Astrophotography in Central Mass 

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March 2016 Jupiter Astrophotography

Published on 2016-04-03, by

Jupiter 2016-03-30

Jupiter 2016-03-30

Jupiter with Io and a healthy Great Red Spot

Last week, I was able to produce my best image of Jupiter to date. The seeing indices were quite poor due to a rapid jet stream and the night was gusty; we’ll take any clear sky we can get in Massachusetts!

I shot approximately 30 second videos with my Basler A102f and Firecapture using LRGB filters. I then processed the sets of four videos with PIPP followed by Autostakkert!2 (alpha version) and finally some processing in Adobe Photoshop. I have been using Noise Ninja to sharpen the images with good success.

PIPP Setup for Jupiter 2016-03-30

PIPP Setup for Jupiter 2016-03-30

I loaded each video into PIPP in batch planetary mode. I won’t provide an exhaustive list of the options chosen in this post. If you are curious send me a message using the contact form.

Autostakkert!2 Setup for Jupiter 2016-03-30

Autostakkert!2 Setup for Jupiter 2016-03-30

Finally, I processed each resulting mono video in Autostakkert!2. I also experimented with the alpha release version checking out the Gaussian blur pre-processing feature that sometimes help with aligning frames. The end results were fed into Photoshop as layers that were colorized and stacked LRGB with screen blending for the colors and luminance blending for the top lum layer.

 
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Aldrich Astronomical Society’s Newest Board Member

Published on 2016-03-29, by

I was invited to server as the interim Public Relations and Outreach Coordinator, member of the board of directors, for my astronomy club and accepted. I’ve been having fantastic time working with the Aldrich Astronomical Society members and board to launch a new website and various other projects. Check out our new site: http://aldrich.club/

Aldrich Astronomical Society

Aldrich Astronomical Society

 
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City of Joy

Published on 2016-03-02, by

I had a really good time at Space Horizons 2016, hosted by Brown University, the weekend before last. We looked at what it will take to create an international city on the moon. All aspects of the science, infrastructure, business, and policy were explored. My group focused on the importance of ensuring the pursuit of joy in lunar living. I left the workshop completely exhausted and absolutely convinced that we need to create an international city on the moon as the bridge for human space colonization. I really enjoyed collaborating on these slides and hope you enjoy them too!


 
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Framing and testing Aldrich Observatory’s Roof

Published on 2015-11-23, by

Last Saturday members of the Aldrich Astronomical Society met to frame the roof for the roll-off-roof style observatory shed. I recently posted photos of the first part of the day’s work. This time-lapse captures latter portion of the day’s work.

 
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Flame Nebula and Horsehead

Published on 2015-11-09, by

After the Triangulum Galaxy headed into the trees, I slewed the ‘scope over to the Flame Nebula which was just coming out from behind a tall tree to the South.  This is the same small window of opportunity that afforded the recent attempts at Orion Nebula.  As much as I love trees, I’m looking forward to opening the view significantly allowing many hours of exposures on targets that fly low. When I processed the images I was excited to see, for the first time on my own equipment, the Horsehead Nebula adjacent the Flame Nebula.  I don’t have many exposures to work with but here’s a good start.  Feedback welcome through the contact page.

Flame Nebula & Horsehead

Flame Nebula & Horsehead

 
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Triangulum Galaxy Revisited

Published on 2015-11-09, by

This is my second or third attempt at imaging the Triangulum galaxy as an astrophotography target.  I was finally able to get some sharpness and detail thanks to better optical alignment.  It moves quickly out of reach beyond the trees so there weren’t many exposures to combine.  This is a mashup of 30s exposures @ ISO 25600, 30s exposures @ ISO 6400, and 60s exposures @ ISO 6400 taken with the Canon EOS 6D DSLR. The exposures were registered and stacked in Deep Sky Stacker then processed with Adobe Camera RAW and Photoshop CS6. Within Photoshop the processing involved several fantastic plugins including Noise Ninja, Gradient Xterminator, and Hasta La Vista Green (HVLG).

Triangulum Galaxy

Triangulum Galaxy

 
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The Missing Cap (Orion Telescope Downer)

Published on 2015-11-06, by

Earlier this year, I purchased an Orion 4.5″ StarBlast telescope from the Goodwill Auction website.  The telescope arrived in all of the original packaging and I couldn’t see any signs of wear.  I believe the telescope was donated new or perhaps used only once or twice.  After some deliberation I decided to donate the telescope to a local library as part of the Aldrich Astronomical Society‘s Library Telescope Program.  I initiated a GoFundMe campaign to raise the funds necessary to purchase the additional supplies that go into transforming the telescope for public use (PDF). Thanks to the generosity of many people, I was able to raise the $200 very quickly and John Root will put in the order for the remaining components.

The one caveat in all of this is that either Goodwill left out the OTA cap on accident or the person who donated the telescope to Goodwill omitted it.  In order for the telescope to travel to and from library patrons’ homes safely, a dust cap is needed and preferably an OEM cap.  I contacted Orion and was rather shocked to find out that they could not offer me a replacement.  If you have any suggestions or know of a place I can purchase a replacement please use the contact page.

I post this not to fault Orion’s agent, Giovanni, nor the company as a whole.  They make great products and that’s why we’re able to successfully deploy them to so many libraries.  I am posting this as a plea to Orion to offer replacement parts to owners of their telescopes–regardless of whether they are the original owner.

Here’s a full transcript of my chat with the Orion agent (2015-11-06):

Chat 2015.11.06

Giovanni
12:35:50
Thank you for contacting Orion Telescopes & Binoculars, how may I help you today?
Charlie Ste…
12:36:17
I lost the aperture cover for my Orion StarBlast 4.5 astro reflector telescope (the tabletop unit) can I get another one?
Giovanni
12:37:03
Did you purchase this telescope from us?
Charlie Ste…
12:37:24
No I purchased it used from Goodwill
Charlie Ste…
12:38:15
Happy to pay for the part
Giovanni
12:39:02
Are you referring to the collimation cap?
Charlie Ste…
12:39:37
No the cap that covers the OTA
Charlie Ste…
12:39:46
The big one
Giovanni
12:41:21
The one that goes on the end of the telescope when doing solar viewing?
Charlie Ste…
12:41:51
No the opaque black one that protects the primary from dust etc during storage and transport
Giovanni
12:42:06
One moment please
Charlie Ste…
12:42:17
Thanks, Giovanni
Giovanni
12:42:54
Like this correct?
http://www.telescope.com/432mm-Orion-Lens-Cap-for-Binoculars/p/7609.uts?keyword=telescope%20cap
Charlie Ste…
12:43:17
One sec
Charlie Ste…
12:43:59
Sort of… this is for the Orion 4.5″ telescope
Charlie Ste…
12:44:11
I think part of it fits within the OTA and overlaps slightly
Giovanni
12:44:34
Yes, that is not the correct size
We might not have one at the moment for the 4.5
Charlie Ste…
12:44:36
This is the reflecting telescope… the 4.5″ newtonian
Charlie Ste…
12:44:42
Ok
Giovanni
12:44:45
Let me go head and double check and see if we have the proper size for your telescope
Charlie Ste…
12:44:52
Thank you.
Giovanni
12:46:28
We unfortunately do not have one, go head and check astromart.com
They might have one that fits the telescope
Charlie Ste…
12:46:59
Yeah, I’ll check there. We want to cover this telescope for use at a local library
Charlie Ste…
12:47:12
https://gofund.me/librarytelescope
Charlie Ste…
12:47:42
Haven’t had any luck finding the part
Giovanni
12:48:28
Hopefully they might have it
Charlie Ste…
12:49:16
I don’t understand that Orion doesn’t have the cap for a telescope they manufacture and are still actively selling
Charlie Ste…
12:49:43
Doesn’t that seem like needing a hub cap for a vehicle and the manufacturer saying go to the junk yard
Giovanni
12:51:32
All telescopes come with the appropriate parts when customers order them
Charlie Ste…
12:52:34
There must be a giant quantity of them where they’re manufactured?
Charlie Ste…
12:52:39
Sorry if I’m giving you a hard time
Giovanni
12:52:47
Since we are limited with replacements, we replace parts for those who purchase the telescopes directly from us or an authorized dealer
Giovanni
12:53:20
One moment please, let me go head and see if we can get you that part
Charlie Ste…
12:53:21
Our club orders sometimes 10 of these telescopes at a time so I’ve asked the guy who orders them to go through his channels
Charlie Ste…
12:53:43
We’ve put over 50 of these telescopes into libraries statewide
Giovanni
12:58:05
Unfortunately we can’t get that part, but some customers have used a shower cap to prevent dust and etc
Charlie Ste…
12:59:48
Ok. Thanks for your time.

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Pleiades in November

Published on 2015-11-06, by

This is my latest attempt at imaging the Pleiades (Seven Sisters) open star cluster in Taurus. The “seeing” hasn’t been great lately and the moon was a factor on the 3rd.  Given the sky conditions, I’m pleased with the results. Use the contact form to offer feedback.

I’ve been working on the mechanical alignment of my Newtonian telescope trying to achieve the best possible light cone for round tight stars. I’ve also recently started using a Baader Planetarium MPCC multi-purpose coma corrector (PDF).  The corrector is a lens assembly that corrects the light cone as it passes through allowing round stars almost to the edge of the full frame sensor.  I highly recommend this product to anyone imaging with a fast Newtonian telescope!

M45 - Pleiades Open Cluster in Taurus

M45 – Pleiades Open Cluster in Taurus

 
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Seeing is believing

Published on 2015-11-03, by

By all measurements, tonight should be quite adequate (by New England standards) for astrophotography.  Both Meteoblue and the Candian Government are reporting decent “seeing” tonight and the moon shouldn’t become a nuisance until around midnight.  Many of the Aldrich Imagers will be setting up their scopes and pointing them to the heavens hoping for the best.

Yesterday, I installed a longer counterweight bar for my Celestron CG-5 mount–allowing me to reduce the overall weight by at least 5 lbs.  Initial tests seemed to indicate that the mount was slewing more smoothly and with less effort than before.  I’ve pushed the limits of this mount far beyond the suggested capacity since it’s all I have.

Seeing prediction for the night of 2015-11-03

Seeing prediction for the night of 2015-11-03 (courtesy of meteoblue.com)

 
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ATWB Pic of the Day (Oct. 27, 2015)

Published on 2015-10-29, by

I posted a few days ago about my favorite online astronomy forum Astromart and about Anacortes Telescope & Wild Bird (ATWB)‘s customer gallery.  They’ve just launched a new site with enhanced gallery functionality that incorporates a social media integrated theme.  I love the idea that people can comment on photos I’ve taken and vice versa gaining feedback and building community. Here’s a screenshot from the Astromart forums with my latest Orion Nebula as pic of the day in their sidebar:

ATWB Pic of the Day (Oct. 27, 2015)

ATWB Pic of the Day (Oct. 27, 2015)

 
© 2015 Charles Kelley Stevenson