Giant Sunspot AR2456

These days the large sunspot AR2456 is very prominent on the sun’s disc:

M57, 9x30s, ISO 3200, Nikon D750,  Astro-Physics 127mm f/8, JPEG, not flats, dark or bias, crop

M13, M5, M57

In spite of bad seeing and strong gusts of wind I did set up the big refractor to do some astrophotography. I spent quite some time to get things running – in the end the spring galaxies were already too far west in the glare of the train station, so I switched my targets to two globulars and a planetary nebula. Here is a list of what went wrong:

  • I wasn’t aware that the D750 uses a non-standard USB port on the camera, I had to search for half an hour to find the original cable
  • the laptop I usually use has been upgraded to Windows 10, installing the drivers for the guiding camera did not work
  • on the backup laptop guiding with PHD worked, but Backyard Nikon crashed and/or got no connection to the camera, I tried many combinations of USB extension cables, USB ports, removing the SD card, formatting the SD card, upgrading to BackyardNikon 1.0.5, in the end I focused using live view of the camera and used the built-in interval timer of the camera to shoot 30 second exposures…
  • the seeing was really terrible, making focusing difficult, and bloating the stars during the exposure
  • for reasons unkown (user error?) the quality setting on the camera was changed to FINE, so I only took JPEG images instead of NEF( Raw)

for the given circumstances I am happy with the pictures:

M57, 9x30s, ISO 3200, Nikon D750, Astro-Physics 127mm f/8, JPEG, not flats, dark or bias

M57, 9x30s, ISO 3200, Nikon D750, Astro-Physics 127mm f/8, JPEG, not flats, dark or bias

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Preparing for the mercury transit

Today I was making sure everything is in working order for Monday’s transit of Mercury across the sun.

I was able to fix the issue of the declination runaway motor of our club’s LXD-650 mount, and took some images using the 127mm refractor with a 1,4x teleconverter.

The sun 05-05-2016, Astro-Phsyics 127mm f/8, Nikon TC-14E II, Nikon D750, 1/4000s, Baader ND3.8 photographic solar film

The sun 05-05-2016, Astro-Phsyics 127mm f/8, Nikon TC-14E II, Nikon D750, 1/4000s, Baader ND3.8 photographic solar film

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Meade LXD-650 Declination Runaway repair

The last time I wanted to do some deep-sky astrophotography, I ran into an issue with our astronomy club’s LXD-650 mount – immediately after switching it on the declination motor started to run at high speed.

After some research on the internet I was able to resolve the issue, by tweaking the setting on the potentiometer responsible for the declination encoder LED light.

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The difference in size between sun and mercury was impressive

2003 Mercury Transit

On Monday, 9th of May will be another transit of Mercury across the sun, here are some pictures from May 7th 2003:

Gif animation of mercury entering the suns disc.

Gif animation of mercury entering the suns disc.

Early morning May 7th some amateur astronomers in Vorarlberg packed their gear to observe the Mercury transit from the Bödele above Dornbirn. We had some beautiful weather, and while there were few visitors, TV and Radio came and kept us busy with interviews.

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Backcountry skiing under the stars

On Easter monday a friend called and asked, if I wanted to join him for a backcountry ski outing to the Nob mountain. It was the last day of service in the Laterns ski resort, so the descent was tough as the slopes were not prepared any more and very icy. With the soft backcountry skis, it was quite rough, and surprisingly loud! But the ascent was very quiet as we walked through the serene dark forests. I took a few quick snaps of the brillant winter sky:

Nikon D750, 1/20s, ISO 2000, AF-D Nikkor 20-35mm f/2.8 at f/2.8.

Nikon D750, 1/20s, ISO 2000, AF-D Nikkor 20-35mm f/2.8 at f/2.8.

The winter milky way can be seen above Orion. the bright star to the left is Sirius. Nikon D750, ISO 3200, 25s, Samyang 14mm at f/3.5

The winter milky way can be seen above Orion. the bright star to the left is Sirius. Nikon D750, ISO 3200, 25s, Samyang 14mm at f/3.5. The elongated haze around Sirius was probably caused by a smudge or fingerprint on the front element of the lens.

On the right side bright Jupiter is visible below the constellation Leo. Nikon D750, ISO 3200, 25s, Samyang 14mm at f/3.5

On the right side bright Jupiter is visible below the constellation Leo. Nikon D750, ISO 3200, 25s, Samyang 14mm at f/3.5. The Big Dipper is in the left part of the image.

A quick shot during our ascent to the summit of the Nob moutain. Nikon D750, ISO 3200, 25s, Samyang 14mm at f/3.5

A quick shot during our ascent to the summit of the Nob moutain. Nikon D750, ISO 3200, 25s, Samyang 14mm at f/3.5. Matthias stood still for the time of the exposure.

Subtropical winter sky

When trying to get some nightime skyscape images from a beach on Sanibel Island in Florida, I slowly became aware of a diffuse light brightening the sky behind the clouds. It took me a while to convince myself it was real, but when my eyes adjusted to the darkness I became more and more convinced that it was. At first I couldn’t make sense of it at all – for a moment I was just thinking, it surely isn’t an aurora as it was in the south-west sky.

Only when I reviewed the images on the camera display I realized that this is the zodiacal light. I found this quite amazing, as at the latitude where I live it is only visible in autumn and spring. In Florida which is much closer to the equator it is also visible in winter due to the high angle of the ecliptic with the horizon.

Two-Panel mosaic showing the Zodiacal light and Milky way over the Gulf of Mexico, Image taken on Sanibel Island, Florida, 30s, f/3.5, ISO 3200, Samyang 14mm, Nkon D750

Two-Panel mosaic showing the Zodiacal light and Milky way over the Gulf of Mexico, Image taken on Sanibel Island, Florida, 30s, f/3.5, ISO 3200, Samyang 14mm, Nkon D750

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