Archive for August, 2010

Last reminder before the big day – the Star Vistas Private Viewing at the ArtSway gallery opens at 6:00 p.m. on Friday 3rd September.  If you cannot make it on opening night, the Exhibition runs over the weekend.  At 7:00 p.m. on the 3rd I will give a short presentation on the Magic of Photography which includes high-speed photography, macro and micro work, as well as deep-sky images not on display in the Exhibition.  Hope to see you all there on the night 🙂


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I just saw a very inspirational programme about Brian Duffy (a famous professional photographer) on BBC’s IPlayer.  Clearly Brian (who unfortunately died earlier this year) was a very bright man and his answers to the inane questions from the interviewer were intensely sharp and well-considered.  One of his answers is going to stick with me for the rest of my life, Brian said:  “The work is the statement” – what an obvious (and quite brilliant!) observation.  Basically Brian was saying that a work of art, wherever displayed, creates its own statement.  A  great work of art needs no accompanying flowery prose to justify its existence.  In contrast – I am sure sure we have all visited Art Exhibitions where quite abysmal pieces of “artwork” have been accompanied by the most exquisite and carefully crafted prose in a vain attempt to give the work credibility and substance.

And talking of Exhibitions – please remember that the Star Vistas Exhibition opens on Friday 3rd September 2010 at the ArtSway gallery – where a portfolio of deep-sky images can be seen, sans flowery prose.  After all what words can possibly describe the mind-stretching wonders of the Cosmos?

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Clear night last night – didn’t matter there was a blazing Moon up for setting up the Hyperstar III.  Managed to get good collimation quite quickly and then went on to re-train the focuser as so much had moved since I last did this I think the parameters were a little bit off.  So focuser retrained as well and all seems o.k.  Took a few short subs of Sadr to check nothing out of the ordinary – will process those shortly.  Also doesn’t seem to be any water vapour now in the CCD cavity (I had to take the M25C apart after the repair and warm everything up with a hair dryer before resealing the CCD).  So – hopefully it is now all systems go, ready and waiting for the next Hyperstar target.

Oh yes – there’s something of importance to Hyperstar owners.  When it comes to collimating your Hyperstar system, only pay attention to the numbers you get from CCDInspector and don’t worry too much about the central obstruction (the CCD) not being dead centre on an out of focus star in the centre of the CCD.  This just means the optical axis of the mirror is not dead centred (this is the case with my C11 anyway) and fortunately there’s enough “play” in the Hyperstar III to deal with this.


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Flickr has changed how you link to your photos – I am just putting this in as a test to see what happens:

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/12801949@N02/4863366848/” title=”Cocoon nebula in Cygnus by cybermystic, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4137/4863366848_7fcf82682e.jpg” width=”500″ height=”195″ alt=”Cocoon nebula in Cygnus” /></a>


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With the current weather I have not been able to set up the repaired M25C for any imaging and I am aware of the days ticking past with nothing new to add 🙁  Still, this gives me a little time to sit down and plan the next phase of the mini-WASP array.  Unfortunately the mini-WASP will not be up and running for this winter, looks more likely that this will now be a winter 2011 first light.  I didn’t get the decking and concrete pillar base in ready for the observatory and I think it will now be spring next year before I get that part done, so this winter it will be Hyperstar III imaging only (which is no bad thing).  Got a few nice projects noted on the whiteboard – now I just need the weather to play ball.  Having said that, it is this time of the year that I have had a 3-month imaging break due to the weather on more than one occasion!

Returning to the mini-WASP project – this will need to go into its own observatory dome so that I can run both the Hyperstar III and mini-WASP systems at the same time.  The first phase of the mini-WASP will use 2 x Sky 90 scopes together with two of the new Starlight Xpress M26C one-shot colour cameras.  A Megrez 80 and SX guide camera will occupy one slot of the mini-WASP array for the guiding.

In phase II (unknown date!) two further Sky 90s and M26C cameras will be added to the two remaining mini-WASP ports and the Megrez removed altogether.  One of the Sky 90s will have an OAG (SX) for guiding.  So the final mini-WASP system will be a four Sky 90, four M26C system giving a field of view of 6 x 4 degrees (that takes into account the frame overlap) a sampling of 3 arc seconds per pixel and 40 megapixels of data per sub download (36 megapixels of non-overlapped data).  I think the final system will produce some quite impressive images 🙂


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Copyright ITV Meridian News & Weather

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It was great to have Simon Parkin and the Meridian TV crew visit the New Forest Observatory – they are a very professional outfit and they make live broadcasting appear so easy!  So once again, the familiar shape of the satellite van parked on the verge outside the NFO attracted the usual attention – it really is an incredible piece of high technology – a film studio on wheels with satellite broadcast capabilities – amazing.  Simon gave the weather report and had a few words with me about the current Perseid meteor shower.  At least, with all the cloud, it didn’t actually rain on us 🙂

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Keep an eye on Meridian News & Weather tonight from 6:00 p.m. onwards as you should see the New Forest Observatory and me discussing the Perseid meteor shower.  There may be a cameo appearance by Louey the black Labrador as well.

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I went over to what I thought was going to be a “dark” bit of the forest around 10:00 p.m. last night and got worse sky glow on the horizon (from Southampton) than I get in my back garden.  So the wife and I reccied another site about 3 miles away for future use and this one was quite a bit better – although there was the possibility of the odd car headlight giving low-level glare.  Anyway – came back home and set up in the garden again for a night of Perseid imaging.  It’s amazing that with a 180 degree FOV fish eye lens you can still see meteors that you don’t manage to image (usually because they run along behind the house – they have to have intelligence!).  Imaged for two hours and didn’t notice that it had got cold enough for dew to form on the fish eye lens, so the second hour’s imaging was a complete waste of time.  Visually, the display was reasonable but nothing particularly special – I seem to feel the same every Perseid session, I think I’m expecting a display from “The Day of the Triffids” and instead I get little more than you would expect on any dark, clear, Moonless night.  Not sure why I bother really.

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After a completely overcast day the cloud began to break up around 5:00 p.m. and now (9:00 p.m.) it looks like we might actually have a reasonably clear night.  Whooppeeeeeeeeee – I’m off over the forest with the AstroTrac Canon 5D and 15mm fish eye lens to grab some Perseids 🙂 🙂   There was just too much light pollution from the street lights in my back garden to do a proper job with this setup, so I’m going in a nice large flat field right next to our allotments to hopefully get some dark sky imaging.  I’ll report on the outcome of this evening’s efforts tomorrow – provided it stays clear long enough to get started.

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