Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Asteroids Asteroids Asteroids

NASA has a brief video showing all the known asteroids in our solar system. While most of us know that there is an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and that occasionally an asteroid visits the vicinity of Earth... be prepared for a shock: There are FAR MORE asteroids in our vicinity than you believe!

NASA is vitally interested in discovering and tracking these space rocks (of all shapes and sizes) as they are a threat to Earth, granted rare in these days but still a viable threat.

The good news is that our atmosphere (not to mention the Moon) has protected us from these impacts for the most part.

Here is the link:

How to Detect Exoplanets with Inexpensive Astroimaging Equipment!

Hi, all. I ran across this youtube video about how one can use the ZWO ASI 120 MM monochrome camera with minimal equipment (an equatorial mount with motor drive) to detect (well, if not necessarily discover) stars with exoplanets by the changes in the light brightness as the exoplanet passes in front of the star.

Using SharpCap and AstroImageJ programs in conjunction with the Exoplanet Transit Database website one can practice with know stars with exoplanets.

The video is comprehensive enough to get going at it. It is a 6 minute video worthy of watching if you are interested in trying this. I am!

Now, just to have some clear skies, no Moon, not too tired, or work getting in the way!

I will report when I have a chance to try this!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Clear Skies: Day 1 M 33, Deep Sky Stacker in Mac OS and Guiding Tests

Clear Skies: Day 1
M 33 Galaxy (no cropping)
DeepSkyStacker 3.2.2 in Mac OS High Sierra (using Wine)
Total time: 20 minutes from 6 frames @ ISO 800
Canon T3i camera body (unmodified) , Daystar 80mm f/6 scope
Last night was the first of perhaps a week of clear skies here in central Oregon... at least until the forestry department kicks in "prescribed burns" and pollutes the skies with smoke. I can't figure out why they can't do that on cloudy days. Sure, they want it to burn "hot and fast" but hey, what's the hurry? Throw some fire starter on it and it WILL burn! Anyway, enough of that rant...

My goal was to do some more tests with my autoguider camera and scope. Here is a close up of the same galaxy image above so you can see that the stars are round and there is no drift!

The real problem was not "How long can I expose the camera sensor?" but "How long can I expose before the background sky light overwhelms the faint nebulosity of the subject matter?"
Though the nights are coming on earlier, the problem is that, at present, until it is 11 pm or later the background sky light is too much for any serious imaging.

Of course, as fall progresses into winter here in the northern hemisphere it will get darker much earlier. That's the good news. The bad news is that these objects will be too far down in the west to image (trees, more atmosphere to shoot through). The good news: I will be ready for it next year!

Another task was to install DeepSkyStacker onto my Macbook Pro running High Sierra 10.13.6
DSS was made only for Windows. While I could run it in a virtual machine using Virtual Box, the fact is that it would run far faster if not burdened down with another OS system.

Wine is a potential way of running DSS without the baggage of an entire Windows OS.

In my search for "How to run DSS in Mac" I came across this website:

This person has packaged Wine and DSS 3.2.2 into a SINGLE installable file! Sweet!

I used it for the above photograph (and the ones that follow) and it works GREAT on my Macbook!

Some functionality may be "limited" but that is not where I am going anyway (I haven't tested it fully).

Here is a screenshot of it running on my system:

The version of DSS is 3.2.2 which is older than the newer version 4.1.1 (available for 32 bit and 64 bit). I will try to find an easy way to install the newer version and see how it runs. Here is the DSS official website where 4.1.1 can be found.

Here are some more images stacked with DSS 3.2.2 last night:
M 27 - The Dumbell Nebula
about 20 minutes from 7 images stacked - ISO 1600
Taken with the same camera and scope as the M 33 pic
Zoomed in from the above shot (after post-processing with Luminar)
Notice there is no streaking, my autoguiding setup is WORKING!

In my haste (which does make waste) I did not take any "dark" frames which would have eliminated "hot" pixels, some of which are obvious in the above image.

Now, for another night to further perfect my astroimaging...

Friday, October 5, 2018

Surprise! A Clear Evening... Great for Tests with Auto-guiding

It was supposed to be partly cloudy and then before sunset a wind came in a surprisingly cleared out the clouds!
I have just received a 50mm guidescope and I needed to test it with my old autoguider camera (see previous post) on the CATE telescope (Daystar 480mm scope) with a finder shoe that a good friend in Salem, Oregon made for the telescope.
The old autoguider didn't seem able to hold the stars still for more than 2 minutes and sometimes far less... hmmm... need to figure out why. I would have thought it was an issue of polar alignment but I took care of that earlier. I think it might be periodic errors in the gears that the autoguiding program just couldn't correct fast enough. Ah, the joys of chasing errors!

Here are a few of the final images, not cropped. Click on an image to get a better view.

The North American Nebula
DeepSkyStacker: 21 minutes, 16 frames
Canon T3i (unmodded) ISO 3200
Postprocessed with Luminar

Same as above but greyscale to bring out more detail

M 33 Galaxy
DeepSkyStacker: 22 minutes, 18 frames
Canon T3i (unmodded) ISO 3200
Postprocessed with Luminar
M 32 The Andromedia Galaxy
DeepSkyStacker: 30 minutes, 27 frames
Canon T3i (unmodded) ISO 3200
Postprocessed with Luminar

M 34 Open Star Cluster
Single shot: 1 minute
Canon T3i (unmodded) ISO 400
Postprocessed with Luminar

Comet 64p/Swift-Gehrels (the small fuzzy blue in the center of the image)
DeepSkyStacker: 8 minutes, 6 frames
Canon T3i (unmodded) ISO 3200
Postprocessed with Luminar

The Pleiades - Notice the nebulousness around the primary stars !
DeepSkyStacker: 12 minutes, 8 frames
Canon T3i (unmodded) ISO 3200
Postprocessed with Luminar

Friday, August 24, 2018

Flashback to the Total Solar Eclipse of 1979 !

FLASHBACK! My wife, Denese, found three photos I took of the February 25, 1979 total solar eclipse from Goldendale, Washington! 

Camera: Pentax K with Kodak Ektachrome 64 mounted on an Edmund Scientific Astroscan, which in turn wa strapped via metal pipe strapping to an old wooden legged EQ (no motor) mount. Enjoy!


 Bailey's Beads

Diamond Ring Effect

Friday, August 3, 2018

A Short Night in the Obs !

After two weeks of smoke from forest fires hindering deep sky astroimaging, the skies cleared up last night! Whoohoo!

 The Gamma Cyn Region
The bright star is the center star of what is known as
the Northern Cross
Specs: 14 minute exposure (made up of 16 individual images)
stacked with DeepSkyStacker, ISO 12800, Canon T3i
Daystar 80mm scope at f/6.5

 The Andromeda Galaxy (M 31) and it's two smaller galaxies
Specs: 15 minute exposure (made up of 15 individual images)
stacked with DeepSkyStacker, ISO 12800, Canon T3i
Daystar 80mm scope at f/6.5

The Western Veil Nebula (NGC 6960)
Specs: 16 minute exposure (made up of 27 individual images)
stacked with DeepSkyStacker, ISO 12800, Canon T3i
Daystar 80mm scope at f/6.5

 The North American Nebula
Specs: 15 minute exposure (made up of 15 individual images)
stacked with DeepSkyStacker, ISO 12800, Canon T3i
Daystar 80mm scope at f/6.5

Tr 37 region
Specs: 4 minute exposure (made up of 4 individual images)
stacked with DeepSkyStacker, ISO 12800, Canon T3i
Daystar 80mm scope at f/6.5

Friday, July 27, 2018

Faux-Total Lunar Eclipse !

While we did not see the REAL total lunar eclipse (it was not visible from the USA), the smoke from the fires around Crater Lake pushed up into central Oregon and as the full Moon rose, I captured these "look-alike" images! They look almost like the real thing, though! Enjoy!