Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Busy times, Cloudy Nights, and Home Improvement

Whew, the time flies.

I can't believe its been over a month since my last post.

Some quick updates:
The iOptron drives are working much better since I took the mount apart and adjusted the worm gear lash as well as the backlash adjustments.  It is a world of difference now.  I am still struggling with getting nice shots from the camera and my polar alignment is still hard, mostly due to the fact that there is a HUGE tree blocking polaris in my backyard.

Its going away because it has issues and it doesn't really do much in the way of shade for the yard.  Its simply gotten too big.

I will process some shots and post them here in the next day or two.  I successfully imaged M13, M92, and M27.  I attempted andromeda again but there are focus and star drift issues.

Friday, August 12, 2011

iOptron GotoNova installation

Happy Day!
I love coming home to find brown boxes waiting for me at my door

Lets take a look inside!

The GotoNova kit was packed well and arrived in good condition.

There is not much to the kit, and the only complaint I have is the lack of a printed manual.  They have pdfs available on the website but that means I have to print out my own if I want a field reference.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

GotoNova and my SuperPolaris

Like many folks in the hobby, I have several scopes.

Old scopes are sold to finance newer better scopes.

I inherited (more like liberated) my dad's old 8inch Celestron SCT which was mounted on a Vixen built german equatorial mount called a Super Polaris.

This is my main imaging rig, unfortunately it only has an AC Clock drive.  Which means that it will track, but will not correct for error.  It requires 110v AC to operate which means batteries AND inverters.

Monday, August 1, 2011

TMSP Trip Report

Another year and another Table Mountain Star Party.

This was my second year as a member of the board of directors for TMSP.
Since I am on the board, I get the privilege of helping to set up all the tents which means I arrived on the mountain on the Sunday before the actual event.

Sunday morning I packed up my 1975 VW Kombi and set out for the mountain.

 My particular bus has more than enough power to conquer the highways and passes
between my base of operations in Des Moines and Table Mountain.

The weather was beautiful and the drive was uneventful despite having rebuilt my distributor on the previous Friday evening.

As you can see she cruises nicely on the freeway.

I made it to the most demanding and most picturesque portion of the journey at around 3pm

This portion of the trip has you climbing from the floor of the Kittitas Valley to Table mountain in the Wenatchee Mountains.  The first 5 miles up Reecer Canyon sees over 2400 feet in elevation gain.

The switchbacks give ample opportunity to gaze out across the valley, however the technical nature of this portion of the drive leaves the driver with little time to enjoy the vistas.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Crazy Busy! TMSP Is almost upon us!

I have been slacking with my blogging lately.

My goal is one post a week minimum.  Its been 7  days since my last post.

I got involved with the Table Mountain Star Party two years ago and was asked to join the board of directors.
I capitulated and spent last year as an associate director and became a full fledged director this year.

My duties include managing the Information Booth, SwapMeet, Volunteer and Scope Judging Programs.

I have been completely busy getting prepared for the star party which is this month, the 28th, 29th, and 30th.
Some of that prep work has been working on the information booth info book, some spent redesigning the scope awards and selecting a new award vendor because our last one SUCKED.

The rest has been spent preparing my ride for the trip.

Seen here all set up on the mountain in 2009

 My ride being a 1975 Volkswagen Type 2 Riviera camper.

It was a productive weekend, I managed to replace the pushrod tube seals on the 1&2 cylinders, Sliding door seal (so tight its hard to shut now), and my ignition switch which was a lot easier than I expected it to be.

I have one more fuel line to replace, and then I need to dig into the starter because she has been hard starting lately.  Might be old wiring, might be worn/corroded brushes...won't know until I take it apart.  I also need to adjust the timing and put in the electronic ignition that I bought a few years back.  That may or may not happen before the trip.

I am really excited for the star party this year and hopefully the weather will cooperate and I can cross a few objects off my messier list.

On a slightly different note, there was a really neat article on NASA's webpage regarding a seriously nasty storm that has been raging on Saturn.  Read all about it here

Clear Skies!


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Stars: an endangered species

Light Pollution is killing the stars.

A little melodramatic I know but so many urban dwellers have never seen the milkyway, something which up until the last 200 years or so(probably even less than that) was a common sight in our night skies.

There is an independent film coming out this summer called The City Dark

It looks at the problem of light pollution and the potential long term ramification it has on humans as well as other animals as we move towards a 24/7 global society.

The trailer seems interesting and I am looking forward to watching it.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bahtinov Mask

One of the biggest challenges I have faced with astrophotography is getting the correct focus.

In the past I have made a hartmann mask to help with focusing and had some success with it.

Recently I came across another focusing aid called a Bahtinov Mask which is similar in function to a Hartmann Mask but resolves some of the shortcomings.

I found a webpage which allows me to generate Bahtinov Masks for various sizes and with some trial and error was able to generate a mask for my DSLR.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Field of View templates

I have known about Ponoko for a while, but never had a burning (haha) desire or project that I felt was appropriate.

As an exercise I calculated the field of view for my 4 most used eyepieces for my three scopes (10.1" f4.5/C8/C5).  Unfortunately 1.xxx degrees doesn't really translate into "what can I see in this eyepiece" in my head very well.  A little googling got me a page which converted degrees to cm for the Pocket Sky Atlas (my main goto chart).  It happens to be .4991 cm per degree.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Barndoor First Light

This is a 5 minute exposure taken with my Canon Xsi on my barndoor mount.

 I finished the first iteration of my barndoor on Sunday night.

I ended up replacing the hinge because there was way too much play in my original hinge.
I am also going to replace my existing home-made ball mount.  It does not have nearly enough range to be really useful, but it should be functional enough for a few tests tonight.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Barndoor Construction photos

As promised here are some photos from the construction so far.

First thing I did was draw a line that was 11.43" long and an arc with a radius of 11.43" in Illustrator and printed it out on a regular piece of paper to use as a guide.
Arc template

Barndoor Mount Project

Ever since I heard about an inexpensive mount called a Barndoor or Scotch mount for taking wide field astronomical pictures, I have wanted to make one.

A recent trip to Klamath Falls and some subsequent observing has re-kindled my interest in astronomy, as a result last weekend I started building my own barndoor tracker.

There are dozens of pages related to barn door trackers on the web.
I wanted to keep my design simple and relatively math free so I went with a curved rod design much like this one

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

First Post!

My first post.

This is a blog where I intend to discuss amateur astronomy and my (mis) adventures therin.

I'll talk about projects, observing reports, other astronomy related (and not so related) subjects.

It will probably not get updated much but hey at least its a start.