My old friend returns

Today is the first day of school for my youngest daughter. So, contrary to other times, I was up. As I went outside to let the dog out, I noticed that Orion was up. Orion is quite possibly my favorite constellation, as it has so many things in it to look at.

I quickly went inside and retrieved my 10 x 50 binoculars and was able to see the Orion Nebula (M42) to some extent. The dawn was already breaking, so it was not very clear because it was fighting sunlight and morning clouds.

However, it’s good to see my old friend again. I can’t wait until I can see it in darkness again.

Transparency was 1, seeing was 8.

Astrophotography with a Fisheye, take two… and Observation of the Summer Triangle

Folks, I will post an entry re my time at Stellafane, I promise. However, the editor of our astronomical club newsletter forced me at gunpoint (really, he did! Really!) to write an article for the newsletter, so I will share something after that is published.

One thing that happened when I went there is that I tried to do astrophotography using a fisheye lens but screwed up with using too low an ISO (a measure of film sensitivity, leading to photos that were too dark (you’ll see them later.

After the debacle that was my failed attempt at astrophotography at Stellafane, I decided to try again.

This time, I originally planned to go to StarFest 2014 at Hopewell Furnace tonight, which is another amateur astronomy conference. However, I managed to get a light fever, and did not feel like going everybody else sick instead. I decided to do astrophotography work at home, and to also break out my telescope. There was not much that I could see in my sky, because there’s so much light pollution in Havertown, and the summer haze makes it worse. However, I was able to see the Big Dipper, four stars of the Little Dipper, and various other stars. I’d rate the transparency at a 4 and the seeing around 6. For here, It was a good night. I did manage to see Cygnus and the Summer Triangle, which was unusual for this time of year.

So, these are some pictures of my slightly better attempt at stack astrophotography. In the last two final photos, there are some slight diagonal lines. That’s due to the fact that I’m trying out a demo of Nebulosity 3–it’s a Mac program that does photo stacking. I was using my Canon 60D using my Rokinon 8mm Fisheye, set at infinity with an ISO of 1250 for a 10 sec exposure after a 10 second delay. I didn’t use bias or flat images, just dark images.

Notes about the individual photos are below.

First step of stacking is taking pics with the lens caps on to help the stacking program (Nebulosity 3) figure out what sensor errors are present.
First step of stacking is taking pics with the lens caps on to help the stacking program (Nebulosity 3) figure out what sensor errors are present.
Since so many pictures are very dark when I do this, it helps to use my red flashlight to mark the beginning of sets.
Since so many pictures are very dark when I do this, it helps to use my red flashlight to mark the beginning of sets.
This is the sky taken without stacking. Unfortunately, all of the ambient light against the dark led to many pictures of the lens' apeture being open (the reddish spots). I hate light pollution.
This is the sky taken without stacking. Unfortunately, all of the ambient light against the dark led to many pictures of the lens’ apeture being open (the reddish spots). I hate light pollution.
The final stacked image. I used high contrast, lower exposure, more blue, increased clarity, and vignetting in Adobe Lightroom to cut down on the light pollution effect.
The final stacked image. I used high contrast, lower exposure, more blue, increased clarity, and vignetting in Adobe Lightroom to cut down on the light pollution effect.
Some of the things that were visible. Of course, the Northern Cross was visible as well, but I didn't want to confuse the Summer Triangle picture with it, which overlaps.
Some of the things that were visible. Of course, the Northern Cross was visible as well, but I didn’t want to confuse the Summer Triangle picture with it, which overlaps.

Picked up some stuff

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At Stellafane they have a swap table, where fellow enthusiasts sell the stuff that they no longer need.

I picked up an equalizer (compensates for the weight of 2″ eyepieces while using 1.25″ eyepieces so one can just counterweight the scope and be done with it (I no longer have to ask my child to be tied to the other end of the scope). I also got a Peterson mount for my 25x100s (it ain’t pretty, but it lets me use the 25x100s at zenith), and the seller threw in a set of Oberwork 20x90s with a 1.5x finder for $110.

I also picked up a Tele Vue 2x Barlow and a 6 and 9mm couple of Bushnell 1.25″ eyepieces for $130.

I think I did well.

Of course, as someone here said, if I don’t like it, I can always bring it back and sell it at the swap table. I responded to him that now I understand why there are people here who have come to each Stellafane since 1969, to much laughter.

Oops.

That moment when you set up your camera with an intervalometer to make a time lapse video of the night sky by taking a picture every minute–over 200 pictures–to find, hours later, that you did not remove the lens cap after taking dark shots for photo stacking correction purposes.

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Just shoot me now. Please. It’ll be an act of mercy.

Thankfully, other photos worked.

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First Day and Night at Stellafane 2014

Hi all.

It’s late, but I wanted to let you know I made it.

Here’s the camping setup for my gypsy wagon (aka Prius). Made it there with a side trip to Albany on a full tank of about $28.00 of gas.

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There will be more later. Suffice it to say, my viewing from here on in around Philly is now ruined.

A peaceful night

Compline*  by the fire pit on a clear night with iced tea, the Big Dipper above, relative suburban silence, and fireflies.

Doesn’t get better than this, folks.

Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
– Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
You have redeemed us, Lord God of truth.
– Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
– Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.

 

*Compline is the final, bedtime prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours.

T-4 Days….

Until Stellafane!

I’ve been busy starting to do packing work and realize I have a bit more packing to do in front of me.  I’ll be ready in time, though.

I’m looking forward to Stellafane, hanging out with fellow members of the Delaware Valley Amateur Astronomers, and learning about amateur telescope making (ATM).  I already have two telescopes (10″ and 8″ reflectors) as well as three binos, so after I get a 80mm refractor, I’m done.  But, I’d like to see how they are made.

I’d also like to try to pick up an 11mm Nagler eyepiece for mid-range observation (I have a 24mm eyepiece).  I also have my eye set on a 3-6mm Nagler for really up close work, but that resides on my Amazon Wish List and won’t happen until after my next quarterly bonus.

I’ll have a bit more to post after this coming week after I go to Stellafane.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime, check out this cool commercial for the Weather Channel about Cherry Springs State Park in the boonies of PA.  That’s my next major destination.

Reflections and Refractions on Astronomy, God, and Life

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