Archive for September, 2007

Orions belt and sword

Posted in astronomy, astrophotography, Constellation, Nebula, Photo, Star on September 24, 2007 by Andrew

“Therein he wrought the earth, therein the heavens therein the sea, and the unwearied sun, and the moon at the full, and therein all the constellations wherewith heaven is crowned‚ÄĒthe Pleiades, and the Hyades and the mighty Orion, and the Bear, that men call also the Wain, that circleth ever in her place, and watcheth Orion, and alone hath no part in the baths of Ocean”.
Homers Illiad 18.483

I awoke this morning feeling under the weather…so to speak and decided to take the day off from work ūüė¶ . While I was awake I took a peek out of the window and noticed how clear AND dark the skies were.Not feeling like bringing any of my scopes out,I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to get some images and thinking to myself “why not try for Orion?”.So out the door I go with just my camera and a table top tripod that I placed on the hood of my car.Not expecting to get much exposure time since the tripod is only plastic and not motorized,I was certainly surprised as to what I actually imaged.To be honest,I was thrilled¬†with the shot,even though I wasn’t able to get the whole constellation into one image.I set my ISO at 1600 and the exposure was a mind blowing…….32 seconds according to the histogram and camera information for the image.Their were slight star trails but,I fixed them with Photoshop Elements.I also¬†increased the contrast, removed the¬†noise and enhanced the star color which really pulled out the nebula in Orion.

Image credit:Andrew

Orions belt and sword

Friday night Moon

Posted in astronomy, astrophotography, Moon, Photo on September 22, 2007 by Andrew

The skies this week have been absolutely beautiful but,I didn’t get any observing done:( .I did however,take the Meade DS90 out for its first light.Yeah yeah yeah…I know.I have had the scope for almost 4 months and have never used it.My original idea was that I was going to use it as a guide scope but,since it is a goto like my Meade LXD75 I figured why not try it out.I bought the scope on E bay for a decent price.The first owner had problems getting it to work properly and gave up the idea of owning a scope.Apparently,he was a bit frustrated and didn’t treat it very well.The OTA and optics are in good working¬†order but,it appears that he may have been rather rough with the mount and motors.I set the scope up indoors and tried out the goto and tracking when I first recieved it and found that the RA motor was quite a mess.I removed the motor and found that the arbor was severly bent causing it to bind up.I straightened the arbor (by eye)as much as I could and it worked pretty well but was still sluggish.I looked on the Meade site and found a new motor that will fit for $15.00!.Now I just have to breakdown and actually buy it.Anyway,I took it out for it’s first light last night and was fairly impressed with the optics,although their is a noticable difference from my big scope.One thing I did like was the fact that the scope is so light in weight and offered a fast setup.Knowing I wasn’t going to see much as far as DSO’s are concerned due to the moon washing out the skies.I know I won’t see much anyway because,it is a f/11 which is good for planets and the moon.My first target was Jupiter and again was fairly impressed with how much detail I could see.The tracking led a bit to be desired though as I kept having to adjust to keep the object in the eyepiece.This I believe was due to a bad alignment so I won’t harp too much.I had to wait for the moon to appear from behind some trees before I could make a effort to image it.When the moon did appear,I connected the camera to the scope using A-focal projection.Heh,the moment I let go of the camera the scope tube decided it wanted to look at somthing straight up.Note to self;make sure the locks are tight before¬†letting go of¬†the camera!.

Below is one of the first images I took with the newish scope.

DS90 first light

M1 (The Crab Nebula)

Posted in astronomy, astrophotography, Nebula, Photo, Star on September 14, 2007 by Andrew

Waking up¬†is hard to do!.After seeing the skies yesterday morning,I felt a overwhelming urge to wake up early this morning for a glimpse of the up and coming winter skies.I awoke at 2am (yes…2am! Crazy huh?)and quickly set my scope up.Heh,I say quickly but,it was more of a wake up first and second guess my sanity!.After looking at the sky conditions through my window I realized that I was wasting precious time because,after all I had to leave for work at 5am.I had the scope set up and aligned¬†by 2:45am and the digital camera attached and focused by 3am.Why is it,that when you spend a lot of time leveling,balancing and tweaking the scope,you get a mediocre alignment and other times when you just align willy nilly you get a almost perfect alignment?.I wonder if that is Murpheys law?.Regardless,I started my tour with the Hyades which was simply amazing.The large and obvious “V” shape really stood out against the dark sky.I then slewed the scope towards Orion but,unfortunately it had snuck behind some tree’s making it impossible to see most of it.Feeling a bit disappointed,I made my way to the Pleiades.I took a couple shots and decided to move on to the Crab nebula which is where I spent the rest of my short observing¬†time because,a huge¬†fog bank was rolling in from the lake.By the time I had my scope torn down, the street¬†had¬†taken on¬†this rather eery¬†mid 1800’s¬†London¬†feel to it with Jack the Ripper lurking in the shadows of modern day¬†architecture.Their won’t be any observing tonight as it has clouded with¬†showers in the forecast.Luckily though,the skies are suppose to clear up tomorrow afternoon and be clear tomorrow night (my fingers are crossed)!.

The Crab Nebula, Messier 1 (M1, NGC 1952), is the most famous and conspicuous known supernova remnant, the expanding cloud of gas created in the explosion of a star as supernova which was observed in the year 1054 AD. It shines as a nebula of magnitude 8.4 near the southern “horn” of Taurus, the Bull.The supernova was noted on July 4, 1054 A.D. by Chinese astronomers as a new or “guest star,” and was about four times brighter than Venus, or about mag -6. According to the records, it was visible in daylight for 23 days, and 653 days to the naked eye in the night sky.

The Crab Nebula can be found quite easily from Zeta Tauri (or 123 Tauri), the “Southern Horn” of the Bull, a 3rd-magnitude star which can be easily found ENE of Aldebaran (Alpha Tauri). M1 is about 1 deg N and 1 deg W of Zeta, just slightly south and about 1/2 degree west of a mag-6 star, Struve 742.

Imaged with a Pentax ist DS digital camera at prime focus

ISO setting was 400

Exposure was 85 seconds

Cropped and enhanced with PS.

Information courtesy of :SEDS

Image credit:Andrew

Click image for larger view:

Crab nebula 2007

Quasar 3C273

Posted in astronomy, astrophotography, Galaxy, Photo on September 9, 2007 by Andrew

It has been a week since I have had any observing time so,I thought I would share another image that I took a over a year ago.

Located in the constellation Virgo,Quasar 3C273 is the brightest and one of the closest Quasars at a astounding 2 Billion light years distant!.Just to put this distance into perspective,the light that we see from this object,began it’s journey 2 billion years ago or to put it even simpler;the only life forms on earth at that time were bacteria and Blue Green algae.

2 Billion light years

At this enormous distance, light fades by 38.9 magnitudes (for H0=75, or 39.5 mag for H0=60), so its average apparent magnitude of 12.8 corresponds to an enormous absolute brightness of -26.1 (-26.7) magnitudes visually. So from a distance of 10 parsecs (a parsec is a distance of about 3.26 light years), this object would shine in the sky about as bright as our sun ! This quasar’s luminosity is, therefore, about 2 trillion¬† times that of our sun, and still about 100 times that of the total light of average giant galaxies like our Milky Way !.

Information coutesy of : SEDS

Image credit: Andrew

The Andromeda Galaxy 2007

Posted in astronomy, astrophotography, Constellation, Galaxy, Photo on September 3, 2007 by Andrew

It has been a real nice weekend but,unfortunately I have to go back to work tomorrow….Booooo!.We have had a decent weekend for observing and I was even able to take the scope out again last night.Being like a game at a casino my observing seemed to crap out.The night started great and¬† the scope performed like a champ until,I decided to play with the new Meade DSI.I had¬†only taken a few images with the Pentax ist DS digital camera when I got the bright idea to play with the new imager and that is when the night turned for the worse.For some unknown reason the new program kept freezing up on my Pc sooooo,I went ahead and uninstalled then reinstalled the software.Heh,big mistake!.I couldn’t get the camera to cooperate to save my life and by the time I was finished messing with the Pc,several hours had gone by and¬†the moon had risen high¬†enough to washout the sky.¬†

The skies last night were actually really good or as good as they can get here in the middle of town.I saw some faint dark lanes in the Milkyway but,had the usual high light domes to my North and to the west.The South would have been better if I didn’t have to fight with a street light.The East looked good but had ambient light bouncing off of the house and some tree’s.Heh,now you have a idea of my seeing conditions on any given night!.Oh and if I have never mentioned….I have a big 3 story¬†brick building about 20 meters to my West!.If you look at the “My equipment” post you will notice the large building that I am talking about.

Below is a half hearted image that I took of M31 a.k.a Andromeda galaxy.Also included are M110 and M32.The image was a 68 second image at ISO of 400 taken with a Pentax ist DS DSLR.I used PS Elements for post processing.

The Andromeda galaxy can be found by lookin to the NNE at around 11pm in the northern hemisphere.It has a visual mag of about +3.4 under dark skies.It is approximately 2.3million lightyears distant which is probably the farthest object in the night sky visible to the naked eye.M31 is approaching the Milkyway at almost 64 miles per second,which should put on a spectacular but messy show for us in the far far distant future.The most likely scenario will be for both galaxies to side swipe each other,shreading the outer arms of both galaxies creating long strings of stars and gas much like M51.Until gravity eventually draws both galaxies together to form one huge galaxy.

Image credit: ME!!!!

Dark skies at last

Posted in astronomy, astrophotography, Constellation, Photo, Star, Uncategorized on September 2, 2007 by Andrew

For the first time since I have owned my scope I was able to treat it to some actual dark skies and meet with a fellow blogger/amateur astronomer¬†for a night of stargazing.About a week ago I was invited to a NHAS¬†skywatch by¬†Marc¬† from the Tamworth Observatory in¬†northern NewHampshire where I met with¬†¬†Michael¬†from MountWashington Valley Astronomy.Being fashionably unprepared,I managed to forget to bring¬†my dewshield for the scope,warm clothing and some munchies.Regardless,the night was simply amazing inwhich I was in a stardaze for most of the night.So much in awe as a matter of fact that I didn’t even notice that the temps had dropped into the mid 40’sF and here I was dressed in only shorts and a short sleeve shirt.I of course didn’t realize that I was cold until I was half way home from the observing session. While at the skywatch I met Michaels girlfriend Rhonda¬†who was a lot of fun to talk with.I also met¬†with¬†other very friendly¬† knowledgeable people that were more than willing to share their insights as well as their equipment.One of the highpoints of the night was when a man in his 99th year of life looked through Michaels scope and saw Jupiter and¬†all of it’s¬†moons!.Just from the excited¬†sounds of his voice,it appeared that he was extremely impressed!!!!.Another¬†astronomer brought what I believe was a 16″+? truss tube¬†Dobsonian which¬†¬†yielded fantastic views.Combine the light gathering power with a OIII neb filter and I was able to see the Veil nebula without a problem.Something I have never seen with my scope¬†under the¬†light polluted skies of Laconia.ARGH…..I’ve got aperture fever again.However,the remedy for that won’t happen too soon *sigh*.I didn’t get a whole lot of eyepiece time in because,I suddenly became Mr Yappy and just wanted to talk with everyone.Also,like I stated earlier,I was in a stardaze.It has been….(me thinking)…probably 20 years or more that I have seen the dustlanes in the Milkyway.I mean,I have seen them since I have been living in the middle of town but,no where near¬†as bright as what I saw lastnight!.Even on my best night of observing on the street doesn’t remotely come close to the views that I saw from¬†this true dark site.As impressed and thrilled that I was for these darkskies.It was brought to my attention that these dark skies didn’t compare with some of the other¬†observing sites in the state.Their were so many stars visible that it was almost overwhelming!!!.

I would like to thank everyone involved for the warm welcome and friendly atmosphere that made this a night that I won’t soon forget!.

One of the objects that I observed¬†(but,wasn’t able to image due to being temporarily scatterbrained)was Alberio which is a double star located in the constellation Cygnus and is easily visible in even the¬†smallest of scopes.At 385 light years away,Alberio (also known as the beak star)forms the head of the “Swan”,which¬†¬†incidentally is also¬†Cygnus.

Below is a image that I shot a couple weeks ago with a Pentax istDS digital camera and processed with PS Elements.

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