48% Moon – January 2018

I’ve done a few full moon processes recently and, as much as I enjoy both observing and imaging the full moon, a lot of surface detail is washed out. Imaging the moon at other times, however, is a different story.

As usual for my lunar imaging, I used Sharpcap’s new “seeing monitor” (beta version currently) to select higher quality frames. The videos were limited to 1000 frames and then stacked in Autostakkert! 3. From there, I stitched the mosaic together using Microsoft’s Image Composire Editor before sharpening and saturating colour areas in Photoshop.

I’ve put this image in for printing onto aluminium and hopefully it looks as good as it does here!

48% Moon 24th Jan 2018

48% Moon 24th Jan 2018


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IC 443 Jellyfish Nebula

Finally! My QHY 163m camera is back and I can image narrowband again. One of the images that first inspired me to take up astrophotography was of IC 443, The Jellyfish nebula. A friend showed me one he took last winter and it blew me away – I had never seen such detail (I was unaware of narrowband filters at that time) and I knew I wanted to be able to image such targets too.

Roll on 12 months, and I have the equipment and the target is finally back in the sky. The weather this month has been pretty poor so the first opportunity I had to gather data last Friday – the only problem; the moon was just past full moon!

I plate solved on the image the night before to make sure the mount was calibrated and polar aligned. On Friday, then, I started imaging around 1830 and managed 7 hours before the clouds started rolling over. The Ha and S2 data is strong however the O3 is really weak. I assumed, at first, that there wasn’t much O3 data on IC 443, however it looks like I need more integration time, and at a darker time of the moon’s phase. Hopefully, in two week, I get a window of decent weather.

Technical Card:

Ha 30 x 300 secs
O3 21 x 300 secs
S2 37 x 300 secs

20 darks, 20 flats.

IC 443 Jellyfish Nebula Narrowband

IC 443 Jellyfish Nebula

Astrobin page


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Imaging and Processing the Full Moon – January 2018

It’s the start of a new year and already we have had our ‘super moon’ of 2018 in the skies; on the 1st January 2018, the moon reached its perigee – the point in its orbit when it is closest to Earth. This creates a phenomena where the moon near the horizon appears bigger than normal (it isn’t actually much bigger; the effect is an optical illusion).

Luckily, I had clear skies on New Year’s Day, when the moon was at 100%, and so set about shooting video to process into a moon shot.

I tried this earlier last year with some success but the image ended up with ghosting artifacts which really annoy me so I wanted a chance to reshoot and try a new approach.

I used my Skywatcher 80ED scope with an Altair Hypercam IMX178c. I use this camera for planetary and lunar work and find it is excellent for both. For capture, I used the current beta of Sharpcap which has a few cool features. Firstly, Sharpcap helps automate focusing which is a real help when seeing isn’t great – focusing on the moon, especially in urban areas, is difficult as atmospheric conditions cause the image to shift in and out of focus. Sharpcap has a feature that helps average focusing across a number of frames and moves the focuser through a series of steps. I tend to run this a few times to account for focuser backlash and to find the sweet spot for my focus.

Once focused, then the real magic happens. Sharpcap beta has a ‘seeing monitor’ function where you can select a lower limit on seeing conditions based on a graph that is produced as the camera gathers frames. You can also set a frame count so that your video will contain much higher quality frames so will produce cleaner stacks later on.

Why video? Sheer force of numbers. I can’t quite fit the moon onto my sensor using the 80ED so I need to shoot two images and then merge them together. Each ‘image’ is the result of a stack in Autostakkert!3 and the stacks are made from .ser video files of 5,000 frames each! When I stack, I select the top 5% only to make sure that my image is as good as it can be, given the conditions I shoot under.

Once stacked, I ended up with two .TIFF files that need combining. I use Image Composite Editor, a free (!!) program from Microsoft that works seamlessly (sorry!) to create a composite image.

Until now, I would then load the image into Registax and play with the voodoo wavelets until something useful appeared, but I had issues with the final image that always seemed to have horizontal and vertical lines embedded into it, and which I would have to then spend time cloning out in Photoshop.

No longer! I discovered a plug in by Astra Image that provides brilliant sharpening filters for Photoshop that are, in my experience, far superior to Registax.

I processed the composite image using the filters before using three saturation adjustment layers (60%, 30% & 15%) then creating contrast using curves. The final image shows the colours of the mineral content on the surface of the moon and creates, in my opinion, a far more interesting image than the more common grey / mono images.

I am much happier with this image when compared to the one I processed last October. The detail is stronger and the focus is much tighter. Next, I plan to use my 8″ reflector with a 2x Barlow to draw out some more surface detail of craters.

To help learn the Moon’s features, I found a helpful website that identifies areas you hover over.

Perigee Moon - 1st Jan 2018 Higher resolution on my Astrobin account

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