Thursday, October 8, 2015

Analyzing the progression of the “Blood Moon” Eclipse with Gen5 software

When given the option of witnessing a once in a life time spectacle or going to bed like a responsible adult... well... usually my inner child kicks in to make the decision, which means my "responsible adult" self gets the night off.  And so it was with the recent Blood Moon Eclipse.  How could I pass up the opportunity, even though I’d be up to the wee hours of the night??  As hard as I tried, I just couldn't repress my giddy, childlike excitement.

As a photographer and astronomy enthusiast, it was an easy decision that viewing this phenomenon by eyes alone would not be enough.  I grabbed my Meade telescope, aligned it to North Star and immediately started tracking and viewing the Supermoon, which entirely filled my field of view.  As awesome as the sight was, that was just the prelude to the main event. 

Soon the eclipse began, and inch by inch, the ominous shadow of the earth advanced across the moon.  As the onslaught continued it left a wake of darkness and, as the night progressed, a secondary wake of blood red color, which is why this phenomenon is given the name “Blood Moon”.  I alternated between viewing the event through the telescope eyepiece and also doing some prime-focus astrophotography where my camera was directly mounted to the telescope, using it as a 2000mm prime lens.  The images I saw and captured were incredible and definitely worth the next day’s yawn-inducing effect.  Below is a series of photos across two and a half hours of the event. 


As I admired this lunar show, a thought hit me: wouldn’t it be cool to measure the phase of eclipse the moon was at?  A quick mental calculation told me this would be an easy task for BioTek Cytation Gen5 Image Analysis software, using Image Statistics with a Plug and a threshold.  But that could wait until morning, *yawn*.

Monday morning bright and early (brighter and earlier than I wished... due to my irresponsible late night gallivanting), I converted my photos into TIF files in ImageJ and opened them in Gen5 software.  First I measured the diameter of the moon using the software's Line Profile Tool, and defined an Image Statistics Plug that would perfectly outline and measure the moon. This would measure the precise size of the non-eclipsed moon which would be my reference.  Then I imported one of the photos with the eclipse. Using the Line Profile Tool again, I determined an upper threshold intensity value that would exclude the portion of the moon with high intensity that was not yet eclipsed (a value of 50,000 intensity was used). With a quick run of the analysis, I had my answer by using the Confluence measurement in Image Statistics.  90% of the moon was eclipsed in the photo I was analyzing. In the below screenshot, the blue in the image is what is excluded from the analysis, red is what is included as the portion of the moon that is eclipsed.  I quickly imported the other images and to my delight was able to measure the eclipse progression with ease!

Now with all the easy image analysis figured out, we have 18 years until the next Blood Moon - plenty of time to develop a Cytation telescope module for an all-in-one astrophotography solution!   ... And plenty of time for me to recover from my lost sleep...

By: BioTek Instruments, Caleb Foster, Product Manager, Development

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