Archive for June, 2010

Last night I successfully collimated the modified Hyperstar III lens assembly and took a “first light” image with the new setup.  Full Moon (or close to) low down on the southern horizon, and a sky that doesn’t really get dark.  Imaged from midnight until 1:00 a.m. once I had collimated the system using CCDInspector (this is a great program!).  To remind you – the Hyperstar III modification was to take the whole lens assembly apart, then blacken all the lens edges using a matt black paint, and then to flock the internal lens spacer tube.  First time I re-assembled the Hyperstar I managed to put the lenses back the wrong way round (what a twit!) – but thankfully Dean of Starizona came to the rescue YET AGAIN and second time around I got it right.  So – lenses back in correctly, wires all fixed to the connector rods at 90 degrees to one another – final job, get the collimation sorted.  Took me just over an hour to sort this out using CCDInspector – and the result? – errors of -0.0 in x and -0.1 in y – the best I’ve EVER seen to date using the Hyperstar III, so I now have a highly-collimated system to play with 🙂  Having completed the collimation I set up on the “Wall” region of NGC7000 for a quick practical test of the optics.  Noel dropped everything and kindly processed this one in ultra double-quick time.  WOW!!  Those stars are nice and round across the whole FOV and the result is about the best I’ve seen in using the Hyperstar III for over a year – great!  You can now expect a large quality-jump in the images coming out from the New Forest Observatory from today onwards.

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I also mounted two pinhole cameras outside the house on a south facing wall.  These cameras were based on beer cans as the Ilford photographic paper fits very nicely inside a standard size aluminium beer can.  Like the indoor cameras the exposure time was also 6-months, but it looks like the Sun’s path has come out a lot better on the outside cameras.  No vertical exposure streak either 🙂  The white fibreglass dome of the New Forest Observatory can be seen in the centre of the image.  The checkerboard pattern across the centre of the image is the patio, and sitting in the centre of the patio you can just make out the teak table and chairs.  Only thing wrong with this image is that I didn’t have the camera angled upwards enough to capture the Sun at the peak of its travel.  However – I have just reloaded the beer can cameras and put them back on the south facing wall, but they are now angled upwards by about 30 or so degrees so I should definitely get the Sun at its highest point tomorrow – the summer solstice 🙂

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I’ve just opened the pinhole camera in my study (one day early).  This was behind the double glazing in a rectangular tea caddy tin box.  You can see the NFO dome towards the right, and a neighbour’s house over the road towards the left.  I think the almost vertical exposed line is a reflection off that neighbour’s bathroom window.  I don’t know what the boomerang shaped light in the sky towards the right is.  Clearly I didn’t angle the camera anywhere near enough to catch the Sun at the top of its travels so a good few months have been wasted.  Still living and learning 🙂

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This one went absolutely everywhere and I’ll be cleaning up the mess for weeks.  It’s still far from perfect but I don’t think I’m capable of doing much better – so I’m calling it a day on the eggs.

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Last night our faithful old cactus once again flowered and I caught the action with the Canon 40D and TC-80N3 timer controller.  So what is this doing on a deep-sky imaging web site?  I hope to use the same process to create animations of the night sky using the 40D and a 15mm Canon fisheye lens – should be an interesting summer night project.

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I have just half-completed a very scary summer project!  The Hyperstar III lens assembly is a fantastic technological achievement which turns an ultra-slow f#10 Schmidt-Cassegrain into an ultra-fast f#2 Schmidt-Camera.  There is a slight problem though with all that glass in the Hyperstar – thick lenses – and the edges of the lenses are frosted, not blackened.  This means that if you wish to image a bright constellation star, you will unfortunately get some lens flaring.  For non-bright constellation stars I rarely get any problem.

So – just as I did with the Hyperstar I, I took the whole lens assembly apart (scary) and then painted the edges of the lenses matt black (VERY scary!) they are now all sitting on my desk in the sunshine for the paint to thoroughly dry off.  I use Revell colour Black Matt 9 – this is the paint used on Airfix kits.  It is probably not the best paint to use – there is a proprietary paint you can get from the States that is made especially to paint the edges of lenses.

I will keep you informed of how things progress (or not) when I rebuild the Hyperstar III and take my first image with the modified lenses.  Keep everything crossed for me 🙂

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The four pinhole cameras I have had imaging the southern horizon for the past 6 months are due to be opened on June 21st 2010 in the evening.  I will put new film in each camera and set them off again for another 6 months exposure.  Keep looking in to see how things go for this mega-exposure imaging session 🙂

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Noel Carboni is currently assembling the NFO Spring mega project of 2010.

This is a massive mosaic of the Virgo/Coma galaxy cluster region centred on the famous Markarian Chain of galaxies.  This mosaic is created from a number of frames taken with both the Sky 90 and Hyperstar III telescopes both using the SXVF-M25C one-shot colour camera, and the image reveals many hundreds of galaxies.

I shall be creating just a very few HUGE prints measuring some 5 feet in height and 6-7 feet in length which will be available for purchase.  These will be extremely expensive to acquire (sorry), but they are totally unique high-resolution prints specifically designed for the corporate environment and with an extremely limited print run of just 25 prints!

Stay tuned to the New Forest Observatory blog to keep up to date with this, our most ambitious project to-date.  If you would like to pre-order your massive “Galaxy Wall” print for your institution then please mail for more information – but please be quick, with only 25 prints in total, they will soon be snapped up!

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It says something about the desperate current financial situation we are in that I need to write this entry, and it makes me quite sad to do so.

The New Forest Observatory is a dedicated picture-taking telescope (i.e. you can’t see through it) housed in a fibre-glass dome and located in my garden in Brockenhurst in the New Forest.  It is my hobby –  it is not a professional observatory with paid technical staff, so I am sorry, but there are no job vacancies at the NFO.  In addition, as stated above, you cannot “look through” the telescope as it is permanently fitted to a cooled astronomical CCD camera and so there is no eyepiece at all to look through.  If you would like to work at a professional observatory (and you have a very good science degree qualification) check out the Canary Island telescopes and see if there are any current job vacancies, they do advertise quite regularly.  Or – if you would like to take your own deep-sky images (you would need to process the raw data you download) then check out the many “rental scope” offers on the Internet where you can buy time (at what I consider are extremely good rates) on a big telescope which will take images of your chosen object for you, and then send you the image data via the Internet for you to process in your own time.

I only wish I was sufficiently financially loaded to be able to take on keen young people to work at the NFO, but like most amateur deep-sky imagers in the U.K., I am not in that income bracket and I’m never likely to be in that income bracket unless I win the Lottery, and of course there are millions of others wishing for exactly the same thing as me.

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Managed to get today’s EPOD with a panoramic view over Burrator resevoir towards Leather Tor taken from the top of Sheepstor in Dartmoor National Park.  I know this area extremely well as I lived in the village of Walkhampton which is just a couple of miles away.  Thank you Jim for choosing an image of one of my most favourite parts of the U.K. for today’s EPOD.  By the way, the panorama is enormous and from memory was made up from around 50 frames from a Canon 40D DSLR.

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