Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cone, Fox Fur, Christmas Tree, etc

Robert loaned me some more data to mess with. I had a lot of fun with this one since I've never had the chance to seriously try to image it myself. It will have to wait until end of this year I suppose. Color balanced in Nebulosity. Post processed in Photoshop.

From this:

To this:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

IC405 - Flaming Star Nebula

Robert (zerro1) was gracious enough to let me take a crack at some of his raw data stacks from his 1000D DSLR.  Here's what I came up with.

Update on the QHY-9

Been a while since I've updated the blog so I thought I'd post an update on the QHY-9.  After getting some input, and doing a more thorough examination the sensor itself is in tip top shape.  Seems the inner glass fogged and left a condensation stain on the bottom edge of the glass.  It just needs cleaned.  To do that, the chamber will have to be purged and the dessicant changed out to prevent future issues. 

As I posted before, it does indeed look like proper calibration frames subtract the artifact right out of the image.  I guess technically nothing has to be done about the glass stain.  Cleaning it off is probably a good idea though.

With all of my work travel lately and other household obligations, I have been giving up night after night of clear skies for sleep.  It's a sign that maybe now is a good time to switch gears.  I had what I feel was a really good DSO imaging run over the last year.  I cannot sustain those late nights at the moment to properly image DSOs any more.  Not after I got a taste of what putting several nights of camera time into a single image can actually do.  So, I'm putting the camera up for sale.  I'm also going to sell the Vixen OTA and accessories.  I bought it purely for imaging, and specifically to match up to the QHY-9. 

I haven't fully boiled down what I want to do next but I have a really good idea.  There are lots of AP imaging specialties that don't require sleepless nights.  Planetary, Solar, Widefield, etc etc...  None of these require heavy rigs, nor intense setup time, and in many cases, the gear is small enough to throw on an airplane with me.    More to come on this one.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

QHY-9 is damaged

Before I could even get this camera dialed in appropriate and take some serious shots, it would seem it's now damaged.  I noticed something odd in the last few calibration attempts I made, which became even more apparent in the flats.  Look at the artifact bottom center of this test flat frame:

If you fully expand the image you can see it much better.  There's another, more faint artifact next to it.  So I thought this was a hair, or something else that managed to find its way onto the IR window.  Curious since I use my Vixen ED80SF for nothing else but imaging and the QHY-9 is almost constantly attached.  It was showing up in my Light frames and Flats.  So I took the camera off and inspected it closely, expecting to have to clean the glass.  It wasn't on the IR glass, it appeared to be under it.  So I removed the IR window to look closer and found it to be actually on the sensor itself, inside of the CCD chamber.  What it looks like to me is some sort of epoxy or sealant boiled onto the sensor and hardended.  It has the appearance of dried, clear glue.  Getting a picture of this was difficult and it barely shows up with my digicam.  I can see it plain as day though.  Here's a couple attempted images of it.  I outlined the area on the second shot. 

I can't think of any way to remove this without destroying the sensor, not to mention that I'll have to get the chamber purged again if I open the chamber itself.  This camera hasn't been exposed to anything abnormal.  It's stored with my scope in my living room in controlled climate.  It's operated on clean, regulated power at night.  I thought possibly running the CCD for a little bit without the TEC on might generate enough warmth to allow whatever it is to run back off of the sensor.  The attempt was unsuccessful.  Unfortunately, I am the second owner so I don't believe any warranty is implied here.  I'm thinking the chip would have to be extracted and replaced - assuming it's possible on this camera. 

So, for now, I can crop about 10-15% of each frame out and continue to use it as is, or, I need a new camera.  This stinks since I was just ramping up for some Rho Ophiuchi imaging, and as any astrophotographer with experience knows, this area is huge.  It was already going to take me building a 4 panel mosaic to get it all in there with the QHY-9 and Vixen @480mm.  By losing the lower end of my frames, the mosaic tolerances just became more stringent.  I've made a number of imaging attempts since discovering the "smudge" on the chip.  It doesn't seem to be progressing or moving at all, so I suppose I can continue to operate this camera in a stable fashion, it just stinks to buy a big chip CCD like this for the purpose of having that big of a chip, and having to lose more than 10-15% of it.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Lunar Images with the QHY-5 May 12, 2011

Shot May 12, 2011 about an hour after sunset in 40mph winds using my QHY-5 through the Vixen ED80SF @ F/7.5.  Camera set to a gain of 0% set at 5ms, 1000 frames per panel, best 150 stacked in AVIStack2.  Levels and mild deconvolution in Photoshop.  The first one was shot at 1280x1024, the second one was shot at 640x480 in 4 tiles and mosaic stitched manually in PS.  I wanted to see what sort of difference there would be.  The last one is a single 640x480 panel.  Personally, I don't usually like shooting during gibbous or full phases due to low contrast.  I yield better results during crescent phase.

Mothers day trip to Valley of Fire and Ice

Mother's Day we took the family to the Valley of Fire and Ice near the badlands in western NM.  It's a lava field filled with cinder cones, calderas, full volcanoes, lava tubes, etc.  I'm working on an insanely huge 24,000 pixel wide mosaic of inside of one of the volcanoes that we climbed into.  I took a quick snapshot of what it will look like (it's not processed yet, and this is a very small version so ignore the mismatched panels - below).  In one of the lava tubes is an Ice Cave - and the ice starts only 20 ft away from direct sunlight.  It's been there tens of thousands of years and is naturally cooled.  The ice inside the lava tube is somewhere around 30 ft thick and growing.  Literally, you can be in 100 degree temps and walk 20 ft and be in 30 degree temps.  Pretty neat anomaly if you ask me.  I also caught a shot of the Moon rising over one of the pine trees out in the lava field from inside of one of the lava tubes - image below as well.  And last but not least, I found a tree on one of the trails that had been nailed by lightning and burnt to a crisp.  The top was jagged and charred.  The Sun was quite high so I took advantage of my point of view and aligned the Sun with the top of the tree and came out with a pretty crazy effect.  The tree looks like a torch!  Be sure to blow this one up to maximum size to see the full effect.  Oh and, there wasn't a cloud in the sky when I shot this one which makes the shot all the more crazy.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sagittarius and Polar Rotation videos

I tried posting these up through various online solutions like Flickr, Facebook, etc, and the compression is killing them.  So I had to resort to Mediafire.  Here's the link:

Sagittarius and Polar Rotation video clips

Here are a few of the single 60 second subs showing a few of the aircraft that made it through my FOV that night..  I think I counted over 50 when I screened the subs.  The uploader compressed these quite a bit, I can see the jpg artifacts showing up so ignore the crunchy, haloed stars...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Ophiuchus&Scorpius by DaemonGPF
Ophiuchus&Scorpius, a photo by DaemonGPF on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
Another segment of a Milky Way Mosaic I'm working on. It extends from Sagittarius, through Ophiuchus, Serpens, and part Scorpius.

Two Panels, shot two seperate nights. 75 x 120 sec
Canon T1i ISO 800, 18-55 @ F/4.5
CGEM Mount / QHY-5 autoguider
Stacked in Nebulosity
Post processing by Sal Grasso, who's working to help me resolve a color cast issue between other panels to finish the mosaic.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Found a solution to the flats issue on the QHY-9

Referring earlier on in my blog history regarding problems with flats on my new QHY-9 OSC CCD camera - I believe I have found a viable solution. 

Reference to what I'm about to discuss can be found in these links:

Flats discussion 1

Flats discussion 2

Why this works, I don't quite understand fully yet, but here it goes.  I put a grey t-shirt over the objective.  Check out the results in this sample flat, and a quick image that I tested the flats against:

This is a stack of 5 second flats, just like before.  If you notice, the colors are not seperated by huge gaps and spread across the whole dynamic range like before with twilight or the white tshirt method.  Strange.
Here's the one image I calibrated with these flats:

I don't know why it worked, but it did.  More to follow after additional testing.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Sagittarius Cloud

This was only my second light with a DSLR and decided to try piggybacking.

Sagittarius Cloud by DaemonGPF
Sagittarius Cloud, a photo by DaemonGPF on Flickr.
Via Flickr:
Milky Way - Sagittarius region
120 sec x 20, no darks, no flats, no bias
Canon T1i + 50mm lense @ F/4.5
Piggybacked on my Vixen/CGEM rig and taken simultaneously with my QHY-9 image of M8 and M20.

Here's an annotated version:

Took this shot of M8 and M20 simultaneously with my QHY-9 through the Vixen ED80SF.
300sec x 14, darks, flats, bias applied

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

DSLR First Light Results

Leo Trio


No darks, no flats, no bias used.  Thought it came out pretty good considering I had no prior experience with a DSLR.  No award winning shots here, but for a non-serious attempt I think it looks promising.  Hopefully 2nd attempt will be better.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

1st light with DSLR, odd issue

A fellow CN'er was gracious enough to loan me a Canon T1i DSLR to try out for AP.  Not being all that dissimilar from a CCD - hooking it up, figuring out how to work the camera, focusing, drivers, etc were very straight forward.  I used the T-ring and T-thread adapter to attach it to my Vixen ED80SF and W.O. 0.8x FF/FR threads.  I was up and running within about 10 minutes.  I used Nebulosity 2 for capture.  Set the camera to manual, left it on the default ISO 1600, and tested some exposures to work out appropriate exposure time.  Around 90 seconds was optimal without over saturating.  The amount of detail showing up was superb at first glance.  I let it run on Leo Trio for 64 subs.  I took matching darks amidst the lights.  I captured bias and flats first thing in the morning 30 minutes prior to sunrise and kept them at 25,000 ADU.  I also shot 175 subs of M101.  Everything looked ok up to this point.  This morning I went to run my pre-processing routines - calibrating, stacking, etc.

After the stacking, I ran my usual initial data stretch and while the extended object detail was great, the background is a complete mess.  Looks like a 4 yr old took a red, green, and blue crayon and layed them on their sides and filled in the background with it in swiping motions.  I've never seen this issue in my OSC or Mono CCD astrocams.  For grins, I also tried repeating the pre-processing using Deep Sky Stacker.  EXACT same output.  To diagnose a bit further, I repeated the process in DSS and Nebulosity but subtracting each of the calibration file types one by one.  The problem doesn't seem to exist in the Darks, Flats, Bias.  It's in the light frames.  There is color noise/gradient apparent per each unstacked Light frame, but not consistent with the pattern apparent in the stacked exposures.  None of the calibration files even reduce the effect in any way, shape, or form.  The individual subs are increadibly noisey, as I had anticipated with an uncooled DSLR.  But I had also assumed proper calibration and a large stack of quality light frames would have taken care of the problem.  The extended objects and stars seem very smooth, but the background is horrific.  I'm attaching a crop of the stacked result with a data stretch to help emphasize the effect I'm seeing.  (When you expand the image, there are a few dark streaks, and I am aware that this is oversubtraction from darks not being perfectly matched.  That part I know how to fix.  The rest of the background effect is with no other post processing except a stretch to show it more predominantly.)

Following up on this issue, here's a crop of the stacked results from using only the latter half of the darks, flats, bias, lights, and a stretch only.

Here's a shot of just the latter half of the light frames stacked with no other calibration files added.  Interestingly enough, the background issue is gone.  Back to analysis on the calibration files I suppose.  Must have been way off on the temp matching.  More to follow.