Author: celinevaonis

the rosette nebula
Observations, Travel journal

What can we observe in the sky in December?

What can we observe in the sky in December? For this last month of the year, Mars will be in the sky several times, accompanied by beautiful showers of shooting stars!

The planet Mars will offer us several events in December

On December 1st, as it does every 780 days, the Red Planet will pass close to Earth. During this visit, Mars will be at 81 million kilometers from us this time around. As the trajectory of the planet is eccentric, it does not describe a circle but an ellipse, consequently the minimum distance between the two planets varies between 55 million and 120 million km.

The configuration of 2022 is therefore not the most optimal. It will be necessary to wait for the next transits in 2035 and 2050 for the planet to be as close as possible.

To witness the next record of proximity between the two planets, we will have to wait until August 28th, 2287. The distance will be only 55.758 million km, that is to say 70,000 km less than the previous record of 2003.

Credit : Yohann Gominet, Paris observatory – PSL / IMCCE

A few days later, on December 8th, the planet will be in opposition: the Sun-Earth-Mars system will be aligned.

On the same day, in some parts of the world, Mars will be playing hide-and-seek with the Full Moon. In Western Europe, Canada and a large part of the United States, the Red Planet will pass behind the last Full Moon of the year. During about 1 hour, between 2H17 UTC and 6H10 UTC, depending on your position, the planet will disappear behind our natural satellite.

occultation de la lune par mars

Finally, Mars will be visible simultaneously with the other planets of the solar system at the end of the twilight.

For Uranus and Neptune, you will need an instrument to observe them.

The others will be visible with the naked eye.

Solstice December 21 21h48 UTC

December 21st, at 21:48 UTC, will mark the December solstice.

For the Northern Hemisphere, it will be the longest night of the year and the beginning of winter for temperate regions. For the Southern Hemisphere, it will be the shortest night of the year and the beginning of summer in temperate areas.

Showers of shooting stars

Geminid meteor shower

Between December 4 and 17, the Earth will pass through the dust and small rocky particles left by the asteroid Phaeton. These fragments will burn up in the atmosphere and offer a shower of shooting stars. The peak of activity is expected on December 14 with rates up to 120 shooting stars per hour depending on your location.

Ursids meteor Shower

After the Geminid shower, the Ursids will take over between December 17 and 26. The Earth will then pass through the dust deposited by the comet Tuttle. The maximum activity is expected on December 22. The number of shooting stars will be a few dozen per hour.

Deep sky

December 13

For those in the Southern Hemisphere, the Large Magellanic Cloud will be high in the sky and in good observing conditions. The new Mosaic mode will allow you to observe different regions of this galaxy, such as the Tarantula Nebula and the open clusters surrounding it. You can also explore another part of the LMC by observing the open cluster NGC 1761 and its environment also rich in clusters and nebulosities.

December 30: The Rosette Nebula

For those in the Northern Hemisphere, the Rosette Nebula will be in good observing conditions in December. It will reach its peak on December 30. Take advantage of the Mosaic mode to get an observation of the whole area.

Ceres
Observations, Travel journal

What can we observe in the sky in November?

What can we observe in the sky in November? The end of the year will be rich in observations of the sky and this month of November is already starting with a total lunar eclipse, visible on the west coast of the United States, Australia and East Asia, in particular.

Ceres passes through the Leo triplet between November 6th & 7th

Between November 6th & 7th, the dwarf planet Ceres will pass through the Leo Triplet in the sky. This will obviously be a visual effect in our sky because the smallest dwarf planet in the solar system with a size of 950 km is only about 400 million kilometers away from us while the M65, M66 and Hamburger galaxies are 35 million light years away.

Ceres

Total lunar Eclipse on November 8th

After the partial eclipse of the Sun on October 25th, the Sun, the Earth and the Moon will play together again to offer us a new event in the sky. This time, the alignment of the 3 objects will be different because the Earth will be in the middle of the trio. The Moon will be totally in the shadow of the Earth and will not perceive the light of the Sun during this total lunar eclipse. The phenomenon will be visible everywhere where it will be dark on November 8 between 09:10 and 12:49 UTC, mainly the Americas, Asia and Oceania.

What can we observe in the sky in November?

Uranus in opposition on November 9th

The seventh planet of the solar system will be at opposition on November 9th. The ice giant planet will be located a few degrees from the full Moon. In eastern Asia and Alaska, the opposition of the planet will be accompanied by an occultation by the Moon the day before.

What can we observe in the sky in November?

Leonid on November 18th

During the month of November, the Earth passes through the residues left by the comet Tempel-Tuttle. About 10 tons of debris weighing less than a gram for sizes smaller than10mm come to burn in our atmosphere.

On the night of November 18, this Leonids shooting star shower will reach its maximum activity. In the direction of the constellation Leo, about 15 meteors per hour should be visible.

Trivia : The comet officially referenced as 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, was discovered independently by astronomers Ernest Tempel on December 19, 1865 and Horace Parnell Tuttle on January 6, 1866. It has a period of 33 years. Its latest passage to the Sun was on February 28, 1998 and its next one is scheduled for May 20, 2031, according to its current trajectory.

M45, the Pleiades well placed in the sky

During the night of November 18, the 7 sisters of the Pleiades and their parents Atlas and Pleioné will reach their highest point in the night sky. The open cluster will be in optimal conditions to be observed. In the sky, following the imaginary line formed by the stars Sirius, Orion’s belt and Aldebaran, you will discover a small group of 5 bright stars. After some time of adaptation, your eye should distinguish a little more and in excellent conditions of observation and with a good view, you should distinguish 12 of them. Using your instrument and the beta version of Singularity’s Mosaic mode, you should be able to detect a few dozen stars among the thousand objects contained in the open cluster.

What can we observe in the sky in November?

photo by Hervé Descoubes

the first "panorama mode" ever embedded in a telescope
Observations, Travel journal

CovalENS, the first “panorama mode” ever embedded in a telescope

the first "panorama mode" ever embedded in a telescope
Discover CovalENS, the first “panorama mode” ever built into a telescope, allowing you to explore a much larger area of the sky than the original field of view of your instrument, and create your own panorama of the Universe. Vespera and Stellina now offer an innovative observing mode that allows you to automatically obtain views of the sky that are much wider than normally allowed by the characteristics of the instrument. With the same observing station, you now have a wider window on the Universe and more opportunities to capture unique images.

1 – What are the new possibilities offered by the capture of mosaics ?

Stellina and Vespera have a fixed field of view which is determined by the focal length of each instrument and the size of their sensors.

For Stellina, this field of view is 1° x 0.7° and for Vespera 1.6° x 0.9°.

Many deep sky objects as well as the Moon and the Sun (observable with the optional sun filter are smaller in size and then can be observed and photographed in their entirety. But there are also some objects or groups of objects that are larger in size and therefore can’t be seen in their entirety in the captured images. For example, the Great Andromeda Galaxy is about 3° at its longest dimension (6 times the full Moon!).

The mosaic mode extends the field of view of Stellina and Vespera, allowing you to see larger objects and regions of the universe. It is like having a second observation station for the large field.

The Andromeda galaxy captured with Vespera in mosaic mode (unprocessed image, integration time: 2 hours). The image represents a FOV of 2.8° x 2.1°. The white rectangle represents the native field of Vespera and the blue rectangle the native field of Stellina.

With the mosaic capture, you can now :

  • obtain more complete images of large deep sky objects such as the Andromeda Galaxy, the Rosette Nebula (Monoceros constellation), the Carina Nebula, the Heart Nebula (Cassiopeia constellation), the Small Magellanic Cloud, large star clusters such as the Pleiades…
  • better explore the environment of large nebulas, such as the Great Orion Nebula or the Horsehead Nebula, the region of the Tarantula Nebula or the nebula-rich regions of the Milky Way’s center
  • obtain, in the same view, sets of nebulas such as the Lagoon Nebula and the Trifid Nebula (Sagittarius constellation) but also views gathering several star clusters such as M46 and M47 (Puppis constellation)
  • capture small asterisms or groups of stars with a particular aesthetic, such as Kemble’s Cascade (Camelopardalis constellation)
  • it was already possible to visualise, in the same field, groups of galaxies such as M81 and M82, but now larger groups are available: the Leo cluster of galaxies or the Markarian Chain, Coma Cluster

Mosaic dimensions and specificities according to the observation station

The user can choose the dimensions and proportions of the mosaic in the Singularity interface (see part 3). The maximum field of view at the sensor proportions is 3.2° x 1.8° and for Stellina 2° x 1.4°.

Vespera users benefit from the possibility of capturing images with a higher resolution than the sensor resolution, up to 8.2 megapixels, thanks to the mosaic mode.

The maximum resolution of a mosaic made with Stellina is 6.4 megapixels.

The framing of a mosaic is defined in relation to the north/south orientation of the sky (equatorial orientation), so that Vespera users are not dependent on the orientation of celestial objects in the field of view, which varies according to the time of observation.

The innovative process developped by Vaonis to capture these wide field images (see part 2) allows you to benefit from a “dithering” effect (the same portion of the sky is captured successively by different areas of the sensor) which attenuates the impact of the inherent defects of the sensor (noise, hot pixels) and allows to obtain a final rendering of better quality.

Summary of mosaic characteristics

Stellina Vespera
native field of view of the telescope 1° x 0,7° 1,6° x 0,9°
extended field max. size (sensor ratio) 2° x 1,4° 3,2° x 1,8°
extended field max. size (square) 1,7° x 1,7° 2,4° x 2,4°
extended field max. size (horizontal) 2,8° x 1 3,6° x 1,6°
extended field max. size (vertical) 0,7° x 4° 0,9° x 6,4°
extended field max. definition 6,4 Mpx 8,2 Mpx

2 – How does mosaic capture work?

Vaonis has developed an innovative method of image capture that allows users to obtain an image of the extended field in an optimum time, while simultaneously proceeding to the stacking of images, essential in astrophotography to obtain a satisfactory quality rendering.

The process of making a mosaic is completely automatic.

After launching the observation in mosaic mode, your observation station progressively scans the field that you have defined in the Singularity application by shifting the pointing of the telescope in small steps. Simultaneously, images are captured to compose the mosaic. As the images are captured, the large overlapping portions of the images are used to stack these areas.

The video below shows a time-lapse of the process, visible in the Singularity application.

An observation time of approximately 60 minutes (integration time displayed in your Singularity application) is required for your observation station to scan the entire extended field and provide a high-quality image of the mosaic.

If you decide to continue observing once the mosaic is complete, the extra time will be used to perform additional scans of the field and thus gradually improve the overall quality of the final image.

After 120 minutes of observation (the integration time displayed in your Singularity application), you will have an image of the entire field of significantly better quality, allowing you to manually process the image to bring out the finer details, for example.

M31 Andromeda Galaxy premier "mode panorama" jamais intégré à un télescope

Caption: The Andromeda Galaxy M31, captured by Vespera with an integration time of 2 hours and processed with Affinity Photo and Starnet applications ++ (image : Sébastien Aubry – @adventurerofthethirplanet )

 

Rosette Nebula premier "mode panorama" jamais intégré à un télescope

The Rosette Nebula, captured by Vespera with an integration time of 2.5 hours and processed with the Affinity Photo and Starnet ++ applications. The frames superimposed on the image represent the native fields of Stellina (in blue) and Vespera (in white). (image : Sébastien Aubry – @adventurerofthethirplanet )

3 – How to use the panorama mode with your observation station

Singularity provides a simple and intuitive interface that allows you to select the region of the sky for a mosaic, taking into account the size and shape of the celestial objects you want to include.

As with all observations with Vespera and Stellina, the starting point for obtaining an extended field view is to search for your target in the Singularity app explorer page. In the beta mode, the mosaic mode works with manuel targets but is not compatible with the “Plan my Night” feature.

If your target is not listed in Singularity’s catalog, you can choose another nearby object available in the catalog and navigate to your target or define a manual target.

Once your target has been identified, Singularity will offer you the options of starting a classic observation or starting a mosaic.

If you choose the latter option, Singularity will show you a map of the sky centered on your target and representing the surrounding area.

The map displays all the deep sky objects, indicating their overall shape for large nebulas and their size and their orientation for galaxies and star clusters. The brightest stars are also displayed.

A white rectangle is superimposed on the map and delimits the field that will be captured by your observing station when you start the mosaic.

Pull the handles in the corners of this rectangle to change the size and proportions of the area. The top banner on the screen shows the dimensions of the field in degrees.

Drag the map to frame the targets you wish to include in the field.

Singularity interface

Singularity’s interface for defining the size and framing of your mosaic: (1) Pull the handles of the frame to change its size and proportions. (2) Move the map to refine your composition.

When you are happy with your framing, launch the observation and your telescope will begin capturing the mosaic and show you its progress in real time as it acquires the individual images.

It takes about 60 minutes for the observing station to complete a mosaic. However, you can stop the process at any time if you are satisfied with the current image. You can then save it or export it as is.

Please note, however, that it is not possible to resume a mosaic that you have interrupted. You will have to start the acquisition from the beginning. Similarly, if during the course of a mosaic you ask to refocus, the capture will be interrupted and will be restarted (automatically) from the beginning.

framing sample

Examples of defining the mosaic framework in Singularity for different regions of the sky: (1) Lagoon Nebula and Trifid (2) Markarian Chain

Saving and exporting mosaic images

You can save and export an image of the mosaic at any time, as you normally would with a conventional observation. The result of the mosaic can be obtained in JPEG format or in raw TIFF format if you wish to perform manual image processing.

If you have activated the saving of the files on a USB stick on Stellina or in the internal memory of Vespera, you will find all the JPEGs of each step of the mosaic as well as the raw file in TIFF format of the last state before the interruption of the observation. You can also save all the raw unit images in FITS format that were used to stack and to compose the mosaic. Please note, however, that in order to use the raw FITS images, you will have to manually perform the mosaic assembly and stacking with a specialized application.

The raw image file in TIFF format represents the assembled mosaic (with the stacking done by the observation station) and can be directly exploited in any image processing software.

Orion Nebula M42 | premier "mode panorama" jamais intégré à un télescope

The region of the Great Orion Nebula, captured by Vespera with an integration time of 2h30 and processed with Affinity Photo and Starnet applications ++ (image : Sébastien Aubry – @adventurerofthethirplanet )