Sunday, July 26, 2009

My July 25th, GRS, Wesley Strike and Io Transit

Does it seem like Jupiter season is in full swing yet? :)

Thanks to Anthony for discovering the impact strike, which I will faithfully call the Wesley Strike of '09 (he'll find more).

Seems to me yesterday morning was magical, something special in the air even drew out my son at 5:30.  He woke on his own I swear!  I did dress him quickly and dragged him outside for some help capturing this one and gave him some stellar 8/10 seeing views of Jupiter.  Seeing was a bit better just before he woke up... more on those later.  For now, here is his and my image!  He pressed the start capture button and drove the scope around!  ;)

Rest of the night and full 2009 season is here:


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Baby #3's latest ultrasound photos!

He is growing so big now!  Here's a link to the whole album

remember if you cannot get access to all the kid photos, you may need to recover a lost password here or sign up and add me as a friend!

and a baby center update for this age:

Hello from BabyCenter!

Head to rump, your baby is approximately 5 1/2 inches long (about the length of a bell pepper) and weighs almost 7 ounces. He's busy flexing his arms and legs — movements that you'll start noticing more and more in the weeks ahead. If you're having a girl, her uterus and fallopian tubes are formed and in place. If you're having a boy, his genitals are noticeable now, although he may hide them from you during an ultrasound.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Jupiter with 2x moon events & GRS 20090715

Jupiter with 2x moon events & GRS 20090715

This is some good work but not nearly as exciting as discovering an impact hole on Jupiter.

I took about 14 captures the morning of July 15 in some varied seeing. 

1st of the set (200% resize)

Best of the set (150% resize with RGB channels)


Full resolution (aka 150% resize) with Mike Salway-like fast rewind:

I also took more time than usual to do RGB realign on the disk / Ganymede separate than Callisto.  In an effort to 'automate' my v7 Planetary Processing routine I decided to get fancy and I think I will revise as v8 soon.  I did all these without Registax at all!  - BIG TIME SAVER!

Stay tuned for the new routine.



Sunday, July 12, 2009

How I got into Astronomy...

Like a few kids I was given a gift of a small refractor when I was a around 7 years old or so, I really don't remember.  I do remember not really knowing what to do with it other than look at the moon.  I really miss or am sad that I didn't know enough or wasn't fast enough to get out and look for Halley's comet!  :(

I lost interest until high school, when I resurrected that old 50mm red Tasco but got frustrated by lack of tracking on planets at high res...  my folks helped me find a nice 60mm on an equatorial head (Japanese model that simply said astronomy on it or something!)  I still have that one and have let the kids abuse it a bit time and again when they can stay up late...

In suburban Buffalo high school (North Tonawanda SHS),  I decided to 'get a degree in astronomy' and go to state school for college on Long Island at SUNY Stony Brook.  I found out the hard way studying astronomy is all physics and physics is all math.  Then while I was an undergrad research assistant, I realized that I had to get a PhD just to follow the scientific process of acquiring mass amounts of boring data only to have it painstakingly reduced just in effort to hold up and go look at this chart ... we still need more data.... BORING!

at that time in the mid to late 90's the Internet thing was taking off, so i hit the IT circuit in the NYC area for the years following graduation.

Living in the NYC area had me longing for a larger scope, but I knew it wasn't worth the effort with all the Light Pollution. 

Then in '03, desiring to start a family and a quieter life like I had growing up in Buffalo, wife and I moved to RTP with Cisco (I've been employed at Cisco since '00)

THEN, I got serious about a scope again, I had my eye's on the compact 8" SCT design for years and the C8i fit my need for lightweight portability.  I got it in time for the '05 Mars opposition and have learned a HUGE amount since then.

I do enjoy this as a hobby a bit more than as a career!  :)  Although, some days I do wish I got paid for it!


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Michael A. Phillips' Astronomy Lesson on Seeing, Collimation and Focusing

Why this subject?  There's not a lot of comprehensive basics to understanding the importance of these fundamental variables to Astronomy and Astrophotography.

I remember when I got started with my 8" SCT in 2005 for the Mars opposition.  I just could not see nor photograph the quality that I found on the Internet.  This was due to the main factors to be discussed in detail here:

1) Seeing
2) Collimation
3) Focusing


Seeing as I've said is king especially for any hi-res views or photographs of planets.

What is seeing?  - This site has a good explanation:

Understanding that seeing impacts your views and photographs is important.  Perhaps even more important are how to judge seeing and how to 'predict' it.

Damian Peach has a wonderful lesson on the Pickering Seeing scale which most folks will use to say the seeing was S: 6/10  (

Predicting seeing is like predicting any weather, it's not 100% accurate.  Basic info is obtained on the the Clear Sky Clocks:

Understand that this info is not 100% and augment with a look at the jet stream which will also greatly affect your seeing conditions:

Visible satellite for clouds - only works during the day

Geostationary Satellite - aka IR nighttime cloud cover threats!

University of Wisconsin-Madison: Space Science and Engineering Center
and more

Jetstream1 - BEST



I can't stress the importance of seeing enough!


As the owner of a Schmidt-Cassegrain I will talk mainly about it.  Thierry Legault has a great tutorial for the matter: 

The take away is once you've got the basics of collimation (aka USE BOB'S KNOBS!) and the out of focus collimation always make your adjustments in good seeing and using the airy disk described in Thierry's 3rd step and even use Damian Peach's charts as a reference.

If this guide appears complicated then try this rule of collimation...

it's a simple task... make it round!  :)

you can for the most part trial and error it, but the goal is the same, make it round by turning 3 knobs!  Do be careful to tighten one and loosen another to prevent over or under (aka mirrors falling) tightening of your secondary.

Also, over time you can refine your collimation, you may think you've got it right via your eyes or by metaguide, but stacking hundreds of frames in moderate to good seeing yields better results where you may go, humm, i though it was in, but it's off a  bit on the 4 o'clock position... I'll fix next time!  :)

Another good reference:

Once you've got the above two steps under your belt then focusing is easy.  If time and space allow, slew to a medium bright (mag 2) star and focus on that in each channel until you see the airy disk.  Without touching the camera with respect to your OTA move back to your target and you'll see something very exquisite!

Hope this tutorial helps everyone!


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