The planets have been looking fantastic from the UK over the last few weeks with Venus and Jupiter in conjunction in the west at sunset and Mars bright all night. Last night I finally had a chance to go and take a good look; I got a couple of very pleasing images of both Mars and Venus - in fact this is my very first image of Mars.
This week I have had the immense pleasure to view the Northern Lights, way up inside the Arctic Circle in Tromsø, Norway; and what an absolutely amazing sight it was.
I can genuinely describe it as being a truly mind-blowing experience - even more impressive than the Solar Eclipse I saw a few years ago. If you ever get the chance to go and see it - GO!
Fortunately we were very lucky with some unpredicted solar activity - as this chart shows..
This video is from the 13th Feb. taken from a park above Tromsø; it was darker than the city but as you can see there was still plenty of light pollution, some clouds and not a huge amount of Aurora activity.
This was our first glimpse of the Aurora and we thought it was amazing. After this sighting we didn't for a moment consider that we would see anything better than that...
The next day however we took a trip outside of the town to a darker site, the sky was slightly clearer, but amazingly (as the chart above shows) the activity just burst into life. It's difficult to articulate just how amazing it is to see with your own eyes; we had dancing colours whipping across the sky, bands twisting and turning, rays streaming up into space, movement so fast and vivid that it was difficult to keep up, we even saw some very rare corona bursting out from a single point. Sometimes the sky was so bright that it cast feint shadows on the ground, people whooped and cheered with delight as this natural display took their breath away.
These images and video give you a sense of what we saw - but the reality is that you'll have to see it yourself to really appreciated it's majesty.
So, my first attempt at processing with PixInsight, I think that this it's a slightly better result than my previous attempt, although PI is pretty daunting and complex to get to grips with. And I'm not sure whether it's "better" or just different...
I actually used DeepSkyStacker to register and stack my frames. Then I split the image into it's RGB components using PI and recombined them using PI's Colour Calibration tool. I also fixed the background a little using the Dynamic Background tools.
Finally I did the usual curves & colour balance in Photoshop.
So, tonight I received - for my efforts - a strange wispy artefact on my M1 image, this thing appears on all the 40 or so frames that I took... Any ideas?
M1 and a strange wispy artefact
I made a slightly better attempt at NGC2246, however it was so damn cold tonight that I had to abandon things before I got a really decent dataset, so I only had a couple of dark frames and no bias or flats. I guess that as ever - there's always next time! :)
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.
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.