Astrophotography

Solar Eclipse 2015

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It has been an awfully long time since I had the chance, the energy and the time to enjoy my hobby. The majority of my time I was occupied with my career and my relationship to Melissa. My astronomy friends and I have felt the same the last few months, when it comes to local weather. It makes you feel giving up sometimes and when you loose interest, you get some beautiful days that are ideal and perfect for astrophotography, but you lack the interest because by the time you’ve lost it entirely or you’re busy with other things.

Recently we had nothern lights observations in south sweden after the big geomagnetic storm caused by the solar mass ejection previously. Some of my astronomy club friends succeeded going out to take a few photos of the auroras. Shortly after we had the solar eclipse that appeared in its totality at Svalbard up in nothern Scandinavia (north of Norway and Sweden). We were less fortunate here at Malmö where I live and work. First of all we had heavy clouds being pulled over us and secondly we had to enjoy the spectacle with just a partial eclipse at around 80% coverage.

Despite these setbacks I went out with my friend Arne and took a few images. If you are the lucky owner of a telescope you can still gather enough light to make a pretty decent observation. So we decided to settle outside the parking at my work and was able to show the eclipse to some of my colleagues.

IMG_3764

Below I’m adding a few links in regards to solar eclipse facts and also how it looked like from Svalbard as well.

Niklas Henricson

Venus Transit 2012

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Planning on the Venus transit was a major disappointment when we weren’t sure if it was either or a go or not.
The initial weather forecasts and satellite images showed increasingly chances of precipitation and thick coverage of clouds.
Thus, we didn’t have any expectations and didn’t get overly overexcited just yet. We simply didn’t hope in anything at all.

Venus Transit by Niklas Henricson
Venus Transit by Niklas Henricson

Arne and Rolf dropped by my house and worked together mounting new solar filters to our telescopes. We used Müllar-filter, which blocks visual light to a very high extend. Once we left my place around 3:30 AM we had a 1½ hour by car to northern part of Skåne where we would meet the rest of the Aquila Astronomy club members. Once we arrived approximately at 5:00 AM, the sun raised since long time ago and the transit was already on-going. We rushed quickly out of the car, equipped with just with my Megrez 72, my Canon EOS 50D DSLR camera and an ordinary tripod. Everything was installed quickly away from the crowd that was looking fascinated by the spectacle through their own telescopes.

There was no rain and the sun was heating our faces. It was truly beautiful with just a few small clouds positioned very low along the horizon but yet close by the sunrise, but for the most part, it was a clear light blue sky with a barely noticeable light breeze from the sea.

As I looked through my ocular I was amazed to see Venus devotedly followed her orbit around of our beautiful star. I was captured by an amazing and indescribable feeling of fascination and excitement. You could really sense the slow motion of the planet, moving quietly across the sun disc like a faithful partner around it’s bright majestic star.

This was one of my best observations so far. I need to top that by observing a total solar eclipse in the future!

The sun today

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Sunspots – Visible Light Filter

As we finally enter September month followed by darker and still warm nights, I decided to assemble my telescope during a semi-cloudy day and take a few shots of the sun. To my surprise the surface was covered with several sunspots, more than it has been in a long time.

The image to the left was taken with my Canon EOS 50D at ISO600, shutter speed 1/8000 and a temperature balance 7000K. The sunspots visible here are 1281, 1282, 1283, 1277 and 1279.

The 17th of September we will have our annual celebration of “Kulturnatten” (culture night), which means many institutions at Lund’s university will have open house from morning to night. The physics and astronomy department will offer laser shows, barbecue,  exhibitions of light and other experiments, star gazing through telescopes and much more. Everyone is welcome to visit us, regardless of age and of course both food and drink and everything else is for free!

 

More information about the cultural night in Lund, can be found here:

Sunspot observation

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sunspots 1195, 1196, 1193
sunspots 1195, 1196, 1193

Enjoying Easter holidays with a bright shiny and sunny day with my telescope. Considering it has been very nice weather during the entire holidays here in Sweden, this must have been the best as there are two sunspots appearing on the surface of the sun (1195, 1196 and 1193).

This image was taken by using a Mülar filter installed infront of my refractor (William Optics Fluorostar 110 FLT APO) at ISO 100, shutter speed 1/800, WB: 7500 K and was processed with curves and levels adjustments in Adobe Photoshop.

The sun through Mylar filter

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The sun through Mylar filter
The sun through Mylar filter

Mylar filter blocks most of the visible light spectra (up to 99.9%) in difference to an H-alpha (see my previous blog entry). If you want to manage observing sun spots cost efficiently and cheap then Mylar filter would do the job for you. Although an H-alpha filter would provide you with more details such as solar prominences, the Mylar filter is just allowing you to watch the sun’s cromosphere and there fore just sunspots. However, since this filter is lightweighted, can be carried easily around and can be mounted on ordinary camera lenses that would allow you to witness a Venus/Mercurius passages or a solar eclipse if you want to travel somewhere without carrying around heavy telescope equipment.

I personally prefer Baader’s astrosolar filter due to good quality. A Mylar filter must be kept dry and in room temperature if you want it to be long lived. It is nessesary to inspect your filter before attaching it on your telescope/camera lens since even a small pinhole can damage your eyes permanently during observation, without even noticing!

The best way to inspect your filter before using it, is by placing it infront of a flash light in a dark room. That way you would easily be able to spot any damage on it’s surface.

To photograph the sun doesn’t only require you to have the right settings on your camera, but you have to take multiple shots in order to get a clear shot spared from atmospherical distortions which are more intense and common during daytime. Most astrophotographers are using explicitly a web camera to shoot planetary objects, allowing them to get rid of unwanted images by running the video sequence through a software such as Registax. I’ve got a Youtube video showing you how these atmospherical distortions look like, by clicking here (Beware of the sound).

The image above shows the sun spots 1161 and 1162 as they appeared on Sunday 21 February 2011. Canon EOS 50D, ISO 250, Shutter speed 1/8000, WB: Custom, William Optics Megrez 72 Doublet APO, Image was processed in Adobe PS.

Orion’s Nebula M42

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Orion Nebula M42
Orion Nebula M42

Having a cold and a 39 degrees fever I couldn’t resist from not observing tonight. Tonight’s object was Orion’s nebula (a.k.a. M42). I had to try my new SynGuider, so things went slowly at the beginning while trying to understand the menu options and also attempting to aligning my newtonian with my Megrez 72.

The reason I was using my newtonian this time was because my FluorStar is sent for service maintainance. Unfortunately I’ve got some troubles with my crayford focuser and so I needed someone to check it out.

Regardless, both the newtonian and my Synguider did an excellent job tonight autoguiding a star and allowing me to take a shot on Orion’s nebula. I used ISO1600, experimenting with different exposures. At this particular shot it was 75 seconds.

Skywatcher’s Synguider

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Skywatcher Synguider
Skywatcher’s Synguider

Having limited time to spend while trying to set up all the equipment, level the mount parallel to the ground, adjust the balance of your mount with the telescopes attached on it, polar align your telescope, if you have a GOTO mount then you may need to star align, … The list can be made long and supposedly you do road astronomy then your time is consumed by many tasks this late evening planning on loading your car and transferring your equipment to a remote location free from light polution.

You’ve been waiting more likely for the perfect weather circumstances by now and have been thinking all the time about taking shots of your favorite object? Then welcome to the club. By the time you are ready to start your exposures a cloud is passing by, blocking the view. Other times a mist is joining the scene, or technical issues arise. Either way you’ve been wasting way too long time on things that could instead been made easier.

Skywatcher came up to a solution when it coms to guiding and created a gadget by considering that guiding is no easy business for anyone, considering your weight distribution while you’re tracking the heavens above having backlashes, attaching a camera adding by more weight to your equation, your power supply may not be even, or many other factors that may add to your guiding frustration.

With current solutions on autoguiding you need a special camera, software and a laptop. But why make things so complicated when there is the perfect solution for users with Skywatcher’s GOTO-mounts?

I strongly recomment this synguider, and I’ll start posting photos showing the difference between life before synguider and after 😉

The Sun through H-alpha

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Less then 48 hours left before the partial solar eclipse that occurs during the tuesday morning 2011-01-04. I was testing my equipment and saw that there were a few sunspots. The image is photographed with a Canon EOS 50D at ISO 800 through a Lunt LS60THa H-alpha telescope.

The news have already been requesting curiously on details about the partial solar eclipse on tuesday. Regardless the weather conditions we will be there taking care of our guests and giving interviews. If the weather allow us to observe anything I promise to get back here with some photos.

More newspapers publishing about the solar eclipse on tuesday:

Using new stuff

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Baader UHC-S
Baader UHC-S

Studying physics is really limiting my time from doing fun stuff, especially when it comes to one of my most favorite hobbies (astrophotography & star gazing). Even though of my time limitations, I couldn’t stop myself from finally buying new equipment I’ve long desired and saved money for, such as a mount upgrade (EQ 6 Pro), a new camera (Canon 50D) and two refractor telscopes from William Optics (Equipment page). I’m definetely now a happy amateur astronomer and even if I’m not able to perform any backyard astronomy these days, the weather wouldn’t allow me anyway and there fore there are no hard feelings since I miss nothing.

Although that is not the truth entirely, I’ve been out late evenings scanning the night skies, focusing on my primary goal objects such as M31 (Andromeda galaxy), M13, Double cluster and the Pleiades. These objects will definetely occupy my time for hours (apart from photo processing the images). I’ve also upgraded myself to Baader’s UHC-S filter which is a fine filter suited for astrophotographers living in suburban areas.

During mid october this year we had comet 103P/Hartley 2 passing by between Cassiopeia and Perseus constellation but I must admit that this comet was absolutely nothing spectacular and definetely not worthy the time. I went out trying to locate this object which was around magnitude 8 and even though with well trained eyes it still looked like any other star. No tail or obvious halos around it even by using wild imagination, so I decided instead to spend some time gazing at galaxies.

Perseids meteor showers

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Every year in August between the 10th and 13th, we get the opportunity under good weather circumstances to observe the anual meteor showers caused by the Perseids. These small particles mainly made of dust are falling through the earth’s atmosphere from a radiant point in the sky located close by the Perseus and Cassiopeia constellations. These meteor showers are nonetheless remains of an old comet which passes close by our planet over a period of 130-135 years and was last seen in 1992 by the Japaneese astronomer Tsurukiko Kiuchi. The comet is named Swift-Tuttle after the two astronomers who independently were the first observers in modern history during the comet apperance in August 1862 (Lewis Swift and Horace Parnell Tuttle). Spectral analysis points out that this comet shares similarities with Halley’s comet which is rich in ammonia, water and carbon dioxide and also clasified as NEO (Near Earth Object) as it is approaches earth in a distance of 4 miljion kilometers. The chances of an impact with our planet is 1 in a 1,000,000 which is much less then the frightening asteroid called Apophis were chances are much larger; 1 in 15,000.

This year our observatory will be opento public between 11th to 13th of August 21:30 to midnight allowing all interested to come and visit us under guidance from the observatory staff.