New Years Partial Lunar Eclipse

Thanks to some of the information gained from reading my new digital imaging Astronomy books, I’ve managed to capture a few shots of the moon, in partial lunar eclipse on new years eve, the best of which is:-

(Click the image for a slightly larger version).

The image was took with my Canon S2IS running CHDK, attached to a mini tripod sat on the roof of my car. This the best of three shots, I didn’t get any more time to take any more as I was supposed to be getting ready for new years party! It was took at time of greatest partial totally, approx 19.22 UTC.

I also managed to get some shots around 1am of Orion in the western sky. Unfortunately they turned out to be overexposed so much that the sky was a light grey colour. The stars created a trail because I left the shutter open far too long (40 seconds). However, I still think this was a result as I caught the Orion Nebula on the image, something I never manged to achieve. I think I’ll need to shorten the exposure time by half to eliminate the star trails and exposure brightness.

Throwing these images into Registax resulted in all sorts of alignment errors, due to the rotation of the earth. Time to read some tutorials how to align stacked images I think!

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Update to Raytracing Gallery

Just a quick post to say that I’ve updated my main website www.digitalwaterfalls.co.uk with a new index page logo and new raytraced spacecraft image, for 2010. I’ve been raytracing for around 17 years and recently its been getting harder and harder to get images completed, due to real-life commitments. So when a new image gets posted, its a big event for me!

Why not have a wander over to take a look?

Oh, by the way as mentioned in my last post, the Canon S2IS intervalometer test I ran to capture expected snowfall was partially successful. It was programmed to take a shot every 5 minutes for a total of 100 shots. The camera performed brilliantly, running from around 12.30pm to 9pm. Though it didn’t capture any shots of the snowfall, due to the snow not arriving until 7pm (ie. in the dark!) the camera kept going on for nearly 9 hours on 4 fully-charged 2100mAH batteries and had 1% remaining!

I just need a clear night to apply these techniques to some low-light photography of the skies. Easier said than done with the current weather!

In case you didn’t know, there is a partial Lunar eclipse tomorrow night (new years eve) – check your local timings for when it will start and finish and how much will be on view. In the UK, it will be on view around 5.30pm to 7pm. Clear skies!

Posted by Wordmobi

Experiments with CHDK for the Canon S2IS

Over the past few days I’ve been mucking around with CHDK (Canon Hackers Development Kit) for my digital camera and a couple of scripts I downloaded from the CHDK website. One in particular, the ‘ultra-intervalometer’ is proving to be particularly fun.

I’ve been trying to catch the weather when its clear for some low light photography, unfortunately its been too cloudy early evening and I’m still to get a decent opportunity to get some low-light shots that I can try with Registax, the astronomy image-stacking program.

In the meantime, I’ve managed to put together a 100-frame time-lapse animation of the sun setting. The images were saved as JPEGs and compiled as an AVI with the free ‘PhotoStage’ application from NCH. The camera was set to take a frame every 30 seconds, for a total of 100 frames. Because the camera was set up on a mini-tripod in an upstairs room, there is some reflection from the window which I’ll have to overcome in future ‘inside’ shots, possibly by angling the camera direction more.

The results can be seen by going to the following link…

Sunset time-lapse video

You’ll need Quicktime installed in order to play the video (MPG format).

Next? There is heavy snow predicted where I live in the next 24 hours so I think this will be a good opportunity for another animation.

Christmas for the Beginner Amateur Astronomer

Well, Christmas has been and gone and what has Santa brought good little astronomers? Whatever you’ve wished for, I hope you’ve got what you wanted and your enthusiasm continues to rise for astronomy.

I’ve been very lucky and after a little searching around the internet and visits to bookshops, I’ve compiled my list of ‘Got It’ (this Christmas) / ‘To Get’ of material helping me towards getting to grips with digital astrophotography and astronomy in general.

Here I will give a short overview of the books I’ve been lucky enough to receive and some bits to get.

‘Got It’
1. Introduction to Digital Astrophotography (Book, Willmann-Bell Inc.) Link here
I’ve been looking for a book that emcompasses general digital photography techniques allied with practical application in astronomy. I personally have a tendancy to look for a book that is like a ‘magic bullet’ that not only covers the subject material I want, but also in a style that immediately appeals to me. For several months I have been trying to track down something that matched my requirements, with no luck. At one point I even searched ‘play.com’s’ entire list of astronomy books and came up with nothing! A search via Google bought up the Willmann-Bell website and I browsed their list of books, including this one. What attracted me to the book was the available index list in a PDF, which included basic photography techniques and practical astrophotography.

The book was available to order from the US online and after calculating the shipping to the UK, it worked out at about $72. The book arrived around 10 days later, very well packed and my wife promptly hid the box, keeping it for Christmas!

So, far I’ve been very pleased and impressed with the book, there is so much information contained in the book it will keep me going for months if not years. The writers style, though the book is packed full of information, presents in a very easy, clear manner and this has helped me to dive straight into the book and start to apply some of the techniques immediately.

2. DK Digital Photographers Handbook.
A more general photography book, picked up cheaply from an exhibition, I picked this up for its more general photography information and advice. First impressions are good, I’ll add more information on the book shortly.

3. Practical Astronomy (Book, Philips)
The Philips series of Astronomy books are an excellent reference for beginner and the more advanced amateur astronomer. I’ve already got the ‘Stargazing with a Telescope’ and the ‘Stargazer’ pack and found them very useful.
The Philips astronomy books can be found at: link here . Lots of pointers for beginners and the basics are well covered.

‘To Get’
1. Canon CA-PS700 Mains Adapter.
For those long exposure shots of the night sky…

2. Some form of afocal digital camera adapter for my Skywatcher Explorer 130PM telescope.

3. A new set of rechargable batteries as my six-year old spare set of 1500mAH NiMH’s have fianally given up.

Thats it for the moment, I’ll report on how the reference material helps out…

Posted by Wordmobi

Finally Got Round to it

Though this blog is usually concerned with my misadventures starting off in Astronomy and musings on the world of technology, I’m going to shamelessly plug my other long-standing interest, my raytracing website at www.digitalwaterfalls.co.uk .

I’ve finally got round to updating my ‘links’ page where I’ve checked and removed broken links to websites that are now defunct and added a few since I did the last update sometime ago. A lot of the messy, odd-sized graphics have been removed and replaced with simple text links and a one or two line description.

If you’re interested in raytracing, spacecraft and digital art, why not take a look at www.digitalwaterfalls.co.uk ?

Posted by Wordmobi