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!