Thursday, January 29, 2015

Blast from the Past - Cheap Webcam Astrophotography!

Found an old Logitech webcam and thought, why not?
So I removed it's lens, found a Canon rear lens cap, drilled a hole in the middle of it, hot-glued it to the front of the webcam, put a Canon t-mount adapter on my Celestron C8 (orange 1980 model) and shot the Moon!
Here is the setup images of the webcam and the scope:

Here's it on the scope:

And here is the results (remember this is a 640x480 webcam!)

The crater Clavius is the one with the crater rings (center right)

A not so great shot of the "Straight Wall"

Love this shot with the tall mountain in the plain
casting dark shadows! The crater is Plato.

Ok, the quality is nothing like a dslr but then what did you expect?

The contrast was really low because when you remove the lens you also remove the infra-red cut filter
which causes things not to appear as contrasty as it might otherwise be.

And to make things worse, my scope frosted and I didn't even know it!

Well, it was fun and I broadcasted on NSN astronomy network.
If you haven't been there, get going! Amatuer astronomers from their backyard, to their driveway,
to their own observatories broadcast LIVE most any time of day. Registration is simple and
is free... free is good! If you don't register, then at least hit the "Guest" button and watch/listen in!
A great chat place for astronomer wanna-be's and experienced sky watchers!
Thanks, George and the gang at NSN for all those past memories of using webcams to shoot the Moon!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Great Orion Nebula with the "Running Man" nebula

January 19, 2015

Canon t3i body, 250mm, f/5.6, ISO 800, stack of three 2 minute exposures

Comet Lovejoy 2014 last night

This is a single shot (not stacked) of the comet last night. The tail was really extended! Can't wait to stack a few of my shots to see it extend even further than this one! The star cluster to the left is the Pleiades.

To get a better idea of the apparent size of the comet and the length of its tail, here is a comparative shot of the Pleiades with the apparent size of the Moon.

As you can see, the head of the comet appears to be about half the size of the Moon's apparent diameter and the tail of the comet is at least 10 Moon diameters in length! That is BIG !

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Back to Comet Lovejoy 2014 !

Surprise! The skies cleared Wednesday night just long enough to capture Comet Lovejoy 2014 again. I was not expecting clear enough skies for at least a week, by government weather reports.
Speaking of government weather reporters, that must be one of the only occupations where you can be wrong 90% of the time and keep your job! LOL !
Anyway, I was surprised on just how far the comet had moved from the previous night against the background of stars! Just guessing, I would say that it had moved at least the distance of holding a quarter at arms length! That is FAST !

Here is a wide angle shot of the region that Comet Lovejoy is in.
Taken with a Canon DSLR t3i, iso 400, 5 minute exposure, 50mm lens at f/2.2, piggybacked on a Celestron 8 (for guiding the image).

At the top is the cluster of stars known as the Pleiades, where you can also see some nebulosity that is part of their nature of being "brand new" stars ("new" is a relative term in astronomy!).
To the left side is the bright star Aldebaran, in the constellation Taurus (The Bull). It is an "orange giant" star (sun) that is only 65 light years away... that means that the light we see today left Aldebaran just 5 years before I was born!
The comet Lovejoy 2014 is clearly seen with it's tail extending out from it (about the 10 o'clock direction) and it is easily visible with a common binocular in the upper south-eastern sky about an hour after sunset from central Oregon. Look for the Pleiades and then scan the area below it.
The "nebulosity" you see around the stars other than the Pleiades in this photo is due to poor seeing conditons (lots of moisture in the air last night.)

Here is a close-up of the same comet taken with the same camera but with a telephoto zoom lens at 250mm f/5.5, iso 3200, 3 minute exposure, with post-processing with GIMP.
The two vertical lines are satellites that photobombed Comet Lovejoy!
The tail is showing better detail now...just wish for clearer seeing!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Another clear night, another try at Comet Lovejoy 2014

This is the result of stacking 31 - 30 sec exposures with my Canon t3i piggy backed on the Celestron C8, using the zoom lens set at 250mm @ f/5.6, ISO 3200.
This is a wide shot... the circular "hot spot" is an artifact of the lens,
yet you can "see" that the tail extends well into it.

Since the Earth rotates, the stars "trail." But since I am guiding on the comet it does not trail.
Here is a close up:

First Work with the Mallincam Micro Ex

Hey, all, richlite from central Oregon here!

Last night was my first attempt at two "first's":
1. To image some night sky objects with the Mallincam Micro Ex
2. To broadcast live on NSN Network to friends of NSN Network

First my initial efforts at using the Mallincam Micro Ex. I piggybacked my new Celestron 70mm (short tube) telescope on my old original Celestron C8 and attached the Mallincam Micro Ex (hereafter referred to as MCMEx) to the 80mm scope. The following images are at 50% actual size to reduce the graininess of video snapshots.

Let's start with...
The Moon. (I capitalize "Moon" because that is it's name! It slightly irritates me that people still do not.) It was coming up in the east, bright and beautiful and just past full moon.

Next up:
The Great Orion Nebula (M42). Here is a photo of the Orion constellation and you can make out this bright nebula in the "sword." The settings were set at maximum sensitivity for color...not bad at all! This nebula is a gaseous cloud that is illuminated by the new stars forming within it.

Now we aim for dimmer objects, still maximum sensitivity for color...

The Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2). Terry Lovejoy discovered C/2014 Q2 in August of 2014 from his observatory in Brisbane, Australia. This is a "long period" comet, which means that, unlike Halley's Comet which returns every 76 years or so, Comet Lovejoy will not return for another 8,000 years! But here's the good news: it will get brighter and more northerly in the next couple of weeks and should be easy to spot with binoculars! Here is a photo of the Orion constellation and Comet Lovejoy is in the upper right hand corner of that photo, the bright fuzzy blueish object. Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) will reach perihelion (closest point in its orbit to the Sun) on January 30th, 2015. Here's where you will find the latest info on this comet.

Finally, we go for a VERY dim object indeed...
The Flame Nebula (NGC 2024). This object is located just to the left and up from the (eastern most) left hand-most star in the "belt" of the Orion constellation, the bright star Alnitak (ΞΆ Ori). The nebula's magnitude is about +2 (if condensed into a single point) but being spread out it is really much dimmer, especially compared to Alnitak whose magnitude is also +2 ! Here is a high quality image of the nebula.

Now as to the second point: My first effort to broadcast live on NSN Network with the MCMEx....
...I need to practice more! There are more than a few steps to getting connected and broadcasting images live... but it is worth it, to share one's love for God's creation in the heavens with others!
I need to do the following:
* Create a checklist of the needed computer actions and settings
* Go out with a plan!
In the absence of these two points it can be frustrating for both myself and the viewers.

But overall I think it went well for the first effort with the MCMEx.

See you there!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Comet Lovejoy Captured under a Full Moon

It cleared up just enough to capture Comet Lovejoy tonight, even though the moon was full (ok, 1 day past full !)
Here is the "raw" image from my Canon t3i, ISO 6400, Celestron C8, Celestron focal reducer:

Here is the same image after processing to try to bring out the comet's faint tail (which the moon did not help at all):