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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    New Bern, NC unless it's a home football game then I'm grilling on Devil's Alley

    Any Astronomy Buffs Here?

    Not astrology, and not looking for y'all that are in the buff. Leos need to keep their loin cloths on.

    But...any astronomy folks? I hate math, and astronomy has lots of it. But, I love science, and as a kid I remember going to the Duke surplus store and loading up on lenses to build my own telescopes. Some weren't half bad, but that was a lifetime ago. I've rekindled this passion a bit recently and added a new 8" dobsonian scope to the 4.5" equatorial mount reflector that I've had.
    Long story short, girlfriend and I love looking through the lenses, but capturing much with my phone isn't easy, and while my DLSR camera works well on my EQ mount, it's way too heavy for my dob.
    So I bought an entry level cam that slips right into my lens housing. I was excited, but also leery. I take pride in the fact that I'm not blind yet (getting closer, though!), so while I enjoy what I see through my scopes, I wasn't too optimistic about getting the box promised images that I was looking at when I ordered.

    Now I'm totally geeking out, eager to learn how to actually use both the camera and the software that bundled with it. Youtube is my teacher for each.

    These are shots I took tonight. Each is "stacked" images from video files that I recorded through my 8" dobsonian.

    Saturn.jpg

    Jupiter.jpg

    Obviously Saturn is at the top, Jupiter is below. Jupiter is color corrected with Photoshop.

    Any other night sky buffs here? I'm looking forward to heading to Staunton River State Park in Va in a few weeks. We go up for their "dark sky" nights once or twice a year. They have a huge field, and lots of other folks out with some scopes that will literally dwarf you.
    Q "Why do you like Duke, you didn't even go there." A "Because my art school didn't have a basketball team."

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Durham, NC
    I don't have anything helpful to offer, but that is super cool. I would love to get a telescope at some point.

  3. #3
    Those images are just awesome... especially Saturn. (Sorry, that is the extent of my expertise)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Undisclosed
    Great photos.

    I have a bit too much light pollution to enjoy astronomy as much as I would like. I have always been fascinated with the worlds beyond ours.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by CameronBornAndBred View Post
    Not astrology, and not looking for y'all that are in the buff. Leos need to keep their loin cloths on.

    But...any astronomy folks? I hate math, and astronomy has lots of it. But, I love science, and as a kid I remember going to the Duke surplus store and loading up on lenses to build my own telescopes. Some weren't half bad, but that was a lifetime ago. I've rekindled this passion a bit recently and added a new 8" dobsonian scope to the 4.5" equatorial mount reflector that I've had.
    Long story short, girlfriend and I love looking through the lenses, but capturing much with my phone isn't easy, and while my DLSR camera works well on my EQ mount, it's way too heavy for my dob.
    So I bought an entry level cam that slips right into my lens housing. I was excited, but also leery. I take pride in the fact that I'm not blind yet (getting closer, though!), so while I enjoy what I see through my scopes, I wasn't too optimistic about getting the box promised images that I was looking at when I ordered.

    Now I'm totally geeking out, eager to learn how to actually use both the camera and the software that bundled with it. Youtube is my teacher for each.

    These are shots I took tonight. Each is "stacked" images from video files that I recorded through my 8" dobsonian.

    Saturn.jpg

    Jupiter.jpg

    Obviously Saturn is at the top, Jupiter is below. Jupiter is color corrected with Photoshop.

    Any other night sky buffs here? I'm looking forward to heading to Staunton River State Park in Va in a few weeks. We go up for their "dark sky" nights once or twice a year. They have a huge field, and lots of other folks out with some scopes that will literally dwarf you.
    Super cool.

    One day I would like to live somewhere where the night sky is as vivid as a lack of light pollution allows.

  6. #6
    I was - similar background story to yours. But never got into astrophotography - seemed like too much work (esp. processing/masks/stacking), and everyone else at star parties had better equipment and were happy to show off to you what they had in their scopes (or later in their images). to me it was like re-inventing the wheel. I assume you have some sort of tracking mount on your new Dob.

    A few things in recent years have discouraged me a bit:

    I found I'm not very good at staying up late. I might make it to 12 or 1am at a star party, but then I'm 2+ hrs from home and practically hallucinating on the drive home.

    While I have a decent view of the SW sky from my hard, light pollution is heavy. In particular, there's a streetlight across the street that lights up my yard to the extent that I can, in the middle of the night, read my LCD digital watch without activating its backlight. I contacted the light company to have them shade the side of it that faces my yard, and it really helped. But then they un-did it - the neighbor who pays for the light (for security) didn't like what they did and had them reverse it. I'm not keen on the notion that he has the right to light up my yard just because he pays the light bill. But there it is.

    Smoking at star parties, believe it or not. Not keen on it at all, but the local club allows it and some do. And some folks could be absolute jerks.

    On a positive note, I once used to go to a club that met in East TN / WNC that had this giant Dob that was assembled on site. One club leader would direct visitors and volunteers to help assemble it, then hold court for a night sky tour. It was pretty cool, and the thing could capture some really distant and faint objects. The 2" eyepiece was really nice too.

    uc-5-28.jpg

    So, although it was kind of low tech, you couple that with all the GOTO scopes people would have, laser collimation, fans to keep condensation at bay, attached cameras, laptops, and deep cycle marine batteries, etc etc., there was really no need to have fancy equipment of your own unless you just wanted to.

    I love the software and apps that let you quickly identify what's up in the night sky right where you are, at the time you're there. Just knowing the constellations better would be cool, and it doesn't take much equipment for that. I camp and backpack, and for awhile I thought that would be great for it because I'd be out in decent weather at dark sky locations. But as it turns out, much of the year, I have a canopy of tree cover over me, and the sky view is almost non-existent! Oh well.

    Anyway, kudos and well-done on your images. Those must bring you thrills and pride. I love planetary viewing in particular. I was well into adulthood before I really understood that a few planets can be seen with the naked eye (let's see - Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn) ... the notion that they're up there, as easily seen as any star, just blew my mind. I think I convinced myself once that I got either Uranus or Neptune in my scope, but it was just a speck among others, so nothing to confirm it beyond its expected place in a pattern of light dots.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Vermont
    when my wife was a kid, she used to have dinner with Carl Sagan pretty often, so there's that.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Undisclosed
    Quote Originally Posted by budwom View Post
    when my wife was a kid, she used to have dinner with Carl Sagan pretty often, so there's that.
    “could you please pass the billions and billions of tasty molecules in that gravy boat, please?”

    (Very cool!)

  9. #9
    I started as an Astronomy major, but was 'forced' to turn to Physics..
    But the stars have always had a grip on me.

    The secret to photography in Astronomy is not just magnification, but light gathering (accumulation of photons). This takes time sometimes. Planets are (of course) bright, and big, so they are easy to photograph with a little magnification. Big, but diffuse objects are a little harder. Find the Messier objects (M-N); there are a few that might be viewable.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messier_object

    I took glass plates using a large 16" telescope during those early days and found that if you could hold an aperture open for a bit, holding an exposure of the Orion Nebula (M-42) yielded a memorable result. It might require you to be up early now, or to wait later in the year, but it might be worth it to try. Longer exposures gather more light. Not sure if that is controllable on your camera. I'm sure you can find that constellation on a clear night, and the nebula is usually visible with the naked eye (can I say naked on DBR?). Actually your eye is more sensitive off to the side of dead center, and you can see more, but our tendency is to turn our eye directly at what we are looking at. A strange biological factoid.

    Larry
    DevilHorse

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Boston area, OK, Newton, right by Heartbreak Hill
    My second son is picking up a minor in astronomy to go along with his economics major.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    New Bern, NC unless it's a home football game then I'm grilling on Devil's Alley
    Quote Originally Posted by OldPhiKap View Post
    Great photos.

    I have a bit too much light pollution to enjoy astronomy as much as I would like. I have always been fascinated with the worlds beyond ours.
    With deep sky objects, like galaxies and nebulae, light pollution is a big factor. The solar system objects, however, are really not affected by it, at least when using binoculars or a telescope. I could have my scope out in the middle of a city, and likely capture the same images as above.
    Q "Why do you like Duke, you didn't even go there." A "Because my art school didn't have a basketball team."

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    New Bern, NC unless it's a home football game then I'm grilling on Devil's Alley
    Quote Originally Posted by cspan37421 View Post
    I was - similar background story to yours. But never got into astrophotography - seemed like too much work (esp. processing/masks/stacking), and everyone else at star parties had better equipment and were happy to show off to you what they had in their scopes (or later in their images). to me it was like re-inventing the wheel. I assume you have some sort of tracking mount on your new Dob.

    A few things in recent years have discouraged me a bit:

    I found I'm not very good at staying up late. I might make it to 12 or 1am at a star party, but then I'm 2+ hrs from home and practically hallucinating on the drive home.

    While I have a decent view of the SW sky from my hard, light pollution is heavy. In particular, there's a streetlight across the street that lights up my yard to the extent that I can, in the middle of the night, read my LCD digital watch without activating its backlight. I contacted the light company to have them shade the side of it that faces my yard, and it really helped. But then they un-did it - the neighbor who pays for the light (for security) didn't like what they did and had them reverse it. I'm not keen on the notion that he has the right to light up my yard just because he pays the light bill. But there it is.

    Smoking at star parties, believe it or not. Not keen on it at all, but the local club allows it and some do. And some folks could be absolute jerks.

    On a positive note, I once used to go to a club that met in East TN / WNC that had this giant Dob that was assembled on site. One club leader would direct visitors and volunteers to help assemble it, then hold court for a night sky tour. It was pretty cool, and the thing could capture some really distant and faint objects. The 2" eyepiece was really nice too.

    uc-5-28.jpg

    So, although it was kind of low tech, you couple that with all the GOTO scopes people would have, laser collimation, fans to keep condensation at bay, attached cameras, laptops, and deep cycle marine batteries, etc etc., there was really no need to have fancy equipment of your own unless you just wanted to.

    I love the software and apps that let you quickly identify what's up in the night sky right where you are, at the time you're there. Just knowing the constellations better would be cool, and it doesn't take much equipment for that. I camp and backpack, and for awhile I thought that would be great for it because I'd be out in decent weather at dark sky locations. But as it turns out, much of the year, I have a canopy of tree cover over me, and the sky view is almost non-existent! Oh well.

    Anyway, kudos and well-done on your images. Those must bring you thrills and pride. I love planetary viewing in particular. I was well into adulthood before I really understood that a few planets can be seen with the naked eye (let's see - Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn) ... the notion that they're up there, as easily seen as any star, just blew my mind. I think I convinced myself once that I got either Uranus or Neptune in my scope, but it was just a speck among others, so nothing to confirm it beyond its expected place in a pattern of light dots.
    Very cool. I'm with you on the late night viewing; how come it seems that all the really cool stuff shows up at like 3am?
    I don't have a tracking mount on the dob, but I've seen plans for building one that has me intrigued. The camera I have is pretty fast, so it works well for the planets/moon. (It's a NexImage 5.) My equatorial mount scope has a tracking motor on it (not computerized), so I am probably going to play with that one and the camera tonight. I prefer the dob over it since finding my targets is a bit simpler, but hopefully with practice I get better with the other one.
    The dark sky park that we go to, Staunton River State Park, hosts viewing parties that folks from UNC come up for, toting their multitude of large scopes. Like you say, folks are pretty eager to share their views with you, and even more importantly, their knowledge.
    Q "Why do you like Duke, you didn't even go there." A "Because my art school didn't have a basketball team."

  13. #13

    Comparison of Sizes

    Just to compare sizes of your (very nice) picture of Saturn vs. the Orion Nebula.

    Saturn is about 1/3 of an arc minute in size.
    The Orion Nebula is 60 arc minutes in size (that is 1 degree).
    So the expanse of the Orion Nebula carves out about 180 times the size of Saturn across the sky.
    You just need a long enough exposure to gather the light.

    Larry
    DevilHorse

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Winston’Salem
    It has been decades since I have done this, but if you can find your way (by houseboat, preferably) to a remote arm of Lake Powell in southern Utah, and stay up late into the night, the astrological views set against the water and the sandstone are unreal.
    "Amazing what a minute can do."

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Greenville, SC
    Quote Originally Posted by DevilHorse View Post
    Just to compare sizes of your (very nice) picture of Saturn vs. the Orion Nebula.

    Saturn is about 1/3 of an arc minute in size.
    The Orion Nebula is 60 arc minutes in size (that is 1 degree).
    So the expanse of the Orion Nebula carves out about 180 times the size of Saturn across the sky.
    You just need a long enough exposure to gather the light.

    Larry
    DevilHorse
    The harvesting of photons is a delicate matter. When done well the results can be beautiful.*




    *Note how I resisted working the word, "reap" into the second sentence.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    New Bern, NC unless it's a home football game then I'm grilling on Devil's Alley
    Quote Originally Posted by DevilHorse View Post
    So the expanse of the Orion Nebula carves out about 180 times the size of Saturn across the sky.
    You just need a long enough exposure to gather the light.
    Quote Originally Posted by camion View Post
    The harvesting of photons is a delicate matter. When done well the results can be beautiful.*
    We are going to Staunton River in October. It is too heavy for my dob (and I don't have a way to do prolonged tracking with the dob), but I'm bringing my DSLR camera to use with my equatorial scope. I've got a T Ring adapter for it, but I haven't used it much. At the very least I'm hoping to get some decent broad Milky Way long exposure shots.
    Q "Why do you like Duke, you didn't even go there." A "Because my art school didn't have a basketball team."

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Bethesda, MD
    For the armchair astronomers, one of my favorite books ever is "Coming of Age in the Milky Way" by Timothy Ferris.

  18. #18
    Star trails are a fun and easy way to dip your toe into astrophotography, depending on how long your camera allows you to keep your shutter open. Put it on a tripod, point at Polaris, and slow that shutter speed down to several minutes or more if you can. Works much better from a truly remote dark sky location. If you've got city glow on the horizon, even in the opposite direction, your background sky isn't going to be very dark by the end of your exposure.

    Plus, at a truly remote dark sky location, you will see SO many more stars. It's like diamond dust on black velvet. Truly amazing.

    Imaging the moon is pretty easy too. But telescope stuff - even though some people manage it with P&S cameras up at the eyepiece, I never managed that or arranged it with a bracket or clamp. At some point, I realized that everyone around me has sunk more $ into their kit, it's vastly better, they'll spend lots of effort stacking images and adjusting all kinds of image characteristics - and they'll just share the results proudly and freely. It saps my motivation to do it for myself.

  19. #19
    Just to share an Astronomy/Duke story, while matriculating at Duke for Graduate school (around 1984 I think), there was total eclipse of the sun that was passing through North Carolina from the Southwest through the Northeast, but right through the Greensboro Airport. A bunch of us from the physics department got together welders masks and various paraphenalia and headed out from a very cloudy Durham, hoping we might see something. As we headed east on Route 85, a line in the clouds separated blue sky from clouds and we had brilliant lighting.

    At the Greensboro Airport, it was a geekfest (before there were geeks). All sorts of boxhole cameras and Telescopes with the lenses taken out, so they could project the image of the sun onto flat surfaces, and anyone could walk by and see: sunspots, the curved progress of the moon over the sun.. it was great.
    When totality hit, you could see the wave of darkness come over the hill we were all on. It was almost more interesting than the sun in totality.
    The temperature dropped 10 degrees, and everyone was transfixed. The carona popped out, and seemed smaller than you'd expect (pictures in text books are so much bigger). And it seemed to last so much longer than a minute. Then it was gone, and back to Durham.

    It is amazing how rare total eclipses are. I really appreciate having been to one.

    I do have another Astronomy/Duke/Basketball story.. Bob Bender transferred from Indiana to Duke and was on the Varsity Basketball team at both schools. He was taking Astronomy at Indiana, but dropped out (or took an incomplete) just before he transferred. He then took the Astronomy course at Duke when he came to Duke; it was part of the Physics Department curriculum. The strange part of it, for Bob was that the teacher of the course in Indiana was the same guy who taught it at Duke. The professor transferred that summer. I would have loved to find out what Bob's reaction was when he walked in the door that first day. I used to play cards on Friday nights with the Astronomy professor..

    Larry
    DevilHorse

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Richmond, Va

    That's an awesome post, especially

    Quote Originally Posted by DevilHorse View Post
    Just to share an Astronomy/Duke story, while matriculating at Duke for Graduate school (around 1984 I think), there was total eclipse of the sun that was passing through North Carolina from the Southwest through the Northeast, but right through the Greensboro Airport. A bunch of us from the physics department got together welders masks and various paraphenalia and headed out from a very cloudy Durham, hoping we might see something. As we headed east on Route 85, a line in the clouds separated blue sky from clouds and we had brilliant lighting.

    At the Greensboro Airport, it was a geekfest (before there were geeks). All sorts of boxhole cameras and Telescopes with the lenses taken out, so they could project the image of the sun onto flat surfaces, and anyone could walk by and see: sunspots, the curved progress of the moon over the sun.. it was great.
    When totality hit, you could see the wave of darkness come over the hill we were all on. It was almost more interesting than the sun in totality.
    The temperature dropped 10 degrees, and everyone was transfixed. The carona popped out, and seemed smaller than you'd expect (pictures in text books are so much bigger). And it seemed to last so much longer than a minute. Then it was gone, and back to Durham.

    It is amazing how rare total eclipses are. I really appreciate having been to one.

    I do have another Astronomy/Duke/Basketball story.. Bob Bender transferred from Indiana to Duke and was on the Varsity Basketball team at both schools. He was taking Astronomy at Indiana, but dropped out (or took an incomplete) just before he transferred. He then took the Astronomy course at Duke when he came to Duke; it was part of the Physics Department curriculum. The strange part of it, for Bob was that the teacher of the course in Indiana was the same guy who taught it at Duke. The professor transferred that summer. I would have loved to find out what Bob's reaction was when he walked in the door that first day. I used to play cards on Friday nights with the Astronomy professor..

    Larry
    DevilHorse
    The Bob Bender info, very Twilight Zone-ish

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