Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wedge Installation

Today I got the Meade ultrawedge installed on the 14 inch scope's tripod.  The problem is that me and my son are too puny to lift the scope high enough to engage it with the wedge at the correct polar angle.  Lifting the OTA and forks a little above shoulder height is just too hard.  It's a pity because tonight would be perfect to do alignment and imaging but it looks like I'll need another able-bodied individual to help.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Uranus 12/11//11

This fuzzy blob is the planet Uranus.  This is a stack of nine one second exposures.  The blue-green color of the planet is clearly visible.

Double Cluster with Field Rotation

This is a stack of four images. Field rotation towards the edges of the image is clearly visible (click on the image for a larger version); stars appear as streaks.  The degree of rotation and the size of the affected area varies depending on the location of the object(s) in the sky.  The only practical solution for amateur astronomers is an equatorial wedge mount that aligns the telescope with the celestial pole.  Field derotators are also an option, but they tend to be expensive and have results of variable quality.

Open Cluster 12/11/11

The Double Cluster, NGC 869 and NGC 844.  Because the 14 is currently ALT-AZ mounted, exposures  have to be short due to field rotation.  This is a single, 30 second exposure--about the maximum before field rotation becomes a problem.  I'll also post an image of a stack, showing the field rotation of the star field.  The only real solution is to mount the scope on a wedge.  I will be mounting the 14 on an ultrawedge in the next week or so.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Jupiter on 12/10/11--image 2

Like the previous image, this one was captured with the 14 inch.  It was converted from WMV to AVI, which seems to eliminate the macroblocking visible even in high bitrate MPEG-2 conversions.  3500 of the original 10,000 frames were used in this image.  Stacked and processed by Astrostack.  The Great Red Spot is visible a little below center as a bulge in the S Equatorial Belt.  Whenever I see Jupiter in any scope, I'm always reminded of the passage in H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds.'  Wells writes of seeing Mars in a telescope, but it is clearly Jupiter he is looking at: "Looking through the telescope, one saw a circle of deep blue and the little round planet swimming in the field. It seemed such a little thing, so bright and small and still, faintly marked with transverse stripes, and slightly flattened from the perfect round."  Today, our imaging capabilities make is possible to see much more than Wells did.  Times may change, but the magic of astronomy never fades.

Jupiter on 12/10/11

Transparency was excellent, but seeing was average-poor, with some steady moments.  Captured with a Microsoft LifeCam.  9000 frame WMV, converted to MPEG-2 and processed with Astrostack.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Saturn--Taken in May

This is an image of Saturn taken in May with the 14 inch and a Microsoft webcam.  Conditions were very unsteady and seeing was poor.  I'm putting this up because, honestly, this is most likely the quality you will get with most of your images when you start astroimaging.  AVI file of 174 frames processed with Registax.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


This is an image of Jupiter taken on the 14 inch on 12/02/11.  Seeing was rather poor.  The image is a stack of 39 processed in Registax.  Next time, I will try with the webcam.  A good capture of 2000 images of so is needed for a really good result.

Alpine Valley

This is an image of the Alpine Valley region of the Moon taken with the 14 inch, It's a stack of 10 images processed in Registax.  The valley itself can be seen as a long, straight groove running from left to right just below center.  The feature was formed with a meteorite crashed into the moon at a shallow angle to the surface.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Status Update

The 14 is back and kudos to Meade.  The problem was a loose worm gear, but Meade cleaned and collimated the scope.  The collimation is text book perfect, and the cleaning removed some pollen spots from the corrector.  I took the scope out this evening and retrained it.  GOTOs are bang on and put deep sky objects on the imaging chip every time.  I'll put the pix up in the next day or two as I get chance to process them.

The big news is that I am taking delivery of a 20 inch ACF MAX in the next few weeks.  This scope is truly massive and needs a permanent home.  I have access to some land SW of town with a gorgeous horizon.  I'm in the observatory planning stage--I've ruled out domes and the only sensible option is a roll-off roof observatory.  I'll post more as I narrow the designs down.