Moon all stitched up

Last Monday was the first day of the first week of Term 3 in Victoria and I headed out to Taylors Lakes SC to hopefully get some observing in with the regular crowd. When I arrived I could see Venus, my first real glimpse since the Transit, and the Moon was peaking through the clouds. But there were a lot of clouds! But just to show you that a bit of unfavourable sky certainly can’t dampen the spirits of this group, let me relate the evening to you;

We got the telescope outside and set up, but couldn’t align as the only things we could see were the Moon and Venus, and even that was intermittent. No stars, meant no alignment. So we went manual. We managed a quick glimpse of Venus between the clouds and setting for the evening. (Another planet ticked off the list.) While we were waiting for the Moon to come out, or Venus to come back, how would we amuse ourselves? Of course, at this point, everyone is realising that patience really is a virtue. ‘How about one of the planes’ someone asks. ‘Cool’ someone else comments. From which followed a 15min plane watching exercise through the telescope which was a lot harder than you would think.

Group shot of Taylors Lakes Astronomers as we waited for the clouds to let us get some work done.

Group shot of Taylors Lakes Astronomers as we waited for the clouds to let us get some work done.

But patience payed off and while the planes were distracting us the skies began to clear and the stars and Moon started to appear. Still in Manual mode, we decided to head straight to the Moon before the clouds took over again. Besides, the clouds were still dominating the sky. There were some very excited students after they managed to get a very nice image on their Android phone.  After much admiration of the First Quarter Moon, we decided to connect the new camera I had just purchased for the program using the Award the program had been given late last year. I am very pleased to say the camera has certainly not disappointed. Image and details are below, but first back to the evening. After taking a range of images of the Moon, Saturn came out from behind the clouds and we attempted to take some images as well. Not quite as impressive as the Moon, but not bad for a DSLR. All this time Andrew had been in charge of moving the telescope around while I played with camera settings and took the shots.

After we had finished with our photography, I left the students and teachers to practice their alignment of the telescope, now that we had enough stars to use in the Northern sky. I went off to download the images so we could all have a look on the projector before we finished up for the night. Safe to say everyone was very happy with their pictures.

So, the details.

I now have in my possession a Canon EOS 700D DSLR. While I am still waiting on my Astronomik CLS filter, I did add a remote to my arsenal so I could trigger the shutter remotely. We had a play with many of the settings on the Moon images and the following seemed to be the best combination;

Brightness Histogram - look for the majority of the x axis to be used for best results. Camera settings below.

Brightness Histogram – look for the majority of the x axis to be used for best results. Camera settings below.

Shutter speed 1/200

ISO 400

White Balance was set to AUTO, but is more important for long exposures.

Individual Moon shots that were stitched together

Individual Moon shots that were later stitched together

We took a series of photos as the entire Moon was too large for the field of view (FOV) of the telescope. These four images were then “stitched” together using various software. Possibilities were to do the stitching manually using Photoshop or GIMP and a tutorial on this can be found here and here. The Canon software that is packaged with the camera, ‘Photostitch’ can also be used, but I found it more suitable for large Panoramic views. The software that generated the best image and the most easily used was ‘AutoStitch‘ which is currently a Demo for Windows and a relatively cheap App for iOS devices and well worth purchasing. The resulting image was seamless and the colour matching is sensational.

Stitched together image of Moon taken at Taylors Lakes Secondary College on 15/7/13

Stitched together image of Moon taken at Taylors Lakes Secondary College on 15/7/13

For Saturn;

Close up image of Saturn. Single image.

Close up image of Saturn. Single image.

Shutter Speed 1/50

ISO 400

As we were unable to track with the telescope we did not take any video. The process of taking video then stacking the individual images has a lot of potential to make the image even better as much of the noise obscuring the object is diminished. The stacking can be done manually, again using Photoshop or GIMP or a purpose built program such as Registax which has just been updated.

Well done to all the team at Taylors Lakes as it was a real team effort. Plenty of advice and suggestions and offers to help, assist and finally take over.

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3 comments on “Moon all stitched up

  1. Hope we get more clear nights like this one, CGI in movies could never make the moon as detailed as reality does. Gotta check out the stitching software that was used, flawless results. We’ll be there again tonight at TLSC.
    Confirming that Astrophysics will always be part of my future “scope”.

  2. Pingback: Fun in the Sun | Telescopes in Schools

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