St. Patrick’s Day 2015 Aurora

St Patrick’s Day 2015 saw the largest solar storm of the last decade or so hit the earth.  Unfortunately for us in North America, it was almost at Kp 9, an insanely high amount during the daytime.  The storm was so powerful it knocked out HAM radio communication and even part of the GPS system. Fortunately, the storm continued at a still very high Kp 7 and Kp8 just after sunset here in Ontario.  The result was some lovely aurora,  from our vantage point just outside the now-closed Elginfield Observatory north of London.  Not as spectacular as it could have been, but at this latitude, any aurora is welcome. I was particularly thrilled to have so much social media interest in this timelapse, which is roughly 1h 15mins in length, compressed down to 27 seconds at 24fps.  Each shot is a 6 second exposure at ISO 3200 at 24mm @ F5 on a Canon 6d. The video was picked up by CTV Media and shown across Ontario on local CTV stations newscasts, as well as CP24.  Probably the most excitement I’ve had in one day, including an interview with CTV as well.  Lots of fun, and a great night.  Not as dramatic as my first Aurora experience in this area on Oct 24, 2011 where the entire sky was lit up, and the aurora was directly overhead, but a darn fine night. I’d encourage you to watch it full screen, at 1080p for the best show!  ...
The Importance of Good Quality Flats

The Importance of Good Quality Flats

I’ve been struggling a bit lately with my QHY9 and getting quality results.  Some of these have been driver issues (I accidentally cracked the screen on my netbook which usually runs my system, so switched to my other laptop, and something isn’t installed quite right).  I’ve come to two conclusions in the last day or so, and they revolve around the importance of quality flats. I built a lightbox a while ago for flats, and while its big and bulky, it works well.  I didn’t realize just how well until I was lazy and took some sky flats on my setup, and could not figure out why my narrrowband images were “wonky”.  I re-ran everything using the lightbox, and well, the results speak for them selves.  Here’s the Oiii and Ha subs (onlyu 90 mins and 80mins respectively) before and after flats. Here’s a great example of the difference in detail level you can achieve with proper   flats.  The images on the left are with skyflats, and the images on the right are with the flatbox.  This is with the auto STF stretch in pixinsight applied.  (The images are from the central area of NGC 2264).  Ha on top, Oii on bottom.  The right side images clearly have way more detail and much less vignetting.  In all cases, dark flats have been applied in order to account for the read noise and sensor noise.       You may not be able to see the full difference in the screenshot as the jpg compression plays a bit of havoc, but you can see (moreso in the Oiii data)...