Moon, Mars, and Venus 1/31/2017

Here’s a picture of the left to right from this evening. The Moon and Venus are, respectively, always the second and third brightest objects in the sky not counting occasional supernova. Mars on the other hand gets really bright for a couple months every two years and then fades to relative obscurity. So it is here. The Moon is about 500 times brighter than Venus and Venus is perhaps 100 times brighter than Mars right now. For this picture, I used a regular DSLR with a 300mm lens set to 6400 ISO and a 1/80th second exposure. That was the shortest exposure that showed Mars and while longer exposures showed the ruddy color of Mars they also blew out the Moon and Venus. So, I had to compromise.

The Molly Project continues…

The custom made secondary holder and spider should be here by month end.
I have 7 1.25” aluminum poles, one as a spare. May get one more if I have the opportunity to avoid cost of shipping.
Here is a prototype truss connector I made yesterday plus another picture showing it attached to a simulated upper ring with a cam latch. I’m hoping that will work, one of the scopes I’ve studied uses them and they will be very convenient. Finally a shot of all six. You can tell they are handmade and each is unique. Later I may revisit this but for now I’ve had enough of working with aluminum.  Fortunately I have enough aluminum channel (barely) to redo them.

The 0.4m (16″) compact dob, code named Molly, continues

Here we have a simple plywood disk mirror cell in the mirror box. there are 18 felt pads at the calculated points for support of the mirror.
Here I’ve cut out two 30″ diameter altitude bearings and matching rocker box sides from a single 2’x4’by3/4″ sheet of plywood.

Here we see the altitude bearings attached to the mirror box, resting on the rocker box with the mirror resting on its cell.

Look what Fedex brought

It’s the seed from which a 16″ lowrider dobsonian telescope will grow. I’ve been daydreaming about building a larger telescope for a while when I came across this on the Cloudy Nights classifieds for a nice price. 16″ has been in the back of my head for years as a good size. On the cusp of being a large scope but not really having to deal with big scope problems like weight, cool down, or $$$.  16″ would typically just be $$ not $$$.  More to come as I build stuff to go around it.

Little Dipper from the River Ridge Observatory


I took this shot of Polaris and the Little Dipper last night at the River Ridge Observatory. Nothing fancy, just a 30 second image a 6400 ISO with my widest angle lens. Polaris is the bright star just above the center and a little to the left. The Little Dipper extends almost horizontally and drooping a little as it does to the left. The thin clouds add a nice touch I think though normally I don’t like them.

Observing Session at the River Ridge Observatory

Tuesday and Wednesday were two long days separated by one short night so I retired early Wednesday evening with the idea of going to the River Ridge Observatory after midnight to see new Messier objects for my AL observing challenge or sleeping all night.  I had mostly exhausted the list available in the earlier hours.
Left house at about 1:40, the Moon was near the horizon.  Arrived at the RRO at 2:15. The sky was clear, seeing good, and temperature about 45 F. Pegasus was just starting to set in the west which was good. One of my targets was M33, the Pinwheel Galaxy in Triangulum, which I’ve been trying to find in the east earlier in the evening but it has been lost in the skyglow. Leo was just rising.
M33 was easy to see in binoculars but hard in scope due to its size, it filled the view, but I finally made out some small bits of fluff in the scope.
M77 in Cetus was next. Cetus is a dim constellation but I was able to make out the tail which was all I cared about. One star seemed to be missing and I wondered if it might be Mira, aka Omicron Ceti,  a long period variable and sure enough when I checked later the missing star was Mira which must be dim right now.
With those two objects which had defeated me before out of the way, I turned to the new objects that I got up in the middle of the night for – M1, M78, M42, M43, M79, M41, M50, M46, M47, M93, M48, M44, M67, M35, M36, M37, M38, M81, M82, and M97. Some were harder than others but all were seen.
All the while Canopus, the second brightest star in the sky was on the southern horizon, its light twisted from red to green and colors in between by the atmosphere.

Mars and the Teapot (short and stout)

I used my Canon Rebel tonight to do some simple astrophotography. It was connected to my Nexstar mount for tracking and running BackyardEOS on the laptop to control it. After spending quite some time manually focusing and trying different ISOs and exposures I settled on ISO 1600 and 30 seconds. It was supposed to be clear but there were thin clouds all over. The bright “star” on the left is Mars and if you look closely in the lower left quadrant you’ll see the teapot of Sagitarrius. I was also hoping to capture the nova currently in Sagitarrius just above the spout and if I zoom in I can see a star right where the nova is but it’s none too impressive.

Three Day Old Moon with Jupiter, August 5, 2016

Here is a young moon, just three days old with the planet Jupiter which is rapidly heading away from us and toward the far side of the Sun. Canon EOS Rebel 5, 300mm lens, 1/60 second, ISO – automatic, hand-held leaning on car.Three Day Old Moon August 5, 2016 August 2016 1236

Two Day Old Moon August 4, 2016

I’m starting a Moon Observing program with the Astronomical League.  Today is the first day, yesterday could have been the first day except I couldn’t find the Moon in the haze.  I found it tonight though.  Here it is zooming in.Two Day Old Moon August 4, 2016 August 2016 1217 Two Day Old Moon August 4, 2016 August 2016 1226 Two Day Old Moon August 4, 2016 August 2016 1223

Mars & Saturn 6/11/2016

After a few middling shots of Jupiter with the color ASI120MC, I decided to go gray with his brother the monochrome ASI120MM using color filters. Mars was first and I chose red since it supposedly shows more detail with a red filter.  I stuck with prime focus as the seeing wasn’t good enough for a barlow. I think things turned out pretty good.  This is a stack of the best 20% of 10,000 3ms frames.Mars_20160611_Red_3ms_20pct_of_10000

Next up was Saturn, I stuck with red because it was in there. I was so impressed I stuck with red. I did later try a light blue filter but it blocked so much light I went back to red.  There was so much detail I may just switch to monochrome with a filter wheel. The two cameras have the same number of pixels but since one is color it effectively has a third the pixels of the other.  This was a stack of 20% of 4000 37ms frames, note the exposure was almost 10x that of Mars.


Now check this out, here is how Saturn came out after stacking with no other refinements. When I saw this I knew I was on to something.Saturn straight from stacking