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28th Jan. 2012 :: Busy Timelapse Skies

After the amount of sky trails that I blogged about on the 17th, I've been meaning to try my hand at some timelapse to try and see just how much activity there is up there.

Quite a lot is the answer.

In the first sequence you see Venus closest to the horizon, then the big, bright Moon followed by Jupiter. The second sequence has Orion mid frame, Jupiter top right, and plenty of cars whizzing by, bottom left. A cursory count of aeroplanes comes in at ~70, during the 2 hours of filming.

Best viewed full screen if you want to see all the action.

Enjoy...





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27th Jan. 2012 :: Reprocessed Andromeda Galaxy

So, Josh Lake, who I met over on Reddit's Astronomy Sub-Reddit kindly offered to have a go at re-processing my M31 data from the 15th Jan using PixInsight. I have to say that I have been pretty blow away with the results.

The additional detail in the dust lanes, better colour and higher contrast just brings the image alive. I almost feel unworthy of posting this image as really Josh needs most of the credit.

Anyway, here it is...

PixInsight is certainly something that I am going to have a very good look at. The good news is that you can get a free 45 day trial period over on their website. I would love to hear from any other users.


Flickr on Black




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26th Jan. 2012 :: Its a Steep Learning Curve ~ M1 and NGC2246

So, things didn't go quite to plan tonight... The sky looked clear, there were a few clouds on the forecast, but they were due to blow over without incident. I thought I'd risk it...

An hour later - my Powertank is out of juice and I'm in a panic trying to pack up in the middle of a hail storm...!

My targets were to be M1 and NGC2246, I managed to take a couple of individual frames before it all went wrong...


M1 - I think...



NGC2246


Lets hope things go a little better next time...



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17th Jan. 2012 :: Sky Trails

It amazes me how much "stuff" is moving overhead, this image is made from a selection of 5 or 6 frames taken from a batch of 40 or so taken over about 90 minutes.

The brightest trails - the 4 parallel lines - are clearly made by an aeroplane. I'm not sure about the rest, probably high flying aeroplanes, or maybe satellites...

There are 7 distinct trails, and I think that the field of View is about 4°.





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15th Jan. 2012 :: Another Attempt at Andromeda (M31)

Beautiful night, it was clear, still, cold and moonless. Somewhat typically however I struggled with alignment, so I only managed maximum 105 second exposures. Even then there was a little star trailing, so I definitely didn't make the most of the great conditions. Shame. Alignment really does seem to be the limiting factor at the moment - I need to find a setup routine that works for me. Still, given that I'm fairly happy with this result.

About 1hr 25mn of exposure data. Plus a limited amount of darks, flats and bias.


Full Size


Image Field of View




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11th Jan. 2012 :: The ExoPlanet Count is Likely to Reach Trillions

Through various means, astronomers have now confirmed over 700 exoplanets. In addition, there are nearly two and a half thousand more candidates awaiting observational confirmation - confirmation that will more than likely come for the overwhelming majority.

The Kepler mission[1] is of course leading the way, with it's precise optics operating with the benefit of an unobstructed heliocentric orbit, and outside of our flickering atmosphere.

Kepler is now reporting tiny planets as well as the larger mulit-Jupiter mass planets. Just today the Kepler team has announced three planets all orbiting the same star with radii of just 60% to 80% that of the radius of Earth[2], making the smallest of them similar in size to Mars.

New Kepler planet relative sizes.
Image: NASA/ Kelper


Meanwhile, as Kepler has been stealing headlines, a lesser known search for exoplanets has been in progress. A small international team has been using a technique called gravitational lensing to conduct a 6 year survey of millions of stars.

Tomorrow, in the journal Nature they will announce that their observations indicate that "planets are more common than stars"[3]. Microlensing requires a very rare chance alignment of a background and lensing star for an event to be detected. In addition, to spot a planet during the lensing event, an additional chance alignment of the planet's orbit is also needed, putting the planet between the two stars and in alignment with the earth bound observer. These unlikely requirements mean that any such detections can only be put down to one of two things; either sheer blinding good luck, or (more likely of course) a statistical likelihood from the fact that there are an awful lot of planets.

Daniel Kubas, co-lead author of the paper explains: "We used to think that the Earth might be unique in our galaxy. But now it seems that there are literally billions of planets with masses similar to Earth orbiting stars in the Milky Way"

Of course, if we consider that there are perhaps somewhere in the region 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe - as of today, and this announcement - it looks more likely than ever that there are (will be, and have been) thousands of trillions of planets. And perhaps billions of Earths!

Some of the sunsets and some of the sunrises must be spectacular! Such an amazing wonder to live in a time when these discoveries are being made - our understanding of the Universe is truly growing daily. And yet, such a shame to live in a time when these types of view live only in the imagination...



[1] http://kepler.nasa.gov/
[2] http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov/news/tiny_trio
[3] http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v481/n7380/full/nature10684.html



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5th Jan. 2012 :: Venus

My first attempt at photographing Venus.

You can just make out the Gibbous phase (~75% illuminated) lit from the bottom right in these images. They are both from AVI files, the smaller one at 900mm (f7.5), and the larger using a x2 barlow making an effective 1800mm (f15). I really need to try again during a crescent phase so that it looks less like a blob of pixels...





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4th Jan. 2012 :: Tycho Crater

I thought I'd see how close I could get to Tycho Crater, and here it is. Quite blurry, and over processed in an attempt to bring out some detail, but none the less, fun to try...

86.21Km in diameter and up to 4.8Km deep. You can clearly make out the main central peak which rises 1.6 kilometers above the crater floor. Best guesses are that Tycho is about 108 million years old.

I love to imagine one day a geologist and explorer climbing this peak, what an achievement that would be. The first man to climb the central peak of Tycho crater on Earth's Moon. That person's name will surely be learnt in the schools of the future...

My image is about 570 meters per pixel.


Below is a stunning NASA image of the central peak taken by their Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft from just 50km above the surface (so a lot closer than my ~380,000km!).


NASA/Luna Reconnaissance Orbiter (Credit: NASA Goddard/Arizona State University)

If you want to explore Tycho further take a look at this stunning 3D model, created with data from Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agencies, Kaguya spacecraft, using it's Terrain Camera.





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4th Jan. 2012 :: Moon Mosaic

Moon mosaic made of 11 images, each made from AVI videos of a few hundred frames each.


Full Size




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3rd Jan. 2012 :: The Andromeda Galaxy (M31)

My second attempt at The Andromeda Galaxy 2.5 million light years away, a bit more detail and colour than in my previous attempt just over a year ago.


Full Size




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The Transit of Venus June 2012
Solar System Planets
Mars and Venus
The Amazing Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights)
New Rosette Attempt
Short Timelapse Sunset
New Attempt at Processing NGC2246 with PixInsight
A Cold Night
Another Attempt at M1 and NGC2246
Busy Timelapse Skies
Reprocessed Andromeda Galaxy
Its a Steep Learning Curve ~ M1 and NGC2246
Sky Trails
Another Attempt at Andromeda (M31)
The ExoPlanet Count is Likely to Reach Trillions
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Tycho Crater
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About Me

I am an amateur astronomer; I am interested in science, innovation, astronomy and general musing about philosophies of life, the universe and our place in it.

I love to look up and wonder, and this blog is mostly what results from that wondering.

I also enjoy Paragliding.

All images are copyrighted and owned by me, except where stated, please do not copy or use them unless with permission.

Please feel free to contact me for any reason, the best method is to use this contact form.


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