Website Update

Just a quick update as to what is going on, as there hasn’t been a posting to my blog for a (unbelieveably) couple of months. I’m working on a substantial update to my website which will consist of a number of tutorials, based on what I have learnt in astronomy and astrophotography.

Watch this this space for announcements before the end of the year…!

Posted by Wordmobi


Moon and Mars Opposition

The 29th and 30th of January was the closest approach of Mars since 2007 and the ‘largest’ Moon of 2010. Thankfully the skies in the UK were clear (well, where I live at least!) and gave good opportunity for some observing and astrophotography.

Though my first target was Mars, because the telescope was still ‘warm’ from only just being brought out from the house, this created poor ‘seeing’ from the small air turbulences inside the telescope as it cooled down. This created a shimmering blob effect that when coupled with 2 and 5mm lens, ruined the image.

Whilst I waited for the equipment to cool down, I decided on a bigger target that would be affected less by the aclimatisation problems. So I turned to the Moon and grabbed my Canon S2IS digital camera, holding it upto the eyepiece. Because I’d already worked out some test shots with aperture and shutter speed in CHDK, I applied the settings and managed to get the whole of the Moons disc in the eyepiece. One of the shots is pictured below, though I haven’t had chance to correct the rotation of the image so that the Moon looks the right way up. I had my Moon filter attached to the eyepiece and the only post-processing applied was auto-levels in Photoshop.


By this time the scope had cooled down sufficiently to view Mars. Even though I’d fitted various combinations of barlow lens, 5 and 2mm lenses, I couldn’t manage to quite get much surface detail imaged, except two horizontal curved bands, one of which I guess corresponds to the polar cap. There was a hint of red-orange colour around the edges of the sphere, I didn’t bother trying to try imaging it with my hand-held afocal coupling method of taking pictures with the camera, as I felt it it would result in a blurred image.

Instead, I fixed the camera to the mount on the telescope and took a shot of the Moon and Mars (which was directly overhead), displayed below:-


The image has been rotated and cropped due to the angle that the camera was viewing the scene. A small amount of red’ blue, brightness and contrast has been applied to the image.

Final shot for this post is the equipment setup:-


Mars is at closest approach to Earth for the whole of this week, before receeding until 2012.

Posted by Wordmobi

Update to Raytracing Gallery

Just a quick post to say that I’ve updated my main website with a new index page logo and new raytraced spacecraft image, for 2010. I’ve been raytracing for around 17 years and recently its been getting harder and harder to get images completed, due to real-life commitments. So when a new image gets posted, its a big event for me!

Why not have a wander over to take a look?

Oh, by the way as mentioned in my last post, the Canon S2IS intervalometer test I ran to capture expected snowfall was partially successful. It was programmed to take a shot every 5 minutes for a total of 100 shots. The camera performed brilliantly, running from around 12.30pm to 9pm. Though it didn’t capture any shots of the snowfall, due to the snow not arriving until 7pm (ie. in the dark!) the camera kept going on for nearly 9 hours on 4 fully-charged 2100mAH batteries and had 1% remaining!

I just need a clear night to apply these techniques to some low-light photography of the skies. Easier said than done with the current weather!

In case you didn’t know, there is a partial Lunar eclipse tomorrow night (new years eve) – check your local timings for when it will start and finish and how much will be on view. In the UK, it will be on view around 5.30pm to 7pm. Clear skies!

Posted by Wordmobi

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