Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Sun

I recently gained access to a Coronado Personal Solar Telescope (PST). The PST is specially designed for solar viewing. It has a built-in filter for viewing Hydrogen Alpha (H-Alpha), which is one of the wavelengths of light emitted by hydrogen atoms that are being "stimulated" by ultraviolet radiation. It is one of the most common colors visible from stars since their outer layers are primarily composed of hydrogen atoms. H-Alpha is in the red part of the visible spectrum.

This morning I attached the PST to my Vixen Super Polaris mount and pointed it at the Sun. What I saw blew my mind! The detail was amazing! I could see prominences, the granular surface of the sun, and a sun spot with amazing clarity.

After trying various eyepieces I decided to see if I could take some pictures. Unfortunately, my Canon EOS Rebel XS won't come to focus in the PST's eyepiece tube. I was able to take some afocal shots, though, using the EOS Rebel and my Canon PowerShot A540.

Here are a few processed images, which certainly do NOT do justice to the naked-eye views.

This is a stacked image composed of 23 separate exposures taken with the Canon EOS Rebel XS. There was a lot of atmospheric turbulence, which may explain why the lower-right side of the Sun's disc appears slightly out of place. Note the prominences visible to the lower-left. The dark streaks across the face are probably prominences, as well. Some of the bright patches are plages.

I used a longer exposure time for the frames that were used to compose this image. Some of the features on the face are overexposed, but the relatively dim prominences along the limb are visible. In the future I will attempt to apply some High Dynamic Range techniques to even out the exposure.

This image was composed from several hundred frames from an AVI recorded with my Canon PowerShot A540.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Messier 41

Messier 41 is an open cluster in Canis Major (the Greater Dog). It can supposedly be seen with the naked eye in dark skies, but I have not been able to see it from here. This image was made under a fairly bright, moonlit sky.

Messier 41; Epsilon-200 on NJP; 25x60

New Year's Moon

Moon, January 1, 2012; Epsilon-200 on NJP; 30x1/250
This image is best viewed by opening it in a separate tab or window.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Huntsville Panorama 2

I learned a few lessons from my previous attempt to create a nighttime panorama of the town, so I set about trying it again at the first opportunity.

Right-click on the image and open it in a new tab or window for best viewing.
The main differences between this and the previous version are:
  • I made sure that the camera was level before taking pictures, so it was not necessary to cut out a great deal of the original images in order to level the view.
  • I picked a better location on the parking garage roof that granted a wider view of the town.
  • Each image is a stack of two separate exposures (1/2 second and 5 seconds). This helps bring out the contrast on brighter objects.
Also, I found that the reason that Hugin failed on the last step on the previous attempt was because I had not installed Enblend.

From left to right: