Thursday, December 28, 2006

Things are looking promising right now, just got the scope setup outside, should be dark enough to get the alignment done in ten minutes or so. Vega is always the first star to appear closely followed by Capella, Polaris isn't bright enough to be seen through the polarscope as yet.

Just checked on Heavens Above and I have 2 passes of the ISS today, first at 17.05 next at 18.40.

Well, the ISS showed right on time, got a very nice view as it crossed the sky, not the brightest of passes but still very impressive.

Next I set to aligning the scope, as I wasn't planning on taking any photos I was happy with a very rough alignment, with the new (xmas present) 40mm EP it takes quite a while to drift.

First target was the Pleiades, the 40mm EP is perfect for this, got the entire cluster in the same FOV, as I was adjusting focus a satellite whizzed by and appeared to increase in brightness as it crossed the FOV.

Next target was Taurus, I'm not sure if it's just me but the Hyades seems almost quite boring as there are practically no background stars in this area of the sky. As I aligned the scope on Aldebarran amazingly another satellite skimmed across the FOV!

As I stood back to look at the whole sky with the naked eye I spotted another ISS like object moving North at a steady pace. Of course it's because it's so close to sunset that I can see these satellites, later on they are not so easy to see (if at all).

Unfortunately that looks like it for now as the moon is merrily lighting up my southern sky and nicely highlighting all the high cloud that is making the seeing conditions not so good. Did get a nice view of Albireo with the 40mm (25x) and 25mm (40x) EP's.

Left the scope set up waiting for Orion, wanted to see M42 through the new EP. Got to 19.50 and Orion was beginning to show his shoulders guessed, clouds started to roll in!

More later

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Well, we've been pretty much fogged out here the last few days, so much that Heathrow airport have cancelled half their flights. The last chance I had to use the scope was last Saturday evening, objective was to test out the recalibrated Polar scope.

Got the scope aligned fairly quickly and then started with some piggy backed shots, this time I wanted some shots of Cygnus....

Quite pleased with this 10 minute exposure (longest yet), this shows the rear section of Cygnus with Deneb showing nicely, this is a very rich section of the sky as the Milky Way runs through here. The image below has some lines drawn to show the outline of the constellation, Deneb is top right and is in fact the tail star of the swan.

Next I thought I'd have another go at Lyra as it was higher in the sky than last time and therefore out of the glow of light pollution....

Another 10 minute exposure at ISO:400, 35mm equiv 90mm focal length.

Then I tried some prime focus shots and also using the camera attached to the Barlow lens. The Barlow lens seems to have a blurring effect though.

Also I ran into some camera shake again, I've tried everything to eliminate shake. I purchased a 2 metre extension lead for the remote shutter release, this was then isolated by being clipped to a photo stand next to the scope with plenty of slack between the scope and the stand.

I tried shooting with the mirror lock up function also, all to no avail. I've come to the conclusion that there's either a fault with the drive or my patio (made of concrete slabs) has a bounce in it so that as I walk away the scope is picking up vibrations.

Next opportunity I get I will downsize the camera by removing the battery grip and using the camera in its standard configuration.

Just looked outside and...more fog.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Last night we had a good few hours of clear skies here after a dodgy start with lots of broken cloud. So I had a go at taking some piggy back images, this is basically taking photos with the cameras own lens rather than through the scope but with the camera attached to the OTA. This way you can get wide field images and long tracked exposures, this one is of Lyra....

Canon EOS350D 35mm Equiv focal length 90mm, 200 seconds at f5.6 ISO:400.

Next is the Pleiades....

Same camera setup but 268 second exposure

The next shot was taken in the direction of Cassiopea but due to the dim view through the camera viewfinder it could be anywhere! Lots of stars, though some of the really tiny stars might be just noise!

Same setup with 411 second exposure

This has to be the downside to this aspect of imaging I think, due to the low magnification and the digital SLR's small frame size (compared to a 35mm SLR, it is 60% of that) you can only make out the very brightest of stars in the finder. Also due to the fact that the lens is autofocus even operating in manual mode is tricky because the lens does not have an infinity setting like the old lenses had. I guess part of the solution is to try and get some older non autofocus EOS lenses.

Finally a wide shot showing a part of Taurus including the Hyades....

Same setup with 259 second exposure.

We've had cloud and rain and lots of wind here all day, watched a recording of the shuttle launch from last night, interestingly it seems that whenever the shuttle is docked with the ISS there are no sightings from my location! Must be an amazing sight to see the whole lot going over.

more later

Friday, December 08, 2006

Cloud Dodging...

Well it looked like it was clearing up later on so I decided to take the scope out to hopefully get a first look at Saturn with the Skywatcher. As I was setting up the scope Saturn was in view as I'd predicted through a clearing in the clouds.

By the time I was all set to go, you guessed it, Saturn disappered behind the clouds, I missed it by seconds!

So I swung the scope around and had a nice view of the Pleiades and Hyades, and after waiting for what seemed like ages I gave up with Saturn and decided the moon was looking I dashed inside to get the camera the clouds were starting to cover the moon also!

Managed to get a few shots in, here is the best....

More later
No clear skies at all since the last post, I'm desperate to get out so I can test the tracking on the scope.

I decided to sell the Meade, put it on eBay and got £155 for it, it would have been nice to have kept it as a travel scope but I just don't have the room to keep it handy. I'd rather someone else get some use out of it.

It was great to read in the news this week about American plans to return to the moon by 2020, it's a shame that as a race we can't just all get along and not waste so much money on killing each other! We'd have surely made more progress in space by now had we not been waging wars both phoney (as in the Cold War) and the many real conflicts.

The irony though I suppose is that it was the cold war that sparked the Space Race and prompted the US to invest so heavily in order that they could prove they were better than the Soviets!

Anyway I digress, this is not a political blog! The OU course has started but I've not had much time to spend on it lately, I have 2 weeks holiday to take over Christmas so I'm hoping to get on with that then. There seems to be a good spread of people taking the course in terms of experience and knowledge of Astronomy.

More later.