Blue Sky Moon

Getting back from a day out early one evening gave me the chance to image the moon that was high in the sky, whilst there was still some colour blue/light left.

Viewing the moon can gve some interesting results in daylight (from what I’ve read!) so I dragged the Skywatcher 130 down to the front of the house and brought the digital camera as well.

As I’d spent some time prviously setting up the polar alignment, adjusting the RA/Dec axis proved extremely easy, in using only one adjustment to keep the moon in view. I’d also sorted out the red dot finder alignment, so I got an immediate view through the 20mm lens.

I took several shots with my camera, again employing the Heath-Robinson method of simply shoving the camera lens at the eye piece and firing off shots, with various adjustments to the exposure control. This is known as the ‘afocal’ method. The best of the images is below, unforunately the ‘seeing’ wasn’t brilliant so I resolved to get a decent view from the lens I hadn’t really tried yet: the 2mm.

This was the first time that the view really came into its own and I was able to image large areas of the surface as it made its transit across the sky. The view through the 2mm lens can be seen at the bottom of this post. It was difficult to get the camera to capture an image, much adjustment using the afocal method was made and after this shot the batteries gave out on the camera and that was the end of the image capture session.

Coming up next: looking at methods to fix the camera to the eyepiece and Christmas shopping for the Astronomy amateur…



Posted by Wordmobi


Capturing the Moon

After weeks of waiting, the conditions were perfect to view a near-full moon, high in the sky and with dark skies, not affected by light pollution.

Out came the telescope, set up at the front of the house. I fitted the 20mm lens and aimed roughly for the moon. However, frustration set in as despite the moon being in clear view, I could not get it in view, in the viewfinder. After 10 minutes of panning the scope around the sky, I eventually found it purely by chance and wow, what a view!

With the disc in full view in the viewfinder, all the craters and maria were revealed in sharp detail. Changing to smaller lenses brought more of the moon into view, along with the aiming problem. I’ve come to realise that I have some problem where the red dot finder is completely out of alignment and I need to re-calibrate it so that I can aim the scope correctly.

The 2mm lens is proving to be of limited use at the moment, because even though the seeing conditions at lower levels of magnification were fine, the 2mm lens revealed a shimmer in the atmosphere, so I changed back to a 5mm lens.

Grabbing the opportunity to try some direct digital imaging, I got my camera (a Canon S2IS) out and gently pressed its lens against the lens on the telescope. After some moving around of the camera against the lens and some alterations to the camera focal length and aperture (either f3.5 1/60 or f3.2 at 1/60), I managed to capture the following shots:-




































The images have had a little post-processing applied to highlight the dark and light areas of the image, but for a first attempt, I’m pretty pleased and take some inspiration from the attempt.

I must really try and get this red dot finder problem sorted out though…

Filtering out the Brightness

As mentioned in my last post, I tried out the lens filters during Saturdays observations that were supplied as part of the accessories kit. There are four; a moon filter, a neutral density filter, an amber filter and a blue coloured filter. I guess these were chosen for the accessories kit because they are probably the most common types you are likely to use.


Because there was no sign of the moon, I didn’t bother with trying out the moon filter. Targeting Jupiter, I fitted the neutral density filter to the bottom of the 5mm lens, using the screw-type attachment. The lens then fitted into the telescope eye-piece as usual as the filter is flush with the lens.

This actually produced reasonable results, where the dark bands of Jupiters atmosphere could be seen with a little more clarity. The other coloured filters were of less use though. The blue filter only seemed to make the edge of Jupiters disc appear with a blue tinge, but not much for the surface features. The amber filter really did nothing at all, simply turning Jupiter and its moons into several traffic-light blobs. I’m sure the blue and amber filters will be useful, I just haven’t found the correct usage yet.

Now that the moon is starting to climb higher in the sky earlier in an evening now, the next main target to try with the ‘scope is the moon.

Posted by Wordmobi

Bright Lights, Big City

Saturday was a clear night to try out the new lenses that were delivered earlier this week from OVL. Probably one of the best nights so far for getting my telescope out, I set it up in the back garden and as Cassiopeia was high in the sky, decided to hunt for my first object; the Andromeda galaxy, M31.

Having studied my Philips ‘Guide to the Northern Skies’, I had arough idea of the patch of sky where it could be found. Deciding to use the smallest magnification lens in my new kit (the 20mm) to help me have a good chance of being able to pan around the sky and chance upon the object.

Surprisingly enought, it didn’t take me that long to happen upon a faint, fuzzy grey blob. Changing down to the 15mm lens and re-centering the ‘scope, then again to the 5mm lens, the problems of light pollution and living near a big city became apparent. The most resolution I could make out was simply a larger version of the fuzzy blob I spied earlier. The 2mm lens was even worse and I changed back to the 5mm. Satisfied this was the best view I was going to get, I turned the scope around to target Jupiter, which was just coming into view from behind the trees.

This is where is started to get a few problems. I noticed that even though I had a clear aim and lined up the red dot scope direct on Jupiter, the view through through the lens was of the trees a short distance away. Having spent about 15 minutes moving the scope, fiddling with the red dot finder and getting a little exasperated not getting Jupiter in view, I decided that I must have moved one of the adjustment dials on the red dot finder so I simply started to move the RA/Dec dials until I came across Jupiter by chance. Sure enough it came into view and I started to change the lenses so I could get a better view of Jupiter and the Galilean moons.

Changing to the 2mm lens, I came across something that I’d read about in the Astronomy books; ‘poor seeing’, ie. poor focusing due to atmospheric effects. No matter how much I tried to focus, the image of Jupiter continued to ‘wobble’ and be indistinct.

This is caused by heat/turbulence in the atmosphere and makes focussing on the object downright impossible. There isn’t a lot you can do about it so I changed back to a 5mm lens to get back a sharper view.

I did get to try out the filters before I packed up, but I’ll save my findings for my next post.

Posted by Wordmobi

More bits for the Telescope

As mentioned in my last post, I’d ordered an accessory kit of extra lenses and filters for my Explorer 130 telescope. The parcel arrived today and very impressive it is!

Sorry, no sad unboxing video (!), just a simple pic of the aluminium case and its contents:-


The kit comprises of four long-relief lenses (2mm, 5mm, 15mm and a 20mm), four filters (blue, amber, neutral and moon), a red LED torch in a lockable case. The kit has a quality feel to it. The lenses are glass, so no cheap stuff here. The bit that seems to be missing is an instruction manual, as described in the advert. I’m not too bothered about this as details how to use the kit can be sourced elsewhere and of course the advert does say the offer can be changed at any time.

Edit: I’ve since noticed that the guide in the advert is the same as the user guide that is supplied with the instruction manual for the telescope. OVL have obviously changed their policy with which kit the guide is supplied with and makes more sense to supply it with the ‘scope.

The 2mm and 5mm lenses should help in getting some excellent views of Jupiter, which is now above the horizon around 22.30hrs BST. Overall I think this is a good accessory kit which is great value at £69, half normal price having bought a Skywatcher telescope (proof of purchase has to be provided).

For more information, take a look at:-

Posted by Wordmobi

And then two came along at the same time

After waiting for weeks (for one reason and another, not just the weather), it was finally a clear night last night. Intending to get the telescope out later that evening, I started browsing my twitter updates and noticed one that said ‘ISS viewable from the UK from 9:45pm, approaching from the west, getting dimmer as it passes overhead’. I looked at the time – 9:45pm! Dashing outside, I started scanning the skies; true enough, it didn’t take long for a bright pin-point of light, surprisingly bright, approach from the west. I called my wife to see it and we watched as it passed almost directly overhead, getting dimmer and dimmer until it was lost amongst the night sky, directly overhead. ‘Wow’ was both our response and as there was nothing else to see, we both went back inside.

So I started looking for websites that would give me real-time updates of the ISS and its current position. The best one seems to be:-|35817

This link will give the current position of the ISS and the Japenese H-2 transfer vehicle, which are currently docked (or near as). A useful feature of the site is that it will give a 5 day prediction of where it will be, useful for planning your next observation.

Whilst I was scanning the sky, I noticed another bright star in the south-west. Seeing a good opportunity for a quick observation, I decided to get the telescope out and set it up in the back garden. I didn’t bother with getting it aligned or level, simply to get the aim and ‘scope pointed at the object and to view it as quickly as possible. Using the red dot spotting sight, the ‘scope was lined up and I fitted the 25mm lens. Once it was focused and the object was in sight, I was puzzled by three faint dots spaced around the main object. Heart sinking, thinking this was a problem with the lens, I quickly realised this wasn’t the case when I focused the main object a little more and noticed two horizontal bands – I’d found Jupiter! The three dots along the horizontal axis were some of the Galilean moons. I’d read earlier in the week that one would be out of view, either in rfont or behind of Jupiter itself.

For the next 20 minutes I swapped the 25mm lens for the 10mm and mixed the Barlow lens, looking to get the best possible view. I found that using the 10mm lens on its own offered the best level of sharpness and contrast when looking at the dark atmospheric bands on Jupiter. The Barlow lens appeared to give a slight colour distortion around the edges of Jupiter. I couldn’t also believe the speed that the object moved across the sky; I was changing the lens and within a few seconds, the view had changed and I had to re-align the ‘scope, using the red dot viewer or the 25mm lens, to centre the object.

Satisfied with my discovery, I packed the kit away for the night.

However this morning, still intriged by what moons I had seen, I searched the web for some answers. I found them at:-

…where you can enter any time/date to get the positions of Jupiters GRS (great red spot) and main moons.

Jupiters moons at 11:55pm 12/09/09

Jupiters moons at 11:55pm 12/09/09

So I’d spotted (L to R) Callisto, Ganymede and Europa. Io was transiting Jupiter at the time. Don’t forget this view is inverted, as I’m using a reflector telescope.

If I can get hold of some more lenses with a higher magnification (I have some in mind), this should enable me to achieve even better views of Jupiter and its moons. I feel the credit card getting itchy…

To Motor or not to Motor

Something I’ve failed to mention in setting up my Explorer 130PM telescope is that even though it was supplied with a motor drive (hence the ‘M’ in the model name), I haven’t fitted it to the scope yet.

Why? Whilst I was settling up the ‘scope I thought it would be easier simply not to attach it, whilst I learnt how to use the controls. I found that during my last observing session, I could use the manual controls (R.A. And Dec fine adjustments) to pan around the sky looking for interesting sights. I moved the scope and generally got a feel for how to alter the angle of the EQ2 mount with relative ease.

I don’t think I would have been able to look around the sky as easily if I had the motor drive attached. However, the plan is to fit it at a later date, to take into account the movent of the Earth for long exposures as it will be useful if I can get a digital camera attched to the eye piece. I have seen some results (not necessarily with the same ‘scope) taken of the moon with a camera phone and they aren’t bad.

I’m hoping for some decent weather now that the moon is back in phase, so I can get the ‘scope out and capture some good views of craters and the surface of the moon.

Posted by Wordmobi