Monday, October 27, 2014

Astrophotography by the Desert Museum

Lanna and I decided to do an astronomy event with some friends and family(Brek Thompson, Sean Bottai, America, Trevor Clark, Sam Hameroff, Michael Clark)  on October 25th by the Desert museum.

The weather, sunset and company were beautiful. Unfortunately the multitude of cars driving on Kinney road, on their way to and from Nightfall, presented some challenges for deep space astrophotography. Our setup was within 500feet of the road which lead to us receiving a great deal of unwanted light from passing cars and their high beams.

Despite the challenges of passing cars and some early scattered clouds we managed to get some pictures of a few objects. At first I was having technical difficulties with the Equatorial mount. Mostly balancing issues. Eventually we got the mount aligned properly and were taking pictures with Trevor Clark's camera piggybacked on the mount and my camera looking through the main scope.

 Sunset and setup

 Our dog Madison was helping with the telescope setup

 M31, 5 x 90second exposures(cropped). Still need better collimation
NGC253, 10 x 90second exposures(cropped). We were ultimately limited by light pollution

Bubble nebula, single exposure 120seconds (cropped)
Photo by: Trevor Clark 
Photo by: Trevor Clark
Photo by: Trevor Clark

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Astrophotography on Kitt Peak

Saturday afternoon I went up to Kitt Peak National Observatory(the picnic area) to do some astrophotography. Dean Ketelsen was nice enough to invite me to join the Tucson astronomy club for their bi-annual "starbaque". For those of you who have never been up there, this was my first time, the observatory is a must see.

The new "unfinished" telescope/equatorial mount

M16, Stack of 3 images, 180seconds each, no darks. Canon 1000D and 12" F/4 Newt  

M33, Stack of 3 images, 180seconds each, no darks. Canon 1000D and 12" F/4 Newt  

M57, Single image, 300seconds, no darks. Canon 1000D and 12" F/4 Newt  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Astrophotography with the 12" F/4 newtonian in Sierra Vista

Here are the first light images with the new telescope setup. The equatorial mount worked great. The polar scope made polar alignment quick and easy and I was able to obtain 90sec exposures with round stars right off the bat. Once I did a 1 star alignment the GOTO function was spot on, we used the sky view planetarium software in the SiTech software to slew the telescope around.

I tried using the Coma corrector, incorrectly, and ended up with some unflattering images. I pulled the corrector out for all the images seen on this page. The images here are all 60second single frames, no dark frame subtraction, no alteration except for cropping. The camera was at prime focus, ISO 800(accept for the moon shot).

Lanna's family was there and got to see the telescope "rig". Next time I will remember to take some pictures of everyone and the telescope setup.

We will hopefully be setting the telescope again on Kitt Peak this weekend. I will be trying out a new auto guider and the coma corrector in the correct configuration.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Camera tracking tests

On July 19th I set up the new equatorial mount right ascension axis for the first time. The goal was to test the tracking with a camera and 100mm lens. The photo's were taken in our backyard which is a 5minute drive from downtown tucson. As you would expect, the light pollution washes out the milky way, but fortunately I was able to prove the new mount is working extremely well. Polar alignment was roughly accomplished with a polar scope.

At first I was getting some very strange results. It turned out I didn't have the camera locked down on the swivel mount, whoops!

2 minute exposure, M8 the Lagoon nebula and M20 the Trifid Nebula are in the upper right. You can also see a Globular cluster in the far left of the field. Unfortunately this camera lens suffers from a great deal of Coma, which you can see in the comet shaped stars at the edges of the field.

Another photo of M8 and M20 more centered, this frame has been cropped.

5 Minute exposure of M17 the swan nebula and M16 the Eagle Nebula. You can see how washed out the image is due to the light pollution of downtown tucson. Note the pin point stars at the center of the frame, demonstrating the tracking is working great.

This is why you need a tracking mount. This is a 5minute exposure of Antares with the tracking turned off. Compare to the above images where there is no trailing in the images, even with a very rough polar alignment.

Tripod Base for the Fork Equatorial Mount

Welding the base:

I welded the base out of 2x4" steel tube, 14gage.
The leveling feet were purchased from mcmaster and have a 3/4" 16tpi thread 3" swivel pad
The machined aluminum plate is milled from a 3/4" plate. The central region that the equatorial head pivots on for latitude adjustment is 8" in diameter. 

This picture shows the equatorial head mounted to the tripod. The fork arm will place the CG of the system over the middle of the tripod footprint, maximizing the stability of the mount and scope.

The mount will be anodized and the tripod will be painted once the system is fully tested and I am happy with the performance.

Machining the 6"x6", 1/2" wall, box beam tube for the fork arm. There was a fair amount of bow in the extrusion that needed to be removed via machining.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Equatorial Mount Fabrication Pictures