Astronomy telescope moon image photo with telescopes

The Lunar World Record represents a group of amateur astronomers with Celestron reflector telescopes to make a photographic image of the moon. Using sct telescopes and Lumenera and Imaging Source DMK astronomical imaging ccd cameras similar to webcams for astronomy imaging. The event took place in the garden of Sir Patrick Moore by his astronomical observatory.

Astronomy, telescope, sct, newtonian, maksutov, cassegrain, reflector, refractor, astro-imaging, astro-photography, ccd camera, webcam

Lunar World Record 2009
The World's Largest Ground-Based Digital Lunar Mosaic

World Record Lunar Mosaic - April 4th 2009

Nick Howes

Nick Howes resolving equipment problems Technical problems beset most things in life; as a software test engineer I am used to things going wrong, and had planned ahead with this attempt. I brought backup power supplies, hard drives, laptops and all sorts of tools with me on the drive from Wiltshire to Selsey. However, nothing could have prepared me for the problems which I did encounter. Having removed some errant flocking from the C11 telescope (which to be honest, had not been used for a few months due to inclement weather conditions) I found out that I had a problem with the focus control, whereby the mirror was jamming against it.

This, combined with a cracked dust window on the Lumenera camera, almost meant I would not be able to take part. After some timely intervention from Ninian, who repaired the C11 on-site (it's now working better than ever), and my use of a dust blower and the sealing up of the optical train by virtue of the Televue Powermate, all went to plan, with literally minutes to spare. I used a compact ASUS 901 series laptop, with an external 250GB HDD, and the Lumenera Skynyx 2-0M running at 30fps. Level and gain settings were tweaked throughout the night due to highly variable seeing and cloud conditions, but 246,000 video frames later, at around 2:30am, I finished. With almost 250 individual panes of my own, covering a much larger area than planned (but with some gaps), it then took me three weeks to assemble my section using a combination of Registax, Photoshop and iMerge tools. Having Sir Patrick sitting alongside me for over an hour during the imaging run was a real thrill, with him identifying, on the fly, the craters on my laptop screen. It made the effort of moving my equipment from Wiltshire all the more worthwhile.

Pete Lawrence

I'm based in Selsey, approximately 1km to the east of Sir Patrick, and decided to image from my home observatory where I knew everything was set up and working. After a meet with some of the other imagers earlier in the afternoon, I returned home and prepared for the evening's imaging.

I was using a C14 SCT using a focal ratio of around f/25 (focal length 8.75m) which, despite the rather average conditions, actually worked out pretty well in terms of the detail captured. The first hurdle encountered was when to actually start imaging. After numerous practice runs on previous nights, the conditions on the 4th April were less than perfect and the lunar imaging instinct to hold off for better seeing was strong. However as time ticked by, instincts had to be put on hold and the capture run started regardless.

A number of things stick in my mind from the night. Having a region which was bounded by the western terminator but open landscape to the north, south and east proved quite challenging at f/25. Despite having a fairly good knowledge of the Moon's surface, identifying the top and bottom end of each of my vertical stripe runs proved quite hard.

The last part of the run had the Moon moving perilously close to a tree and the stress of trying to complete the capture before the branches interfered was pretty intense! In the end I took a total of 226 separate panes as AVI files, each containing an average of 1,200 frames, leading to a total of 271,200 frames in all.

I must say that it was a fantastic honour to have worked with such a great team, all of whom executed their tasks with tremendous competence and dedication. I feel very proud to have contributed to the stunning and rather immense end result.

Damian Peach

Aristotles crater from Damian's imaging run Having plenty of experience in taking large high resolution lunar mosaics over the years, I felt quite confident going into this project. However, as we examined all the issues over the weeks leading up to the big day, it became clear that mosiacing such a large area at high focal length was going to present a serious challenge.

I opted to use my C14 at a slightly lower focal length than the general level agreed upon, mostly due to the less-than-ideal weather conditions on the night. I operated at approximately 5.5m focal length, which enabled fast frame rates and less of a problem due to lunar declination drift over the evening. Having taken images using the C14 in past years at this focal length, I knew it would deliver sufficient resolution to provide a good result.

I decided to progress in vertical strips across my section which covered the Mare Imbrium and the Apennine mountains. Progress wasn't exactly fast and smooth all the way through, due to scattered low clouds drifting across the Moon periodically. Seeing conditions also varied throughout and were rarely good. The whole process took about 2hrs and around 115 separate panes. Processing all the data took about 2-3 weeks in total and many hours of work. It was a great project to be part of, and even further fuelled my love of the many amazing landscapes our nearest neighbour has to offer.

Bruce Kingsley

As photographic coordinator for the Lunar Section of the British Astronomical Association, I was very interested by this challenge. To simultaneously image the Moon from multiple locations with various equipment, and to produce the largest ground-based lunar image to date was enough to whet my appetite.

Although I have photographed and imaged the Moon for many years, nothing can be done about the great British weather. Only nights before, some excellent conditions were had and I was able to make some good observations and large practice mosaics, yet on the night of the attempt the weather at my location went from bad to worse. I managed to image the lunar south pole area (my designated part) for as long as was possible, but sadly the clouds set in and I had to make do with what I had.

Although I would have wished for clearer skies, it was still a rewarding experience in its own way. The hard work and perseverance of my fellow astronomers made for a great combined effort. I hope that the good cause that Sir Patrick Moore has chosen will benefit from this endeavour and look forward to the next, even bigger, attempt !

Dave Tyler

Working from my home observatory, I first made sure that my camera was orientated so that a surface feature tracked parallel to the lower frame edge when the scope was moved in RA. The plan was to step across the Moon in RA, from the dark-side to the limb, taking 800 frames at 60fps per pane. Whilst doing this, I made sure that a surface feature was kept in frame from one edge to the other on each step, then made a fast return to the dark-side at the end of each strip. At the Moon's widest point, each strip took 12 panes. The Moon's declination drift of 14 arcseconds per minute on the day made progress south to the poles slow for a while, but it did ensure a safe overlap of frames for the mosaic.

After we assembled our individual mosaics, they were passed to David Mason to assemble into the world record image, which is over 8 feet tall at 1:1 print scale.

This synchronised imaging session showed varying seeing conditions within a few miles. This may indicate why seeing quality changes quite suddenly, as it may often occur in discrete cells.

The whole experience was unique and rewarding. The close attention to the lunar features during the many hours spent piecing together of the mosaics, made the work most enjoyable.

A lot was learned all round and a larger attempt is under discussion.

Nick Smith

I had been keenly anticipating this event for several months, so I was distraught (to say the least!) when my CGE mount developed a terminal fault during a practice run just three days before the attempt. I cannot thank Ninian enough for the loan of a brand new G11 mount that made my participation in this amazing project possible.

On the day itself, I drove down to Sir Patrick's under beautiful blue skies, watching the Moon steadily rising in the sky. After installing my C14 on the G11 mount, I had a chance to view some of Patrick's famous telescopes and observing records. It was a real thrill and privilege to be able to view these things first-hand.

After a crash-course in operating the G11 mount from Ninian, I started an initial imaging run at 6.9 metres focal length but was badly hampered by the high clouds that had moved in. Thankfully, the skies cleared later and I was able to repeat the run using the larger-format Infinity 2-1M camera at a shorter focal length, which produced some satisfactory results.

Given the weather on the night, I consider it something of a minor miracle that we managed to complete the image at all! It was a tremendous team effort and something I feel very proud to have been able to take part in.

Trevor Little

Trevor Little imaging Having arrived at Sir Patrick's the first thing to do was set up my Celestron CPC1100 in the front garden, along with the associated equipment required for the evening. On completion of this we decided to make sure we had internet contact with the rest of the team; unfortunately we soon discovered that the broadband connection was down, and had to rely on mobile phones to stay in touch with each other.

Personally it was a very enjoyable event and an honour to attempt this from Sir Patrick's garden, flanked by his 12 inch reflector with which he mapped the Moon many years ago for the early exploratory missions by the Russians and Americans. I ran off 116GB of Data comprising 370,000 individual frames at f/25, or 7000mm focal length. An interesting lunar halo was visible for the early part of the evening which did affect the seeing conditions on the night.

David Mason

Following a chance meeting with Nick Howes at Astrofest, I was invited to join the team as one of the backups. The idea was that the main imagers would capture their individual sections at high resolution, while the backups would capture the entire Moon at a lower resolution, just in case the worst happened and there were any small gaps that might need filling.

On the night the weather at my home location was not ideal, with lots of clouds passing over. Although the transparency was quite good in the gaps, the seeing was at best average. As the evening passed the gaps got ever smaller until, frustrated, I admitted defeat at 1:30am with only half of my data collected.

Once everyone had processed their individual sections they passed their images over to me for the final assembly. I knew from past experience that it would not be an easy job, but I was surprised at just how difficult some of it was. The differences in equipment setups and local weather conditions made for some challenging work in aligning and merging the sections. This has also shown just how localised seeing conditions can be, with myself and Bruce being more-or-less clouded out, while just 6 miles away Dave and Damian had enough clear sky to complete their imaging runs.

Once the assembly process was finished, the final image had taken close to 50 hours to complete.

I'm proud to have been a part of the team that produced this image. Not just because of what we've achieved with the image, but also because of the way that everyone pulled together to ensure that it happened at all.

Mark & Lea Irving

Mark and Leanne's C9.25 telescope As relative newcomers to astronomy, it was a great privilege to be asked to participate in this event. We had previously completed a small lunar mosaic with our C9.25 and DMK21, but this was in a different league entirely!

Sir Patrick had worked his usual wonders with the weather, and we all benefited from some warm spring sunshine while setting up. The sense of team spirit and camaraderie was fantastic; astronomy can be a somewhat solitary pastime, and group events like this always create a wonderful atmosphere. Everyone experienced problems of some sort, but there was always someone else on hand with a solution or advice. Dew became apparent early on, becoming much heavier in the early hours, and without Nick Smith's hairdryer we doubt we could have completed the task!

Our mission was to image at f/10, as a backup to the ultra-high resolution work done by the f/25 team. This was to ensure that there would be no gaps in the final mosaic. Thin cloud and less-than-ideal seeing on the night made for a challenging imaging run, but we managed to capture the entire Moon once each, to take the best data from each set. In total we captured 90,000 frames to make two mosaics of 90 panes each.

By 3am we had all done as much as we could hope to, and despite niggling doubts that we might have 'missed a bit', we set about packing up and mopping up. The heavy dew did not just affect the optics; by the end of the night everything was soaked, and tidying up the electrics was a health and safety minefield!

We suspect we're not the only ones who learned a thing or two that evening, and we're looking forward to an opportunity to do the whole thing again, on an even bigger scale.

Ninian Boyle

Thin cloud on the night made imaging difficult As I am not an experienced imager, I hoped to contribute my skills with equipment to this event and was keen to play a small role in this worthwhile and ambitious project. I was delighted to have had the chance to play my part when Nick Howes' scope seemed to have a terminal disorder, much to his horror! His Celestron C11 focuser would not focus. The light was going, and so working with a screwdriver, a handful of other tools and a head-torch, I set to and after three attempts to free the errant mechanism I found success. A final collimation made sure that the telescope was ready for the task ahead.

I also took some general photographs of the event as well as one of the Moon that showed the haze that the imagers were attempting to 'see' through. Having seen the results of their work I am simply stunned that they managed to image at all and the result attests to their consummate skill and dedication to their art, for that is surely what it is. I am also pleased to say that I renewed acquaintances and deepened friendships at the event and I am proud that I have played a small part in this monumental project.

Astronomy telescope moon image photo with telescopes

The Lunar World Record represents a group of amateur astronomers with Celestron reflector telescopes to make a photographic image of the moon. Using sct telescopes and Lumenera and Imaging Source DMK astronomical imaging ccd cameras similar to webcams for astronomy imaging. The event took place in the garden of Sir Patrick Moore by his astronomical observatory.

Astronomy, telescope, sct, newtonian, maksutov, cassegrain, reflector, refractor, astro-imaging, astro-photography, ccd camera, webcam