clear sky chart

Job 9:9

Job 9:9-10
9 He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion,
the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.
10 He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
miracles that cannot be counted.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Analysis of Recent Photos

Ever since I built the clock drive (and the 127mm refractor), I have noticed a lack of quality in my images.  I had assumed I would get better resolution while using the clock drive, being able to eliminate the slight motion blur as the object moved across the field.  I found the images worse than before I began using it.  I therefore have to conclude that the problem is in the clock drive.  Because the camera magnifies the images so much greater than a regular eyepiece, I have to conclude that any minute amount of vibration and/or stepper motor resolution is causing a problem.

The way I see it, after looking at the last 2 Saturn images in my last post, I have concluded that the problem is caused by stepper motor vibration as well as the resolution.  Therefore, this is what I plan to do to resolve the problem.  First, I'm going to mount the motor itself on rubber shock mounting grommets, as well as possibly adding some mass to the base of the mount.  These two things should reduce the vibration substantially.

The second modification I want to consider is gearing down my stepper motor even further.  I have several stepper motors in my collection.  I will take a look first to see if they all have 7.5 degree step rotation.  If so, I am going to gear down what I have at least 10:1 more than I already have.  I figure that will clean things up substantially.  This will require me to make a whole new motor mount for the clock drive.  The next time I image, I will not use the clock drive, unless I do some low magnification lunar stuff.  This problem seems to manifest itself worse when using high magnifications.  Because Saturn is so difficult anyway, I feel I would get better images if I let it crawl across the field and manually reset.

Therefore, I will first mount the motor on the grommets and see what effect that has.  Then if necessary, which probably will be, I will redesign the motor drive to gear it down at least 10:1 slower than it currently is now.  Stay tuned, I will, of course report on my progress.

More Saturn- Felt on Dew Shield

This time I checked the lens when I finished, and there was no sign of frost on the objective.  However, again, the images are not what I expected.

Here is one still from each avi I shot.  Various numbers in each stack, different camera settings, etc

The first image isnt real bad, but they appear to get progressively worse.  Thing is, I dont think seeing was all that bad, so I'm not certain I know what I'm doing wrong.  By looking at the last 2 images however, I wonder if perhaps my clock drive is vibrating the telescope enough to cause a blur..  Next time I image, ill shoot a set without it running.  Also, the blueish color is how they all turned out, I did some color modification on a few of the images.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Saturn, But It's Hazy Again

Went out and imaged Saturn.  It was cold and hazy again.  It didnt look quite right in the eyepiece either, but I thought I'd give it a try.  I shot 4 avi's with different settings.  Seeing was horrible and the haze didnt help, but I ended up with one image that was halfway decent enough to post:
At least this one showed SOME detail.  The Cassini Division is sorta there.  I notice the northern portion is almost totally dark in this image, whereas in the past, I was seeing a white band, which I assume is the NED.  I'm not seeing it in this image.

The rest of the images that I was able to get varied from no detail whatsoever to barely showing the northern band.  Some were so bad that there was little contrast between the planet and the rings.

<Added 7:34AM 3/29> ' When I brought the telescope inside after writing this post, on the porch, i looked at the objective and saw a nice layer of frost on the glass.  Maybe it wasnt so much as haze as it was condensation.  This has been a problem before, and now I need to figure out how to prevent it.  I'm thinking a couple of low value resistors hooked to the battery that drives the clock drive to provide a small amount of heat that will hopefully prevent condensation.'

Eventually, we'll get decent seeing again.  If this keeps up, I'm going to think its my equipment!

This was taken on the 70mm refractor, by the way, and I know I've done FAR better in the past with it.

Also, I purchased some filters to try with the 127mm, but will be needing reasonable conditions to do any good.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunspot Group 1176

Being I have been having some bad luck lately photographing nighttime objects, I thought I would turn my attention again to our daytime star.  Group 1176 is now near the center of the disk, and I was able to readily see it with it projected onto my posterboard.  As the last time, I simply photographed the posterboard with the sun's projection on it.  I used the 25mm eyepiece on the 70mm refractor to get the following photos:
If you look around the disk, there are some other irregularities, possibly some other spots, but I could not bring them out well enough, and besides, they could be dirt on the optics.  Its difficult to tell with the sun.

I also processed a closeup image of the group:
This was taken from the same image as the first.

Not too shabby using projection.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Clear Turned Mostly Cloudy

Stayed up till 1am imaging Saturn through clouds.  Trouble is, Saturn was hidden more than clear.  I got a rather disappointing image, partly because I didnt have time to focus, and I couldnt use the barlow.  I'm still going to post the image, its been resized and processed fairly heavily, and yet, still not much detail..  Anyway, here it is:
 We need at least ONE decent clear night so I can really do some imaging!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

127mm Refractor 2nd Star Test & Clock Drive

Right after sundown, I went out and star tested the refractor again after my adjustments to the optics.  Tonight's subject was Sirius, and the image in the eyepiece was the same across the field when using both the 25mm plossl as well as the 9mm plossl eyepieces. I am therefore quite pleased with the results so far.

<Added 3/25> ' While I was observing Sirius, I noticed a very faint star just outside of the glare of the main star.  Could Sirius be a double?  After researching online and discovering that it is, I decided to add this observation.  I didnt think a lot about it at the time.  I'm still not 100% certain that what I saw was Sirius B or a nearby star, it did have all of the properties - Very dim in respect to Sirius, very close, but I also read where it is very difficult to observe, and was discovered on a very large aperture refractor.  I therefore am still uncertain that what I actually saw was the companion, even though it met all of the criteria.  I observed using the 9mm eyepiece.  It did appear as a tiny point of light. At magnitude 8.5, it would have been visible.  I dont rule it out, but I do remain skeptical as to whether what I saw was indeed Sirius B.'

I homebuilt a clock drive out of a stepper motor and misc gears scarfed from an old HP Deskjet 600 printer.  The pulse generator consists of a 555 timer, and the 4 phase output was generated by a 74LS194 TTL IC driving a ULN2803 which contains 8 Darlington power transistor drivers, 2 in parallel per phase.  The 555 oscillator has a variable frequency controlled by a potentiometer, and the phase is reversible by toggle switch. (This reverses the motor direction)
I used this circuit to scratch build mine on a piece of perfboard:

I am pleased to report that using the 9mm eyepiece, I can keep Sirius centered in the eyepiece for an extended period of time.

I will attempt to photograph Saturn this evening.  I'll be able to stay up a bit later than usual, as I wont have to be at work tomorrow until 2 hours later than usual.  We have crystal clear skies tonight, although it is quite cold, about 20F.

Any images that I take of course will be posted here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Jupiter with its 4 moons

I took a couple of old Jupiter pictures from last winter and combined them, a decent Jupiter photo on top of the one I had taken with the 4 moons.

Thought it would make for a cool photo.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Experiences With 127mm Refractor

As promised yesterday, I'm going to tell you a little about my experience with the 127mm homebrew refractor.  The first item I went to look at was a semi-bright star.  Not certain which one, I think it was one of the belt stars in Orion.  As I recall, it was a yellowish star.  I noticed right away that if the star was focused in the center of the eyepiece, as it drifted, it got progressively blurrier as it went off center.

Then I went after M42, as its easy to find and I was in the neighborhood anyway.  It was quite bright, compared to the 70mm and 114mm scopes I have.  Of course, M42 is much brighter in the 8 inch Dob, which is to be expected.  A quick peek at Sirius showed a blue star, pinpoint and bright  when focused.  From there, I attempted M51, Canes Venatici, but couldnt locate it.    After spending some time searching, I proceeded to Saturn which was higher in the sky.  There was thin cloud cover, more like a haze, the moon, low on the horizon illuminated the haze, and could be why I was unable to locate M51.

The home made focuser has no side to side slop that I could see.  However, it was not square with the tube, which I corrected today.  This is probably the cause of the focusing issue I was seeing.  I was not able to focus on Saturn as well as I have experienced with the 70mm refractor, but at the time I attributed it to the hazy sky.

Knowing that the telescope needed some more work and some fine tuning, I brought it back in after looking at Saturn.  Today, I re-seated the objective and squared up the focuser as best I could.  I used a laser flashlight and found the laser was off to one side of the objective.  I rotated the laser to make sure it was aiming straight, which it wasnt, but as I rotated it in the eyepiece holder, I saw the dot on the lens, rotate in a circle.  I then adjusted the focuser so that the circle was centered approximately equal from the outer rim of the objective as I rotated it around inside the holder. (the laser flashlight fit fairly well in the 1 1/4 inch focuser with very little slop).  I believe I have the focuser much closer to being true.

Now we need clear skies again to test the scope again.

First Light- 127mm Refractor

Took the scope out, the moon is above the horizon, but in the trees but... Saturn is high enough to see.

I took a couple of avi's, but the sky was quite hazy, and the moon was lighting up the haze, so the images werent very good.  I did capture this image however:
Not what I had hoped for, but I bet its due to conditions.  It is late, I'll write more about my experience with the new scope tomorrow.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Home Made Refractor

The major parts are done, I didnt do any baffling inside yet, but thats not a problem, it all comes apart with screws and I will be adding baffles.  The telescope has all the essentials - objective, focuser, eyepiece, its all there.  I looked at some trees across the street and it displayed a bright, very sharp image.  Of course it clouded up as I was taking these pictures of the semi-finished telescope.
Thats the balance point, right behind the objective cell.

If you look at the focuser, you will see it is home made from pvc water pipe.  It is epoxied onto the end plate, and appears to work like a charm.  Of course I wont know how good it is until I get the barlow and camera on it and try to photograph Saturn.  :)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Refractor Building Underway

The lens arrived from Surplus Shed Thursday, and I went to a local surplus dealer today and bought some 5" OD aluminum tubing.  I bought 48 inches, but I really only need half that.  I got extra in case I mess up, which is a very good possibility.

The lens is real nice!  I was surprised by the quality vs price.  These lenses are an excellent deal.  I got the 127mm / 700mm fl lens.  I went with the short focal length because I feel it would be a great moon scope as well as a planetary one for photography.  Also, I do believe it will actually ride on my cheapie equatorial mount.  I have been having trouble with the longer telescopes and the webcam, having a tad too much magnification, so I thought this size would work out nicely.

I tend to get into too big a hurry when I start building stuff.  This was no exception.  I actually got a lot done in just one day.  I got the tube filed down so it fits the objective, cut the tube to rough length, and painted the inside flat black.  Here are the 2 pieces.  Remember, this is a 5 inch, short tube refractor.

The tube still needs primed and painted on the outside.  Being I dont have a machine shop,  the end where the objective goes looks a little rough, it looks worse than it is.  I'm almost certain that a coat of primer and white paint and the rough filing wont show through.

And yes, it does fit together so far:

I laid this assembly outside on the porch bannister and aimed this across the highway and into a treeline about 1000 feet away and held by hand, a low power eyepiece, and the trees appeared close and sharp.  Not a bad first little test.

Of course there will be more pictures and stories as I continue with this project.

Stacking Moon Images

I was working with some images from last night, and I was playing around with stacking some images in Registax.  Because I have no clock drive, I'm limited as to the number of frames I can stack, as the features that I want to enhance drift out of the field.  However, I was able to stack about 100 frames on this image:
Notice how smooth Mare Imbrium appears.  This is beginning to show the look that I have been after.  I do have a clock drive in the works, I'm awaiting one component to arrive so I can finish building the controller.

Individual craters

It was windy last night, almost a full moon, and I couldnt keep the telescope from bouncing around.  Nevertheless, I took some images, but did not capture the entire moon.  I did take some nice individual crater frames that I'd like to post here.  I took another photo of the region around Plato:

The next image shows the western edge of Mare Humboldtianum on the horizon, with crater Endymion making a prominent showing.  Atlas and Hercules are also showing nicely, as well as Mare Frigoris.

The next image is the area around Mare Crisium.

Friday, March 18, 2011

My Best Moon Yet (I Think)

Nice clear night tonight, at least early on.  I was able to do a mighty fine capture of the moon in high resolution using the refractor (70mm).  No barlow, but I did use 640X480 camera resolution, and zoomed enough to get rid of the vignetting.  I took the advice from Victor and shot with increased contrast. 

Seeing was bad, it was about 60F here today, and its still warm out.  I think there is a bit of a temperature inversion going on, but lets say the seeing was, on a scale of 1 - 10, about a 3.

I stacked about 10 frames each for each piece of the moon.  It appeared to make things a bit more uniform.  There are some fine lines here and there, but overall, I think this moon turned out pretty darn good.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Crater Plato

Taken on 8 inch dob, 35 frames stacked.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

8 Inch Dob Moon Mosaic- Revised

The last post with the 2 mosaics, I asked the question- "If someone can point out a couple craters, I'd appreciate it."

Well, someone did!  I learned that Tycho was in the first image, and Mare Nubium was on the dark end of the 2nd.  Because the tracks came so close to eachother, I was able to combine the 2 images into one.  This is what I ended up with:

I want to thank the keen eyes of two astronomers in the QCUIAG Email group for pointing me in the right direction.  Once I was able to identify features in each image, I was able to orient the image and put a new mosaic together.

Monday, March 14, 2011

8 Inch Dobsonian

Well, the dobsonian arrived yesterday, as expected.  Very tough to control with the kind of magnification this camera provides.  Nevertheless, I thought I'd take advantage of some semi-clear sky.  There is a thin cloud layer present in these photos.  Trouble is, I cannot find this area of the moon on my maps.  I believe this to be the extreme bottom of the moon, but nothing looks familiar in the moon atlas I'm using.  If someone can point out a couple craters, I'd appreciate it.

Again, I believe this to be the extreme bottom of the moon, but it COULD be the top too.

Here is another image, from a differet area of the moon.
It is entirely possible that I have the camera positioned in a who knows orientation.  Anyway, I thought I'd post these.  The focal length of this scope is about 1500mm, so this is about equal in apparent field as what I use to photograph Saturn, so the magnification is VERY high.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Some More Saturn Images

We had a brief period of clear sky this evening.  Actually, I had to work for a short time, and was watching the moon as I was driving home.  Unfortunately the moon was really too low in the sky to photograph it, but Saturn was in a nice high location.  Trouble is, the clouds moved in and I don't think I got the focus perfect.  I cannot make out the Cassini Division this time.

This is what I was able to capture:

The third image was "actual size" on the avi.  As you can see, I was getting the focus set better, but the clouds moved in so I quit.  I had about 15 minutes of actual filming time before the clouds moved in.

The temperature is starting to warm up, and if it weren't so late and the clouds moving in, I could have filmed much longer and would have gotten the focus perfect.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Some News and What I've Been Doing on These Cloudy Days

It's been cloudy and rainy since I tested my 114mm reflector.  This gives me time to mess with the reflector some.  I recently won a book on ebay, "Build Your Own Telescope" by Richard Berry, and in it gives a simple way of collimating a reflector.  I performed the task according to the book, and it seems the optics were way out of alignment.  Of course I have not been able to star test the scope due to the clouds, but I'm betting the performance will be much improved.  I'm looking forward to doing some photography once the sky clears.

Also, a friend offered to loan me an 8 inch dob, which he says he should be able to deliver to me on Sunday (3/13).  You can bet I'll be taking some pictures through it.  I'm borrowing it so I can determine whether to go with a slightly larger refractor or if I want to go with the bigger newtonian design.  I will base what I'm able to do with the newtonian and the webcam on planetary and lunar observation.  I will be posting any images that I take thru his scope.  He also said he would be very interested in what I'm able to photograph using it.

There is a homebrew polar mount in the book that I'd like to build.  Perhaps over the next few weeks I'll get the stuff together to put it together.  It looks simple enough, mostly made of wood, with some iron pipe involved as well, and although it was designed for a 6 inch newt, it should hold the 4 inch with very slight modification.  I will document my progress on the mount.

So lets hope for clear skies, so I can do some experimenting.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Crescent Moon

The moon, 3 days, 3 hours old when this picture was taken:

This image of the moon is a mosaic of 7 images, all taken with the Meade 4 1/2 inch reflector at f8.  There was a thin covering of cloud, but I really wanted to try out the reflector.  Considering the clouds, I am happy with this photo.

Mare Crisium dominates the northern half, with Cleomedes just above it.  Mare Smythii is just under, barely visible in this photo.  Langrenus crater dominates the equator.  Petavius and Furnerius are quite visible below Langrenus.

Although the transparency was terrible, this image marks first light with this telescope.  If I can stay up late enough, perhaps I'll try Saturn on this scope.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Cassini Division on a 70mm Refractor?

Is it possible?  I'd say so after seeing this:
Yea, I couldnt believe what I saw either.

Here's a different shot from another AVI:

Stacked from different avi from the first.
This is a nice stack of about 300 frames from another avi.  Notice the Cassini Division is visible  over a much larger area of the rings.

I'd say seeing was an 11 on a scale of 1-10.  I have more video, but its 1:30AM my time, and I do have to work tomorrow.  More images to follow, I'm sure!