Solar Eclipse Photos Processing

After taking a rest and having summer class, I can process the solar eclipse photos took yesterday. I want to make something special rather than post a lot of photos in my blog. Finally I made two photos. One is a close-up and the other one is a wide-angle. I used the photos taken by using C5, Thousand Oaks type 2+ filter, D90 and HEQ5Pro, to make the solar eclipse close-up photo. I used the photos taken by using 18-200mm VR, Baader solar film and D80, to make the solar eclipse wide-angle photo. I like the orange image produced by the Thousand Oaks type 2+ filter. It gives me a moody and warm feeling. On the other hand, the Baader solar film gives white images. It gives me cool and harsh feeling. Anyway, from the photos, one can see that some photos are interfered by clouds. The bloody clouds ruined the last few minutes of the eclipse! Life is like this! Never mind! Just enjoy the process and happily wait for the next solar eclipse.
I like this one the best. Sometimes clouds decorate the eclipse!
When I process the photos, I find I can do it better next time. First of all, I used the programmable shutter to shoot the photos. However, the time interval was two minutes and one minute when the eclipse was close to maximum. This strategy was not so flexible when I process the photos. At the end of the day, one needs to select constant time interval photos in order to give a dynamic feel of the eclipse. As you don’t want the photos to overlap each others, so the desired time interval would be three to four minutes. However if you do this, the noxious clouds or other unexpected event happened, say an airplane fly by, you are forced to miss one slap-shot! So if you set the time interval to one minute, then you can have better options to select from. In addition, if you have a chance to observe the total eclipse, it is better to use the full power of your camera. The corona is easily missing!


22-07-2009 HK Partial Eclipse

Today is a long waited solar eclipse. It is a long day for me. Handling several telescopes and photographic equipments made me busy perhaps very excited! Luckily I got some closed-up, wide angle and some movies. However, the webcam didn’t work well and finally ruined the H-alpha photos. The auto focus of the DV didn’t work properly, so eclipse movie gone! What are left are some photos. Shortly after the eclipse activity, I got several appointments to go. I don’t have time to process the photos today. Here are some pre-release.
I was busy setting telescopes and photographic equipments

C5, Thousands Oaks 2+, HEQ5Pro, Prime Focus, D90, ISO 1600, 1/250s (8:16am)

C5, Thousands Oaks 2+, HEQ5Pro, Prime Focus, D90, ISO 1600, 1/250s (8:32am)

C5, Thousands Oaks 2+, HEQ5Pro, Prime Focus, D90, ISO 1600, 1/250s (9:04am)

C5, Thousands Oaks 2+, HEQ5Pro, Prime Focus, D90, ISO 1600, 1/250s (HKT 9:23am)

C5, Thousands Oaks 2+, HEQ5Pro, Prime Focus, D90, ISO 800, 1/125s (HKT 9:39am)

C5, Thousands Oaks 2+, HEQ5Pro, Prime Focus, D90, ISO 800, 1/250s (HKT 10:13am)

C5, Thousands Oaks 2+, HEQ5Pro, Prime Focus, D90, ISO 800, 1/125s (HKT 10:31am)

By the way, I didn’t catch the last 15 minute of the eclipse because of the bloody clouds! Good grief!


Finalizing the Preparation for the Partial Eclipse in HK

It is a pity to miss the longest total eclipse over the past 500 years! However it is not responsible to leave my family. My little baby, daughter and wife need me. Anyway, if I leave HK and go to China, I am not able to use lot of equipments to record the whole process. I spent about one week to plan this activity. I used the Baader solar film to tailor made some filters for telescopes, binoculars, camera and DV etc. Here is my equipment list:
C5 + Thousands Oaks Type 2+ + HEQ5Pro + D90 (Close-up solar photography)
Lunt LS35THaDx + NexStar 4SE mount + ToUcam SPC900NC (H-alpha photography)
D80 + Lenses + Baader film (Wide field photography)
JVC MC500 + Baader film (Video recording)
Equinox 80ED + + Baader film + Porta (Visual observation)
10x42 Binoculars + Baader film (Visual observation)
Eclipse Shades (Visual observation)

This is a challenge for me to handle them all. I am not familiar with star alignment, especially in daytime. I tried once the NexStar 4SE mount once in daytime, but the tracking of the sun was modest. This was probably due to my green experience. The worst case is that I don’t have any daytime star alignment with the HEQ5Pro. Wish me all the best tomorrow. Unlike the deep sky objects, the poor tracking of the sun will not affect the photos a lot. If the tracking is good, I can free myself to enjoy visual observation. About the H-alpha observation, I think most stargazers, perhaps sungazers, will not use H-alpha scopes to do eclipse observations. This time I just do it for fun and see what will happen. Since the stock LS35T focuser cannot get the ToUcam in focus, I need to wait for the customized adaptor. The adaptor was arrived two days ago. I don’t have enough time to familiarize the combination of LS35T and ToUcam. Wish me good luck! Go to sleep and go to Clear Water Bay early tomorrow morning! Cheers!


PTC’s Starry Night: Equipment Testing

Yesterday was the day before the Typhoon. The sky was exceptionally clear in the afternoon and I decided to go to PTC for stargazing. I loaded my Sky-Watcher HEQ5Pro in the boot. Luckily that the sky was still clear after diner. So I worked as a coolie and carried all the equipments, Equinox 80ED, C5, Porta, notebook, eyepiece etc, from my apartment to the car park. Due to the power cord failure last time, I did not try the HEQ5Pro. For saving my night, I carried the Porta, which works securely without electricity! Luckily, everything work beautifully last night!
This was really the first time, I tried out the HEQ5Pro. It was a strange mount for most PTC people because most of them are using LXD75 and Vixen mounts. After some people asking me about the HEQ5Pro without getting a proper answer, they just worked on their own task. I was kind of new in using such monster. First of all I don’t know exactly all the screws were all about. I needed to experiment by myself. It turned out that it was not difficult to get them work. Second but the most important thing is how to do the polar alignment. The manual was too simple that I cannot get much from it. I don’t have enough time to study the polar alignment from the Internet. Time is treasure! I simply put the Polaris at a point on the circumference of the circle inside the polar scope. It was a fast fix. As long as I am not doing deep sky imaging, all other task should be ok! Well! I loaded the Equinox 80ED on the mount and turned on the power and started to enter date, time, location etc. I used the 3 stars alignment, which supposed to be the best. After the “Alignment successful” displaced, I found the accuracy of HEQ5Pro was quite good. All the targeted objects are within the field of view of 8-24mm zoom eyepiece at 24mm. The HEQ5Pro was quiet during skewing compared with LXD75. The motor ran smoothly. However, the skewing speed seemed slower than LXD75. I needed to confirm this next time by a fair test. Anyway, I need to explore more before I can make a fair report on HEQ5Pro.
The foci of the night were the unbranded ED110 and the Maxvision’s Maksutov Newtonian 152mm. It was sadly that the focuser of the Maksutov Newtonian 152mm was defective and the scope was not properly collimated. No comment can be made. The unbranded ED110 was once again in high optical quality. Mirror God, a locally well known experienced stargazer, said that the ED110 beats the William Optics and price performance is real good! I deliberately compared the ED110 and my Equinox 80ED. Both scopes were set to about 200X and the target object was Jupiter. I found that both scopes delivered high contrast and color saturated image. The ED110 delivered a sharper image. It seemed that Equinox 80ED delivered a little bit higher contrast images. This was my own opinion and may be biased. I will invite the owner of unbranded 110ED to do fair test if possible. (Equinox 80ED: f=500mm, OR 6mm eyepiece, TV2.5X, Mag.= 500/6*2.5 = 208) (Unbranded 110ED: f:770mm, Takahashi 3.5mm eyepiece, Mag.= 770/3.5 = 220)
After playing around with the Equinox 80ED for a while, I parked the HEQ5Pro and mounted the C5 on it. But I don’t know why the HEQ5Pro forgot some of the location data and I needed to re-enter them again. Ahhh… Maybe Lewis, a friend of mine, pressed wrong button. Mysterious thing happen again! I cannot get the right sky model afterward! I needed to fix it by entering the time zone to be -8, which was supposed to be +8. Anyway, time is treasure again! I didn’t deal into detail. As it works, just forget about the reason. On the way back home I though the problem was again by Lewis. Maybe he entered wrong latitude and attitude data into HEQ5Pro. The data was a bit subtle that one needs to care about the East and West definitions. Blindly entering the numbers will just get it wrong. Anyway, I will confirm this and will not give Lewis a bad name if he is really good! Ha! Ha!
The C5 gave larger focal length and the Jupiter image size was much better than that of Equinox 80ED. I used the TV 2.5X as well. With the Porta for the same setting, I could only record about 10s. With the HEQ5Pro, I could record more than one minute. I didn’t try the time in fact because the processing time would be very long. I tried one minute and the final number of frame was 1200. The result is…


Planetary imaging

After observed and shot Jupiter and Saturn several times with Equinox 80ED, I found that the 500mm focal length was not long enough for planetary imaging. The image on the sensors was so small! So I brought my C5 back home and tried to shoot Jupiter early this morning. The focal length of C5 was 1250mm. The image was much bigger. The result was not bad to me. One could see the color fringes of Jupiter. Since I am not familiar with RegiStax 5, I just use the default values and click the program until I get the final product! Better results can be achieved if I spend more time to play with RegiStax 5.
Saturn: 8-7-2009, 20:58, Tseung Kwan O, Equinox 80ED, Porta, ToUcam SPC900NC, 300 Frames, RegiStax 5, PS CS2
Jupiter: 9-7-2009, 5:36, Tseung Kwan O, Equinox 80ED, Porta, ToUcam SPC900NC, 300 Frames, RegiStax 5, PS CS2

About the image quality, although I used C5 instead of Equinox 80ED to do planetary imaging, it does not mean Equinox is no good. The prime reason was that a high power telescope is needed for such task. While waiting for my Meade 8 ACF, C5 is now the instant supplement. Well! Doing visual observation and astrophotography are different stories. The Equinox 80ED gives excellent visual images. I can see color fringes on the Jupiter and 4 satellites. The images are crispy, high contrast and saturated compared with those visual images on C5. However, when the image is projected on the webcam sensors, it was too small even TV 2.5X was used. So the simple solution to planetary imaging is high power telescope. I guess this conclusion is known to most stargazers. But I learned this by experiencing it!

During the observation, I tried to push the Equinox 80ED to limit. The target was Jupiter. The seeing was average. I used a 2mm eyepiece making the magnification to be 500/2 = 250X. The image was blurring, but acceptable. I could see the color fringes on Jupiter. By using the TV 2.5X, the magnification was boosted up to 625X. The image was garbage. It was just a blur disc! No details or color variation can be seen. Next I used the 8-24mm Zoom eyepiece and the TV 2.5X. The magnification at 8mm was 500/8*2.5 = 156X. Apart from dimmer image, the details and the contrast of the image were good. Pushing the magnification of Equinox 80ED to 200X is not a problem to me. (Note: The factory claimed the highest practical power is 160X.) Ah! This conclusion tempts me to buy the versatile TeleVue 3-6mm Zoom Eyepiece.

Jupiter: 14-7-2009, 5:19, Tseung Kwan O, C5, Porta, ToUcam SPC900NC, 400 Frames, RegiStax 5, PS CS2

Jupiter: 14-7-2009, 5:21, Tseung Kwan O, C5, TV 2.5X, Porta, ToUcam SPC900NC, 400 Frames, RegiStax 5, PS CS2


A busy observation day

Moon: Equinox 80ED, TV 2.5X, D80, Prime Focus

Jupiter: Equinox 80ED, TV 2.5X, Sky-Watcher 8-24mm, Olympus C-5050, Afocal

The sky is exceptionally clear recently. Stargazing is my hobbit, but “family gazing” is more important. The compromise is home observation! Last night I shoot the Saturn. Early this morning I shoot the Moon & the Saturn. Since I am not familiar with Registax, I can only post the single shot here. I need to squeeze time to learn the Registax.


My new LS35THaDX

Yesterday morning I got a call from Lunt’s local dealer that the adaptor for the LS35T was ready and I was welcomed to test its performance. In fact the first batch of LS35T was a prototype and was more expensive than the upcoming LS35T. But I decided to buy the special batch of LS35T.

Shortly after the launch of LS35T, people found that it was not webcam focusable. It was basically the optical tube or the focuser tube was too long. Lunt didn’t give resolution for the first batch of LS35T, but will rectify the upcoming LS35T. Since the modification is very simple, either make a shorter optical tube or a shorter focus tube will make it works. Maybe this is a cheap solution that to let the local dealer to make the modification rather than ship back all the scopes and modify those scopes by Lunt.

The reason I bought the first batch of LS35T was that it was not simply a deluxe package, LS35THaDX. The lens of the first batch of LS35T was made by Carl Zeiss. I was told due to the mass production problem; Carl Zeiss could not meet the Lunt’s specification with a reasonable low cost. So the upcoming LS35T will not use Carl Zeiss lens anymore. In addition, the blocking filter of this special batch was B600 instead of B400. So I treat this special Carl Zeiss batch or prototype as a collection.

Well about the performance, today we got a beautiful sunny day, I tested the LS35T. Recently the sun is very claim. I was very lucky that I saw two sunspots and one prominence. The locations of the two sunspots were around 4:00 to 5:00 and the location of the prominence was around 12:00. I could see the details of the sun disc. Since I don’t have PST experience, I can only compare the LS35T with LS100T and LS100F. It is not a serious comparison because I only have limited experience of LS100T and LS100F. At the moment, I am not able to produce any photos because I am too green in astrophotography. Getting the sun in focus in daytime is another challenge. Anyway, the image produced by LS35T is bright. Although the 35mm aperture is small, the solar disc is bright and uniform. I was told by a Solarmax user that Lunt’s image is very uniform and no observable ghost image is found. Don’t expect you can see the filaments at once unless you are using larger aperture or double-stack systems. You need to stare at the solar disc and inspect it carefully. However, once you get use to it, it is obvious! The details of solar disc can be improved by fine tuning the Etalon. This is what I have done today. I will try my best to take some photos soon!

As it is a low end product, it cannot be compared with my friend's LS100THaDS. However, I am sure you will not regret to buy one! It is affordable and handy. But the bad news is that the local dealer only got four special Carl Zeiss version LS35T. He will ship one to China and keep one for himself. The other two were bought by another stargazer and me yesterday. So all the scopes gone!


Afocal trial

Today is a happy family day. After coming back from the Kadoorie farm, I took a wonderful shower. Ah…the half moon was just hanging outside my window. I used my grab-and-go scope, ETX-70, to do lunar observations. This was a good chance to test the Sky-Watcher’s 8-24mm zoom’s afocal ability. A friend of mine found out accidentally that after removing the eyecup at the back, it is a standard 42mm thread. I bought a 42mm to 52mm adaptor, which enables joining my good old Olympus C-5050 to the zoom eyepiece. The C-5050 has been sitting in the drawer for a few years. It is bulky, but its optics is good amount it’s class. That’s why I still keep it. It time for it to work again! The photo is a single shot. Is it OK to you?

ETX-70, Sky-Watcher 8-24mm zoom eyepiece, afocal, Olympus C-5050, BW, ISO200, F2.6, 1/200s

A day of sun & stars

Yesterday was a fruitful day for me. I had solar observation with my students and stargazing at night. After the lunch, I found that it was possible to do some solar observations, although there were some clouds in the sky. I called up a few students to help me to bring the equipment to the school roof. I used the Thousand Oaks Optical Solar Filter Type 2+ and C5.

There was no sunspot at all. The image was flat visually as the filter was basically light reduction. After some visual observations, I tried to take some photos with my D80. I found that the image was so big that it was hard to be captured by the sensors.

However, I was in rush to leave the school. I have no time to try out the reducer. Anyway the photo was something like this. Before the arrival of my Lunt’s LS35TDX, I will use C5 and Thousand Oaks for most of the solar observations. By all means it is good for eclipse & planetary transitions.
After having the dinner and disciplined my daughter, I went out at about 9:30pm. When I arrived Pak Tam Chung, the half moon was pasted the zenith. Saturn was almost set. I didn’t setup my stuff at once, but browsed around. A friend of mind got a new toy, 110ED. He was busy testing his toy with other stargazers. Their focus was the moon. I shared with him my Sky-Watcher’s 2mm and 5mm eyepieces. These two eyepieces pushed the 110ED to 770/2= 385X and 770/5 = 154X respectively. The 2mm eyepiece definitely drove the scope beyond its maximum practical magnification. (i.e. roughly 110x0.04x50 = 220X). In term of visual, the performance is acceptable.
I just got a Porta mount and Equinox 80ED last night. It was because I need to spare my boot to carry stroller next day. Well I star tested by Equinox again. Both the diffraction spot inside focus and outside focus were round, concentric and symmetrical. The bright star was pin-sharp at the focus. Actually I just repeated what Mirror God told me last time. However this time I examined the diffraction spots carefully. One funny thing I found was that when I used a 2mm eyepiece on my 80ED, the image of the bright star cannot be focused to a spot but a diffraction spot with several Newton’s rings. Which means the image of a bright star become a quite large diffraction spot. The diffraction spot was still round and concentric. This reflected the Equinox is a good telescope. Lucky me! I will try to do the same test on other scopes and see if this phenomenon is general. It would be interesting that for those known famous telescope, if one pushes the magnification beyond its maximum practical magnification, what would be seen for the bright star image visually.