs UT using the Orion ED 80mm, Minolta Dimage 7 camera coupled afocally to a Scopetronix MaxView 40mm eyepiece. Exposure was f2.8, 1/1000 second shutter and ISO100. 12 images were taken and stacked in Registax. I probably could have used a higher f number to give a greater depth of field.

For the first time, I couple the D7 to a Meade 6.4mm eyepiece to give a greater magnification and this meant I could "surf the terminator" and look at the many wonderful craters which were on offer for optimal viewing.

Images of moon below were all using the D7 coupled to a 6.4mm eyepiece, with approximately 12 images each, stacked and processed in Registax.

To the left is the crater, Hevelius, named after Johan Hewelcke (or Hevel) who was a 17th century German Astronomer born in Dantzig, Germany in 1611. Hewel determined the rotation of the Sun by observation of spots in 1645 and also was the discoverer of the solar facules. He was the author of the first detailed map of the Moon in 1647.

Circular formation. Forms a remarkable couple with Cavalerius. Pretty steep slopes supporting Cavalerius to the North Lohrmann to the South and many craterlets to the East and to the West. Few high walls supporting Hevelius H F & B to the West and Hevelius C G & E to the North-East. Very large flat floor supporting Hevelius A to the North. Small central mountain. Contains Rimae Hevelius.

The crater to the right is named after Francesco Grimaldi, a 17 th century italian Astronomer and physicist born in Bologne, Italy in 1618. Grimaldi discovered luminous interferences and the diffraction of the light in 1650 and also authored a map of the Moon used by Riccioli in 1651.

Very dark circular formation resembling to a sea.
Steep slopes supporting many craterlets whose Grimaldi K L M N and P to the South Grimaldi D E and Q to the North-East and Rimae Grimaldi to the South-East. Few high walls ridden by Grimaldi B to the North.
Very large and flat floor filled somber lava. Small relief to the North-East. Craterlets and clear bands.


The crater to the left and in the photo, to the left of the high mountain is called Darwin. Named after Charles R. Darwin, a 19 th century english Naturalist born in Shewsbury, England in 1809. Darwin went on a trip in South America with the 'Beagle' ship from 1831 to 1836. Author of 'About the origin of species by
natural selection way' in 1859 and author of the theory of the transformist evolution of species called 'Darwinism'.

Wrecked circular formation. Pretty steep slopes supporting Darwin B to the West Crüger to the North-East and crushing Lamarck to the South. Few high walls ridden by 3 craters to the South-West. Tormented floor containing the Rimae Darwin. White stains. Hills and lines of crest. Craterlets. Dome with summit craterlet.


The crater to the right is named after Jean-Sylvain Bailly, an 18th century french Scientist and political man born in Paris, France in 1736. Member of the Academy of Sciences in 1763. Author of several histories of the astronomy. Mayor of Paris.

Circular formation little differentiated. The largest of crater shaped formations. Few steep slopes supporting many craters. High walls ridden by Bailly A to the South-East. Extensive and pretty flat floor to the South and tormented to the North. Spangled of craters and craterlets whose Bailly B to the South Bailly D & C to the North-West and Bailly F & I to the center. Hills.

February 2004


Jupiter and Saturn again

We are finding it more difficult to improve on our best images of Saturn and Jupiter but I think the images below are still in the running, so to speak. This is certainly one of our best images of Jupiter which is well placed in the sky for evening viewing. Both images taken on 17th February using a Meade LX200 10inch SCT with a 2x Meade APO Barlow. Captured with an unmodified TouCam Pro in K3CCDTools, processing in Registax with final colour correction and gamma adjustment in Paint Shop Pro.

Moon Halo

Have you ever seen a halo around the Moon? On 5/6th February this fairly common sight was visible in Northern Ireland. It occurs when high thin clouds containing millions of tiny ice crystals cover much of the sky. Each ice crystal acts like a miniature lens. Because most of the crystals have a similar elongated hexagonal shape, light entering one crystal face and exiting through the opposing face refracts 22 degrees, which corresponds to the radius of the Moon Halo. A similar Sun Halo may be visible during the day.

The weather, as you can see below, has not been favourable for the past few weeks as the winter weather takes grip on the UK. This spectacular event below was captured in the run up to a storm coming in. I photographed a correctly exposed moon at 28mm, ISO100, f2.8 and 1/500second shutter speed. For the Moon Halo, I lengthened the exposure to 10 seconds. The actual size of the moon can be seen in the right image where I have overlaid the correctly exposed negative image.


January 2004


I took the image to the left showing the Earth shine on the dark surface of the moon along with the spectacularly bright Venus on 24th January 2004 at 1905hrs. Equipment was just my Minolta Dimage 7 and a camera tripod. To the right is Venus and the Moon during the day.




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