Posts tagged 'Saturn'

Observing Report 8th-9th April 2011 Part 2 (Saturn and globs)

Posted by on April 15th 2011 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports, Pics

Well, we waited a while fer darkness t' fall an' fer Saturn t' become visible. The sharks'll eat well tonight! I trained the scope on it only t' find it hidin' behind the topmost leaves o' a bush. We waited a while longer an' then found that it 'ad gone behind a tree. More waitin' ensued afore it cleared all o' the obstructions, an' then the guests all got a view o' it through the eyepiece, wi' a chest full o' booty. After they were all suitably impressed by the planet an' by the few Saturnian moons that were visible, I swapped the eyepiece fer the camera an' we all watched it on the laptop fer a while. As an added bonus them there nae glued t' the screen got t' see the ISS pass overhead.

Visit o'er an' goodbyes said, I went back t' pack away. Ye'll be sleepin' wi' the fishes! Trouble were bein', the sky were bein' incredibly clear an' the seein' were bein' much better than usual, pass the grog! It were bein' too good an opportunity t' miss...

Before long I'd got the 1000D set up on the 6" R-C an' the DMK were bein' back on the guide-scope, pass the grog, I'll warrant ye! A fair few globular clusters were visible unaided so I took a few runs o' images an' did some visual observin' o'er the next few hours. Intermittent high wispy clouds spoiled a lot o' the data but I ended up wi' a few reasonable frames fer stackin'. Fire the cannons! An' swab the deck! At the end o' the session I were bein' fair knackered as I'd spent nearly 12 hours either behind the scope or in front o' the lappy, but it were bein' worth it.

 

 

M3 (aka NGC 5272), a globular cluster in the constellation Canes Venatici.
Subs: 11 light @ 300s, darks an' bias frames, ISO400.
1000D on the 6" R-C wi' 2x PowerMate, guided wi' PHD.

 

 

M5 (aka NGC 5904), a globular cluster in the constellation Serpens.
Subs: 14 light @ 300s, darks an' bias frames, ISO800.
1000D on the 6" R-C wi' 2x PowerMate, guided wi' PHD.

 

 

M92 (aka NGC 6341), a globular cluster in the constellation Hercules.
Subs: 11 light @ 300s, darks an' bias frames, ISO400.
1000D on the 6" R-C wi' 2x PowerMate, guided wi' PHD.

Observing Report 3rd-4th April 2011 (Saturn in opposition)

Posted by on April 6th 2011 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports, Pics

Once a year the Earth passes almost exactly betwixt the Sun an' Saturn, at this time Saturn be said t' be in opposition (Saturn an' the Sun be directly opposite each other relative t' an Earth-bound observer). With the Earth bein' "piggy in the middle", it stands t' reason that at that time Saturn will be illuminated almost exactly face-on from behind the Earth, an' this causes an interestin' phenomenon, The Seeliger Effect. This be an apparent relative brightenin' o' Saturn's rin's due t' the fact that we dern't see so many shadows betwixt the rin's an' betwixt the ring particles.

This year's opposition occurred at 01:00 BST (00:00 UTC) on the 4th o' April. I managed t' get several imagin' runs o' it durin' the period one hour either side o' the actual opposition, typically at the exact time there were clouds in the way so time-wise the closest I could manage were bein' at about 00:10 BST:

 

Saturn in opposition
8" Newtonian, SPC900NC webcam, eyepiece-projection.
300/5400 frames stacked wi' RegiStax6, post-processin' wi' PSCS3

Observing Report 8th-9th January 2011 (Venus & Saturn)

Posted by on January 15th 2011 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports, Pics
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Nearly caught up!

It weren't the clearest o' nights, but it were bein' the first half-decent chance fer o'er a month so I took it.

The first half o' the session were bein' spent settin' up the scope an' mount an' then gettin' good polar-alignment. It's always a good notion t' do proper checks after either maintenance or extremes o' weather - 'tis surprisin' how much the ground heaves when 'tis gone through long freeze/thaw cycles, an' it does affect the position o' the mount's pier. Settin'-up also included re-registerin' the reference stars so that the thing can work out where 'tis pointin' (an' can then work out where t' find other stuff)... a time-consumin' job if done t' a fair degree o' accuracy.

The second half were bein' given o'er t' visual observation an' planetary imagin', on a dead man's chest! While waitin' fer Saturn t' rise t' an acceptable declination, I got the camera set up an' 'ad a few practice-sessions focusin' on double-stars an' then I sat back watchin' fer meteors. Yaaarrrrr! An' swab the deck! When Saturn were bein' in sight I found that I'd picked a night when the huge "Dragon Storm" were bein' visible, so I grabbed some footage o' it fer processin' later. After that I went o'er t' visual fer an hour or so while waitin' fer the next target, Venus, t' gain some height in the pre-dawn sky, an' a bottle o' rum! Eventually the bright crescent o' Venus climbed far enough t' be nabbed by the CCD. After that I should have packed away but I couldn't resist the temptation t' wait an' see if I'd be able t' image Mercury too. I could see it through the binoculars, peekin' through the branches o' a tree, but as I waited fer it t' clear the obstruction the sky became too bright t' catch the planet on camera. Better luck next time, maybe?

Anyway, here be the results:

 

Saturn wi' storm

 

 Venus

Observing Report 29th-30th January 2010 (Mars just after Opposition)

Posted by on January 31st 2010 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports

The original plan were bein' t' observe Mars on the 27th, the night o' its closest approach t' Earth (the closest approach distance were bein' 0.664 AU (99.33 million km), givin' Mars an apparent diameter o' 14.105") but the skies were cloudy so the deal were bein' off. Instead, I 'ad t' be content wi' observin' just after opposition on the 29th when the skies were nice an' clear, the reflected light-pollution were bein' minimal an' the seein' were bein' good. The only downside were bein' that the Moon were bein' almost full an' visually quite close t' Mars, so the sky weren't as dark as usual. It were bein' damned cold here, but I weren't about t' let the fallin' temperatures get in the way o' seein' Mars at such close quarters.

Before openin' the obsy roof I 'ad t' put the fan-heater on fer a few minutes t' warm up the mount as it 'ad been iced-up fer a couple o' days an' it doesn't like startin' in the cold (ice in the gears isn't a good thing). After that it were bein' a doddle, except fer the frost that formed on everythin' unheated. The scope were bein' soon pointin' at Mars an' I cranked-up the new camera.

This time I were bein' tryin' somethin' different - usin' RGB filters an' a mono camera. This meant grabbin' filtered avi data-runs fer each o' the three colour-channels an' another fer the luminance-channel... all within a four(ish)-minute period so as t' minimise any image-blurrin' due t' Mars' rotation. After a few failed attempts I managed t' get the suss on it, an' after that the data-sets were quite easy t' get, if a tad rushed.

Soon it were bein' time t' move on, an' a bucket o' chum. I 'ad a good look at the Moon but di'nae think it merited any camera-work, as the surface-contrast were bein' low due t' the face-on illumination. Still, it were bein' fun tryin' t' find the Apollo landin' areas. Next time out I might try fer some images o' 'em, just fer the hell o' it.

After an hour indoors t' warm up, I went back out an' slewed the scope around t' Saturn. This time the rin's were more open so I grabbed some filtered avi data, but yet again it di'nae turn out well due t' the planet bein' so low above the horizon. I'll likely process the data anyway, but if they're crap I'll just bin 'em.

After another hour or so o' watchin' Saturn the temperature 'ad fallen t' -7C. The mount were bein' strugglin', no doubt due t' the cold thickenin' the grease inside, so I ended the session, closed the obsy roof an' put the fan-heater back on t' get rid o' the ice.

Anyway, this be the result:

 

 

Not bad fer me first attempt at this method, eh?

Again, ye'll have t' wait fer me t' find time t' process the Saturn data.

Observing Report 10th-11th December 2009 (Frosty Mars)

Posted by on December 13th 2009 in Astrostuff, My vids, Observing Reports
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The weather here on Thursday evenin' were bein' a bit odd - periods o' thick fog alternatin' wi' cold clear spells. I got the scope set up early an' while waitin' fer the longer clear bits I used the odd short bits o' good visibility t' get good focus an' trackin'. Oh, an' t' fight the battle against condensation on the kit.

Some time after midnight the fog lifted an' everythin' were bein' clear an' still, nae a breath o' wind an' the seein' were bein' brilliant. All o' the condensation froze within minutes. Undeterred by the layer o' ice on the kit, I 'ad a good look at Mars afore nabbin' some webcam footage o' it. Visually, I'd ne'er seen it so good - the polar cap were bein' really bright an' the planet were bein' almost motionless, unlike the previous Mars session when the thing were bein' movin' around like a demented Morris Dancer. I spent a good hour or so just studyin' the surface detail, somethin' I've ne'er been able t' do afore. Aarrr! Shiver me timbers! Here be some o' that webcam footage after selectin' a 256x256px region o' interest around the planet:

 

 

Soon it were bein' time t' move on. Prepare t' be boarded! Aarrr! I changed the eyepiece setup an' this caused some meltin' o' the ice on the kit. Figurin' that it would be best t' let the temperature settle down a bit I nipped in fer a cuppa an' then sat outside fer twenty minutes watchin' a fair few meteors blazin' across from East t' West - they were mostly Geminids but there were a few others up there, ye scurvey dog. I did contemplate settin' up the D50 wi' the 35mm prime in order t' get some images, but the camera were bein' by now well-frozen an' I weren't goin' t' risk trashin' the mechanics inside the spyglass.

When all were bein' settled I slewed the scope around t' Saturn, which 'ad risen t' a reasonable height above the horizon. It looked a bit dimmer than I've seen it afore but I could still see the rin's, nae far past bein' edge-on. Yaaarrrrr! Stow that bilge, Bos'n! A couple o' dim moons were visible but nae much else, ye scurvey dog. I grabbed a fair few avis wi' the webcam but they di'nae look much good.

After another half-hour o' visual, watchin' Saturn an' some more meteors, the fog returned. This time it were bein' thick, freezin', an' obviously here t' stay. Fire the cannons! Ahoy! I ended the session an' closed the obsy roof. The next hour were bein' spent moppin' up meltwater from the kit an' from the underside o' the roof. I returned t' the house at 06:00 vowin' t' get a cheap dehumidifier in the post-Christmas sales.

Anyway, I did some preliminary processin' o' the Mars data an' sent the etchins t' a learned matey. The ornery cuss's confident that he be identified the surface features correctly, an' pointed out the tiny clouds in the vicinity o' Olympus Mons. The ornery cuss also reckons that the colours be fine, but I'm nae so sure:

 

 

Again, ye'll have t' wait fer me t' find time t' process the Saturn data.

I'll finish wi' a reminder - dern't forget that Geminid meteor shower.

Observing Report 21st-22nd November 2009 (Mars at short notice)

Posted by on November 24th 2009 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports
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Saturday evenin' were bein' forecast t' be cloudy an' wet, an' I were bein' resigned t' an evenin' o' avoidin' Strictly, Casualty an' the rest o' the Beeb's prime-time twaddle, but the forecasters got it wrong - just fer a change there were bein' more gap than cloud, I'll warrant ye. I grabbed me chance an' cranked-up the obsy.

At such short notice I'd nae 'ad much time t' think ahead, so, as the Newt's coolin'-fan purred away, I sat back an' looked up fer inspiration. Risin' in the East were bein' Mars, an' just fer once it looked fairly bright. Target acquired!

After the scope 'ad been cooled an' the collimation checked I slewed it around t' Mars an' set about tryin' t' get a decent focus - nae easy, as the scope were bein' dancin' around in the wind, sendin' the image dancin' all o'er the webcam chip. After a quarter o' an hour o' this malarkey I were bein' happy wi' the focus an' set about grabbin' some .avi data. While this were bein' goin' on I were bein' on the lookout fer Alpha-Monocerotid meteors - a minor shower that peaked on the 21st. I managed t' spot a couple o' 'em an' a few sporadics as well, but di'nae have the dSLR set up so there be no etchins. 

Most o' the webcam runs 'ad some blurrin' an' fadin' due t' clouds an' hence got consigned t' the Recycle Bin, but some were OK. By about 03:00 a full cover o' cloud 'ad rolled in an' spoiled the show so I closed the roof, 'ad a cuppa an' started processin' the data. I figured that the night 'ad finished so I moored the scope an' packed away.

Leavin' the obsy at 04:00 I looked up again an' all were bein' clear, so I did a smart about-face an' went back in. Yo Ho Ho, an' a bottle o' rum! Half an hour later I were bein' set up again an' lookin' at Saturn fer the first time in ages. Prepare t' be boarded! I grabbed a few .avis afore the clouds spoiled thin's again, an' this time there were bein' some drizzle so the session were bein' definitely finished.

After a couple o' hours o' kip I finished processin' the Mars data, endin' up wi' some rubbish an' a few decent images. From these I've made a composite image just t' see if there be any noticeable differences due t' processin' or planetary rotation. For an explanation o' what's what, see the text below the etchin':

 

Upper images from a 7200-frame avi taken at 02:08 - left: best 10% o' frames stacked, right: best 90% o' frames stacked.
Lower images from
a 7200-frame avi taken at 02:20 - left: best 10% o' frames stacked, right: best 90% o' frames stacked.

Damned if I can tell any difference betwixt 'em!


I'm quite pleased wi' this - 'tis by far the best Mars image-set that I've done t' date, nae bad fer a cheapo webcam. I'm inspired t' get some better data later this month when Mars be a lot higher in the sky.

As fer the Saturn data, I've nae yet found time t' process it properly. The sharks'll eat well tonight! Prepare t' be boarded! First impressions be that the data's nae worth the effort, but I might be tempted t' have a whack at it. An' hoist the mains'l! If I get anythin' worthwhile, I'll let ye know.

 

And now fer the rest o' the astronews...

Followers o' this blog will know that I'm a keen meteor observer, an' they may be wonderin' why there be no observin' reports here about the recent showers. Well, the weather's the main culprit...

The Orionid shower  peaked on the 21st o' October. I managed a short visual session durin' the precedin' evenin' when all were bein' clear fer an hour or so, an' managed t' spot four Orionids, but the main night were bein' clouded out. Typically it were bein' much clearer the night after too, but I were bein' too busy t' get out. Aarrr! It were bein' a similar story wi' the Leonid shower on the 17th o' November - clear the night afore when I spotted about ten Leonids, an' then cloudy an' rainy fer the main night an' fer the rest o' the week.

Let's hope fer a break in the weather around the 14th o' December fer the Geminid shower, which be always a good display.

Ringing the changes

Posted by on January 20th 2009 in Astrostuff
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It's almost that time o' year when Saturn climbs t' an observable height above the south-eastern skyline. In preparation fer the ensuin' observin' an' imagin' sessions, I've been gettin' in some image-processin' practice, usin' more-involved techniques on some o' the .avi data acquired last year. I've taken the same data used t' make the image posted on 4th April 2008 an' pushed/pulled it through a different set o' processin' routines, endin' up wi' this, which I reckon be a significant improvement:

 

 

In theory I should be able t' capture higher-quality data this year, due t' improvements t' almost all o' the various bits o' kit used in the data-acquisition stage, so I expect t' be able t' produce even better etchins... weather permittin'.

Saturn reprocessed

Posted by on April 6th 2008 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports, Pics
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As promised in me previous Observin' Report, here be the final version o' the Saturn etchin' that I made a few days ago:

 

 

All I've done be neaten up the edges by applyin' a mask, bring up the contrast an' saturation on the face o' the planet by usin' the burn tool, an' desaturate the background. Aye, I know, I've likely overcooked it. I did use a reference picture fer the colours in an attempt t' keep it lookin' real.

Observing Report 3rd-4th April 2008 (standing on the shoulders of giants).

Posted by on April 4th 2008 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports
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Last night I managed t' sneak out fer another attempt at webcammin' Saturn wi' the scope. Yaarrr!! Break out the biscuits 'n weevils! The seein' were bein' much better, but there were bein' a lot o' cloud about which meant that I 'ad t' wait fer gaps in order t' capture data. Prepare t' be boarded! Fetch me spyglass! To get some notion o' the improvement in the seein', here be a 20-second loop from one o' the .avi files, in .swf format:

 

Get the Flash Player t' see this content.

 

These .avi files were taken wi' revised settin's as per the advice o' the folk on the SGL Forum, an' because o' their suggested improvements, this stacked interim image be me best one yet:

 

 

I'll finish it off later, when I've more time t' learn all about the use o' Photoshop layers. Hopefully I can sharpen up the edges an' enhance the surface detail wi'out losin' more than I gain.

I would have taken more etchins an' looked at some other celestial gems, but the temperature dropped an' all the mirrors dewed-up, so I 'ad t' pack away. Never mind, there be plenty o' future t' look forward t'.

Onwards an' upwards!

I'll post the settin's here fer reference:

******** Capture Settin's:03 April 2008 / 22:37:32 ********
Program       :WcCtrl - WebCam Control Utility (V 1.5.46)
Cam Driver    : Philips SPC 900NC PC Camera (0xaf42ab7)
Comment added : a comment
******** Capture Cam Settin's:03/04/2008 22:37:32 ********
Set-Strin'    :
Brightness    : 69%
Contrast      : 51%
Saturation    : 31%
Gamma         : 26%
Color Mode    : 255(0=off)
WhiteBalanceM : 4(0=lamp,1=sun,2=FL,3=manual,4=auto)
WhiteBalRed   : 51%
WhiteBalBlue  : 52%
FPS           : 15
NonSC Exposure: 2(0..10=longest t' shortest - depends on camera)
Gain          : 81%
FlipHorizontal: 0(0=off)
FlipVertical  : 0(0=off)
AutoExposure  : 0(0=off)
AutoAll       : 0(0=off)
-end o' settin'------------------------------------------------

Observing Report 30th-31st March 2008 (Saturn webcammed again)

Posted by on April 1st 2008 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports, Pics
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At about 21:30 the light clouds parted an' the stars were bright against a really dark backdrop, so I took advantage o' this unpredicted opportunity an' set up t' get some more experience o' webcammin' Saturn wi' the scope. As expected, the seein' were bein' rubbish again (too much air-turbulence caused by risin' warm air mixin' wi' the colder stuff higher up), so the images in the acquired .avi files weren't holdin' shape or focus, by Blackbeard's sword. To get some notion o' the seein', here be a 15-second loop from one o' the .avi files, in .swf format:

 

Get the Flash Player t' see this content.

 

 

Anyway, I ended up wi' 9000+ frames t' play wi', pass the grog, wi' a chest full o' booty! I plugged the files into K3CCDTools t' do a quality analysis, then exported the best 10% + about another 100 that the quality sorter ignored t' a folder, manually sorted the best 360 o' these in vdub an' then stacked 'em in Registax, which di'nae crash at all this time! The result's nae brilliant, but 'tis better than previous efforts:

 

 

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