Thursday, 23 February 2017

Monochrome era

A little heads up on what's about to come soon :)

I've seen many of the planetary imagers working with mono cameras, which can give stunning results over the color ones. Therefore I have purchased a brand new Zwo ASI 120MM monochrome camera and a second hand manual Zwo filter wheel with LRGB and IR pass filters.

Just learning WinJupos in depth now, what's already clear is it won't be walk in the park. But that's exactly what's giving me extra motivation for sure....

Weather has been a genuine disaster in 2017, I had one good night for imaging Jupiter, but the strong jet stream took away all the finer details.

Here is where I am right now, the best few shots of Jupiter so far. I have to say not as good as ones taken with the 120MC color version, but hoping for improvement both in image quality and weather.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

ISS framek feldolgozas PIPP-el

Ezuttal a PIPP nevu csodas programrol szolnek par szot, igen sokoldalu szoftver melynek oriasi hasznat latjak az amator csillagaszok. Rettentoen jol dolgozik es egesz konnyu kiismerni, elsajatitani az alapokat.
Jomagam leginkabb objektumok kozepre igazitasara hasznalom. Legyen ez bolygozas vagy ISS fotozas, ha eleg frame (kepkocka) all rendelkezesunkre, tokeletes celt szolgal, kifejezetten akkor ha a mechanikank nem koveti a cel objektumot pontsan, magyarul ossze-vissza maszkal a kepernyon. Esetleg valaki ugy bolygozik, ahogy en szoktam, barmifele polusraallas nelkul.
Tovabba ha nincs egyatalan semmilyen motoros mechanikank, ebben az esetben kicsit osszetettebb a feladat de igy is viszonylag egyszeruen elkeszithetoek a stackelt bolygo fotok.
De hogy ne menjunk egybol bele a bolygozas technikai reszleteibe, inkabb egy egyszeru repulorol keszult videon szemleltetnem a szoftver tudasat.

Az alabbi video par napja keszult, a Lufthansa egyik Boeing 747-ese huzott el London folott. Vagatlan, eredeti felvetel.

Nem rossz, de azert nem is jo, valljuk be eleg elvezhetetlen a felvetel. Hogy ebbol mi mindent lehet kihozni, ime....

A PIPP megnyitasa utan ket fele modon nyithatjuk meg a video fajl.

1. File menupont alatt Add Source File
2. Source file fulre kattintas utan egyszeruen behuzzuk a fajlt (drag and drop)

Miutan ez megvan, a Processing Options fulre kattintsunk.

1. kep - Processing Options

Az ablak jobb feleben levo lehetosegek kozul mindenkepp legyen bejelolve

 - a Frame Stabilization Mode lehetosegei kozul az Object/Planet
 - az Object detection
 - Object detection Treshold (errol bovebben a kovetkezo pontban)
 - Center object in each frame - minden erzekelt objektumot kozepre helyez
 - Cropping - kozrulvagas, nem feltetlenul fontos, de en hasznaltam

Object detection Treshold

2. kep - Auto Object Detection Threshold

A fenti ket foton lathato kis ablakban jobb oldalon a detektalt terulet lathato, melyet pirossal emel ki a progi. Az elso kepen autora van allitva es lathato, hogy nem igazan kepes erzekelni a repulot, az egesz frame piros szinu. Erdemes jatszogatni a lehetosegekkel, miutan az Auto Object Detection Treshold opciot inaktivaljuk (pipa eltuntet) es mi adunk meg erteket. Nekem ebben az esetben 100 volt a megfelelo ertek, a masodik kepen latszik hogy csak a repulotest es a kondenzcsik maradt piros, magyarul a kozepre helyezes soran erre fokuszal az algoritmus.

3. kep - Output Options

Ha ez megvan, irany az Output Options ful, ahol tetszolegesen kivalaszthatjuk, milyen formatumban szeretnenk elmenteni a vegeredmenyt. En ebben az esetben AVI-ban mentettem, de kepkockakra lebontva is elmentheto a video ami ISS kozelik eseteben a fonyeremeny :)

4. kep - Mentes

Miutan hagytam a PIPP-et dolgozni, ez a video lett a majdnem vegleges valtozat. Szepseghibaja, hogy ahogy eleri a szines levelekkel diszitett fa lombkoronat, teljesen osszezavarodik - ertheto modon - es bizonyos ponttol hasznalhatatlan a felvetel. De ha takarasmentes latomezom lett volna ( felhomentes egen), valoszinuleg vegig kovetheto lett volna a repulo nagy nagyitas mellett.

Miutan kivagtam a hasznalhatatlan reszeket, ime a vegeredmeny.

Pontosan ezzel a technikaval keszulnek az ISS-rol keszult kozeli videoim is. Termeszetesen nem en kovetem ennyire stabilan az Urallomast, szoftveres utomunka segitsegevel keszult. Ime egy pelda.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

How to image the International Space Station (ISS) with planetary camera - part 2

In action - composite photo of the ISS pass

More and more people (gladly) are showing a growing interest toward ISS these days, probably because information about the overhead passes, transits are more accessible than ever before. And let's be honest, who wouldn't be interested in a spacecraft that us humans built, travelling 27,800 km/h, orbiting Earth at 400 km altitude 16 times a day.

When I first bought a scope for myself and became aware that there is this thing called ISS, I immediately thought to try to take an image of it. Than I've seen some of the best ISS photos on the web and I was immediately hooked. I wanted to do the same :)

The only way this could be done for beginners is manually moving the scope and hoping to capture a few useful frames.

Before you do anything outdoors, check what's happening, find details to know what you're dealing with (brightness, elevation, duration, etc.).
I normally get a pretty good summary of information from Here is a screenshot from the website about the ISS pass I've recorded.

Screesnshot from

The only way you can achieve it is this:

First and probably most important step is to align my reddot finder/Telrad/finder (whichever you have) scope dead accurate with my main scope. It means wherever I'm pointing my Telrad, my main scope will have the same object centered in the eyepiece/camera/dslr. This is very very important, because due relatively high magnification a small error will result in not having ISS in your camera's field of view at all. Therefore all goes to bin....
I made this mistake a few times and was frustrated a lot :) But hey, mistakes are to learn from them right!

Once finder is aligned to scope, the second important thing is camera settings.
I can't give you any exact advises on that, every planetary camera/dslr has it's own sensitivity, therefore you have to find it out for yourself. Yes it means experimenting with your equipment. What I can give you is my experience at a given equipment.

Two ways of doing imaging. let's assume we are setting up for a very bright (between mag -2.5 and mag -3.5)
     - Using a dslr camera. Depending on the dslr you're using, you can record video or take raw/jpeg photos on continuous mode. Usually for photos the settings I've used at very bright passes was shutter at 1/1250 and ISO at either 800 or 1600 (equipment 90/1250 maksutov + Canon 600D)

     - Using a planetary camera. I personally use a Zwo ASI 120MC, settings usually and the settings on this particular attempt at mag -3.0 was: Shutter 0.800 and Gain 60 ( equipment 127/1500 maksutov + Zwo ASI 120MC color camera).
(Update: My color camera is gone, instead I'll use a 120MM mono version from now on. The first shots are at the bottom of the post, taken through hazy sky.)

The rest of the job is determination, enthusiasm and a never giving up attitude :)

I used to use an equatorial mount for manually tracking ISS, but my experience is not the best with it. An Alt-Az mount or a dobsonian type scope is probably the best for this purpose.

Here is a video about how imaging works for me. Time lapse of 10s expos about the preparations and the pass itself.


Sometimes I've got comments like "nice CGI" or "green screen, fake" etc. Well I can not document the event better than this, if someone chooses not to accept that Earth is a globe (not flat) and things actually orbiting around it, I can't really argue any longer....

Have one of these apps:

     - ISS Detector (android)
     - Sputnik (iOS)

These two images below were taken with a Skywatcher 250/1200 Flextube scope on a dobson platform, that seems to have advantages by its built to follow ISS much easier, than doing the same with an equatorial of alt-az platform. Also a Zwo ASI 120MM mono camera was used to capture frames.

Taken with my new ASI 120MM monochrome camera

Japanese HTV-6 docked and a month later gone

The blog post will hopefully give you a good idea, how this is exactly done. It works for me and hope you might find it useful.

Good luck!!

Best way to get good information about the overhead passes

Heavens Above:

Friday, 26 August 2016

ISS solar transit - twice in a week

One of the rear occasions, when ISS was crossing the disk of Sun twice in a week time and twice at near perfectly clear sky. From London! :)

For the first one it happened on the 17th of August -  I had to drive up near M1 motorway. I did not have a scope with me sadly, I was working and just took a short break. Luckily I had my Canon 600D and a 75-300mm lens with me. At highest magnification, white light filter, this was the final result.

The second one ( 21st of August) was near Slough, sky was cloudy when I left home, but because ISS was only in a distance of 517 km, I decided to go whatever happens. You need to be in it to win it right :D
So packed up and hit the road. At my arrival to a randomly chosen location along the centerline clouds began to brake up and it was more a lightly scattered cloudy sky.


There was a patch of cloud 2 mins before the transit, but already saw that this might be really good to me as clouds were moving rapidly out of the way and clear spell was following afterwards. About half a minute before the transit it was bright and clear. Capture began and whooops there it was. A quick 0.68s transit.

Happy happy happy times.

Of course the last minute setting adjustment wasn't ideal, I should have had lower gain and higher shutter speed, the final result was a bit noisy. But it all does not matter. Every time I try to learn from my mistakes and let's not forget, an hour and a half before the transit, it all looked doom and gloom, so no room for complaining whatsoever...

Solar arrays are nicely visible

Here is a video about the whole project, the original and half speed transit video, screenshots of the predicted transit using CalSky.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Mars challenge 2016

Sometime in December 2015 I took a photo through my 200/1000 newton tube, when Mars was still far far away (248 million km away - angular diameter  4.9 arcsec) and it looked like a tiny reddish ball without any surface details.
Then in January I did the same project, only slightly but it was definitely bigger, still a whopping  241 million km away - angular diameter  5.8 arcsec.

Then the idea came, what if I am going to take a shot of the red planet whenever the weather allows me - to capture as it get closer and closer to Earth till it reaches it's closest. Looking back now, weather was crucial part of the project, I had to have a good few weeks of brake due extremely bad weather over UK.

In the meantime I changed equipment, decided to use my beloved 127/1500 maksutov tube with a Zwo ASI 120 MC color planetary camera and a TeleVue 2.5x powermate. Now I had 3750mm of focal length to deal with and it proved pretty useful for this purpose. The planetary camera's region of interest (ROI) was always the same 480x320, this is how I could guarantee the foundation of the proper comparison. 

So the real project started on the 18th of April (2016), Mars was "only" 94 million km away from us and it's angular diameter at 14.2", more than double compare to January. Already showed quite some surface details - I was recommended to use WinJupos to find out what Mars is showing to me at a given time. It worked perfectly and later on, when the red planet was very close I could even identify certain features like Syrtis Major Planum or Olympus Mons. 

Because I used two different tubes at the beginning, eventually I dumped the ones taken with the newton to avoid any confusions. But on this photo the size of the planets are roughly fine, adjusted by basic measurements. 

The shots were taken absolutely randomly as weather was still very unpredictable. But still could manage to take a shot with no bigger gaps then two weeks. Mars just grew and grew all the way to a diameter of 18.6" at its biggest on the 27th of May. 

Clear weather was just one thing, seeing, humidity and jet stream made me run for my money :) I had to wait till the 5th of June for the best of the season. I had the privilege to use my scope and give a try to a Celestron C9.25 SCT too. Here is the result....

Performance comparison of a Skywatcher 127 maksutov and a Celestron C9.25.
WinJupos screenshot in the middle 

From that night here is a link to a gif I have made - gives a bit of a clue what would it feels like seeing any planet over the time as they rotate around their axis...

My plan was to keep doing it as long as possible. Visually Mars looked still very pleasing, definitely to the naked eye, less promising through a scope. So I had to came to the realization that the project is over now. Especially from the UK - even at its highest it was only 16° above horizon - far from ideal. 

Having said that I am very pleased for the result, didn't even dream of having details on a scale like this. This is the final version so far, I might modify it somewhat in the future though :)

As Mars grew and shrank in 2016

Monday, 4 July 2016

Tiangong-1 (Heavenly Palace) - Chinese Space Station

Tiangong-1 (Wikipedia)

Tiangong-1 (literally: "Heavenly Palace 1") is China's first space station, serving as both a manned laboratory and an experimental testbed to demonstrate orbital rendezvous and docking capabilities. Launched unmanned aboard a Long March 2F/G rocket on 29 September 2011, it is the first operational component of the Tiangong program, which aims to place a larger, modular station into orbit by 2023. As of September 2011, Tiangong-1 was projected to be deorbited in 2013 and replaced over the following decade by the larger Tiangong-2 and Tiangong-3 modules. However, Tiangong-1 remains in orbit as of 2016. (source "Wikipedia")

In my entire life I have seen this very space station 
only three times. Once in January during my visit to Gran Canaria. Unfortunately I didn't have my imaging equipment with me on that morning, so I saw it only visually. Sadly that was the end of the visible passes from that location....
Few days ago I realized Tiangong-1 will be visible from UK for a few days, will be at it's brightest on the 1st and 2nd of July. From my two attempts the first was a success, second a total failure...

I have used website this time to find out the when, where from and the brightness details.
The screenshot on the left gave me the basic reference points. My idea was to somehow capture it close to Mars, most ideal case transiting Mars (on the 2nd of July). But the experience I have gained during the 1st of July attempt made me change plans.

The Chinese Space Station is a difficult target after all. It only came as high as 16 degrees above the horizon, which means by the time I could image it due tree obstruction in front of my balcony, the distance between me and the station was around 1100-1250 km. The ISS would look smaller too at this distance, so being aware of this I used a radical equipment - SW 127 mak + TeleVue 2.5x powermate + ASI 120MC. This was a powerful setup, giving me a whopping 3750 mm of focal lenght.

That could have been pretty promising, but difficulties did not end here. Based on my experience on planetary imaging I was aware, the powermate will limit me a lot as it allows less amount of light to hit my camera's sensor than without. Adding this to the fact, that Tiangong brightened up only at a value of mag +3.0 which is very very faint
to ISS ( good overhead passes are between mag -1.0 and mag -3.9).

My photo of Tiangong-1

I remember watcing back the footage I shot was an unpleasant feeling, because the station acted like a bright chewing gum on my screen. The problem lied in the settings, I guess video settings were quite underexposed.  I did not have much faith, nearly deleted the footage straight away.

Luckily I didn't :)

After going through every single frame - I have found ONE single frame which showed me something only in my wildest dreams I dreamt of. I know it might be slightly squashed - mainly due poor seeing (wild jet stream at the moment) and the vast distance, especially the solar panels look squashes a bit.

But hey, it's definitely there, the main body structure with the two solar panels on the sides.

Already much much more that I have previously expected :P

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

International Space Station transiting our Sun

I have been planning this for some time now, but somehow did not have any luck with Sun and ISS these days. Today the predicted transit was about to happen at 12:35:28 from Wimbledon, United Kingdom.


The weather was splendid till about noon, when suddenly clouds began roll in, luckily scattered ones so looked like a good 50-50% success-fail ratio. Well just about 20 seconds after the transit, thin clouds obscured the Sun, but I was already very very happy by then :)

Prediction and details

I have used ISS Transit Prediction app, but wasn't 100% accurate (again), it gives an amazing estimate but to be fully sure about the exact path through the disk of Sun, I would recommend to use CalSky. Here is what the website said:

Centerline for the transit

CalSky shows the actual sunspots too, which helps to identify where ISS will enter and exit the disk of Sun


The usual Skywatcher 127/1500 maksutov was my main tool to capture the transit of ISS (with a Zwo ASI 120 MC color camera), but for the second time the 0.5x focal reducer was a huge help, I could squeeze a 50-60% the disk of Sun in my FOV. The only mistake I made is that I didn't check CalSky, only the ISS Transit Prediction app and the expected path through Sun was slightly off from my expectations. 

According to the app and my basic calculations, ISS should have gone through sunspot region 2536 and 2535, but ISS entered the disk above 2536 so missed a few frames sadly.
Conclusion: Always check CalSky.....

Final result

Animation of the 15 frames containing ISS

Photo in original: