We had a fantastic time at Stellafane 2016. My first telescope mirror took second place in the small Newtonian optical competition!
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.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. 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.
I withdrew the funds from our successful GoFundMe campaign this morning and will pass them along to the treasurer of the Aldrich Astronomical Society tomorrow night at the meeting. Next week, John Root and I will meet with Andrea MacRitchie, Dean for Library and Academic Support Services, at the Alden Library to discuss the library telescope.
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.
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).
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):
|Thank you for contacting Orion Telescopes & Binoculars, how may I help you today?|
|I lost the aperture cover for my Orion StarBlast 4.5 astro reflector telescope (the tabletop unit) can I get another one?|
|Did you purchase this telescope from us?|
|No I purchased it used from Goodwill|
|Happy to pay for the part|
|Are you referring to the collimation cap?|
|No the cap that covers the OTA|
|The big one|
|The one that goes on the end of the telescope when doing solar viewing?|
|No the opaque black one that protects the primary from dust etc during storage and transport|
|One moment please|
|Like this correct?|
|Sort of… this is for the Orion 4.5″ telescope|
|I think part of it fits within the OTA and overlaps slightly|
|Yes, that is not the correct size|
We might not have one at the moment for the 4.5
|This is the reflecting telescope… the 4.5″ newtonian|
|Let me go head and double check and see if we have the proper size for your telescope|
|We unfortunately do not have one, go head and check astromart.com|
They might have one that fits the telescope
|Yeah, I’ll check there. We want to cover this telescope for use at a local library|
|Haven’t had any luck finding the part|
|Hopefully they might have it|
|I don’t understand that Orion doesn’t have the cap for a telescope they manufacture and are still actively selling|
|Doesn’t that seem like needing a hub cap for a vehicle and the manufacturer saying go to the junk yard|
|All telescopes come with the appropriate parts when customers order them|
|There must be a giant quantity of them where they’re manufactured?|
|Sorry if I’m giving you a hard time|
|Since we are limited with replacements, we replace parts for those who purchase the telescopes directly from us or an authorized dealer|
|One moment please, let me go head and see if we can get you that part|
|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|
|We’ve put over 50 of these telescopes into libraries statewide|
|Unfortunately we can’t get that part, but some customers have used a shower cap to prevent dust and etc|
|Ok. Thanks for your time.|
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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!
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.