Friday, June 29, 2012


This image of Saturn was captured with the 125 last night.  ETX 125 with 2x 'shorty' barlow.  500 stacked frames, with processing in Registax 6. The Cassini Division is clearly visible, and the Crepe Ring can just be seen on the inner edge of the rings.  Notice also the shadow of the planet on the rings at approx the 11 o'clock position. The darker pole area is also visible, with a lighter belt above and the even lighter equatorial belt.  Features are hard to see on Saturn, and I was not able to visually see any white spots or other differentiation; nothing appears to be visible on the captured images at this scale; maybe a 3x barlow would have helped.  It's interesting how much better this image is than one I posted earlier in this blog, taken with the 14 inch scope.  The difference is mainly in the seeing; it is so much better here in MA than in IN. If you look at the earlier pic, the change in the angle of the ring-plane is quite apparent.

Copernicus from Cape Cod

Optically, my old first-generation ETX-125 is one of the finest scopes I have ever owned.  Coupled with the seeing here on Cape Cod, which seems, on average, significantly better than that in Indiana, I've been able to capture some of my best images.  This image of Copernicus was captured last night with the 125.  The Lifecam was at prime focus (no barlow).  The image was captured with SharpCap and processed with Registax 6.  This is a stack of 500 images.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Spots and Prominence

Another version of the earlier image captured today to show the active areas.

A Solar Dragon--June 28, 2012

Or maybe it's a dinosaur! This image was captured at Chatham, Cape Cod, MA,, where I'm lucky enough to be on vacation.  This prominence was close to AR 1514 and AR 1515.  The image is overexposed to show prominence detail.  Taken with PST and Microsoft Lifecam Cinema HD.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Observatory progress

I've decided to postpone further work until I get back from vacation--I leave later this week.  The issue of anchoring the shed is an important one.  I was thinking of cementing a 4x4 inside each corner and attaching the floor and the 2x4 running around the top of the observatory walls to it. However, I think an earth anchor kit will suffice.  The kit is a triangular "gusset" that attaches to each corner of the floor frame and is then anchored with a long, metal "corkscrew."  This approach will dispense with the complexity of the cemented 4x4s.  I think I will build stud walls instead and put insulation in the cavities.  The earth anchor kit should be here in about 10 days, so work can begin when I get back in earnest.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Active Sun June 14, 2012

Sunspots 1504 and 1505 on a sun that is getting more active. 1504 has the potential to produce X-Class flares--the most powerful the sun produces. Given the spot's position, these flares will likely be Earth-directed.  Image captured with Microscoft Lifecam HD and PST under very poor seeing conditions.

Friday, June 8, 2012


I'm hoping to begin work on the observatory very soon. As you can see in the pic above, the site has been roughly leveled.  The shed I will be converting is shown in the pic below.  It's an Arrow shed (10' x 12'), which is available here in the US for less then $500.

The idea for this build came from "Tulit," a member of the Cloudy Nights astronomy forum.  The idea is brilliantly simple.  You build 3 identical frames for the shed.  One fits on top of the walls; the roof is built on the second frame, which has castors attached.  The third frame extends in the direction of the roof roll-off and is on supports that are leveled with deck levelers.  I will provide pix as the build continues, but I believe Tulit's approach offers a very inexpensive way for anyone to build an observatory (for example, a 10' x 8' would cost less than $500, complete).

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Transit! Part 2

Venus in white light--ETX 90 with Solar Filter and Microsoft Lifecam.  Note the haze from passing clouds, which added an almost Gothic element to the whole event. (Open this post fully to see vid and pix).

The most fun was having friends drop by to see the transit.  We had about a dozen people at the scopes at one point.  With a little liquid refreshment and food thrown in, it was a perfect way to celebrate a once-in-a-lifetime event, so thank you to all the dear friends who dropped by!

The video above shows the vista from the site, panning west to north the day BEFORE the transit.  Note the ominous clouds!  The pic below shows young astronomers at work...

Transit! (part 1)

Venus captured in H-Alpha (PST; Microsoft Lifecam)

Tuesday, June 5 dawned clear and calm.  Intellicast forecast a cloud-free day here in "the warm heart of the world."  I got up, checked the scopes (PST and my trusty ETX-90 RA) and loaded the equipment into the truck. 

By lunchtime, fluffy, white clouds were sailing sedately in from the Northeast--rarely a good sign in Indiana; but the forecast still said, "clear skies."  By 3pm, there was an almost solid overcast, with glimpses of sun here and there.  The forecast now said, "partly cloudy," but skies were forecast to be clear by 6 pm.

The site I chose to observe the transit is about a quarter mile from my new observatory site, but on the same property.  The chosen site has a superb view to the west from an elevation. I set out to the site with family in tow a little after 5 pm for the 10-mile drive. 

Of course, we hit what passes for rush hour in this small town and roadworks delayed us for 10 minutes or more.  The sky continued obstinately overcast, but with glimpses of sun in small gaps.

We arrived with time to set up (but none to waste).  I got the PST and the ETX up and running, then cloud covered the sun.  I had my iphone app ready and running, but the clouds seemed to have slowed down and the sun remained invisible.  As the cloud cleared a little, I could see the first "bite" of Venus as the transit began.  My iphone app was designed to capture and submit data from Contact II, where the edge of Venus touches the edge of the solar disk as it ingresses.  The "teardrop" effect is supposed to make this difficult to time.  However, I saw no effect, and, at 18:21:46, I hit the phone to capture the time.  Nothing happened.  The app that had been working perfectly all day decided to malfunction.  I wrote the time down on a card.  Later in the evening, after sunset, I checked the official time for Contact II--it was 18:21:53!  I was amazed at how close I'd come in my measurement.  Clouds continued intermittently, but I was able to watch pretty much the whole transit as visible here from Indiana.,