Archive for October, 2012

I have three M26C one shot colour CCDs on the mini-WASP array, and for some reason one of these cameras was proving difficult to flatten precisely.

My usual technique for getting the chip flat to the optical plane is to take an image of a star field and then run CCDInspector to tell me how far out of flat the chip is.  Trouble is, sometimes if you start this process well away from flat, you don’t seem to be able to iterate to a flat chip very easily, the CCDInspector results don’t converge.  So with this difficult camera I somehow needed to get the chip roughly flattened before using my usual method.  I looked at Terry Platt’s rig on the Starlight Xpress web site but decided it was too much effort to build something like that for a job that doesn’t need to be done too often.  I wanted a rig that could be assembled out of standard 2″ components.  At first I had no idea how to go about this so I just stared into my drawer full of optical bits and pieces hoping for some inspiration.  My eye fell upon the unused Takahashi collimator and the little light went on 🙂  In the attached image you can see the Takahashi collimator fitted to one side of the diagonal, the M26C and some extension tubes are on the other end.  I used a diagonal to get a reasonable length between the CCD and the collimator and also to keep the rig more compact.  The Takahashi collimator is basically a Cheshire with an eyepiece, so you illuminate it through a hole in the side with a torch and look through the eyepiece on the top.  Looking through the eyepiece with the torch lighting up the rig you can see a bright white annulus, which is a reflection straight off the CCD cover glass, and “behind” this reflection you will see a central blue-green annulus surrounded by some satellite annuli – this is the reflection off the CCD itself.  Now the central blue-green annulus will be off centre, so you adjust the chip flatness adjusters to move the annulus towards the centre of the eyepiece.  You now rotate the whole of the CCD camera and continue to make fine adjustments to keep the blue-green annulus centred in the eyepiece for all rotation angles.  When you have managed to achieve this (it actually takes a remarkable short amount of time to do this – compared to the CCDInspector method in-situ) you will have the chip pretty much flattened to the incoming optical field.  All you have to do now is fit the camera back onto your scope and use the star field/CCDInspector method to get spot-on chip flatness.

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Apparently a German Court has decided against a woman’s claim that the large hadron collider should be shut down as it will create black holes and destroy the Earth.  Did it really require a Court to be assembled to consider this baseless nonsense, has “common sense” really left the planet?  Are we really living in the Idiocracy (rather than the Matrix)??

The Large Hadron Collider has been designed to provide colliding proton energies up to 7TeV, or in everyday units 1.12 microjoules, that is 1.12 millionth of a a joule where as every schoolboy knows it takes 4.2 joules of energy to raise the temperature of 1 gramme (cubic centimetre) of water 1 degree Celsius – we aren’t talking about much energy here.  Now as every keen cosmologist knows, we get Cosmic Rays coming at us every day, and the energy of those high energy particles can exceed 1 joule!!  Yep – well over a million times the pathetic efforts we can make in our most powerful colliders here on Earth.  These mega-energetic particles have been coming at us for eons, and guess what?  We haven’t seen a single black hole or strangelet particle produced so far.

Just about as bad as faster than light neutrinos.


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If you look at the Double Cluster with a pair of binoculars or a low power telescope, there is something that immediately strikes you.  There is a group of very bright stars forming a large ring that emanates from the Double Cluster, off towards the top right.  This ring of stars looks like a bracelet with the Double Cluster attached as some sort of celestial charm.  Now what’s really odd about the bracelet itself is that it is not clearly visible on planetarium programs, nor is it clear on most images of the region – but the human eye and a pair of binoculars really show it very clearly indeed – must be some property of the eye involving contrast enhancement (and survival 🙂 ).

Well, this is the first image that I’ve taken of the region that actually shows Greg’s Charm Bracelet pretty clearly.  This image comprises two datasets put together by Noel Carboni with a final bit of tweaking from yours truly to bring out the bracelet more clearly.  Data was acquired in two imaging sessions using the mini-WASP array and is around 4-hours of total integration time using 4-minute sub-exposures.

The image still does not do this star field any justice whatsoever, so my advice is to pick up a pair of binoculars next clear Moonless night and take a look for yourself.  You’ll find the Double Cluster pretty close to Cassiopeia, the “W” shaped constellation in the sky.  Go to the second bright star from the left in Cassiopeia and come down at around the 7 O’Clock position.  Looking by eye alone (with dark skies) you will be able to see a small fuzzy glowing region.  Now get the binoculars onto it – and be prepared to be blown away 🙂

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The same night I got the California nebula data with the mini-WASP array, I also got some earlier Double Cluster data with the array, and, some M33 deep data with the Hyperstar III.  The Hyperstar was using 20-minute subs for the M33 image – that’s deep!!  That’s the equivalent of 1 hour and 40-minute subs with the Sky 90 or 3 hours and 20-minute subs with the TS 80s.  Noel processed this deep M33 image just last night and will add it to our earlier efforts on this one.

The Double Cluster image is the lower half of a 2-frame mosaic.  The upper frame will make Stock 2 the subject and hopefully I will provide Noel with enough frame overlap to be able to bolt the two images together.  As you can see – stars – lots of stars 🙂


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We’ve been very fortunate to have a couple of clear Moonless nights recently and I’ve been able to fire up the mini-WASP array, and the Hyperstar III.

The Double Cluster was taken using an imaging time of just one hour using a Sky 90 and a TS 80mm APO with the M26C camera – so 2 hours of data in total – the third camera needs to be flattened and collimated to the second TS 80mm APO for the array to be fully operational.  Still – there’s enough data there for Noel Carboni to pull out a really decent image of the Double Cluster.

The California nebula is a work in progress, and this image is just 6 x half hour subs again using the Sky 90 and a single TS 80mm with the M26C one-shot colour camera.  All RGB data so far, but I intend adding in narrowband H-alpha and H-beta as well as this nebula is meant to be reasonably strong in H-beta.  This being the case the “true” colour of the nebula is bright red but with a bluish tinge (see Steve Cannistra’s superb California nebula image to read more on this).  Again this image has been superbly processed by Noel Carboni who managed to bring out every detail that could be dragged out of the data.

Now that I have two functioning scopes/cameras set up on the mini-WASP array, the power of the parallel imaging concept is being practically realised.  When I get the third scope/camera operational – I’ll be really motoring 🙂

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Nice clear night (so far) tonight and I have both the mini-WASP array and the Hyperstar III grabbing data.  Took one of two frames with the mini-WASP and then moved onto the California nebula for some half-hour subs (that’ll be interesting)  – the Hyperstar is taking 20-minute subs of M33 🙂

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This month’s Image of the Month is in my opinion the most underrated and unappreciated deep-sky image of all time – amateur or professional.  It hasn’t even appeared as an APOD.  Why on Earth not?  Because I guess it is not exactly what one would call a “pretty picture”.  There isn’t a vast assortment of colour on view.  But it is the most incredible achievement for an amateur imager to come up with such a dramatic panorama of the Integrated Flux Nebula as the one shown here – and let’s just get this into perspective, this isn’t Hubble data or Keck telescope data, this has been acquired by Rogelio Bernal Andreo in California with a Takahashi FSQ-106.  How staggering is that?  Perhaps the most outstanding deep-sky image to-date in view of the difficulty of the subject, and the clarity and the depth to which it has been captured – utterly superb work Andreo – and a very fitting NFO Image of the Month for sure 🙂

I see that the image does not reproduce well on the small size I can post on this site.  For the real deal look at the original Rogelio version here.


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