Moon and Mars Opposition

The 29th and 30th of January was the closest approach of Mars since 2007 and the ‘largest’ Moon of 2010. Thankfully the skies in the UK were clear (well, where I live at least!) and gave good opportunity for some observing and astrophotography.

Though my first target was Mars, because the telescope was still ‘warm’ from only just being brought out from the house, this created poor ‘seeing’ from the small air turbulences inside the telescope as it cooled down. This created a shimmering blob effect that when coupled with 2 and 5mm lens, ruined the image.

Whilst I waited for the equipment to cool down, I decided on a bigger target that would be affected less by the aclimatisation problems. So I turned to the Moon and grabbed my Canon S2IS digital camera, holding it upto the eyepiece. Because I’d already worked out some test shots with aperture and shutter speed in CHDK, I applied the settings and managed to get the whole of the Moons disc in the eyepiece. One of the shots is pictured below, though I haven’t had chance to correct the rotation of the image so that the Moon looks the right way up. I had my Moon filter attached to the eyepiece and the only post-processing applied was auto-levels in Photoshop.


By this time the scope had cooled down sufficiently to view Mars. Even though I’d fitted various combinations of barlow lens, 5 and 2mm lenses, I couldn’t manage to quite get much surface detail imaged, except two horizontal curved bands, one of which I guess corresponds to the polar cap. There was a hint of red-orange colour around the edges of the sphere, I didn’t bother trying to try imaging it with my hand-held afocal coupling method of taking pictures with the camera, as I felt it it would result in a blurred image.

Instead, I fixed the camera to the mount on the telescope and took a shot of the Moon and Mars (which was directly overhead), displayed below:-


The image has been rotated and cropped due to the angle that the camera was viewing the scene. A small amount of red’ blue, brightness and contrast has been applied to the image.

Final shot for this post is the equipment setup:-


Mars is at closest approach to Earth for the whole of this week, before receeding until 2012.

Posted by Wordmobi

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!

Update to Raytracing Gallery

Just a quick post to say that I’ve updated my main website 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