Equipment for Astronomy

Various Astro, Space and Sci-Fi related pieces of interest… oh, and Neil Armstrong!

Not posted recently, so here are a selection of pics I’ve been collecting that I thought would make an interesting contribution…

So to start, an update on my Lego Saturn V Christmas present. Andy has been helping ad-hoc as well!

Completing the second stage…

Very cleverly designed…

Once finished it should stand a metre tall! There is a ‘link’ back to the Saturn V / moon, later on…

Next, a picture of our magnolia in full bloom… “Stellata” (meaning star), taken at 6.55pm on Wednesday 18th April…

Later on, a beautiful crescent moon and the ‘Evening Star’, Venus – Julie and I were out for an evening walk. Taken on an iPhone 6 at 8.38pm.

Then another, a tad later at two minutes past 9… nearly home…

Next is a picture of the moon taken through a 13mm Ethos eyepiece attached to my TEC140-ED APO refractor – just hand held with the iPhone held up to the eyepiece. This was from Friday 20th April, whilst waiting for Andy to turn up (his observing report can be found somewhere on here!)

Oh, and a picture of me setting up the gear (didn’t know Jules was hanging out of the bedroom window taking this…), I think I’m in the throws of setting up a WiFi connection from the Nexus device (that reads the mount’s encoders) to the iPad Air 2 (that runs Sky Safari Pro 5).

Here is a process of a friend’s Solargraph we made for them ready for the summer 2017 Solstice – it stayed in place ’til the winter Solstice and they passed it back for processing in early April…

Raw scan (that Andy kindly did for me).

And the processed version! We’re not sure what the bright squiggly line is!

Next we jump to the RAG meeting from Friday 27th April – featuring guest speaker Paul Money (part 2 talk about the Voyager probes and their journey to the gas giants and beyond)… captured in ‘full flow’!

Next a picture from another evening walk, a lovely sunset with the three spires of Lichfield Cathedral and St. Mary’s Church (in the town centre)… Monday 30th April at 8.18pm.

Julie is a French and German teacher… she told me on this walk that tonight was “Walpurgis Nacht”, the night when animals can talk, see the link below:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walpurgis_Night

On the 1st May, in the old calendar, it was also the start of summer… you wouldn’t know it though with the weather this last week… we’ve even had to put the central heating back on in the evenings!

…and another from Wednesday at 9.02pm… the Cathedral from Stowe Pool.

…and later still, at 9.30, Venus shining brightly…

Now some of you may be aware that my post was made redundant at MandM back in February. Well I’m now back in full time work as the photographer at Richard Winterton Auctioneers (Richard is on telly quite a bit if the name rings a bell), based in Fradley. So far I’ve photographed medals, coins, furniture, art, ‘military’, toys, silverware and jewellery.

But we’ve also had some other interesting ‘lots’ come in which are being prepared for future sales…

How about this…

A full sized Dalek and yes you can sit inside and move him along!!! He needs a bit of TLC. This is a little Photoshop work I’ve done on him for our social media feeds (the Andromeda Galaxy background is my own from some years ago!)

We also have going under the hammer this retro playsuit based on the original ‘TV Serial’.. I wonder if some of our older members remember wanting or even having this ! 😀

Lastly, on a far more serious note… take a look at this letter which came in to be valued and put up for sale!

Note the early NASA logo, date (only a few days since getting back from the moon) and of course the signature!

Hope you enjoyed this rather varied blog entry!

Damian

 

 

 

 

Observing and Photography 19-22/4

So after a month of absolutely nothing doing at all, along- like buses- came several clear nights. Bit tricky to fit around work and family commitments, but at last had the chance to get out and really try out the new Dob. Despite a lot of turtle wax it’s still a little bit sticky, especially on the azimuth, but otherwise it now feels to be working really well.

On the 19th it was a bit hazy- I’ve started using M51 as a gauge of sky quality, and on this occasion the 2 cores were visible, but not the spiral arms. Nonetheless I pressed on to go Galaxy hunting around Virgo. I’m using Sky Safari to help me with this and find that for the most part I can manage to star hop by using overlay tool and I was able to explore the region around Vindemiatrix picking up 6 new galaxies for me. For the sake of comparison I got the 8 inch Dob out as well to see if I could achieve the same, but I simply couldn’t find them. My back garden certainly has a fair bit of light pollution, and it seems the extra aperture enables me to find things which I otherwise wouldn’t see.

On Thursday and Sunday I also had some time later on with slightly more mixed results. I spent some time on Leo- the M66, M65, NGC3628 triplet was easily found and a nice sight, but I struggled to get to M96/95/105 and really want to have another go at that. More satisfyingly, the Beehive looked wonderful, M92 was great and M13 was stunning- the heart of it was like a shimmering circle of sequins. Gorgeous. The best was yet to come- late on, Jupiter appeared over the rooftops. Unfortunately for me I’m looking through the light pollution and rising heat of Burton in that direction, but even with it dancing in the haze it was a wonderful sight, the bands strikingly clear and colourful. At times I could see the Great Red Spot.

Whilst doing this I had the 5 inch newt set up and pointing at Markarian’s Chain. I hadn’t managed to hop to this with the Dob, and trying to frame it was a challenge (I lost quite a bit of time trying), but I’m quite pleased with the result. It’s 15 4 minute subs, 5 darks and some flats & bias. I can find 15 galaxies in this shot which blows my mind…

The clear skies have been a long time coming but it’s been worth the wait!

 

 

Solar Array

Today allowed me to finally get my Solar array set up. After several attempts at balancing and positioning all the components and making modifications I was able to set up all 3 scopes in a balanced configuration.

Then using the Kendrick Solar finder on the central scope (Evostar 120) and setting the tracking to solar rate I then adjusted the alignment of the ST 102 and the PST, so that all 3 scopes showed full disk of sun in centre of field of view.

The idea is that:

the central scope will give white light images of the sun using a Herschel wedge with an ND3 filter.

the smaller ST102 refractor will give CaK images using a Herschel wedge without any filter and imaged with DMK41 mono ccd camera with Baader Calcium K filter fitted.

the PST will give H alpha images.

Today I was only using set up visually , to align scopes, so I used filtered Herschel wedge in the Evostar 120, a baader Solar film on front of ST 102 and the PST was used as normal. There were no sunspots visible and in H alpha a noticeable prominence at 4/5 o-clock position as registered by Roger this morning, no other prominences visible, nor was there much surface detail. No CaK detail as was not using camera, the sun was very variable , but there were enough bright spells this afternoon between 2 and 4pm to allow the alignment of all three scopes.

The mount was constructed with a piece of 10mm thick Aluminium bar 10cm wide and 35 cm long attached to upper side of lower vixen bar via two M6 bolts.

Two vixen bars were then attached to upper surface of Aluminium bar via M6 bolts, two sets of ADM mounting rings of suitable size were then clamped onto these vixen bars.

(ADM rings and vixen bars from First Light Optics.)

By adjusting screws in Rings I was able to align both scopes to get full disk in centre field of view, to remove scopes the top adjusting screw only in each ring is taken out, so when  scopes placed back in , tightening this screw only should put them back in aligned position, all bar a slight tweak.

To ensure the system was balanced about the axis running along the length of the Evostar, extra masses were added under the PST, these were attached via an M10 bolt with head removed and centre tapped with M6 thread, then attached to vixen bar with M6 screw head bolt through Vixen bar and M10 bolt to hold masses in place., this can be seen on photo below with scopes removed from rings.

By experiment on table top , approx. 1.5Kg was required on PST side to balance rig, brought 4 small masses from Astro Buy & sell, and drilled out centres to fit bolt. All we want now are some clear skies and sunspots!!

Thanks to Lee for advice on design and initial drilling and tapping of holes / threads.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second light with 14 inch dob

Just heading to bed last night when I spotted the skies had cleared…

– Ken’s 31mm EP gave beautiful views! Was having too much fun to try the other one.

– Could definitely see the spiral arms on M51 but not M81. Very similar to the single unprocessed sub that Roger posted

– Spent lots of time on Leo galaxies

Skies were improving but it was past midnight… Damn you work!!

Rob

(Slightly delayed) First Light report on 14 Inch Dob

The American humourist Will Rogers once observed that there are 3 kinds of men: Those who learn by reading, the few who learn by observation and the rest who have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. I’m joining the third category, as, against the advice of just about everyone I’ve discussed it with I’ve decided to get myself a large(ish) Dob.

Although in the last nine months or so, I’ve become interested in Astrophotography I also really enjoy visual observing, and especially hunting for objects. When I saw a 14 inch’er on Astrobuysell that was relatively portable there was only so long I could avoid temptation. Gotta have something to do whilst taking subs…

I’ve managed one short session between the clouds last week, which was a good reminder of the tribulations of getting to know a new scope but also a promise of fun to come. I could not find anywhere convenient to mount my Quickfinder- I put it too close to the eyepiece and managed at one point to head-butt it clean onto the grass. I also found that the 35mm Eyepiece that came with the scope gives truly horrible views (it may have a future career as a paperweight) and that the Azimuth adjustment is pretty sticky- especially near the zenith. All of these things are going to need some sorting. Attempts to observe M42 and M31 were both scuppered by banks of cloud rolling it at the wrong moment, but just as the frustration levels were rising I got M81 in the eyepiece and saw for the first time with my own eyes detail beyond the galaxy core. Next up was M51 and here I could see both cores quite clearly and some of the material that joins them. In five minutes I had swung from irritation to elation and with the clouds now rolling in I went for the Leo triplet, something I just haven’t been able to see from my location before. Just in time I found them- no detail, but the shapes quite easy to see even without averted vision. That was pretty much it, as the clouds rolled over and haven’t really parted since, but enough that I’m very excited about the next clear night…

PS- I’d like to apologise to everyone for invoking “The Curse of the New Scope” and ruining the weather for a few weeks.

LOMO Biolam Microscope restoration.

As you’ll have gathered, Andy got me an old LOMO Biolam microscope for Christmas. Included in the sale were an assortment of extras ‘upgrades’ (all in their own wooden boxes) to the original base unit (most I don’t think have ever been used), including a binocular head with a pair of x7 and x10 eyepieces.

Being 41 years old, it needed some TLC – the main issue being the infamous ‘Russian Tank Grease’ originally used!

You can tell it’s age as the serial number contains it’s year of manufacture – just like Takahashi do, so the ’77’ is 1977.

This instrument is still a ‘LOMO’ version, later, it was also made and marketed under the Zenith brand (we used their cameras at art college!)

Over time, this grease has solidified (think your bonfire toffee apples), so most things that were supposed to move were either very stiff or just plain stuck.

Not being very ‘DIY’, I’ve spent the last few weeks tentatively stripping it down and soaking various parts in white spirit and WD40.

 

Andy came round just after Christmas and we had ‘first light’ – this image is of a Lilly Ovary, iPhone 6 held up to the 10x eyepiece in the Binocular attachment (adds 1.5x mag) and a 20x objective (so 300x)

It was pretty tricky to achieve focus as the main (coarse focuser) was lumpy and the fine focus unit inoperable….

The microscope (thankfully) turned out to be pretty easy to take apart.

Below, the main/coarse focus unit (after spending a week in a bath of white spirit). Brushed clean with my old tooth brush and re-greased with a modern silicon alternative.

 

Image below – bottom of the ‘stage base’ – the bit where you place your slide (‘rotating stage’ also stuck!) This shows the silver-grey fine focuser mounted on the side.

Most of the microscope is cast metal and brass. The only plastic part was this strip of gearing for the condenser (the unit that focuses the light source onto the slide/specimen). The two screws though caught me out – the top being countersunk and the lower a pan-head!

The brass is ‘pre-polished’….

Below images (x2) – back of same ‘stage’ part….

…..and with gearing removed….

The biggest issue was the fine focuser. The actual unit is self contained, like the inside of a watch and ‘runs- dry’ – so no grease. Whilst it worked on it’s own, I could not get the fine focus to work once everything was reassembled…

The large metal pin (above) sits in that circular recess shown below in the middle of that brass piece. Inside the main cavity sits the fine focuser which mates to the fine focus gearing/knob just seen in the shadow right at the back.

It turned out that the brass part (with circular recess) is supposed to freely move up and down with a turn of the fine focuser…

….the movement dampened by a large spring that sits inside this circular recess on the other side (top). The spring is held in place under tension by the serial number ‘date’ cover shown earlier.

 

Once we had worked out how this works Andy………. hit it…… (carefully) with a hammer….(!!!) after judisious use of WD40. That freed the brass dovetail allowing cleaning, polishing and re-greasing…

41 years of grease (finally) removed !

Amazing what a bit of Brass can do!

Once all back together everything finally worked!

 

Andy headed off and I finished polishing up the chrome objective head and attaching the X/Y upgrade to the stage.

Later in the evening I popped over to Andy’s to try the microscope out. I still have the condenser upgrade to sort (Russian tank grease again) and then sort an LED / Halogen illuminator to replace the 15w bulb version (itself an upgrade over the supplied mirror).

 

Andy’s calibration slide – each line is 0.01mm apart.

 

The moon….?

 

ET’s hand !

 

Damian

 

All Sky Camera update – Long exposure/ Frame integration

Hi Folks

I’ve been experimenting with the All Sky camera setup to try and extend the total exposure time for an exposure. One limiting factor is the camera firmware which limits exposure to 1 second.

The way that iSpy gets the images from the camera is using a combination of RTSP (Real Time Streaming Protocol). The command line for that is the funny string of characters you entered when first setting up the camera (rtsp://admin:@192.168.1.253:554/mpeg4)

This is then passed into iSpy via FFMPEG software, which is basically a communications interface. Here’s where I’ve made a discovery. I can change the command line to allow frame integration of 2,4 or 16 frames i.e. 2s, 4s, 16s exposure.

I still have a little more playing about to do before I release the command line but it looks promising. The FFMPEG documentation is a nightmare but it’s incredibly powerful

Watch this space……………….

Happy New Year from BASMO

New year celebrations caught by the all sky camera.

Below are the daily and hourly meteor counts for December, the peaks for the Geminids and Ursids are clearly shown. Unfortunately Graves went off line between 20:00 on 13/12/17 and 08:00 on 14/12/17. The increase in activity on 31st is beginning of Quadrantids, which will be peaking on the 3/4 Jan.

Here is a comparison with December 2016, Graves went off line last December for most of the 29th Dec.


This final plot shows the daily meteor activity throughout 2017, the major showers are marked, for more information on meteor showers go to http://meteorshowersonline.com/

Happy New Year

Pete Hill