Sunday, 30 August 2009

Franco Skies

I took my 10x50 bins with me on holiday, I'd wanted to take my little scope, but there just wasn't room, so that I could, hopefully get some observing in, both, being further south, and with luck darker skies.

Well, both proved true very quickly. The skies were so dark, that the milky way was very visible directly overhead without any dark adaptation, and I could see no hint of LP anywhere around. Of course, the quantity of trees didn't help with seeing the horizon, but they were quite dark trees.

On the 18th, I could just about make out Ursa Major's tail through the trees, it was a little tricky to work out my bearings, but this got me sorted. Anyway, just a bit of sky watching. Throughout the evening, I saw 4 Perseids, a Tumbling Iridium (at least that's what I think it was), a very odd sight, but I don't see it being anything else. The track kept fading in and out. A few minutes later, a real bright Meteorite tore across the sky, and a bunch of other satellites joined in the fun.

The following night I got my bins out and had a good nose around. Easily finding the Coathanger, having a wander along the Milky Way through Cygnus. A little later, through a gap in the trees I spotted an odd Teapot shaped grouping of stars, and wondered whether that could actually be Sagitarius... A quick check in the books, planetarium and TL@O proved this to be correct. I had a good wander around here. The two globs M22 and M28 were easily discernible as small blobs. I could make out M8 and I think NGC6530. M21 was another easily seen target, and I think I may have seen M20 (or that might have been wishful thinking)... And moving higher up M23, 24 and 25. Wow, what a busy area that teapot is.

Anyway, most of the following nights were spent looking at the same thing, and trying to find and prove to myself that I had indeed seen these targets. I also shared the bins with friends and family, so they could see what I was looking at, mounting them on my camera tripod.

I also tried to capture some images of the teapot, both a widefield with the 18-55 lens

and a bit closer in with the Nifty Fifty

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Star Trails - Part Deux

I found a little trick (thanks Dangerous_Dave) paint in black on the frames that you don't want the planes to show and they disappear when combined... cool... and a quick fix on the flare


I also trailed the other images I took, in which I only caught a satellite and no Perseids... this is only 25 frames combined, thus the shorter trails



I had a bash at combining the 83 frames I took last night for the Perseids into a startrails image. The Startrails application is amazingly easy to use for this, load the images, click the trails button, sit back and wait. The foreground is dull, I wasn't aiming specifically to capture a startrails image in the first place... I've also got an Iridium flare and a pair of planes ... the Perseids shown earlier are in the image somewhere... but I can't find them.



I've only just noticed... but I got an AAPOD... Amateur Astro Photo of the Day


Very Cool

Tuesday, 11 August 2009


For the first time in what seems ages, the sky cleared as the sun went down. As tonight is one of the best nights to see the Perseid meteor shower (and with a tent up in the garden, there's no danger of getting the scope out, assuming of course I could carry it anyway) I got out one of the sun loungers, setup the camera on a tripod next to me, lay back with a pair of binoculars and waited.

When I setup, the sky was still light enough to show some blue. And I watched as the sky darkened, the stars started to show. Cassie turned her face toward me, then as the sky darkened further, the great wings of Cygnus spread across me. To the accompaniment of small furry winged creatures... teeny bats whizzing around over the garden.. never noticed them before.

Watching the sky generally, I noticed other things, constellations, Draco, Lyra, Lacerta all showing up nicely. The band of the milky way, a faintly glowing ribbon, delicately connecting Cassie to Cygnus, almost as if the Celestial Queen was trying to capture the swan.

Over the course of an hour and a half I witnessed 9 Perseids, from the quite dim, up to the blazingly bright, leaving an incandescent trail across the sky behind it.

One in this skimming the bottom of Cassie

One in this passing just over M31

Two in this, both starting at the centre, one up to the corner, and one below it.

11 Satellites including a spectacular Iridium flare, at last a magnitude -6. I caught this one, it's actually a composite of two images, of course, the timing of the shots on the camera and the flare were not in sync.


and a seperate flare, not an Iridium though

The camera was set to jpg, so I might have a go at a couple of things, an animation and a trails.

I also, with the viewing of some autumn friends had a wander around with the bins, reaquainting myself. M31, and I was amazed at just how easily I found this one, M103, the double cluster and the Mirfak association, amazingly clear, all of them, given how low down, and the slight mist glow at those altitudes. I had a look around for the owl cluster, but I'm not sure a pair of 10x50's cut it. I also had a wander around Cygnus just lost in all those stars...

I really enjoyed that, the more so, given the total lack of opportunity over the past couple of months. It's got me thinking about what I want to achieve over the Autumn and Winter.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Update on the Rig and a couple of widefields

I've added a couple of bits to my rig over the past couple of months, so now the guide scope is mount next to the imaging scope on a side by side bar, and I've got a set of collimating rings, allowing me to adjust the guide scope if needed. I've also now got a proper power setup, meaning I won't be limited to 2.5 hours from the powertank. It'll be nice to get it out and try it, just hope I can remember how.

Given the crummy weather and lack of dark skies, I've not had the gear our for a couple of months, but there have been a couple of clearish spells that lasted long enough for me to pop the camera on a tripod and try a couple of things.

First off, using the nifty fifty (aka, the Canon EF 50mm II), bit limited in sub length at this focal length, but 10x8s f2.2 @ISO800


Then a few nights later another gap. This time I tried to do a panoramic of the milky way, 3 panes of 10x30s f3.5 18mm @ISO800


They both need some work. I now have an adapter that allows me to fit my LPR filter to the nifty, so that'll be good for some tracked shots. I also need to work out the best aperture to use as the setting has caused some oddities around the edge of the frame. I also need to think about the best way to setup and adjust the tripod for the pano. It was really tricky trying to adjust the head to pass along the milky way and keep roughly the same orientation.