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October 11, 2018

This past summer, as can be seen with the previous entries, I have been photographing some of the planets. With Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars being very prominent in the southern skies this summer. Mars made its closest approach to earth on July 31, 2018. I photographed the image below about a week later because the moon was full on July 31, and I wanted a dark sky. During a break in the clouds, I took the following photograph. Although I took the picture of Saturn after I took this picture, I just finished stacking and processing this image last week. The image was taken with the Nikon D810A camera in movie mode through my 14 inch scope and a 4x Barlow.

Mars Taken on August 6, 2018

September 25, 2018

Here is another attempt at Saturn. I used a 4x Barlow through my Celestron 14 inch scope and my Nikon D810A camera in movie mode. I also stacked the image using ImagesPlus. I can see that the image is a bit soft or slightly out of focus. I will continue to try and get a better image.

Saturn taken on September 20, 2018

July 25, 2018

On July 15, the Crescent Moon and venus were close enough that I was able to take a picture with my HyperStar Lens and get both in the field of view. Venus is obviously small and there is no detail of the planet. The moon however looks good. When I walked outside, I couldn't resist taking the picture. I was taken with my D810A camera at ISO 200 and a shutter speed of 1/500 sec. The picture is shown below.

Moon and Venus July 15, 2018

I purchased "ImagesPlus V6.5" for my Astrophotography Software. I have been researching which software will easily stack NEF/RAW images from my Nikon D810A camera and I settled on ImagesPlus. It works great and easy to use after viewing tutorials on Youtube. Now that I have stacking/processing software I am making a file directory of "Flat Frame Files" for use with my D810A camera. I use flat frames when stacking to give a gradient on the corners of my pictures so I do not have a bright center and dark corners. I'm different than most astrophotographers in that I'm not a purest when it comes to flat frames. These frames can also help get rid of dust aberrations on photos if your lens or camera is dirty. Therefore, most astrophotographers take flat frames at the same photo session as the light frames. Then during the stacking operation the dust aberrations are removed. I have found that if my lens and camera is clean, this is not a problem so I make a bank of "Flat Frames" at all ISO and associated Focal Length settings for use when I take pictures at these various settings. This works for me, but some would say it is the lazy way out. As for me I have found, "A difference which makes no difference is no different". Using a bank of pre-shot Flat Frames VS shooting them at the time of the photo shoot, makes no difference if the lenses are clean.

June 25, 2018

With a little time on my hands, I have updated the Observatory Tab and the Equipment Tab. In the Observatory section, I show the addition of a new monitor in the warm room and the addition of an equipment drawer in the Scope Room. On the Equipment section, I have added a photo of the D810A camera which has become the primary camera used at the observatory. The equipment drawer holds all of my optical equipment such as filters and various lenses for direct viewing not astrophotography. Cameras are house in a more secure location in the warm room.

May 17, 2018

Now that I am retired from my day job, I finally have time to post some pictures that I had taken about a year ago. I posted in my blog about the Elephant Trunk Nebula, but I never put the full picture in the gallery. It is in the nebula section captioned IC 1396 Elephant Trunk date October 2, 2016. I really like this picture as it shows a wide view of interstellar gas and of course the "Elephant Trunk". This picture as with any new pictures I place in the Gallery can be shared on Face Book by clicking on the share link below the photo.

 

April 12, 2018

I recently received an Email recommending that I place somewhere on my web site an article titled: "Astronomy: Computer Software Games for Kids". I went to the web page and tried several of the "Free" games which gives "Budding Astronomers" insights into the Universe through simple computer games. I have added the link to this site under the "friendly links" section of my web page which shows up at the bottom of each page. It is item 8 on the list. I hope you enjoy the educational games that are provided.

March 27, 2018

I can't believe it has been three months since I last updated this web page. I have not taken many pictures, but I have had a couple of groups over to view the heavens. The winter sky is beautiful and we were able to see Orion, Andromeda, M3 Globular Cluster, Pleiades and the Moon. It was an enjoyable evening.

Also, I purchased a new computer for the Observatory. Since this computer runs my cameras, and does all of my Astrophotography post processing, I purchased an HP Desktop with 16 GB of Ram, and I7 Intel processor, a 3 Terabyte and a 2 Terabyte drive along with 256 MB of flash drive for startup. It is a very fast computer for what I need it for. I have been loading up all of my required Astronomy Software so I can get back to photographing the night skies.

December 24, 2017

I have been cleaning up my viewing blog and moved all of 2016 entries and most of 2017 entries dating back to before October 15, 2017. If you wish to see entries before that date, click on the link above to go the Astronomical Viewing Blog Archive.

December 20, 2017

Continuing my endeavors of trying out new software, I recently tried the Demo Version of ImagesPlus. The interface is more clean than the MaximDL, but both software does the job well when stacking my Nikon 810A Raw files. I also have been playing with layering in Adobe Photoshop. I am using the older version of CS2 of Photoshop, but it is more than adequate for layering pictures. I chose as my subject for layering the Jewel of the winter sky, the Orion Nebula M 42. I took the picture using my HyperStar Lens on my 14 inch Celestron Scope and my D810A Camera. I took two different shots of the nebula for layering purposes. The first layer is a longer exposure in order to capture the entire nebula and gas clouds. The problem is when you do this you lose the center "Trapezium" of the nebula as it is too bright. The second layer photo was taken with much shorter exposure. I lose the gas and dust clouds, but I gain resolution of the center trapezium stars. I then overlaid or layered the two photos to get the final image. The Images are shown below.

M 42 Orion no Layering

M 42 Layered showing the Trapezium Stars

A larger picture of the layered version is shown in the Gallery.

November 17, 2017

I have been trying out the Demo Version of Maxim DL so that I can stack my NEF images from my new D810A Nikon Camera. I have exclusively been using DeepSkyStacer, but the color was not rendering properly with that program. I stacked 5 images of the Fireworks galaxy and the color came through. Compare the image below with the image shown on the August 27 post on this blog.

Fireworks Galaxy NGC 6946 Stacked with Maxim DL. Notice proper color rendering.

November 3, 2017

I made an addition to my "Warm Room". I added a 32 inch HDTV as a third monitor. This was something that I had in mind from the inception of the observatory. Its purpose aside from giving me more viewing space is to give a larger view of photos when I have people over to the observatory. Now the photos can be seen by everyone instead of hovering around a couple of computer monitors. I connected it to my computer as a monitor through a "USB to HDMI/DVI Adapter" purchased from "Best Buy". The cost of the adapter was around $40.00 and the Samsung TV was around $300.00. I connected the Adapter to a USB port and then ran an HDMI cable from the adapter to the TV. After setting up the Adapter Drivers, the system worked perfectly. A photo of Before and after is shown below.

Before and After

The color of the room is actually rendered like the before picture. That picture was taken with a Nikon D3 Camera. The one on the right was taken with my iPhone 7. No mater what people want to say about cell phone cameras, the D3 rendered a more precise picture.

October 26, 2017

I received an Email today and was given a recommendation by Peyton Vogel to add "Home Advisor- Backyard-Astronomy" to my web site. I have looked over this site and it gives great information on the basics of astronomy. I have added this to my "Friendly Links" page found at the bottom of each page. Thanks Peyton for your suggestion.

October 15, 2017

Allot has occurred in the last two months in my personal life. I have traveled to Scotland and visited that beautiful area of Great Britain. It was a great vacation and the people were extremely friendly. I would love to go back and visit again. I enjoyed the vacation so much, that I decided to retire from my day job and enjoy activities that I enjoy most, which is spending time with my wife and children along with my hobby of viewing the cosmos. On October 14, I decided to use some of my new "Free Time" by taking some pictures of some of the well known summer nebulas. I took pictures of the Lagoon Nebula M 8 and the Trifid Nebula M 20. I'm still having problems with my stacking program DeepSky Stacker. The program stacks the images perfectly, but the color is not rendered correctly when using my Nikon D810A camera. In order to get the color rendition of the photos, I was only able to use one image with no stacking. Even without stacking, the camera produces incredible pictures.

Lagoon (Lower) and Trifid (Upper)

I like the above picture as it shows the relationship of the two nebulas. This was taken at full frame of the D810A camera and the HyperStar lens on my CGE 14 inch telescope.

Trifid Nebula (M20)

The above image was taken using the same setup, but the camera was setup in "DX" mode. This allows the camera to crop and zoom in on the image using only the camera. It amazes me that this camera can produce fairly noise free images without using image stacking.

Lagoon Nebula (M8)

 

 
 

 

 

 

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