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First Solar images with Coronado Solarmax II 90mm and other solar gears

The pictures below are among the first images taken with my new solar astrophotography gears. By using H-alpha  and Calcium-K narrowband imaging, it is possible to show different features of the Sun, at different level of the photosphere and chromosphere.

At nicely visualized on,  white light observing shows features of the photosphere, CA-K observing shows the lower level of the chromosphere, and H-Alpha shows higher level of the chromosphere.

All images where processed with Avistack v2.0 and photoshop cs4. I found avistack to be straightforward to use when processing either lunar or solar images and overall better than registax on these targets. For each shot,  the best 500-600 frames (out of a set of 1000-1200 frames) were combined using Avi stack.

I used photoshop CS4 for final processing, with the astra image wavelet plugin.

Date:  8/21/2011  at 22h26min UTC – San Bruno, CA

Solarmax II 90mm f/d 8.8with Cemax Barlow 2x and DMK

Seeing:  3/10 – transparency: 3/6

This is the  Sunspot group AR 1271 in H-Alpha… I saw a flare close to the two top sunspots when observing visually.  Once I set the camera and computer.. gone!  This is too bad.

The Sunspot views are nice visually, however digital processing brings more details than visually. On the other hands, visual views of the prominences are very impressive and close to the digital end-result.

The same sunspot group AR 1271  is in white light below.

Date:  8/21/2011 at 22h40min UTC – San Bruno, CA

Herschel Wedge, continum solar filter, and Stellarvue SVR90T at f/d 7

Barlow 2.5x siebert optics and DMK

Even though the Herschel wedge gives very nice views – this specific sunspot group was not looking very impressive visually in white light. Solar granules are visible even though this is not a very high resolution image.

Last, AR1271 in Calcium K Wavelength with the Herschel wedge and CA-K 8nm baader narrowband filter.

Date:  8/21/2011  at 22h53min UTC – San Bruno, CA

Stellarvue SVR90T with Herschel Wedge.

Baader Calcium-k narrowband filter, Barlow 2.5x. and

One week later, even though there were no such noticeable sunspot groups, the H-Apha telescope showed its versatility – and I was able to get nice pictures of protuberences and of two small sunspots, AR 1279 and AR 1277.

Date:  8/28/2011  at 18h46min UTC – – San Bruno, CA

Solarmax II 90mm with Cemax Barlow 2x and DMK

Seeing:  3/10 – transparency: 3/6

The picture below is a composite of two set of pictures, one with longer exposures to capture details in the prominences, and one with shorter exposures to capture details on the solar limb.

Below is a cropped picture on the central prominence, with the limb darkened to highlight details in the prominence.

Date:  8/28/2011  at 19h08min UTC – – San Bruno, CA

Solarmax II 90mm with Cemax Barlow 2x and DMK

Seeing:  3/10 – transparency: 3/6

From top to bottom, you can see sunspots AR 1279 and AR 1277.

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Omega and Trifid Nebulae with Maksutov-Newton 190mm

Date: 7/2/2011 and 7/6/2011

Orion Mak-newton 190mm
Qhy8 with CLS-CCD filter
San bruno CA – seeing 3/10, transparency 3/6

Processing:  Maxim DL5, Noise Ninja, Sharpener Pro, Photoshop CS4

This part of the summer sky has spectacular nebulae.. I am using the Maksutov Newton I got at a bargain price from Orion  at is best potential  now that I moved  to a more robust Mount (Takahashi NJP-Z).

First, the Omega Nebula,

This picture is the result of 35 exposures of 300 sec each – almost 3h of exposure. The picture capture the full extent of the nebula (shorter exposures will only reveal the “Cygnus” shape part of it…).

Second, this is a picture of the Trifid Nebula- the best picture  I got from my light-polluted site.

The reflection nebula (blue…) shows many details. The reflection part of this nebula is challenging to capture at the Bay area latitude especially in urban environment. The blue part of the spectrum tends to fade fairly quickly compared to the red when objects are low on the horizon. In this case this relatively long exposure time (combination of 24 exposures of 300 sec each) combined with the fast focal ration of this instrument (f/d 5.2) managed to bring a fair amount of detail in the reflection nebula.

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M106 with Maksutov-Newton

Date: 4/30/2011
Orion Mak-newton 190mm
Qhy8 with CLS-CCD filter
San bruno CA – seeing 3/10, transparency 3/6
28 exposures of 300 sec (2h20 total)

Processing:  Maxim DL5, Noise Ninja, Sharpener Pro

Another Galaxy picture with my Maksutov Newton.  I found M106 more difficult that M51 as a target.  Still I am satisfied with the result. The HII regions of the Galaxy are easily visible in the galaxy core (red). The arms are very faint compared to the core of the galaxy.

M106 is part of the Canes II galaxy group.

On the bottom left one can see the faint MCG 8-22-105 of magnitude 15.8. MGC refers to the Millennium Galaxy Catalogue.

On the bottom right, there is NGC 4248 of magnitude 13.2. It can be easily seen as a cigar-shaped nebula.

Cropped picture

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M51 and its surrounding with my Orion Maksutov-Newton 190mm

Date: 4/30/2011
Orion Mak-newton 190mm
Qhy8 with CLS-CCD filter
San bruno CA – seeing 3/10, transparency 3/6
16 exposures of 300 sec (1h20 total)

Processing:  Maxim DL5, Noise Ninja, Sharpener Pro

April-May is galaxy time for astrophotographers…

I was able to use my Orion Maksutov Newton 190mm for a couple of Galaxy shots (I’ll post more soon), and use this telescope as much as it deserves…  My new takahashi mount moves this telescope like a breeze, compared to my former orion atlas mount.

With this telescope fast F/D ratio (f/d 5.2) and medium focal (1000mm), the Qhy 8 camera (or equivalent) and its sensor resolution (7.8 microns) is an excellent choice for imaging. In addition, the fast f/d ratio is quite useful for deep sky imaging in light polluted environment to optimize the image signal noise ratio in relatively short exposures (1h20 total for this picture … yes it is a relatively short exposure for deep space imaging in my heavily light polluted site).

Even though the scope obstruction of this model is slightly lower than the new models, it did not show  too much vignetting with an APS-C size Chip. The advantage of Mak newton design shows here  – without any field flattener the stars are fairly round till the edge (certainly rounder than with a schmidt-cassegrain design without a field flattener…).

On the full frame picture, we can see above M51 the Galaxy IC 4263 (Mag 15,3), and NGC5198 (Mag 12,7).

When zooming on the Full frame picture, once can see (probably with the help of the Map) various galaxies such as IC 4278 (Mag 17.4), LEDA 2292656 (Mag 18.6), and LEDA 2294282 (Mag 18.7).

Cropped picture

Full frame picture (click 2 times to see the full frame…)

 Map of the area

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Saturn (near 2011 opposition) in the Infrared

Date: 04/01/2011

Location: San Bruno, California

Seeing 5/10, Transparency 3/6

These pictures were taken with my new EdgeHD 1100 (11″), a DMK back and white camera, and an infrared pass filter (Astronomik Pro Planet 742).

This infrared pass filter (transmits wavelength above 742 nanometers)  not only highlight different features on the Saturn disk, but also greatly reduce the effect of bad seeing and atmospheric dispersion.

This pictures were shot 2 days before the opposition and one can notice the “Seeliger effect”, the apparent augmentation of ring’s brightness compared to Saturn’s disk at or near opposition.

Exposure time was about 6 minutes – with about 1/2 sec. for each frame.



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Monkey Nebula (NGC 2174) with SVR90T in Narrow band

Location: San Bruno, CA

Telescope: Stellarvue SVR 90T with Stellarvue Field flattener  on Takahashi NJP-Z Mount

Camera: Qhy9 CCD with Astronomik H-Alpha 12nm Filter and O-III 12nm Filter

The color picture is a “HOO” Narrowband picture:

  • H-Alpha: red channel – 16 exposures of 480secs.
  • O-III:   green and blue channel – 21 exposures of 480 secs.

On the left, the H-Alpha image, on the right the HOO composite image. Note the Monkey nebula emits mainly in H-Alpha only the central parts of the nebula glows in the OIII band.

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Saturn “Serpent Storm” with Celestron EdgeHD 11″

Date: 2/27/2011 at 2.23am PST

Location: San Bruno California

Telescope: EdgeHD 11 with DMK 21AU04.AS Camera and Siebert Barlow 2x

Seeing: 6/10

Image Processing: Frame stacking: AVI Stack, Image composition: Photoshop CS4, Astra Image Wavelet plug-in, Noise Ninja

This is one of the first pictures taken with my new Celestron EdgeHD 11″.  The seeing was  above average – but not excellent. Visually at x450, Saturn was impressive, with a great contrast on the Cassini division, and details easily visible on the north band (the great north band disturbance famously called “serpent storm”).

The 11″ of aperture here made a huge difference with previous images taken with my Mak Cassegrain 7″, not so much in terms of pure resolution (limited by seeing) – but in terms of image brightness. I imaged at f/d 25 – I should have imaged at f/d 37 with the Mak Cassegrain to achieve the same image scale. I was able to take most of the frames at 1/10 sec. or below, to capture moments of best seeing. This is a composite image made of roughly 2,500 frames shot in about 6 minutes.  Capturing Saturn’s satellites up to magnitude 12 on the luminance frame was fairly easy – even though each frame was 1/20sec of exposure for the luminance layer.

Saturn satellites from left to right:

  • Dione : magnitude 10.5
  • Enceladus: magnitude 11.9
  • Rhea: magnitude 9.9
  • Thetys: magnitude 10.4

This is a set of three images taken during this imaging session  showing Saturn’s rotation…

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