Since one of the student projects involves imaging comets with the new MAIA camera, and I like to create images for outreach, I present you Comet Lovejoy in false colour.
Creating a colour image with MAIA (which is far from the main purpose – photometry for asteroseismology – of the camera) is a bit more complicated than it was with MEROPE, since the optical paths leading towards the 3 CCDs are different, which – in practice – means, that the images captured by the 3 CCDs do not overlap perfectly. Unluckily these differences are not linear, so you need to do some proper astrometry to align the three channels in post processing, or use the Auto-Align Layers command in Photoshop (which is highly unprofessional, but results in pretty images rather instantaneously). For this RGB image I used the r+i channel as R, the g as G, and a tricky combination (made using black magic) of the two for B (since in u the number of photons from the comet is in the single digit region).
Yesterday was my first cloudy observing night this year (after 38 clear nights…), with massive amounts of high clouds over La Palma, so I decided to turn the telescope towards the only object which was still visible (except for the Moon): Jupiter. Luckily the seeing was quite good, so I managed to capture the largest planet of our Solar System in an unexpected detail, with several dark and bright atmospheric features visible besides the large dark bands. (Click on the images to see the original – larger – versions.) There is also an animated version here.
Last year in October I already took an outreach image with the Merope instrument in the morning twilight, but since then I gained much more experience with the processing of FITS images into pretty outreach photos (thanks to the new release and user manual of the FITS Liberator software, and some advanced Photoshop layering techniques), so I re-reduced those exposures of the Eskimo Nebula too, recovering much more detail from both the bright and the dark parts of this planetary nebula. Compare it with the old one!
Outreach is important, and we never take fancy images with Mercator. It would really take only maximum one hour per month to publish something nice a couple of times per year. And most of these images can be taken in twilight, when the science frames can not be taken anymore…