Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Illusive Comet ISON

   I've waited almost a full year to see Comet ISON, and it looks like it may not happen this year.   It is pretty much lost to the sun now, but I may get a chance to see it if it makes it around without breaking apart.   The picture you see here on the left is taken from

  I just assumed that I would be able to go out at night, sometime during the night, and see the great comet ISON.  I couldn't be more wrong.  The only time it was visible in my area (Vandalia, Ohio, Eastern USA) was right before dawn.  I went out twice right before the sun would wash out the sky, and could not find the illusive iceball. My visible sky starts about 30 degrees up, which is where trees and houses stop.  I had to get to work and get the kids off to school, so I could only scan for ten minutes or so.

  With any luck I might get a glimpse if ISON makes it way back around the sun.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Early Winter Sky

This post is from November 9th, 2013 (last weekend).

It wasn't a perfect sky, but I was able to see many objects, a few of them new.

The first target was the planet Uranus.  It was almost at the meridian and the first quarter moon sliver was deep in the west.  My friend Doug was along and he had never seen the blue-green planet before.

I first found it in my 8" reflector.  A light blue color and pretty small and a little fuzzy.  This was my third viewing of the planet and it looked about the same as the two times before.  It's slightly bigger than a star would be and has a distinct look to it.

Next we located it in Doug's 10 Dobsonian using a 11mm Explorer Scientific eyepiece.  There wasn't much of a difference between the 8" and the 12".

I had no idea the constellation Auriga held some many open clusters.  I always just admired the star Capella that makes up part of the constellation and shines so brightly.  Check out the many clusters peppering Auriga the "Charioteer".  Just have a look inside the 'helmet' width a 20mm eyepiece of more and you are bound to see one.

I must mention Jupiter also.  Jupiter was coming up with the constellation Auriga and it was glowing brightly as usual.  Viewing Jupe in my friend's 10" dob using the ES eyepiece was truly amazing.  We had to deal with atmospherics, but when it 'cleared' for a brief moment, the view was amazing! It the first time I've seen The Great Red Spot definitively.  And swirls could be seen in the belts.  Can't wait to try again with that equipment with better skies.

Just a brief description of other objects viewed this night:

M1 - The Crab Nebula  -  Even in the 10" dob, it was merely a black smudge.

The Spiral Cluster - Looks kind of like a spiral :).

Saturday, October 19, 2013

October 18th, 2013 "Penumbral" lunar eclipse

First off, I have to say that this image is from Facebook user "astronomy".  They get full credit and I get none :)
I had plans to take this picture myself, but it happened so early where I am located that I missed it.  This is what user "astronomy" had to say:

"This evening (Oct. 18), the moon will undergo a partial eclipse, known as a "penumbral" lunar eclipse."

Basically the Earth blocked a super small part of the light coming from the Sun, heading towards the moon, and we (Earth) got in the way.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Setting up a newtonian reflector and EQ5 mount

This video was just for fun and was not intended to be a thorough tutorial on setting up a reflector and mount.  But if you are a complete newbie then you might get something out of it.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Uranus - Take two

I set out a few nights ago to see the planet Uranus for the second time.  It's been a few years since my first viewing, I have failed at least 4 times since the first.
What helped me this time was using Pegasus as a guide.  I waited until Pegasus got to the meridian, and then used the "trailing' two stars of the box as a pointer.  Usually Uranus just seems to be out there with nothing for me to judge its position.
Uranus is somewhat tricky to find.  All the other planets inward from Uranus (except Pluto and Earth) are really easy to find with the naked eyeball.  It appears bigger than most stars you see through a telescope, but not by much.  The best giveaway is the color:  blue.  I always imagined it would have a greenish tint, but in my 8" reflector, it just appears blue.
Uranus does not 'flicker' like normal stars do.  It stays steady as a pale blue dot.  Though there is virtually no detail when using my equipment, I still find it fascinating to look at.
Uranus is just past opposition as of a couple weeks ago I believe, so it should still be one of the better times to view it.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Orion Nebula - M42

This is my first picture of The Orion Nebula - M42, taken by myself and Doug Elick at Hueston Woods this past evening.

The sky conditions were not the best.  There were a few clouds around at times and the atmosphere was a little turbulent.  We used Doug's camera at about a 15 second exposure to capture this image.  The Orion Nebula is probably the easiest nebula to find in the night sky.  If you look below the 3 belt stars of the Constellation Orion(depending on it's position in the sky), you should be able to see the faint glow of the nebula on a clear night.  I am able to see it from my backyard with less than idea conditions on most clear nights.  The nebula is classified as a magnitude 4.00 object making it extremely bright as nebula go.

Over all I am very happy with this picture and hope to snap another when the sky conditions are much more clear.  Since the Constellation of Orion is a winter constellation,  there should be plenty of crisp, cool, turbulent free nights coming.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Near Full Moon Capture


I took this photo of the moon this past summer using my Skywatcher 8" reflector telescope and a Cannon Powershot A2200 14.1MP camera.  I shot this picture looking straight into a 20mm eyepiece using the camera.   This type of astrophotography is called the 'afocal' method.  Almost any type of digital camera can be used.  Simply hold the camera lens up to the eyepiece, make sure you are in focus, and fire away.  It can be a little tricky to get the object centered in the camera preview screen and to keep it steady.  So patience is necessary.  Camera holders can be purchased to hold it at the eyepiece for you.  I don't own one myself but may buy one in the future.

This picture of the moon was taken just past full moon, about less than a day I suspect.  You can see on the left side it is just slightly cutoff, waning its way to a 'new moon'.  I was surprised at how good the quality was for my first moon shot with this camera.

I'm not sure what the correct orientation of the moon is, but I'm pretty sure that it is not as it appears if you look with the naked eye.  I would have to flip my picture top to bottom and left to right to match most pictures I viewed on Google.  I'll double check the next time I see the moon ;)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My Telescope And Gear

I realized that I have not posted any pictures of my telescope and gear.

 This is my 8" Skywatcher reflector scope with an EQ5 mount.  The focal length of the tube is 1000mm and the primary mirror aperture is 200mm, making this an F/5 telescope.  I added an Orion Duel Axis controller afterwards for about $125.  Two Plossl eyepieces came with it:  a 20mm and a 7.5mm.  Also purchased separately is a 2x Orion Shorty barlow lens.

I have owned this setup for about 3 years and I thoroughly enjoy using it.  The shipping weight was somewhere around 65 lbs, which makes it fairly difficult to move around when fully assembled.  I was completely lost on how to operate the equatorial mount the first time I attempted to do so.  It doesn't have free range of motion, but moves along the declination axis and right ascension axis.  This was a little tricky for me as a beginner.

The eyepieces are decent quality Plossl style and are pictured below.  They are both 1.25" and fully coated.  Calculating the magnification that each eyepiece with deliver is pretty simple.  Just divide the focal length of the telescope(in mm) by the focal length of the eyepiece(in mm).  So for my 20mm eyepiece I divide by the focal length (1000mm):  1000mm / 20mm = 50.  My 20mm eyepiece with magnify objects 50 times bigger than the naked eye.  My other eyepiece is 7.5mm.  1000mm / 7.5mm = 133x.  This makes objects appear 133 times bigger than the naked eye.  Using my 2x Shorty barlow will double the magnification of both eyepieces.  This sounds good but a lot of light is lost at these high magnifications.  I tend tend to only use the barlow when looking at brighter objects.

7.5mm and 20mm Plossl eyepieces.

Object tracking was something I realized right away that I really wanted.  Not only is it nice to have an object stay centered in the eyepiece, but I wanted to take pictures also.  I bought this Orion Dual Axis device:

  Orion True Track Electronic Drive

Powered by 4 D size batteries or an AC to DC adapter, this unit controls the declination and right ascension motors attached to the scope via two cables.  While tracking, only the RA motor is utilized to follow an object across the sky.  The DEC motor is only used to slew the scope to the desired position.
Of course the only way to get decent tracking is to have a properly aligned and leveled mount.  Doing so will provide up to 15 to 20 seconds of tracking good enough for a little astrophotography.  If you simply want tracking good enough to share the view with friends without having to constantly adjust the scope, this works very well.

 That's my brief introduction to my telescope and gear.  If you have any questions, please leave a comment.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Apertura AD10 Dobsonian Reflector Telescope


      My buddy Doug from Cincinnati came up this weekend with his new 10" Dobsonian "in hand".  This type of scope was new to both of us and I was excited to check it out.  Here is a pic...

Here are the specs for it copied off Apetura's website:

Technical Specifications and Dimensions
Primary Mirror Diameter:    10"
Primary Mirror Details:  34.2mm, Parabolic, 1/12 wave
Primary Mirror Coating:  Aluminum and silicone dioxide (SiO2); reflectivity=93 %
Optical Design:  Newtonian Reflector
Mount Design:  Dobsonian, clutch mounting with tension knobs
Focal Length:  1250mm
Focal Ratio:  f/4.92
Focuser:  2 inch, dual speed Micro 10:1 Crayford style
Eyepiece 1:  2", Superview 30mm, 68 degree FOV, Eye-relief=22mm
Eyepiece 2:  1.25", Super-Plossl 9mm, 52 degree FOV, Eye-relief=6mm
Finderscope:  Right-Angle, Correct-Image 8 x 50 viewer
Star Diagonal:  1.25 inch
Limiting Stellar Magnitude: 14.5
Optical Tube Length:  48.5"
Fully Assembled Height:  54"
Optical Tube Assembly Weight:  34.8 lbs
Base Height:  25.625"
Base Diameter:  22"
Base Weight:  31.4 lbs
Fully Assembled Weight:  66.2 lbs
WARRANTY   1 year for materials and workmanship

I was not involved in setting it up out of the box but Doug said it was not too difficult.  I was surprised by how long the tube was:  4' .5".  A little difficult for one person to load and unload from a vehicle.  Another issue was moving it around the yard once it was setup.  It took both of us to pick it up(fully assembled) to move it.  My backyard has a few trees in it so moving the scope is necessary to gain access to different parts of the sky.

It wasn't the best night for stargazing.  Clouds rolled in and out and the atmosphere was very turbulent.  We did view many objects though, but I can't give a good report on the optical quality of the scope because of the conditions.  Also, Doug found out that his eyepiece tube is out of square so every time we switched from a 1.25" eyepiece to a 2" eyepiece, the collimation would be off.  This seemed to effect the quality of the image through the scope.

I will post more about this scope in time when it gets a proper break-in.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Ring Nebula Photo

Ring Nebula - Taken on 09-08-2012 with Doug Elick.

This is a pic of the Ring Nebula (M57) taken at Hueston Woods in Ohio.  It was taken using my friends DSLR camera.

It was color enhanced just a bit in Photoshop.  I think we got lucky with the tracking because the scope was never polar aligned properly.  We basically just pointed the north leg on the tripod north and leveled the mount.  The tracking held up nicely for upto about 15 secs or so.