February 2018
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DSI + homemade guidescope

I got a DSI pro to auto-guide my LXD75 with my DSLR.  I didn’t want to spend the money right now for a guidescope so I converted my old 9x50mm meade finderscope from the 5″ lxd refractor.  I unscrewed the eyepiece and objective lens.  Drilled some 6-32 holes into the tube and tapped them with thumbscrews.  I found a pvc coupling at home depot that fit right into the finderscope tube.  For the camera, I ordered the DSI low profile plate which surprisingly fit right up to the tube allowing me to focus by screwing the finders objective.  I am hoping to have first light with this camera next clear night.  My idea for this project was adapted from this website here:  http://msfastro.net/articles/finder_guidescope/

Meade DSI low profile plate installation:

M13 & CLS

On Monday I received my new Astronomik CLS EOS clip filter to block out the awful light polluted sky where I live. The day was pretty cloudy and very humid. But it started clearing up toward the end of the day. I decided to set up the LXD75 and my AT80LE. I disassembled the mount a bit last week to tighten the worm gears. Did a computer reset and calibrated the motors. After dealing with some clouds and doing a 2 star alignment, the mount hit objects dead center. I was able to shoot a little of m13, but not much more than 60sec without an autoguider. Better polar alignment should improve this. Here is my result of 5 stacked 45sec images at iso 1600, no darks or flats.  I did however enjoy spending some time with a friend and having a couple beers while waiting for the clouds to disperse.

Saturn Spectacular

This past Saturday evening was the Saturn Spectacular observing event with the Rockland Astronomy Club at Anthony Wayne State Park, NY.  Lots of high clouds in the sky made for poor seeing but it was good to see all the people that turned out.  A personal highlight was two of my good friends who came up with me to view Saturn loved it.  It was the first time they had ever really experienced amateur astronomy, I know at least one is hooked a bit.  We observed Saturn with my 5″ refractor.  I broke out my binoviewer that night to get some 3d views.  I have to play with it to fine tune it, its been about a year since I last used it.  One other thing that I need to do is upgrade the focuser on the meade AR5.  The stock focuser simply sucks, its not smooth, plastic, and just aweful.  I am thinking about a moonlite or the scopestuff.com focuser.  One is $100 more than the other, so its something I have to think about.

Besides Saturn, we looked at M13, M51, M81, M82, and M57.  Its amazing how 4 hours of being out there and we only looked at a half dozen objects.  I originally set up the AT80 with the AR5, but the balance was off.

My only complaint for the night was parents who allow their kids to run all over the place.  I know they are only kids, but there are multiple thousands of dollars worth of equipment around, not a good place for kids to be “kids.”   It was a fun night, despite the seeing conditions.  I am looking forward to doing more with the Rockland Astronomy Club.

Earlier in the day I purchased this battery pack from walmart.  It was only $42.00 and works great.  Its 12v, 7AH.

First night out

I have been so excited about getting out and taking pictures of the heavens.  The weather was near perfect the other night.  Temps were around 50, sky was clear, and there was very low humidity with hardly a whisper of wind.  I took out my EQ2 mount, did a fast polar alignment and hooked up my canon XS.  The remote shutter I ordered worked great!  Got to love those Chinese clones.

I decided to limit myself to 30sec exposures using the kit lens that came with the camera.

URSA Major

8’30” exposure

Viewing the full image, I was able to capture the galaxy M101

NEAF 2010

Just returned from the two day astronomy extravaganza called NEAF (North East Astronomy Forum).  Alan Traino and the Rockland Astronomy Club really out did themselves yet again.  Over 120 vendors selling everything from BIG scopes to nuts-n-bolts and don’t forget the great guest speakers  like Dr. Pamela Gay (voice of Astronomy Cast) and the hosts of The Science Channel’s “The Meteorite Men.”

I snapped a couple hundred photos and decided to post a couple that I liked.  Enjoy!

William D. McDowell Observatory

A long afternoon of opera rehearsals followed by traffic on the commute home equals a night of relaxation. The skies are fairly clear, so I decide to go to the McDowell Observatory in Lyndhurst for the public viewing night. To my surprise, there were a ton of kids with their parents lining up to the 20″ telescope to get a glimpse of the star Castor. It isn’t quite dark yet, but I could tell that the astronomer in charge is anxious to get things rolling. I took the introduction to astronomy classes which he taught, so I was a familiar face in the sea of little people. He asked me if I wouldn’t mind helping, “Of course I can,” I replied.

I ended up talking with kids and their parents about stars, nebula, the planets, etc. There was one bright young astronomer who was quite knowledgeable of things stellar. I asked him how he knew all this stuff. “From TV,” the boy responded. I chuckled when I found out how much of the discovery channel he watches. Who knew that a third grader could talk about how Pluto was no longer a planet but a dwarf planet. Or how the rings of Saturn are made up of ice and dust.

The highlight of the night was seeing all these kids “oo-ing” and “ah-ing” over the rings of Saturn and the Triangulum of Orion’s great nebula. I barely got a chance to look into the eyepiece myself, but the kids made the day worth it. I was tired, a little hungry, but very satisfied. It is so important that we educate children in things like astronomy, other sciences, the arts, etc. They are the future.

Below is a picture (taken with my blackberry) of the William D. McDowell observatories telescope. It’s a 20″ Ritchey-Chretien telescope made by optical guidance systems. Mounted on the scope is a Takahashi FS102 Fluorite Apochromatic refractor.

Observing Session 4.1.10

Finally a relatively clear night.  The skies weren’t cloudy, although there was a high amount of humidity in the atmosphere causing the sky transparency to be low.

My main objective tonight was to collimate my C-8 with the new Bob’s knobs installation.  Also, I wanted to test my new 13mm Nagler type 6 which I won last month at a dinner engagement with my astronomy club.

After setting up, I took some pics of the knob installation and my scope with my canon 1000d.

Once it was dark I turned the scope on, did only 2 star alignment, and focused on Regulus (Leo) to start collimating.  I found that using the 9mm TMB out of focus got me the best results.  Using the Bob’s Knobs was a lot easier than I thought, no wonder so many people rave about them.  Now it was time to observe!

Observed Objects:

Currently in Cancer
Apparent Mag +.01

  • First time viewing Mars in quite a long time.  It was quite bright, due to the atmosphere tonight the views weren’t the greatest.  However, I was able to bring some dark surface detail out by using a red filter on a 9mm TMB Planetary eyepiece.  The magnification using the C8 was 225.7x.

M67, Open Cluster in Cancer
NGC 2682
RA: 08h 51.4m
DEC: +11° 49′
Mag: 6.1

  • I used two eyepieces to observe this relatively small open cluster.  The meade 18mm UWA and my new Nagler 13mm type 6.  Both eyepieces provide 82 degree views, M44 fit in the field of view with both EP.  I really fell in love with the Nagler views.  I thought the empty space in the background was darker and allowed for more contrast and star seeing.  I cannot wait to view an object like this in a real dark sky, unlike my mag 4 skies at home.

γ Leo, Algieba
Double Star
RA: 10h 19m 58.3s
DEC: +19° 50′ 30″
Mag: 2.4/3.6

  • This is a magnificent pair of golden colored stars.  Doesn’t require much magnification to observe the split.  I compared views using an Ortho and Nagler, again I preferred the views with the nagler.  I thought the contrast was much better than the UO ortho.

α Leo, Regulus
Multiple Star System
RA: 10h 08 min 22.3s
DEC: +11° 58′ 02″
Mag: 1.3/8.1/13.5

  • I tried and tried to split regulus but due to transparency and an 88% moon, I think it was impossible to see the mag 8.1 K2 star.  Under my skies in the best conditions I do not think it would ever be possible to see the Mag 13.5 C star

Currently in Leo
Apparent Mag: +.03

  • It wasn’t until I looked at my handy star chart out of Sky and Telescope magazine that I realized Saturn was up in the sky.  The rings were pretty flat, blocking the chance of seeing the cassini division, but there was a great looking shadow on the surface of the planet  itself.  4 moons were visible, 2 on each side of the planet.  I used my new Nagler yet again and as expected the views were remarkable.

There were a couple other object I attempted to find tonight.  I tried to find galaxies M65 and M66 but after learning they were mag 9 plus, I quickly gave up.  I also wanted to find 54 Leo, a double star in Leo.  I was using my Telrad finder, but just got tired of bending over searching the skies.

All in all, I spent about 3 hours outside.  It was great to get out since I haven’t had much of a chance all winter.  Before next time, I am thinking about hypertuning or at least doing a little maintenance on the LXD75.  I think it needs it.

Moon and Venus Sunset

The skies were absolutely amazing today, they always seem to be after a major storm leaves.  Tonight I went to the local observatory for their weekly public observing night.  Unfortunately, the storm left the area without power.  So the observatory was closed.  The parking lot has a beautiful view of the Western Sky, so I decided to snap some shots of the Moon and Venus with my camera.

Camera: Canon XS
Lens: Canon 18mm-55mm EFS
Location: McDowell Observatory Parking Lot


Welcome to my new astronomy blog/website.  I will be building this site up over the next couple weeks as I get the time.