Last Minute Eclipse Prep

There has been so much news about the solar eclipse coming on Monday, August 21, 2017 about where to get your solar eclipse glasses, where the total solar eclipse will be happening across the continental United States, and I’m sure some of you have procrastinated on preparing. First of all I have to put a WARNING: Do NOT view the eclipse without proper filters or projection viewers! You can try looking at your local Walmart, Lowe’s, 711, Best Buy for ISO certified solar eclipse glasses. Stores containing the proper solar glasses are listed on this site here. Be sure to make sure they are the correct ISO number.

Now, if you can’t find eclipse glasses locally, it is definitely too late to be ordering them. I know, I know, you really want to view the eclipse but procrastination got the best of you (believe me, I understand, I am a master of procrastination). Well, you’re in luck. I made a video showing how to make a Shoe box Eclipse Projector for viewing the eclipse safely. All you’ll need is a Shoe box, aluminum foil, a blank white piece of paper, some tape, a pin, and a knife or pair of scissors. That’s all you’ll need to have a viewer for the eclipse. Whether you’re along the path of totality, or you’re viewing from your backyard in a zone only getting 50% of the eclipse you can view safely and watch the moon as it eclipses the sun.

Don’t wait to the last minute to make your projection viewer! Make one now and do a practice run so you know how it work, and if it works, before the eclipse happens.

M27 – The Dumbbell Nebula (New Astronomy Gear)

On the night of July 29, 2017 I imaged Messier object 27, or M27, also known as the Dumbbell Nebula. M27 is a planetary nebula, which is an expanding shell of ionized gas being ejected from a star. The Dumbbell nebula can be found in the constellation Vulpecula, and was the first planetary nebula discovered on July 12, 1764 by Charles Messier. From our viewpoint here on Earth we view this object along its equatorial plane, perhaps if we saw it from one of its poles it may look more like M57, the Ring Nebula. Fortunately we see it at an angle that allows us to see both its North and South poles.

M27 is approximately 1.25 thousand light years away (being a planetary nebula it is hard to measure exact distance, so this is just an average) at a magnitude of 7.4. The central star, which is the star that forms this nebula, is a magnitude 13.5 and is an extremely hot blueish subdwarf dwarf star with a temperature of 85,000 Kelvin (84,726.85 Celsius, or 152,540.33 Fahrenheit). Going with a distance of 1200 light years that would mean that the luminosity of this nebula is around 100 times brighter than our own Sun.

M27, the Dumbbell Nebula in Vulpecula

This image of M27 was taken with a non-modified Canon T3i, at ISO 800, and 8×5 minute exposures. I had taken 19 images total, but guiding errors resulted in elongated stars which I threw out in order to get the best quality I could. I used a Celestron 8″ Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope on a CG-5 mount. Autoguiding with an Orion Starshoot Autoguider and a 50mm guidescope. I do plan on increasing the magnification of the guidescope to get better autoguiding. This is approximately 75x magnification, compared to the roughly 25x magnification I had previously imaged of M27 object with my 6″ Newtonian.

All editing done in Pixinsight. This is the first time in a while that I have used Pixinsight for editing, so I’m still trying to get the hang of it. 

Telegizmo 365 Cover Review

Before I purchased my Telegizmo 365 cover for my telescope I did a lot of searching for reviews. I found a couple reviews, and then the Telegizmo testimony for their 365 cover. This is the way it is advertised on their website (I didn’t copy the whole part, just the part that captured my interest when looking into the covers).

Less than 1% shrinkage or stretch assures continuous proper fit. The water resistant capabilities of this material are outstanding… tested and shown to not allow moisture penetration from a spray test at 40 PSI, 1/2 inch concentrated stream.
A year of strenuous testing in some of the harshest outside environments, including the desert southwest, Florida Keys, Colorado @ 8000 feet and the Texas Hill country has proven the 365 Series to be capable of handling all types of weather on a continuous 24/7, 365 basis.

We all know that companies will say what they have to in order to sell a product, and given the fact that I couldn’t find much information on them I was a bit skeptical about buying one. I had one in my cart ready to purchase for many months. I had planned on buying one to fit my 6” Newtonian over a year ago. I just couldn’t pull the trigger on purchasing one although I was extremely tempted.

After I purchased my 8” Celestron SCT I found myself really wanting to be able to setup my telescope, polar align it, and be able to leave it up for use whenever the skies were clear even if that meant having it set up throughout a lot of rain and wind, and snow in the winter.

This year I had attended the Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) at Rockland Community College in Suffern, NY. This was my first time attending this event, and I would love to make it a yearly adventure. While at NEAF I stumbled upon the Telegizmo 365 cover when I first got there. The bin they were in was filled. A few hours had gone by and I walked past the booth with the bin of these covers again, and noticed a bunch had been sold. So, I decided to look through and see if they had one there made specifically for an SCT telescope on a EQ mount since my telescope is mounted onto my CG-5. I found the cover for my telescope and mount and decided to bite the bullet and make the purchase.

NEAF happened early April, and after getting home with the cover I set up the telescope in preparations for a clear night. I polar aligned the telescope, did my imaging and viewing for the night, and covered the telescope. This is when the true Telegizmo 365 Cover test went into full effect. We had practically 2 months worth of rain. Some nice days in between, but way more rainy days than nice days. Some of the days were heavy downpours with wind gusts of 50mph, and other days were just a light sprinkle.

After 2 months of my cover being rained on I finally did a thorough examination of my telescope to ensure there was no water that has penetrated the cover and entered the OTA. I checked for water damage to the telescope, and to the mount. Everything was bone dry!

It seems these covers really are excellent for keeping your telescope dry in the rain. This purchase was worth every penny spent!

The only downfall I found which has nothing to do with the cover is that where I setup my telescope there was a bit of erosion on the ground which resulted in my mount no longer being polar aligned. No fault of the cover, just my own fault for having my telescope setup where it is; in dirt, along a slight slope on the ground. I need to put a few pavers down where my tripod sits to hopefully avoid erosion messing up my polar alignment.

Here are images of the cover on the telescope, and the way I have it on my telescope. The cover came with an extra bungee cord which I use as extra security in hopes that it keeps the wind from blowing it off of the telescope.

I tighten up the bungee cord that cinches the bottom tighter, then I take the loose bit of bungee and tie it around the adjustment knob for the tripod. This helps secure the cover to the telescope and mount through heavy winds.

Telegizmo 365 Cover

This leaves the cover looking a little bulky on the scope, which had me worried that a heavy gust of wind could get inside of it and either rip the cover off, or knock the whole setup over.

Telegizmo 365 Cover

So I took the spare bungee cord that came with the mount.

Telegizmo 365 Cover

I tighten that bungee around the telescope to hold it tighter and reduce the parachute-like appearance it has. So far this has worked out good in heavy winds.

Telegizmo 365 Cover

I wrap the extra bungee around the telescope to get the loose bit of cord off the ground. No need for a tripping hazard around the telescope.

Telegizmo 365 Cover

Then I wrap the bungee around itself to keep it from coming undone.

Telegizmo 365 Cover

Now the cover is completely on the telescope, and it is ready for inclement weather.

Telegizmo 365 Cover

I have also been out on a clear day to remove the cover after a rainstorm to see if it is damp at all, and it has been bone dry each time I have checked on it. I also found that the cover does and excellent job keeping it from getting too warm. Where I have my scope in my yard it is bombarded by the sun for most of the day. I can remove the cover midday and it is cool to the touch. So not only does the cover do a great job at keeping rain out, but it also does an excellent job of keeping the scope at a decent temperature so the optics don’t get too hot sitting out like that.

I highly recommend these covers to anyone that is looking for a way to keep their telescope setup in their yard without having to purchase or build an observatory. This has saved me a lot of time on nights that I go out since I can turn on my telescope, wake it up from hibernation, point it at an object, and begin imaging. I cut down the entire setup and polar alignment time which has been major motivation for going out on a clear night.

M51, Whirlpool Galaxy 04-15-17

This object is not a new one to me, or to any visitors to this site. If you have a telescope then you have probably looked at this galaxy colliding with another creating a spectacular view in images. This galaxy and it’s dance partner are roughly 23.16 million light years away in the constellation Canes Venatici. The larger galaxy is Messier 51, also known as the Whirlpool Galaxy, while the smaller galaxy it is colliding with is cataloged as NGC 5195. Discovered on October 13, 1773 by Charles Messier.

I recently purchased a used Celestron 8″ Schmitt-Cassegrain Telescope (SCT). This is a whole new beast to me in the world of astronomy since I’ve only ever used Newtonian Reflectors as my viewing and imaging source in the past. This, however, was my very first time imaging with this telescope although I’ve had it for over a month at this point.

This telescope has a focal length of 2300mm (Newtonian was 750mm), so I get a more magnified view of objects. The downside of this telescope is that it’s a bit “slower” than the Newtonian. The Newtonian had an aperture of F/5, meaning it allowed more light making objects appear brighter in a shorter amount of exposure time. The Celestron SCT I purchased has an aperture of F/10, so images need a much longer exposure to collect photons from deep space images. This telescope is typically used for planetary and lunar imaging as the magnification allows a much better view of these objects for visual and imaging purposes.

Considering all that, and the fact that I am using a low magnification guidescope, and that I attempted 5 minute images with a magnification of 86x compared to the 28x magnification I was getting with the DSLR and the Newtonian. I would have to say I am quite pleased with the final results of my first imaging session with the new-to-me telescope. Maybe a bit more tweaking needed for the polar alignment and I will have rounder stars, as you can see with the 5 minute exposures they are a little oblong.

M51, Whirlpool Galaxy in Ursa Major

M51, Whirlpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici (Schmitt-Cassegrain) April 2017

For a comparison, here is the image taken a few years back with the same camera, but connected to the faster, less magnified, Newtonian.

M51, Whirlpool Galaxy in Ursa Major (Newtonian)

M51, Whirlpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici (Newtonian) March 2014

Quite the reduction in field of view with the SCT, but the object being imaged is much larger. Both images were taken with a full spectrum modified Canon 350D, both were a combination of 5 minute images. The SCT was a combination of 10 images at 5 minutes a piece, and the Newtonian was 21 images at 5 minutes a piece. Both shot at ISO 800. Both images contained a set of dark images, but the Newtonian also made use of flat frames, which I did not do for the SCT image.

All in all, I’m extremely happy with the results of this new-to-me telescope, and I really look forward to more clear nights for imaging some of those small objects I never really attempted with my Newtonian telescope. I did purchase a focal reducer for the SCT which would essential turn my F/10 SCT into an F/6.3, but with that aperture reduction comes a reduction in magnification. If I remember correctly, adding the focal reducer would essential drop the 2300mm focal length to somewhere around 1200mm, which is still more magnification than I was getting with the Newtonian, and roughly the same aperture.

Equipment:
Celestron Celestar 8″ Schmitt-Cassegrain Telescope
CG-5 Mount
Canon 350D Full Spectrum Modification
Lin_Guider on Linux Ubuntu for autoguiding
Deep Sky Stacker for image stacking
Photoshop for post processing the stacked image

Mercury Transit May 09, 2016

I know it has been a while since I have posted anything, but I finally got some images stacked and edited from the May 9, 2016 Mercury Transit. I had an issue getting Registax to work properly under Linux through Wine, but I realized that, for whatever reason, Registax 6 didn’t like me using images (tif, CR2, and jpeg all didn’t work) although Registax 5 is perfectly fine with me using RAW files straight from the camera. Now that I got that figured out, here is one of the best shots from the Mercury Transit which contains about 50 of the best 100 images. Also included is my sketch of the event.

May 09, 2016 Mercury Transit

May 09, 2016 Mercury Transit Sketch