Damian

Solar observing and photography @ LRO with Daystar Quark Hydrogen & Calcium Alpha filters on Skywatcher Equinox Pro 80mm

Damian and I used the opportunity of a (mostly) clear (although annoyed bits of cloud that covered sun) to observe and photograph the sun today. We used my Skywatcher Equinox Pro 80mm telescope on Manfrotto tripod with Daystar Quark hydrogen and calcium filters.

In hydrogen alpha, we could not see any sunspots – however with the calcium we could see one white spot that corresponded to a filament on the solar disc seen on professional images taken today.

The hydrogen alpha image also showed a prominence at 3 o’clock on solar disc and another prominence at 10 o’clock position – C shape, largely detached, not as bright. Excellent granulation and Newton rings evident.

The calcium Quark did not show the prominences.

Solar seeing quite poor.

Images below are taken with Bresser MikrOkular camera – they do not show any particular detail – probably my awful technique but the poor seeing might be part of the problem too.

Andy

Photographs:

 

Video of solar limb (Bresser MikrOkular camera):

https://youtu.be/FBa27lfdx44

Image from video:

Stacked image from video:

 

Binocular observing in Lichfield 27/10/2017 @ 22:00-23:30: Vixen SG 2.1×42 Widefield Binoculars vs. Canon 10×30 IS binoculars

When we went to the International Astronomy Show, Damian was not going to buy anything……but then got tempted by a discounted pair of Vixen SG 2.1×42 Widefield Binoculars at 76% normal price. These premium binoculars are quite different to your usual astronomy binos – they are only 2x magnification with a massive 25 degree field of view.

The following is an extract on a review on these unusual binoculars from https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__alpha-2Dlyrae.co.uk_2014_10_25_vixen-2Dsg-2D2-2D1x42-2Dbinoculars-2Dreview_&d=DwIFAg&c=MI93KOczqiyhXk-AHGoDDUkr93TIMXWlgkPNdzxg9FA&r=4QbXFqVFP3-iwXXmdJhGrxCWcMPIAE70hQGiF6C2bW0&m=554ps7561Y2QFKTN9e8AF_TUnM9Am1RivTHFCxSjC5U&s=qQFqLy91c8jfq_MLjFBDJK6nJ_9dP5P7SLzMNerDhRY&e=:

“So why use 42mm lenses? In a Galilean system, the actual field of view scales linearly with objective diameter.  As such, for any given power, a doubling of the objective diameter results in the real field doubling.  As the exit pupil is virtual and located inside the optical system there is no fixed eye point and hence to maximise the field seen, the eye must be placed as close as possible to the eye lens, with the obvious implication for spectacle wearers.  However, the Vixen SG have fairly generous sized eye lenses which provides a more comfortable “eye relief” (stated as 8.4mm) without cutting off parts of the achievable field of view.

The question of light grasp and magnitude gain is not approached in quite the same way as a Keplerian telescope. The magnitude gain of a telescope (ignoring the benefits of darkened sky background) can be calculated as 5 x Log10 (D1/D0) where D1 is the diameter of telescope’s primary objective and D0 is the diameter of the eye’s dark adapted pupil.  In a low power Galilean system, the light grasp is dependent on the magnification and light transmission.  For the sake of simplicity, if we assume that the transmission efficiency is 100%, the Vixen with their magnification of 2.1x results in the effective increase in your pupil diameter by 2.1x, and as such the increase is 2.12 which is 4.41x more light.  The magnitude gain is given as Log10 (4.41) x 2.512 = 1.62.  If we assume 95% transmission, that factor is applied to the light grasp gain and results in magnitude improvement of 1.56.”

So, how do they measure up in practice? First light for us occurred last night – Damian bought the pair he bought around to my house and we compared it to my Canon 10×30 image stabilised binoculars. This is a pair I bought years ago from Astronomy Buy and Sell and I am particularly found of them – small, portable, great contrast – and they often go with me on holiday, when I have been banned from taking anything larger for observing….I even bought a “portable” 80mm Equinox and have been banned taking that!

Saturday night was predicted to be clear all night on BBC Weather website – which in practice meant rolling banks of cloud with intermittent 20-30 minute periods of clearness. It was not the best sky out although the Milky Way was visible overhead and the Double Cluster visible to the naked eye, although we debated whether we could see M31 with the naked eye.

Neither of us could see > 1 or 2 stars at best in the Great Square of Pegasus by naked eye alone tonight.

….Then we used the Vixen binos. Wow!! Wow!! They fit snuggly over your eyes and you move your head around as if you had no optical aid. The vast field of view makes it an experience similar to naked eye observing but the increase in number of visible stars was dramatic. I could see 11 stars in the Great Square of Pegasus. M31 was obvious. We could not see M33 last night with them but clusters were often obvious, especially in Cassiopeia and the Double Cluster was impressive. We each saw meteors x several that the other could not see with then naked eye – and they appeared bright in the Vixen binos. I can’t wait to try these out at the next meteor shower.

The view is quite different to that in the Canon IS binos. Not surprisingly, with the Canon IS 10×30 binoculars, the large light grasp and higher magnification meant that more could be seen – M31 was magnificent and big and bright and M33 just visible by averted vision and the Double Cluster incredible and smaller open clusters became visible including at least 2 of the main clusters in Auriga. However, the Canon did not allow you to move your head around the sky in the way you do with the naked eye or with the Vixen binos. The higher magnification means you need to know what to look for and where and aim for it.

Our conclusion is that the Vixen binos do have a unique role. They open up a whole new vista and have a solid well-made feel. It is worth buying eye cups to prevent stray light to go with them. Damian mentioned that after their initial introduction into the marketplace, Vixen did start to supply hard plastic cups that just fit over the metal eyepieces. These appear to push the eye just slightly further away from the eye lens – thereby reducing the field of view (FOV). He then tried some spare Televue eyecups he’d received when buying extenders for his 40 and 32mm TV plossls that he uses for solar observing. Even though they practically only extend a mm or two past the eye lens on the binoculars (once secured so they don’t fall off), they did start to cut stray light from your periphery. After some investigating on the web, he found a review of the binoculars on US forum Cloudy Nights. One post mentioned the use of Baader Hyperion ‘winged’ eyecups. These are around £10-14…. each! The ‘best’ place to buy Baader gear in the U.K. appears to be MicroGlobe – although you often have to wait for them to order the stock themselves!

The new winged eyecups arrived on Friday morning and do indeed cut stray light when observing, helpful both in the daytime and under darkness.

They are quite expensive and are not a total observing solution so this needs to be considered if you are thinking of buying them.

Andy & Damian

Crescent Moon and ‘Earthshine’

October 25th, 6.18pm

Taken out the bedroom window, looking to the West…

My old full frame Nikon D3 (12Mp) and Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII plus 1.4x Nikon Teleconverter. Hand held.

Shot details:

280mm, 1/13 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200.

Processed in Lightroom Classic CC to bring back the burnt-out highlights!

What Is Earthshine?

Earthshine is a dull glow which lights up the unlit part of the Moon because the Sun’s light reflects off the Earth’s surface and back onto the Moon.

It is also sometimes called ashen glow, the old Moon in the new Moon’s arms, or the Da Vinci glow, after Leonardo da Vinci, who explained the phenomenon for the first time in recorded history.

 

Damian

International Astronomy Show and Meal Afterwards!

I have to thank Andy, he persuaded me to go along to the event – which I think I enjoyed more having not been the previous year!

I had hoped to get along to at least one talk, but there were so many new things to see that we didn’t manage it! I didn’t intend to buy anything either, but I couldn’t resist in the end…  😉

The buying even started as we entered the event (after having had a chat with two local astronomy groups with tables in the foyer – good to get an idea of the type of leaflets others produce), when we came across some nice-hand made, stained glass, astro-themed decorations at £18 a pop!

a bit cheaper than the larger artworks, like this black hole inspired piece…

http://www.dolittleglass.co.uk/index.html

I was amazed to see (and get to play with), the new Nikon full frame D850 (£3500) as it only came out a few weeks ago, plus the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 ‘Art’ lens (£1650).

I had been thinking it was time to upgrade the old 12Mp D3, but having talked to astrophotographer Nigel Ball (he had a stand at the show and was one of the lecturers on Friday), who uses a 12Mp D3s and newer 36Mp D810A with the same Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens I have, he said I may be better off looking for a second hand 16Mp D4s instead…. we’ll have to see…

As well as all the nice camera gear, I especially like the Panther Alt/Az mounts which I’d seen two years ago… I got to chat to the UK distributer, but more importantly the Danish designer. He explained how it tracks, how to use the superb hand controller and with the addition of the extra field de-rotator. how they got around the problem of long exposure photography on an alt/at mount.

Andy even challenged him to set up the mount within their advertised time frame (around 5 minutes). He managed it in half that time whilst Andy did his best to put him off – taking pictures of the poor chap!!!

But with the poor weather we’re having, dropping another £5k on a new mount, no matter how cool… seems rather crazy… I still like it though 🙄😀😳

http://www.peak2valleyinstruments.co.uk/page_3569452.html

It was cheaper though than the Austrian made ‘ASA’ Direct Drive mount (uses magnets rather than gears or a disc) that caught mine and Andy’s eye at the show, a ‘snip’ at a discounted……  £11.5K !

Something else that caught my eye (and a nice change from all the usual gear you expect to see), keeping with the artistic slant, was some astro-themed paintings… The one here on the lower right looked far better in real life than that printed in the show guide. Is it a galaxy or globular cluster… that’s for the observer to interpret!

We had a good chat to the artist and talked about how to break into this market – difficult when the work was selling at £700-800 for the smaller works and £2-3k for the bigger ones. Such a purchase in our household would include the two of us. At this sort of show, mostly men…. is ‘he’ really going to buy without the OK from the wife..?!

After the event we all got back together for an Italian at ‘Pizza By Goli’ in Lichfield – thanks to Stephen for organising and to Heather who we toasted for her work on RAGs new Charity Status!

Ooh yes, my purchase – a pair of Vixen SG  2.1 x 42mm ‘Galilean’ binoculars. Down to £199 from £259 from The Widescreen Centre. I remember seeing these when first released 4 years ago or so for around £229.

I even got a very quick chance to use them Saturday night once home before the clouds rolled in. The huge field of view is around 25 degrees, which allows you to see the entire ‘Square pf Pegasus’!

I added the below to show you the comparison with a Telrad view…

Only the central 40-50% is really clear, but it did allow me to see stars within ‘the square’ that I couldn’t see naked eye very clearly, if at all – these were around Mag 4.5-5.5. On a good night, especially in the summer when viewing the Milky Way from Hereford, Wales or on holiday in Austria – they should really come into their own and be good fun!

Damian

International Astronomy Show Day 2

Damian and I arrived at 09:15 at Stoneleigh Park south of Coventry for day 2 of the International Astronomy Show (IAS). We arrived at the same time as Terry and met Ed as we went around. Damian’s enthusiasm was infectious and we enjoyed a fantastic day in which we went to every store and explored every nock and cranny! We spoke to exhibitors, learnt about new products, discussed advances in amateur astronomy and the problems of selling astro equipment in a post-Brexit, poorer UK. I learnt some important information from Gary Palmer on using my Daystar Calcium Quark filter, we saw mounts with direct drives, large beautiful mounts that could be assembled and dissembled in < 3 minutes (each of assembly or disassembly), large scopes, small scopes, filters, power supplies, solar scopes, observatory automation equipment, observatory domes, mounting accessories, flat field plates, telescope storage bags, astronomy art, remote observatory rental companies, astronomy holidays, local astronomy societies, history of astronomy, second hand books, binoculars, more binoculars, bigger binoculars, enormous binoculars, refractors, reflectors, Cassegrains, Dobsonians, cameras – tony, larger, and enormous, connecting leads, dew heaters and bands, eyepieces, filter changers, eyepiece turrets, finder scopes, and even a microscope, amongst others. There was so much to see that Damian and I never got to see a lecture today!

Terry made up his mind and purchased an absolute bargain of a scope – a Sky-Watcher AZ-EQ5 and Sky-Watcher 80 ED scope with all necessary accessories – I think he found the bargain of the show! Well done to him and to everyone who found what they wanted or just enjoyed the day!

In the evening many members of RAG enjoyed a fantastic meal at Pizza by Goli in Lichfield.

Click on this link to download documents from the show (copy of the conference brochure with speaker information, vendor’s address cards and information about products)

Andy

Thanks to Ed Mann for the panoramas – other photos taken by myself or Damian:

 

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Rosliston Science Discovery Day 7/10/2017

The sun decided it didn’t want to come out to play this time round….

Despite the wishful thinking of Pete….

I think the ‘special filters’ he was referring to, were unfortunately… CLOUDS!

Instead I had a play with Andy’s new ‘toy’ – a polarising microscope and some purchased pre-prepared ‘rock’ slides, great fun!

Had a go at imaging with the iPhone hand held to the eyepiece. Below a selection of slides at none and fully polarised settings – I think I’ve got the samples in the correct order!

Passed a happy hour or two…

Damian

Rosliston Science Discovery Day 7/10/2017

Thanks to Peter (Hill), Ed, Bob, Roger, Geoff, Terry, Heather and Damian, who along with myself talked to 50+ members of the public about astronomy at the science discovery day today at Rosliston Forestry Centre.

The weather remained dry although persistent cloud meant that solar observing was limited to a few precious moments in the first hour. I ought along my LOMO polarising microscope and folks were excited to look at the birefrigement colour patterns on meteor thin microscope sections and at microfossils in thin sections of fossil-containing rock. Problems with my power inverter left my laptop out of action but Ed’s battery saved the day for the microscope illuminator so that the public could continue to look through the microscope!

Andy

 

The picture below was taken today through the LOMO microscope using my Bresser MikrOkular camera – it shows microfossils in rock thin section. Birefringence in the crystals of minerals in the fossil-bearing rock is evident:

ISS and Harvest Moon October 5th 2017

ISS Spotter App – ISS rising from 7.36+ and setting after 7.42+ pm.

Mag -3.5 at 80 degrees.

Another chance tonight (Friday 6th: 8.21.35, peaking t 8.24.58, setting at 8.25.53. 71 degrees elevation again at Mag -3.5)

Popped out from work in Leominster and tried to capture on the phone (iPhone6).

Couldn’t pick it up via video, so resorted to the odd pic as it disappeared in and out of cloud!

Damian