Friday, September 16, 2011

The Cause of a Fire

This is the saddest thing imaginable--A mother loses her son.

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BULLHEAD CITY — Bullhead City Fire Marshal Jim Dykens said he’s getting closer to determining an exact cause of the fatal fire that claimed the life of a 2-year-old boy in south Bullhead City Monday morning, but he said he needs a little more time to be absolutely certain.

Jim Dykens is waisting his time. Every damn week another trailer burns here in Mohave County, Arizona. The cause is ALWAYS the same--a dwelling made of flammable sticks.

Posted by Dave

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Unsharp Mask

I think this has possibilities.

I'm playing in Photoshop CS3 and Capture NX2. Same pic, top and bottom. I didn't do much to the upper pic, but in Capture NX2 I used the "Unsharp Mask" on the lower pic. It seems a lot sharper. Why they call it "unsharp" I haven't a clue.

In CS3 I put both pics together and made a red border. Neat trick, but it's not easy. I had to nose around the Innertubes a bit to find out how. Jerad Hill explains it all Here.

Posted by Dave

Friday, September 9, 2011

Collimation Check

This is an out-of-focus star shot. (Capella, in Auriga.)

Ideally, I should have this more centered in the viewfinder. Anyway, what you look for is perfect symmetry. This is pretty close. I'm going to tweak it a bit when I get some special hardware from Bob's Knobs. They're knurled-knob screws to replace the ones in the secondary mirror of my Celestron 11" CST. Bob's Knobs make it easier to adjust--no screwdriver needed.

Posted by Dave

Moonin' Ya

Just some moon shots, taken night before last.

I didn't play with any of these, no brightening, cropping, or contrast adjustments.

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These last two setting moon shots show a distant radio tower. That hilltop tower is at least 20 miles away.

Kind of eerie, all dark and bloody red, huh? Summer moonset shots are redder because the hotter atmosphere has more dust and moisture in it. The hotter air also makes it hard to get a crystal-clear focus with all that turbulence.


Posted by Dave

M79 In Lepus

Not one of my best pics.

This is M79, a globular cluster in the constellation Lepus, The Hare. At magnitude 7.9, it's not bright, and I had to hold the shutter open for 143.4 seconds to get this much. That's why you see all the red dots in the photo, which are not stars but pixels throwing up their little pixel arms in disgust.

Posted by Dave

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Using The FarPoint Focus Mask

Here's a trick to get sharper photos.
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This is the FarPoint Focus Mask, based on the Bahtinov design. It'll show you when you're perfectly focused. This one is sized for the Celestron 11" SCT. See how it just slips over the secondary mirror housing. Then you pick the brightest star near your area of interest. You're looking for the center pattern below. When the pattern is centered, take off the mask and shoot away.
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I used Capella in Auriga for these left, center, and right patterns because it's so bright. You probably won't have such a bright star in the vicinity of what you're shooting, and you want something close by because the farther you swing the scope, the more chance that the focus will change.


Posted by Dave

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Nikon D3000 Astrophotography With An Orion Telescope

I woke up a little past midnight and looked outside. Completely clear skies, a zephyr of a breeze, and temperature in the low 90's. A bowl of oatmeal and a couple cups of coffee later, I was out the door. I had my scope set up, aligned and tracking by 1 a.m. Using a Nikon D3000 with an Orion 80mm f7.5 refractor scope as a prime focus lens.

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The Andromeda Galaxy, M31. ISO 1600 and a 30 second exposure. Click to embiggen.

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Pleiades, the Seven Sisters, a cluster in the constellation Taurus. ISO 1600 and a 30 second exposure.

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Globular Cluster M15 in Pegasus. ISO 1600 and a 30 second exposure.

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The fabulous Orion Nebula. ISO 800 and a 114.5 second exposure.

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NGC 869 and 884, a double cluster in Perseus. ISO 1600 and a 30 second exposure.

These are some of my best shots ever. I take great care in focusing, and I usually take sets of 3 shots just to make sure the tracking motors have settled down. While I'm waiting for the camera to get the shot, I lay down next to the scope and watch the sky for shooting stars and satellites. I use a remote clicker so I don't jiggle the scope.

Posted by Dave