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Stronge Astrophotography

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May 2003

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

The Solar Eclipse of 31st May 2003 was the first I have ever seen with the naked eye. Unfortunately, I was only able to get pictures with my camera, not the telescope but they turned out quite well. Through the binoculars, I could see clearly a large sunspot on the opposite side to the moon and it was clearly visible throughout the eclipse. I only wish I could have used the scope. I was in the Isle of Man on Saturday and so didn't have scope with me.

Solar Eclipse June 2003

Solar Eclipse June 2003



June 2003

More sunspot images taken on 24th June 2003.

The first pinky image is taken with a Minolta Dimage 7, Scopetronix MaxView 40mm, 12 images @ 1/20 F3.5 ISO100, cropped, stacked in K3CCDTools and processed in Registax.

Sunspots 387 and 391 taken with Minolta Dimage 7

The second image is taken with a TouCam 740 unmodified, 1/1000 shutter, 5fps, gamma at zero, 225 images stacked and processed in Registax. Seeing the laptop screen was difficult so next time we'll get a towel :-)

Sunspots 387 and 391 taken with TouCam Pro

Digicam night
On Tuesday 10th June, the forecast was looking good and I called up John McConnell, EAAS chairman, to see if he was interested in a night's observing at Castle Espie, Comber. I did manage to limit the phone call to under one hour so that left time for the night's observing! John and David Goudy arrived around 2330hrs, around the right time for the sky is just getting dark at this time of year. We packed the 10" SCT and accessories into the car and headed down the road for some observing. First stop was the moon and we got quite a nice image of Sinus Iridium, Plato, the Alpine Valley and the rainbow craters, one of which is called Pythagoras. (The set of 3 craters on the northern end of the terminator.)

Wide field of NW surface of moon Taken by David Goudy at Digicam night

Next stop was some deep sky and while we could just make out the arms of M51, only the core was visible using the Dimage 7 at it's maximum exposure time, and the sky was not really very dark. M57 was better and an acceptable image of the Ring Nebula was produced. This image is the result of a stack of 5 ISO400 30second exposures using K3CCDTools (it can handle megapixel frames). With only 5 stacked images in K3CCDTools, we were able to see stars down to 15th magnitude which is quite pleasing, though image noise is apparent. While the image was unguided, the GOTO on the Meade LX-200 was active which allowed us to get reasonably round stars. Vignetting of the lesser variety is visible with a brightened centre image. Next time I will attempt a flat field image to reduce this problem. The observing finished at 0315hrs when we got a glimpse of Mars that was just visible through the atmosphere. Next time, we will image Mars, as it is currently flying towards us and getting bigger, brighter and more sociable :-)

M57 taken in June John McConnell showing new member, Mark Stronge, how to navigate the night sky

Astro-Day, Saturday 7th June
Below are two images of the sun taken on 7th June at the Astro-Day at Ballyrobert Primary School. Both images were taken using a Minolta Dimage 7, 5 megapixel camera by Mark Stronge. With thanks to Philip Baxter for the use of his 8" SCT Meade LX-90.

Whole sun disk Sunspot 375
Click on picture for larger image

August 2003

First attempt at DSO for Stronge brothers

After the wonderful view of M13, the Hercules Cluster, at the EAAS star party, we just had to have a go at imaging it. This time we knew it would take a lot longer exposure and more sensitive CCD than the Dimage 7 had. We used our Starlight Xpress MX7C CCD camera. This is a very sensitive colour CCD camera specifically designed for astronomical use that can be used in unguided or guide mode as the CCD has a progressive scan. The chip in the camera is a Sony EXview CCD, with 752x582pixels.

With the Meade 10inch LX-200 on the polar mounting, we fine tuned the tracking by adjusting the mount at 15 minute intervals using the built-in "refined polar alignment" of the LX-200. Every time we did this the tracking and GOTO became more accurate to a point where the GOTO is accurate to less than 2 arc-minutes. This means that subjects will be centred in the eyepiece at high magnifications and the CCD can be slotted in without the hassle of fine tuning the subject in the CCD due to the small area covered by the chip.

The photo below is taken using the Meade 10inch LX200, f3.3 focal reducer and the Starlight Xpress MX7C CCD camera. Unfortunately, because of work commitments, there was only time to take 2 exposures, each 60 seconds long. The telescope was unguided so we were relying on the accuracy of the polar alignment to make sure the stars were round and not streaked. The 2 images were stacked and processed in Registax and then levels adjusted in Paint Shop Pro 8.

M13 The Hercules Cluster

EAAS Mars Star Party

At the EAAS Mars Star Party of 27th August 2003, at the Big Collin Picnic Area north of Ballyclare, the sky conditions were excellent. 25 miles north of Belfast really makes a big difference to the sky and M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, was naked eye visible. Mars' closest approach was memorable but the sheer number of Messier objects were a sight to behold. On that night, I had just brought my digital camera with me to have a go at Mars.

The wide field image below was taken with a Minolta Dimage 7, 5 megapixel camera.
Shutter speed 30 seconds
Aperture f2.8
Focal length 28mm

You can see Mars in the constellation of Aquarius and, in the original image you can even pick out Uranus!!!

Mars in the constellation of Aquarius

The image of Mars was taken with a Meade 10inch LX-200 at F10, and a Minolta Dimage 7. 47 individual frames were taken. Because Registax only stacks at resolutions below 1024x1024, all of the images were cropped using Irfanview. Each image was taken at ISO100, f2.8, 1/30 second exposure at maximum zoom on the camera. After cropping, the 47 frames were aligned and stacked using Registax and then processed in Paint Shop Pro 8. The Red channel was separated from the Blue and Green and realigned for a sharper image. Mars only rises to 19 degrees at our latitude so we are fairly happy with this image.


First sightings of Mars

Well, it's been a long time since there has been really good imaging night's as the sky hasn't really got dark but since the start of August we have been looking to the SE for our first sighting of Mars. We have found a new problem while imaging Mars - there is a lot of infrared light coming from Mars and this is making focusing and sharp images a problem. We haven't received our infrared filter as yet so we tried using a Broadband filter instead and this certainly brought out a lot more surface detail. Here is our latest efforts.

The image to the left was taken approximately 18 miles South of Belfast in a very dark site and you can clearly see the benefits with the better contrast in the image.

We reprocessed our Mars avi in the new Registax version 2 beta and we produced a significantly better image. The new Registax can automatically compensate for Red shift and this resulted in a much sharper image.



Taken on the 19th August 2003 at 0104hrs using a Meade LX200 10" at f10 and a Philips TouCam Pro. Image aligned and stacked in Registax v.2 beta and edited in Paint shop Pro 8.

We are currently waiting on an IR Blocking filter which should help with the sharpness of the final image.


Taken on the 20th August 2003 at 0218hrs using a Meade LX200 10" with a 2x barlow giving f20 and a Philips TouCam Pro. Image aligned and stacked in Registax and edited in Paint shop Pro 8. The Red channel was separated from the blue and green channels and then realigned as the red focuses in a different area of the frame.


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If you have any photos or video of the sky at night that you would like shown on the EAAS website please get in touch using the e-mail below:

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