Friday, 17 June 2011


The end of the Martian Rover, Spirit.

Dusty Streak

I found this unearthly, linear wisp when exploring the outer space behind the sunflower galaxy in Canes Venatici. It’s called NGC 5023, but I had no idea how straight and thin it was, nor how diffuse or hidden its nucleus is. I think some creator was designing something in the sky for us to see. He/she/it drew a line too long and realised he/she/it had made a mistake and rubbed it out. Well it turned out that he/she/it had one of those rubbers that don’t work very well so it left this smudge behind. Or… it could be the creator’s cosmic firework, which is the size of a galaxy, burning up in a black, intergalactic ocean.

Friday, 10 June 2011


I can't believe that. My lovely words just all disappeared! It was my best writing ever! I literally highlighted the text then it went white, paused and said "Autosaving draft". The draft was blank. Thanks blogger, I hate you. I hate you. I suppose I better write all that again.

Well...crash, bang, wallop. First it brightened, then fainter, brighter again. What's going on? Well this is a Type II b supernova. It's the little spot on the left of the galaxy. Like any other dying star, its outer layers of hydrogen began to be driven away out into space. Although deep down in the core was a different story. The atoms were frantically and desperately fusing into heavier and heavier elements. Silicon was becoming nickel, which became iron. That's as far as fusion can go. But before much of this was made the helium core alone had reached a point where it's own weight was too much for its atoms. Suddenly, the atoms were crushed and started to mercilessly fall inward to the core. On their way the protons, neutrons and electrons (remember your high school chemistry!) all became neutrons, briefly forming heavy elements like iodine, gold & lead. This was no ordinary ride, the particles were accelerated to thousands of kilometers per second! As the neutrons all neared the centre, they bunched up against one another and made a solid neutron ball. Hitting this brick wall at 1000s of km per second, created a huge, HUGE shockwave that rebounded all the infalling matter back outwards, blasting space with 200 million sunpower of energy. What I saw through my little eyepiece was a point of light. From earth, the view was masked by the outer hydrogen atmosphere. But now this atmosphere has been rendered transparent the full rage of the supernova's energy has come through, causing this second brightening. All of this was happening 23 million light years away, which means it all happened 23 million years ago. Awesome.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Sun

Finally I had all the things come together at the right time (well nearly), the right place, the right weather, etc. to use our Solarscope. The Coronado Solar Max was put on an EQ mount on the observatory annexe's flat roof on Friday evening and I set up as the sun was sinking behind some cirrus clouds. Having achieved such a good North West horizon me and the tripod were very visible and got a toot from a passing car. I grabbed a sequence of shots after many test shots and adjustments (position, ISO, focus, exposure), just as the sun emerged from the bottom of the cloud at 19:30 UT (20:30 BST). After initially thinking that even they were overexposed, I found that it was just the custom white balance settings had made it look that way, and the raw files were fine. However, there is still a gradient across the disk of the sun. I think its because we have such a narrow-band H-alpha filter. The granulation and structure on the sun is AMAZING! And you may also notice that it's flattened by atmospheric refraction. I know there are better pics out there but I'm well impressed - this is my first serious attempt.

Processingwise, I input the 11 x 0.04s Canon(modded) raw 10Mpixel files in Registax and they stacked very slowly - it's the only program that worked. I sharpened up the monochome output. I added a yellow colourize, rotated and flipped to correct for the diagonal mirror. Then I masked out the bright disk and turned the atmosphere a beautiful shade of hydrogen red!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011


The moon (la lune/luna, der Mond, y lleuad, etc.) is seen in such different ways. It's a matter of perspective. I don't mean technically, like lines shrinking away to vanishing points, but a human sense of a different perception. I was walking through a beautiful rural/suburban landscape on a Sunday afternoon (April 10) and I looked up at a tree to see the moon behind it. I had my 400mm telephoto lens with me so I took a pic and to my annoyance the moon was not in focus with the tree. So I carefully focused on each one and spliced the pics together. Typical photography... it's all about seemlessly cheating, but as I was playing around, I had the idea of upping the contrast to the point where it posterized the colours. This made the faint wispy cirrus stand out, and a couple of flecks of dust unfortunately, but I like them. Unfortunately the extra contrast meant I had to be extremely seemless in joining the pics, so after a little tweak here and there I was happy with this. A different perspective on the moon. There are lots of things you could say about this. There's a lot of texture. A round moon caught between spidery, spindly branches and a soft, sketchy cirrus. Hmm I'll shut up now. I just like it.