Saturday, June 30, 2012

Dawn Approaches

I'm having astronomical, equipment-related issues. Mrs. UC is doing just fine, however, and here is proof:
                                             .

Almost dawn. As Mark Twain wrote in Huckleberry Finn, "It even smelt late." Here is Pleiades above Jupiter above Venus. Delightful! Photo by Mrs. UC.

Posted by Dave

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Along The Milky Way, Revisited

I was failing miserably at taking astrophotographs this weekend, but Mrs. UC clicked a few with her Nikon D300.
                                            .

To the right of center is the Dumbbell Nebula. Kinda hard to see without some magnification.
                                           .

A bit of the Milky Way here, and the Lagoon Nebula is visible to left of center.
                                           .

After slewing, her camera, mounted on a viewing scope, ended up at this interesting angle. There's Andromeda and a jet right above our house.
                                             .

A nice starry sky, with a satellite plowing through the shot.

All pics in this post by Mrs. UC.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Along The Milky Way

Lovely evening. The wind died down after howling all day. The moon didn't rise until just after 1 a.m. Skies were inky black and the stars were poppin'.

This is M22, a globular cluster in Sagittarius. I used an autoguided Celestron 6" refractor as a prime-focus lens for my Nikon D3000, to get this 73-second shot. This pic is right out of the box, no cropping, no edits. All I did was convert from nef (Nikon Electronic Format) to jpg. It's a huge file, something like 10 Megs, so I hope it doesn't slow Blogger down.
                                           .

The Lagoon Nebula, also in Sagittarius. 51 second shot. Notice how blue the stars are. Click to embignify.

Posted by Dave

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Venus Transit 2012

Venus Transit time, kiddies! Don't forget your solar goggles. Good times, good times!
                                           .

Just setting up here. To get an alignment started, I just roughly pointed the scope northward at an angle about what our latitude is. Then I hit the gas. It tracked pretty well.
                                           .

This is the Seymour Solar filter for the end of our 80mm Orion telescope. It's a glass-type, like a welder would use.
                                           .

Your friendly neighborhood Underground Carpenter, looking through the camera's viewfinder. Photo by the lovely and talented Mrs. UC.
                                           .

Surprisingly, I could see Venus with my naked eyes, peering through a welder's glass. Photo by Mrs. UC.
                                            .

OK campers, its on! Here Venus is just starting its transit. Using the Orion 80mm scope as a prime-focus lens (and a 2X barlow at the camera adapter), Mrs. UC shot all these transit pics with her Nikon D300. ISO of 200 and a shutter speed of 1/200 second.
                                           .

18 minutes from first appearance, Venus is fully inside the Sun's circle.
                                           .

This is about an hour in. The scope's motors were tracking pretty well, but we still had to make minor adjustments every so often.
                                           .

Almost halfway through its transit. With triple-digit temps and a gusty wind, Mrs. UC and I called it quits at this point.

Posted by Dave

Monday, June 4, 2012

Beneath The Strawberry Moon

This is called the Strawberry Moon, a full moon in strawberry-picking season. Click the pic to embignify.
                                           .

This shot was taken a little before 3 a.m., PDT (Arizona Time). Just starting to eclipse.
                                           .

A little more. These photos were all taken with a Celestron 6" refractor as a prime-focus lens for a Nikon D3000.
                                           .

I used different shutter speeds between 1/60 second and 1/640 second. I prefer to underexpose a bit. You can always brighten the photo in Photoshop, and the detail is better.
                                            .

All of these photos are pretty much right out of the box. I haven't cropped, sharpened, or lightened. All I did was convert from nef (Nikon Electronic Format) to jpg.
                                           .

Getting close to max here. Even without the scope, this is a stunning sight.
                                           .

4:04 a.m. Maxed out. Cool, eh? Oh, and did you know that there is always a lunar eclipse two weeks before or after a solar eclipse (Like the one on May 20)? True fact.

Posted by Dave

Friday, June 1, 2012

More Venus Transit Preps

Dress rehersal for VT Day. (Venus Transit across the Sun)
                                                        .

First step is to lug the Celestron C6 refractor scope out to the astroslab and plug in the motor controller. Because there are no stars out to align the scope, I just roughly point it north at an angle to match my latitude. Switch it on. After entering my location (longs and lats), time (to the second), and date, I punch "quick alignment" which accepts that I'm pointed at polar north. I've never done this in the daylight, so we'll see how it works.
                                           .

Put the solar filter over the objective end. This is a Seymour Solar thin film solar filter, which is cheaper than their glass-type, but works just as well.
                                            .

After manually turning the scope to the sun, I find that the controller is tracking very well indeed. So my rough alignment worked. Now I hook up my Nikon D3000 DSLR to the scope.
                                            .

This is how the attachment works. One end of this adapter is just like a Nikon lens. The other end is a 2-inch tube that slides into the focuser of the scope.
                                            .

Two really nice accessories for the Nikon are the remote clicker and the 90-degree viewer. The clicker takes a picture without me touching the camera and jostling the scope. The 90-degree viewer allows me to comfortably get things centered, even when the scope is pointed straight up.
                                                 .

I take a shot and then look at the result. This shot was 1/20 second, and seems OK, but I still take lots of pics at different shutter speeds. Today I took shots from 1/4 second (totally blown highlights) to 1/300 second (dim and red).
                                           .

This shot was taken at 1/125 second. A bit red, but the spots show up better with a little underexposure. I could probably "shop" this up a bit to make it yellower. Perhaps another day down the rabbit hole of learning.
                                            .

Gratuitous belaboring of the obvious: Don't forget to wear eye protection when viewing the sun.

Posted by Dave