7/3/2017 Rainy Day Project

I’ve been thinking of a way to mount one or two cameras to my Nexstar SLT mount so they can track the sky. Hopefully here it is. I’ll remove the straps when the time comes to reduce weight. The plan is to have the larger camera (EOS T5)  zoomed to 300mm for the eclipse which should be enough to capture all of the corona. The other, an SX50 HS, can zoom much farther to close in on the disk. A third camera will be set up stationary separately and wide angle to capture the entire 3 hour event with the Sun moving across the field of view. There is a third 1/4-20 post near the centerline for when I’m using one camera.

Visible in the second picture is a mini-ball mount to give me greater control over the direction and tilt of the cameras.  I’m already thinking about drilling holes in the disk closer to the edge to give me room to tilt. Determining the relative direction of the Sun’s axis on game day would let me orient the cameras to match.

I’m hoping for clear skies soon to test the rig.

3/31/2017 Friday Night at the River Ridge Observatory

I wanted to shoot the planet Mercury so I went to the RRO before sunset to set up. Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, is having its best apparition of the year right now. Saturday is technically the peak but tonight is just shy of that. What this all means is the Sun sets at 7:30, I was able to find Mercury by 7:50, and the little guy was in the trees by 8:05. I had to scramble to take several short videos at different exposures and focus points and the last was the best. Here we have the best 20% of 1000 one millisecond exposures through a 9.25″ SCT (focal length 2340mm) at Optimus Prime focus. Not going to win any awards with this but its off this year’s bucket list.

Here’s an image taken of the planet Jupiter later that evening. I didn’t wait until it was high in the sky but it turned out okay. If I had waited the Great Red Spot might have rotated away. On the left and right are the moons Io and Ganymede respectively. Best 25% of 5000 10 ms images through a 9.25″ SCT at prime focus.

Last but not least from last night, the Moon. This was taken with my simple Canon SX50 HS maximum zoom, slightly cropped, at I think 1/400 second ISO automatic. I’m starting to re-appreciate that camera. It has a smaller chip than my Canon Rebel but that means a larger effective zoom (50x ~ 1200mm lens). Not as good in low light and can only take a maximum of 15 second exposure but it shoots in raw format and excels at this kind of stuff (and birds).

 

One more thing about last night, Chris Lasley and I looked for the new Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak (aka T-G-K). He gets the credit for actually tracking down this comet now between the Big and Little Dippers. This is and will be in our evening skies for a few weeks. I tried my hand at finding it but walked away to shoot Jupiter. Chris persisted and found it and then later confirmed that this was it. We couldn’t see much other that a fuzzy patch that didn’t appear to correspond to something else.