Wednesday, December 31, 2014

First Live Web Broadcast on NSN with Meade LPI webcam

Tonight I opened the observatory to attempt a first live-video cast on NSN, a website dedicated to live video astrophotography. Be sure to check NSN out as it is a great place just to watch others demonstrate what live video of celestial objects can do!

Since I haven't received my video capture device for Windows XP laptop, I thought I would give my Meade LPI webcam a shot at live video on the moon.

Turned out OK, but I could see that it was not as sharp as I had hoped nor was the contrast controllable using ManyCam software. But for a test, I was happy.

Included in my "show" was Copernicus crater, Clavius crater, Sinus Iridium, and other points of interest, like where Apollo 12 landed.

More clear skies in 2015 !

Monday, December 29, 2014

Just purchased a Celestron 70 mm short tube refractor

Hi, all

After getting a little taste of what the Mallincam Micro EX could do during my first effort with it last week I realized that I had to get a lower power telescope so that I could take in a larger field of view for objects like M42 (the Great Orion Nebula) and it would have to have a lower f/ratio as well.

I settled on this Celestron 70mm short tube refractor as it only cost me $50 (with shipping) off of ebay. It will serve as both a "grab and go" telescope for terrestrial viewing as well as for use astronomically (low power).

It comes with both a standard tripod socket as well as a dovetail. Now I have to wait again!
If astronomy teaches you nothing else is it this: be patient !

Here is an example of what Kevin near Mesa, Arizona was able to do with this scope with a DSLR attached:

As you can see, this scope is not powerful, nor do I want it to be since its purpose in my hands is to be a "wide field" scope for the Mallincam Micro Ex.

Stay tuned for my experiences with both of them!

Clear skies!
God bless!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

First Light with the Mallincam Micro Ex

The skies cleared just long enough Friday night to break out the Mallincam for a test run. Now, guys, we are too smart to have to read a manual on how to use something, right? WRONG! I discovered very quickly that there were a lot of potential settings on this wonderful little video camera. And believe it or not, I actually got a decent color image of M42, the Great Orion Nebula... for a minute, until I thought, "I could do better!" and I change a couple of settings and poof! The color was gone and I did not keep track of what I had done to get it!

  • Live and learn! 
  • Keep notes! 
  • Read the manual!

Anyway, I turned it towards Jupiter (but left the focal reducer on, dumb move) and within a few minutes lucked my way to a decent rendition of it ! Would have been better without the reducer...
Then I tried the camera on a little telescope, lower power magnification, and turned it to M42 again.
Yeah, lower power is better!
So you know what that means? Yup, more money for a quality short tube telescope like this one:
It is a short tube Orion 80-T Refractor Telescope
Fully multi-coated 80mm refractor objective lens and short 400mm focal length give you bright and crisp wide-field views
Correct-image 6x26 finder scope makes it easy to aim the ShortTube 80-T accurately during the day
Features a cast-aluminum 1.25" rack & pinion focuser, and includes 45-degree correct-image diagonal, two Sirius Plossl 1.25" telescope eyepieces (25mm, 10mm), and more
Built-in short dovetail mounting bar with threaded 1/4"-20 holes allows quick and easy attachment options for equatorial mounts or field tripods.
Cost: $180 from Amazon

Anyone want to get it for me for a late Christmas present?  LOL

So, next week the skies clear up... and the temps go down... -5 degrees F at night or lower!
Can't wait!

Clear skies!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas! My wife got me a new telescope!

I don't know the brand, just that it was made in China !

Oh, and we have First Contact !

They are as small as salt & pepper shakers !

Oh, they ARE salt and pepper shakers !

Maybe next year a LARGER telescope?   LOL

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mallincam Micro EX is here!

I received my order for the Mallicum Micro EX this week!
Skiee do not allow first light through a scope yet but I have read the manual and hooked it up to a portable flat screen tv (got at Goodwill for $10) and WOW! Am I impressed! Just attaching a old webcam lens and pointing it into a dark room in our house was enough to convince me this is a good product! Color, sharpness, brilliance... all were good!

I could also see that attaching it to even the smallest finderscope was going to be necessary to take in a wider field of view in the night sky.
Attaching it to my larger scopes is going to result in a very small angle of view.

Now all I need is some clear skies for first light! 

Cloudy nights are times for study and planning

Well, here we are again under constant cloudy skies.
But such times are good to break out user manuals and refresh one's memory about how to best use one's etWell -miles -cruise -gasoline -transmission
It is a fact that we are all too eager to use new gear in astrophotography or visual astronomy that we miss some critial point that is plainly in the manual or info that is readily available on the internet. But it is also true that merely reading the manual prior to use is not always going to result in proper or best use. We all need "hand's on" experience so we will be motivated to dig that manual back out of its grave and now better understand terms and functions.
That is what I am doing in these cloudy days. Lo and behold, I've learned a lot and am ready to put new functions and ideas to work!
Here is a webpage that has been beneficial to help me better understand how to make even better astrophotograhs with my Canon caneras when using higher ISO settings : 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Ah, at last ! CLEAR skies!

Yes, at nearly 40 nights we have had extensive cloud cover and we finally got a good break last night! So... out to the observatory!

I have to admit to being out of practice and that resulted in nearly 30 minutes of fruitless efforts trying to get good subs (subs are short exposures with a digital camera that are "stacked" in software after the fact to create one image that looks like it ought to.) My problem: I left the "stabilize" button in the "on" position. That meant that the camera was constantly moving the image around on the screen causing lots of "motion" blur. After waking up to that fact I was able to take 19 shots of the "sword" of the constellation Orion with my Canon t3i set at 20 secs, f/5.6, ISO 3200 with my zoom lens set at 250mm.
Here is a single "sub" unretouched:

Then after "stacking" those 19 "subs" (using Lynkeos) and doing some enhancing with GIMP and PREVIEW (OS-X app) here is the result (cropped):

For a better fuller sized image see it in my Google+ photos account here.

NOTE: I did not use my modified Canon XSi for this shot so I am eager to do so.

Clear skies!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Mallincam Micro-EX on the way!

Hello, all !

Yes, it is still cloudy here (going on forty nights since I have been able to use the observatory) but I have just ordered a Mallincam Micro-EX video camera that will allow me to show both planetary and deep space objects via tv monitor to visitors as well as enjoy them myself.

DSLR cameras are good for many types of astrophotography but most require more time in post-shot work to get it ready for "prime time". This Mallincam Micro-EX, though not the most sensitive of all the video cameras available for astronomical use, will provide full color images for immediate gratification.

Here is a sample they provide as to what it can potentially do to the Great Orion Nebula:

I am told it is now on the way to me and so I am eager for both it and a good clear night!

More to come! 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Rain, rain go away!

Sorry I have had no updates here to post since late October, 2014. We have had more rain, snow, and cloud cover in the past month plus than I have ever noticed in the 16+ years I have lived here. Every once in a while I have been able to get out and spend a few minutes at a scope but only to have clouds move in on me quickly.

I have picked up the needed cables and connectors to use the Meade Astrostar Suite on the Meade LXD-75 gotot mount so that I can have my windows laptop control the mount. Did a little practicing during daylight without a scope on the mount. Good thing I didn't for the scope motors didn't seem to understand that they would bump into each other or the scope would have collided with the legs of the mount. I am hoping to get some help on this so that the mount will swing around to the "other side" to avoid such potentially disastrous consequences (ruined motors and ruined OTA's).

I am looking forward to relocating and enlarging the observatory building this next year so that I can get a better view of the southern skies and leave my various scopes set up for ease of use. It looks like I can build up to a 10x20 building which would be more than enough space for my three main scopes (Celestron C8, Meade LXD-75 refractor, and my 13 inch Meade Dobsonian telescope.) Maybe a little room left over for a little "warm room" where I could sit in "comfort" while the scopes go about their business. Also I am looking into picking up a MallinCam Micro-EX video ccd camera  (see the bottom of that webpage) for live video of deep sky objects so that many visitors can see more than a faint blob but instead see more of the real colors of nebulas, star clusters, and galaxies "live"!

Clear skies....please! 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A very partial solar eclipse

Yes, I said, a VERY partial solar eclipse... for, you see, a 5,000 mile long storm is SLOWLY making its way through central Oregon here... and I do mean sloooooooowly. Yup, just in time for the partial solar eclipse today. Rain, rain, and more rain. Then a momentary break just after the eclipse began...

You can see a major sunspot collection known as 2192 as well as the fuzzy clouds passing by.
That sunspot collection is larger than the planet Jupiter which is bigger than 1,300 Earths!
I was very surprised that I could capture what I did, given the thickness of the cloud cover.


Maximum eclipse passed and still more clouds.

Then about 20 minutes after maximum, FINALLY there was a thinning in the clouds,
not a clearing, mind you, only a thinning... but just enough to start photographing again!

I also took some shots with a 200mm telephoto:

Then a last parting shot of the sun as the moon moved away from it

Yes, astronomy can be frustrating at times. But go ahead and do what you can... it just may surprise you!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Second Total Lunar Eclipse of the Year 2014

Got out to the observatory about 2:10 am, Wednesday, October 8 and the Moon had already begun to slide behind the earth's shadow.
I used my Bushnell NorthStar 90mm Catadioptric Telescope piggy-backed on my Old Faithful Celestron C8. I attached my Canon T3i camera at prime focus and set up my intervalometer to trigger the camera every 60 seconds.
(Don't miss the BONUS at the end of this blog account!)

Initially I had the ISO set for 400 but eventually increased it to ISO 800 as totality began. The shutter speed initially was 1/250 sec but had to slow it way down to 15 seconds during the middle of totality. Here's my first shot at about 2:25 PDT:

As the shadow moved across the disk of the Moon I took a longer exposure (10 sec) just to show that the orange color, visible to the human eye, was already visible:

As totality came it appeared photographically that the Moon still had not been totally covered. This is an optical illusion because the human eye saw only shades of orange and deep orange. Notice that the lightest part of the Moon is in the 8:30 location from the camera photo point of view:

Here is a shot of what totality looked more like with the human eye. Notice that the brightness on the 7:30 rim were less pronounced:

At the end of totality you will notice that the lightest part of the Moon had moved to the 6:00 location (once more from the camera photo point of view):

Here is a shot of myself in the observatory with the eclipsed moon outside:

Well, it was about 4:30 am now and frost had begun to affect the front lens of the Bushnell scope and my feet were freezing (it dropped to 25 degrees F then !). So it was time to wrap up this 2+ hour session and get warm!

Each time I go out for one of these eclipses I learn new techniques and also what NOT to do. Next time: bring out the hair dryer to rid the scope of frost! Next time: use better socks and boots!

Here's the BONUS: As totality hit I heard elk calling out in the night! Awesome! What we all miss when we are cozy in our beds!

EXTRA BONUS: KTVZ, our local Bend, Oregon television station posted my photos on their website and on their evening news. Thanks, KTVZ!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Moon shots in preparation for the 2nd Lunar Eclipse this year

The weather wasn't the clearest (lots of smoke and unstable air) but was enjoying the late views of the moon before it went full and Wednesday's early morning lunar eclipse.
Photos at 800 iso, Celestron C8, prime focus, 1/30 sec exposure.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Clearing skies...but soupy viewing still

Though the skies have cleared the viewing is so poor that i didn't bother breaking out the cameras. I did test my video setup on the Moon, however. It should work well when I have several visitors at the observatory.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Modified Canon XS and sample photo

I have always struggled with trying to image reddish nebula...never could get enough red to make it look natural. Of course there is a reason. Digital cameras are made for "normal" daylight exposure, what the human eye naturally sees. What is interesting is that digital camera manufacturers have to place an infrared (ir) filter directly in front of the imaging sensor (CMOS) to PREVENT it from capturing the near infrared, because the CMOS is naturally sensitive to the near infrared!
So to capture the near infrared of nebulas in space it would be necessary to REMOVE that filter.
Of course, if you remove that filter the color cast of normal photography will not be "natural" to the human eye. It is, however, possible to compensate for that, to good degree, with the "custom white balance" feature in the camera.

In searching the internet I found a site that gives a clear step-by-step on how to disassemble a Canon DSLR to be able to remove that ir filter,
Since I own three Canon DSLR's I choose to try this modification to the least valuable camera, my Canon XS. Trust me, I was fearful of making a big mistake and ruining the camera for good. But to my happy surprise it was not as difficult as I imagined! True, one needs a good tiny Philips screwdriver (don't compromise here!) but the instructions are so good that only someone with all thumbs need worry about making mistake.

Modification accomplished! Camera tested! Ready to head out to the observatory!

The night was clear, the temps rather warm (didn't put on a light jacket until almost 11 pm), I did a few exposures to see how it works. The images were much red-er than they were before and my technique still needs improvement but I was able in post-processing (using Lynkeos, Preview, and GIMP) to produce this image of the region of the Milky Way north of Cygnus (the Swan constellation) which included the "North American Nebula" and the bright star Deneb.

So if you have an extra Canon DSLR laying around and you really want to do astrophotography of the night sky then this modification is absolutely essential! You can do it yourself or send it in to the guy who runs the above website and he will do it for you for a fee.
When I get a newer Canon DSLR someday I will do this modification to my Canon t3i or t2i, for sure!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Observations of the Moon after raising the telescope pier 9 more inches

Ah, the wonders of hindsight! After nearly a year in my observatory it came time to make some more adjustments to the concrete pier that my orange Celestron C8 is mounted to. By raising the height of the pier 9 more inches I am able to view more objects than before and yet be able to roll off the roof without fear of hitting the telescope.
Of course that meant having to realign the wedge and angle of the telescope to polar north. To my surprise it was relatively easy to get really close!
Saturn is just too low now in the southwest for any decent observing but the scope tracked really well.
And though the Moon was going to shorten any observing I went ahead and took some images with my Canon t3i at prime focus in the movie mode, both full screen and digital zoom (maximum to look for any discrepancies in my polar alignment. Here are the results...

The following image is of the crater Copernicus:

Typically I use Lynkeos and let it choose the best stills from the movie but as of late it seems to want to choose some stills that are less than the best. So I hand picked the stills (about 6 of them out of 50) and produced this image, final editing in Mac OS-X Preview.

Friday, August 29, 2014

17 Visitors to the La Pine Observatory tonight

The Primetimer's of Grace Fellowship Church of La Pine, Oregon visited the observatory tonight.  Viewed were Sataurn, Mars, the crescent moon, double and triple star systems, the Ring Nebula,  M13 globular cluster,  the Andromedia galaxy, the Milky Way, etc. Thank you all for coming and viewing God's creation!

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Comet, The Ring Nebula, and A Poor Man's Spectrometer

After last night's capture of the motion of Comet Jacques C/2014 E2, I headed out to the observatory for another attempt to capture any tail on the comet. Well, no success yet but here's the result of about 30 - 10 sec images:

I then slewed to the Ring Nebula and got this result from a stack of about 15 - 10 sec images:
 Part of the focusing technique is the use of a Bahtinov mask (check it out on Google). But what I personally discovered is that it makes for a "poor man's" spectrometer of sorts. In other words it produces a poor spectrum of a bright start. This is the star Vega. You will notice that it has a mix of colors, but predominately blue-green.
 But this spectrum of the double star system Albireo in Cynus ("The Swan" or otherwise known as the "Northern Cross") makes it very apparent that the brighter star has more yellow than blue, while the lesser star has almost no red at all. Visually thru the eyepiece of a telescope (just slightly out of focus) the brighter star appears much more yellow than its blueish companion.
Well, it's time to close up the observatory and hit the sack!

Comet Jacques C/2014 E2

Comet Jacques C/2014 E2

This is an animation of Comet Jacques C/2014 E2 as it flies through Cassiopeia on August 23, 2014. This is its motion over just 17 minutes of time!
(Ignore the brightness increases and decreases as I was not intending to make an animation in the first place.)
It was only after I had closed up the observatory that I noticed the amount of motion in the images.

You may notice a bright small object near the end of the animation moving from the middle right. I do not believe it is a hot pixel nor is it a satellite (as it would have moved out of the field of view too quickly.) The only other possibility might be a bright asteroid?

Captured with my old orange Celestron C8, focal reducer, Canon t31, 6400 iso, prime focus, 10 to 20 sec exposure times, at about 11:45 pm August 23, 2014

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Four visiters to the Observatory tonight!

Some friends of ours and two of their grandchildren observed the Moon, Saturn, Mars, the double star in the Northern Cross,  the triple star system in the Big Dipper, M13 globular cluster, the Ring Nebula, saw the ISS fly very close to Polaris, and a supply ship following after it, several satellites,  and more! A great time was had by all!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

First Light with my 6 inch Meade LXD75

Skies finally cleared up tonight! So I broke out the latest addition to my observatory,  the 6 inch LXD75 scope. I was very impressed!  Both visual and DSLR images were crisp and had good contrast. Now I just wished that I had it sooner when Mars and Saturn were at opposition!
Sorry about me being in so msny of these photos but I wanted to give some scale to show just how big the scope is.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Meade LXD75 AR6-AT Achromatic Refractor Telescope with AutoStar

Just picked this scope off of craigslist for my observatory today. I have always wanted a refractor scope with goto ability but I wanted it to be large aperture. This scope is 6 wonderful inches! Now if only the skies would clear up from smoke (forest fires) and monsoon clouds! It is HEAVY, about 75 plus pounds but stable. It has a little slop in the RA motion but not noticeable when using the Autostar 497. Believe me this beast is visually impressive...Now the test will come soon on the heavenly objects.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Fires and Rain...preventing observation s

This has been a different summer with smoke from many forest fires (both human and lightning causes) as well as lots of cloudiness and thunderstorms... more than usual at this time of year. Please return to this blog soon!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Crescent Moon (Day 3), Earthshine, M13 revisited, and more!

This is the third day in a row that the weather has permitted a warm summer evening to scan the heavens!
Here is "day 3" of my effort to photograph the moon every night!

When the moon is in crescent shape and you expose for a longer time you can see what is called "Earthshine" on the moon's shaded surface! You can make out the various "seas" (darker portions) of the moon.

Here is a shot of my observatory with the moon in the background (see the Earthshine?)

I revisited the Great Globular Star Cluster in Hercules last night, taking 17 - 8 second photos and stacking them together to create this image. Can you make out the different colored stars (yellow, blues)? The overall color is slightly greenish due to the insufficient number of images to be stacked. I will go for more in the future!

It was during this effort that I noticed flashes in the southern approaching dry lightning storm coming up from California. Never heard the thunder but WOW, was there a lot of lightning strikes somewhere! I stacked my "wide field" views into a single short video below. Sadly the lightning flashes didn't show up, but you can see the apparent rotation of the stars in the sky as the clouds approached!

So I decided to pull the plug on my observing session about 11:45 pm. It was good to see the Lord's handiwork again!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Whirlpool Galaxy, Circumpolar stars, Crescent Moon, and More!

Two nights in a row of clear skies! Woohoo!

Got outside just in time to capture the second crescent moon in a row:

I also took another shot of the southern skies in the Milky Way...lots of interesting objects here!

If you step outside tonight after it gets a little dark and look to the south-south west you will see a triangle of bright objects: one a star (Arcturus) at the top, Saturn to the lower left, and Mars at the lower right (next to Spica in the constellation Virgo):

I purposed to photograph the Whirlpool Galaxy tonight just below the handle of the Big Dipper (Ursa Major) Here is a shot of the Big Dipper to the west of my observatory roll-off roof:

Believe it or not (you had better!) this image of the Whirlpool Galaxy is the result of stacking 38 5-second shots using a program for Mac called "Lynkeos." Simply amazing given that you could hardly make out anything in the 5 second shots! This galaxy is also known as M51.
Finally I took a "circumpolar" photograph by pointing the camera at the "North Star" (Polaris) and leaving the shutter open for about 10 minutes. You can see the earth's rotation creating little arcs in the stars!

Well that is all for one night! Maybe I'll get three nights in a row!
God is good!