Monthly Archives February 2013

Looking Back in Time 85 Million Years

NGC 3395 3396 3340 3424 3414

NGC 3395 3396 3340 3424 3414

The Universe, space, and time, is a difficult concept to comprehend due to its vast and infinite size.  That is why the Lightyear was created, which is the distance that light travels in 1 year or just under 6 trillion miles (5,878,625 million miles).  The “year” contains measurements of both time and distance, where time is calculated on the Julian scale, where 1 year is equal to 365.25 days.  Because light takes time to travel from one place to another, we can therefore look farther back through time through telescopes.  We see objects not as they are now but as they were at the time when they released the light that has traveled across the universe to Earth.  That is what fascinates me about Astronomy and why I started the hobby of Astrophotography.

Take the image above, for example.  We are looking at the NGC 3395 and 3396 galaxies as they were 85 million years ago because the distance that these objects are in space are 85 Million Lightyears from Earth.  So what was happening on Earth 85 million years ago?  Earth was in the Cretaceous Period, defined by following characteristics:

Earth 145 to 66 Million Years Ago

“Flowering plants proliferate, along with new types of insects. More modern teleost fish begin to appear. Ammonoidea, belemnites, rudistbivalves, echinoids and sponges all common. Many new types of dinosaurs (e.g...

Read More >

Video of Meteorite Exploding Over Russia Earlier Today

embedded by Embedded Video

YouTube Direkt

A meteor exploded over Russia’s central Ural Mountains earlier today, February 15, 2013.  A large fireball can be seen blazing across the sky with a brilliant flash of light and a sonic boom.

According to Reuter’s

“People heading to work in Chelyabinsk heard what sounded like an explosion, saw a bright light and then felt a shockwave according to a Reuters correspondent in the industrial city 1,500 km (950 miles) east of Moscow.”

“A fireball blazed across the horizon, leaving a long white trail in its wake which could be seen as far as 200 km (125 miles) away in Yekaterinburg. Car alarms went off, windows shattered and mobile phone networks were interrupted.”

You can see a large streak and fireball sailing over the sky in the video posted by BBC Europe

Update: Here are some photos this historic event

Read More >

A Lesson in Field of View and Apparent Size of Deep Sky Objects

It was another crystal clear night on February 10th so I decided to do some deep sky imaging.  I really did not know what to shoot that night so I turned to the hand controller on my Celestron CG-5 GOTO mount and I started slewing to various objects in hopes I could find an unobstructed patch of sky.  After spending 30 minutes trying to find something to image, I slewed my telescope to  NGC 3395 and 3396, a pair of interacting galaxies in the constellation Leo minor.  After focusing the image, I programmed the number of exposures in in the Luminance, Red, Green, and Blue (LRGB) filters and I 2 hours and 26 minutes later, I began processing 34 sub exposures.  In my mind, I was thinking that the pair of galaxies I was shooting would fill quite a bit of the frame I was shooting.  To my surprise, after successfully processing the image, I noticed that the pair of galaxies was quite small.  After getting over the initial shock, I started to look closer at the image.  Not only did I capture NGC 3395 and 3396 but also NGC 3340, 3424, and 3413 showed up in the image as well.

NGC 3395 3396 3340 3424 3414

NGC 3395 3396 3340 3424 3413

After discovering how small the galaxies were given my apparent field of view (FOV), I decided to calculate my FOV for the telescope and the CCD camera.  After plugging in my telescope focal length and and my CCD sensor size, I calculated my full field of view of my images are 74.8 x 99.7 arcmin (an arcmin is a unit of measurement in astronomy)...

Read More >

Horsehead Nebula (IC 434) and Flame Nebula (NGC 2024)

Horsehead and Flame Nebula in HaRGB

Horsehead and Flame Nebula in HaRGB

It has been cloudy lately where I live but last night I got a break in the action and was treated to a crystal clear night.  I decided to take advantage of the Orion Constellation as it contains a very cool nebula right near the belt.  My target was the Horsehead Nebula (also known as Bernard 33 or IC 434).  In my field of view, my CCD camera also caught the Flame Nebula (NGC 2024).  I took both a color image, which is a composite image of shots taken in Red, Green, Blue, and Hydrogen Alpha (Ha) filters.  I was excited to see the output of my imaging session because this was the first color image I have successfully processed.

Horsehead and Flame Nebula in Ha

Horsehead and Flame Nebula in Ha

Read More >

The Transit of Venus Revisted

Processed vs. Raw Image of the Transit of Venus

Processed vs. Raw Image of the Transit of Venus

I recently acquired a copy of Photoshop CS6 and boy what a difference it has made in the quality of the images from a post processing standpoint.  Post processing using tools like Photoshop really help bring out the detail that is hiding in your photo.  Take the above images of the Transit of Venus, for example.  The image on the right is the Raw Image that the camera produces and you will notice that you can’t really see the planet Venus very much as the sun is drowning out the planet.  In the photo on the left, I adjusted the Red, Green, and Blue sliders in Photoshop to bring out the color of the sun and the shadow of the planet.  Zooming in on the processed image, you will also see that sun spots, which are caused by intense magnetic activity, are revealed on the Sun’s surface.

Transit of Venus Sun Spots

Transit of Venus Sun Spots

Read More >

The Orion Nebula (M42) Redux

Since my first session imaging the Orion Nebula back on January 28th was out of focus, I decided to learn more about how to focus my CCD camera.  I wrote about my experience learning how to focus in an article entitled, The Importance of Focusing When Imaging Deep Sky Objects.

As I read up on the topic and got more helpful hints from my mentor, Michael Caligiuri, I gave imaging M42 another shot tonight.  Again, I set out to capture 24, 5 minute exposures of the magnificent Orion Nebula but my guidescope came out of alignment and I ended up with 8 salvageable images, which I then processed into the image you see below.  I am much happier with this latest image of M42 as it seems to be in focus, which reveals much more detail than the image I took a couple days ago.

Orion Nebula (M42)

Orion Nebula (M42)

Read More >

The Importance of Focusing When Imaging Deep Sky Objects

Focusing a telescope is not a trivial task to be overlooked when imaging deep sky objects (DSO).  There are many factors that go into focusing, especially when you do not have an eyepiece and you have to rely on a computer screen to determine if what you are trying to image is in focus or not.  Most photos of DSO’s take a couple hours to image and it is pretty disappointing to process out of focus images after you have spent a lot of time capturing them.  Relying on your own eyes would seem to be a good solution but your sense of sight can fool you into thinking that an object is in focus when it is completely out of focus.  This is where looking at Histograms and Full-Width Half Maximum (FWHM) comes in.  In the Astrophotography program, MaxIm DL 5, there is a focusing tool that gives you a readout of of the object’s brightness and plots the brightness on a histogram, like the one in the image below.

Ideally, if image is in focus, the histogram should have a sharp peak and the FWHM should be less than 2.  Not knowing this handy piece of information when I first imaged the Orion Nebula on January 29, 2013, I was left with exposures that were out of focus.  Thanks to clear skies tonight, I was able to re-image the Orion Nebula to see if I could get a better focus, which you can see the comparison photos below.

Read More >