January 18, 2008

Mercury Messenger Flyby 1 Summary

MESSENGER has returned quite a few high quality Mercury photographs. Check these out; the surface details are of the side of Mercury the Mariner 10 missions did not photograph!

The cratered surface of Mercury has not been visited in about 30 years. Only 45% of the surface of Mercury has been imaged by the Mariner 10. MESSENGER has a full suite of scientific instruments and will be able to tell us many things about the geological history, and hopefully about the highly reflective material (possibly water-ice in the perpetual shadows) of the north and south poles, of Mercury as well as image the remaining portion of the planet unseen by the previous Mariner mission.

The official MESSENGER website has a slew of great, entertaining, and interactive information pertaining to Mercury. Check it out for some fast facts, great animations, and even an interactive quiz or two to test your Mercurian knowledge.

January 14, 2008

MESSENGER Now At Closest Point To Mercury

MESSENGER is now at its closest point (about 124 mi) from the surface of Mercury. Now... we wait for the pics!

Mercury Flyby Photo # 1

Today's Mercury photo from the continuing coverage of MESSENGER is posted! Check it out!

January 13, 2008

Today's Mercury Photograph

Tomorrow, the first flyby of Mercury will occur. As you can see, we are quickly approaching the closest planet to the Sun.

January 11, 2008

MESSENGER Update: New Photograph Released!

Yeah, so it looks like the old one but bigger; who cares! We're closing in on the first rock from the Sun!

Great New Blog & Awesome Astrophotos

I found a great new astroblog called the Orbiting Frog. Check it out; great content here as well!

Also, pointed out by the legendary Bad Astronomer, Travis Rector has a gallery of images available for public viewing. He has the fantastic job of processing the data from large telescopes around the world into the desktop-wallpaper-worthy photos we've all come to enjoy!

Identify Never-Before-Seen Galaxies

GalaxyZoo is probably not new news, but it is to me. If you create account, you will make a significant scientific contribution by classifying new galaxies, many of which have never been seen before!

Trust me it's as easy as it sounds. Turn in your name and you'll even be credited! Try to determine spiral, elliptical, and merging galaxies from fuzzy original photos. The computer program can pick out the galaxies, but the human eye is the only thing that can classify them.

Easy as it sounds, labelling can be tricky. They are awfully fuzzy, and sometimes you have to identify photographs from a bad angle.

Got some down time? Let's classify some galaxies!

P.S. The GalaxyZoo blog will be on the blogroll from now on too! Check it out!

January 9, 2008

MESSENGER Team Receives First Optical Navigation Images

Interplanetary space junkies will have a treat in the next upcoming days: Mercury will be imaged by the MESSENGER spacecraft. In fact, it already has, according to the site: here's the first photo of Mercury by MESSENGER:

The first of eight navigational photos have been received. The spacecraft features two cameras: a wide-angle camera, or WAC, and a narrow-angle camera, or the NAC. To assist in navigation, the WAC takes photos of the starry background, and the NAC, which photographs the planet. Since the stars are so far away, they may as well be 'fixed' in space, and, in conjunction with the planet photograph, are used to determine exact position and if any adjustments need to be made. Stay tuned for more Mercury photographs as they become available!

January 5, 2008

Processed Mars Pic

Here's my older pic of Mars...

And my newer pic. This one is 7 exposures stacked through Registax, and with adjusted Curves through Photoshop (with a custom diffraction spike brush as well).

Stay tuned in for how I made the improvements!

January 4, 2008

Photoshop Tutorial: Diffraction Spikes #1

Lately, I've been fooling around with my Adobe Photoshop, and decided to give a whirl at creating artificial diffraction spikes on wide-angle astrophotography. My final photograph will be submitted after this article because it is still in need of some processing, though I will include some great examples such as the preceding photo of the Pleiades, which has very visible diffraction spikes.

It should be noted that diffraction spikes actually detract from the scientific worth of a photograph, as certain features of stars may be obscured by their inclusion. They are strictly there to "pretty up" a photograph, and provide no calculable scientific value.

I have created a custom brush preset using instructions I found on IceInSpace.com, an Australian amateur astronomy website with some great information.
Do these steps and soon you're astrophotos will have those cool diffraction spikes on them as well! Look forward to my published photographs of Mars (similar to one already posted) stacked with Registrax and using IceInSpace's diffraction spike tutorial. It's going to be pretty cool, and I think a gigantic leap forward in quality.

January 1, 2008

Featured Photographer: The Star Doctor

Not to get repetitive with the photographer posts, but this site is just too incredibly awesome to pass up and not blog.

Ruben Kier over at The Star Doctor has some of the most amazing astrophotos I have ever seen, but I think the real meat and potatoes of this website is the observatory this guy has set up in the mountains. The roof slides off and everything (and he even has a La-Z-Boy recliner in the observatory too!).

Says on the site he takes naps in the recliner and double-checks every hour or two that everything is still aligned, tracking, and in focus. Now that's the life!

Once I get to retirement age, I hope I can have something this nice! This site is definitely something any amatuer astronomer can drool over!