Archive for August, 2009

Conventional narrowband filters (12nm or smaller bandwidth) do not work with the Hyperstar III system due to its very low f#.  The cone angle of the rays passing through the filter are so far from normal incidence that the actual operating wavelength of the filter (at the incident light angle) is no longer at H-alpha wavelengths.  One possible solution to this problem is to use a filter with a very large passband.  I have just purchased a 35nm bandwidth H-alpha filter from Ian King Imaging and can’t wait to see if the Hyperstar III will work with it.  My first target for testing the new combination will be CTBI, the supernova remnant in Cassiopeia that I have had trouble imaging before as it is so faint.  It will be very interesting to see if the new filter allows me to get a decent image of this difficult object.  If it does, I might just give Simeis 147 a go – I have always left this one well alone as it is so large and faint.

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You will see from a couple of posts below that I had some severe computer trouble.  All I wanted to do was upgrade the processor and memory and keep everything else the same, strangely the graphics card played up after the upgrade and all text was like a “spidery” Arial no matter what program was displaying the text.  I downgraded the graphics card and it all worked well again.  I did notice however that as I was putting in the downgraded card there was some dust (fluff) in the PCI Express connector socket which I just blew out the way before putting in the downgrade.  It struck me a few hours later that this fluff may have actually caused the fault with my old card.  So tonight I put the old (better) card back in – and of course it works just fine.  Sometimes these subtle computer faults can be very trying.  Lesson to be learned – when swapping cards/upgrading give the sockets a quick going over with the vacuum cleaner as well as the rest of the case/components.

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Noel Carboni has been putting a considerable amount of effort into developing a new star spike plugin for Photoshop.  He has been trying it out on a few of our images as a test and this is the result of working on the deep-sky image of Procyon.

Artificial star spikes are either something you like, or something you pretty much dislike – personally I think they add to an image about 90% of the time with only very few images not benefitting from adding spikes.

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After a considerable amount of pain and anguish – I’m back in business computer-wise 🙂  Now have a quad-core 2.33GHz running with 4Gig of RAM and a pair of 24″ “letterbox”  LCD monitors.  Also added a 2Tb external hard drive as I was getting panicky at the lack of backup.  So not only back in business – but it also looks like we’re going to get a clear Moonless sky tonight – AND – I don’t have work tomorrow.  From the depths of despair its suddenly all rosy once again 🙂

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Took the 40D out for a couple of hours last night as it was clear – clear but very moist air, so moist I packed up at midnight as it was almost fog.  Used the 17-55mm zoom at 55mm with the 77mm IDAS filter (SCS Astro) and got most of Cygnus in the frame.  Had to put the air blower on the IDAS after every 4-minute sub to keep the dew off.  Ended up with 12 x 4-minute subs which look half reasonable.  As my main computer decided to pack up today I won’t be able to get this data to Noel until the thing gets fixed.  Today has not been a good day!!

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Unfortunately last night (12th) we were completely clouded out, so I didn’t get a chance to put into practice what I’d learned about meteor imaging (the first time I’ve attempted this) from the night before.  Never mind, we still have the Orionids, Taurids, Leonids, Geminids and Ursids before year end 🙂

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Noel Carboni worked his Photoshop magic to bring a great image out of very suspect data!  This was only 45-seconds of exposure time at ISO1600 using the Canon 40D and the 17-55mm zoom lens at 17mm.  In this image you can see three Perseids (the third very faint Perseid runs just under M31).  None of these meteors was visible to the naked eye over the bright Moon pollution.  Like the fisherman’s tales -a very bright meteor passed right through the field of view less than 10-seconds before I actually started imaging!!  It was all downhill from then on 🙁

The kit was mounted on the superb Astrotrac which performed flawlessly throughout the night – even if the meteors didn’t.

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Norman Lockyer observatory – what a great place!  Even without the Astronomy Fair, you really should pay it a visit if you’re ever passing that part of the country.

David Strange – thank you for sorting out accommodation (and Car Parking!) and making it all so easy for me.

The marquee held all the wallet-busting bits and pieces and was a great place to meet fellow enthusiasts as well as the commercial guys selling all the goodies.  Hi guys!!  Wasn’t it a great day 🙂

We were very lucky this year, the weather was perfect, in fact it was almost a touch too warm if such a thing can ever happen in the U.K.

The talk went well with a packed lecture theatre (quite a lot more people than ever turn up to one of my Monday morning 9:00 a.m. lectures).  And afterwards I drew the raffle numbers.  I pulled out the first number and said it was mine as I wanted the telescope – but I got caught out.  What was even more embarrassing was that the second number I pulled out WAS mine and the prize was an extremely nice set of eyepieces and filters in a beautiful case courtesy of First Light Optics.  Well – as I don’t use eyepieces anymore it went back into the draw to another attendee’s great pleasure.

This was a great day, and would make a great day out for all the family.  It’s in a nice part of Devon, so even if the rest of the family don’t want to see the observatory you can just drop them off on Sidmouth promenade a mile away – and spend the time up at the observatory in peace and quiet.

If you were thinking of going this year and couldn’t make it – book it for next year, you won’t be disappointed.

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Don’t forget that the Astronomy fair at the Norman Lockyer observatory is this Saturday 8th August 2009 all day including 4 lectures, two in the morning and two in the afternoon.  I shall be giving a lecture from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. discussing deep-sky imaging at the New Forest Observatory, and including a little on other extreme forms of photography.  Hope to see you there this weekend, you’ll also be able to purchase signed First Editions of Star Vistas at a nice knock-down price, but be quick if you want one as I’m only bringing along 6 copies.  I’ll also have 6 copies of “Making Beautiful Deep-Sky Images” for sale at the same time, same place.

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