2005 Observing Sessions
Quite clear, minus 7 at the star of the
session, minus 11 at the end. I set up the 10-inch dobsonian telescope
on the deck. I tried my new purchase - the Meade 2-inch QX eyepiece,
Trapezium - This is the quadruple star in the centre of M42, the Orion Nebula, although there are actually more than 4 stars! For the first time I saw the 5th star in the Trapezium (called "E"). It was not terribly difficult to see at 360x, although the star was quite faint and easy to overlook. At 275x it was quite difficult to see. Again, I made a drawing to make sure, and it matched a map. Here's a great page about the Trapezium: http://www.astropix.com/HTML/B_WINTER/TRAPEZ.HTM
I did not see star "F" for two reasons - while I was observing I did not even know about a 6th star so I did not even look for it and it's much more difficult to see because it's so close to star "C", which is rather bright, so "F" is easily lost in the glare of star "C".
Next I had some deep sky fun. I saw M41, M36, M37, M38 M93, M46, M47,
Also, I spent 20 minutes looking for M78 but had no luck - it drove me nuts because it should be visible. A narrow-band filter is not useful for M78 because it's a reflection nebula (ie it reflects starlight, and filters are not useful with starlight).
The weather is cool (about – 5C) with hazy skies and some high cloud. Set up the 10-inch LX200 on the deck to do webcam imaging for the first time.
I used a Logitech QuickCam Pro 4000, mounted afocally (meaning the webcam still had its own lens installed and was aimed at the eyepiece). I then ran the USB cable inside the house to a laptop that controlled the webcam. I used the webcam’s own software to capture the AVI files (called Logitech Image Studio).
I also wanted to control the LX200 via the laptop, and although I have the required cables, I noticed that my current laptop no longer has a serial port!! (I now know this is a common problem which can be resolved with the purchase of a serial – USB adapter).
I spent 2 hours imaging Saturn using various software settings and magnifications. I could never get a great image, even visually, therefore I think the seeing was not very good on this particular night. The telescope was set up in alt-az mode and at 375x the tracking was quite impressive! Mirror shift while focusing at 375x was a little annoying, but was a minor issue.
results were quite poor. After consulting with an expert webcam imager (Stef
Cancelli), he said the AVI compression format used by the
Logitech software was too high, causing severe loss of detail on the
planet. I will have to see if I can change the compression, otherwise I
will have to change to K3CCDTools as my capturing software. It was also
recommended that I remove the camera’s own lens, in which case I will
have to buy or make my own adapter so I can insert the webcam into the
Set up in the backyard, quite clear but rather cold (about minus 10 C). I got a USB extension cable so I can set up the laptop on the kitchen table, while the telescope was outside on the deck. This time I used K3CCD Tools as my capture software, which allowed me to use no compression (such as the i420 or YUV setting). Also I am capturing at 15 frames per second (rather than 30 frames per second) at 640 x 480.
Once again, I used a Logitech QuickCam Pro 4000, mounted afocally (meaning the webcam still had its own lens installed and was aimed at the eyepiece), with a 20mm eyepiece and a 2X barlow. I got some results that are at least worth showing. These are stacked images with just a little bit of sharpening. I still don't know all the processing tricks!
|March 25 - 26||
Set up in the backyard, clear, cool (about minus 5C). Set up scope and webcam for complete remote control from indoors, including the focusing! This time I removed the lens from the QuickCam 4000 Pro and the image scale is way bigger shooting afocally with the webcam's own lens. I used the webcam at prime focus + a 2X barlow. Centering Jupiter and focusing was a little tricky, but I got the hang of it in about 30 minutes. The scope's tracking was great!
The images I took are not really worth showing, especially because the ones below are much better.
|March 26 - 27||
Given the newly collimated scope and the
good seeing, I could not resist trying to image Jupiter again.
An article about me appeared in Markham's newspaper - The Economist & Sun.
This was a pleasant surprise because when the newspaper journalist interviewed me I thought this was going to be a generic article on backyard stargazing, but it turned out to me more about my observing routine and giving advice to newcomers.
Set up the 10-inch Dob on the deck, quite clear, 6'C, no wind. A
skunk tried to sneak up on me but fortunately I saw it when it was still
a safe distance away and scared it away.
|April 8 - 9||
The purpose of this observing session is to continue trying to
estimate the faintest galaxies visible from an urban area with a 10-inch
telescope. This time I set up my 10-inch LX200 and connected it to Earth
Centered Universe. I had a great time slewing from galaxy to galaxy and
pushing the scope and my eyesight to the limit. The sky is quite
transparent, temp was 5'C decreasing to 2'C, no wind, no dew.
|April 12 - 13||
Same setup as April 8-9 above. The sky is quite transparent,
temp was 4'C decreasing to 3'C, no wind, no dew.
Purchased a used 12-inch Sky Mentor Dobsonian telescope.
Purchased a new Meade Deep Sky Imager (DSI) Pro CCD camera with colour filters. Finally took the plunge into CCD imaging!!
Setup the scope on the deck in alt-az mode to try out the DSI Pro CCD
camera. Everything works fine and I got a few terrible images
because I still don't know what I'm doing and because the scope is not
tracking well (may be because it's an alt-az mode and I did a very quick
|June 24 - 25||
Setup in the backyard to try out the new Meade DSI Pro CCD camera
with the 10-inch LX200 in equatorial mode (with the wedge). Did a simple
two-star alignment. The daytime weather was very hot ( + 32'C), the
night was warm, hazy, humid, with a full moon. Not an ideal night!
|July 2 - 3||
Arrived on site at 21:45 during twilight (site is 79 km from home).
This is the first time using the 12-inch Sky Mentor Dobsonian. The site
is quite full (about 15 people) and appears to be a mini star party!
Quite clear, no wind, temp is steady around 12'C, no dew at all, but
lots of mosquitoes. The scope is great, except for the focuser which is
quite wobbly and all my 2-inch eyepieces don't come to focus (so I just
pull them out of the focuser a little), otherwise fantastic views. Some
people on site are Eric Briggs, Mike Cook, Dieter,
Cliff Newman, Brent Arsenault.
|July 23 - 24||
Most images were poor as I was still learning the ropes. Several
weeks later I found out that my troubles were caused by a poor polar
alignment and incorrect use of the tracking and stacking feature in the
|July 30 - 31||
Setup in the backyard with 10-inch LX200 and DSI Pro. Tried
mounting a small 5-inch reflector on top o the 10-inch for wide-field
imaging, but it's next to impossible to balance the whole assembly.
Then I tried to mount a small 3-inch 800mm Schmidt-Cassegrain scope for
guiding purposes, but by the time I added a 3X barlow lens the whole
thing was too wobbly. The sky is clear, no moon, reasonably
transparent sky, temp is about 15'C. I did a quick and simple polar
alignment. Tonight I imaged through the diagonal, which means the
expected f6.3 focal ratio was actually a little less, maybe f5.
|Aug. 4 - 7||
4 (Thursday): Left home around 12:30 pm and arrived around 3:30 pm, with
one short stop along the way. The campground is 174km from my home in
Markham and it took about 2hrs 20min to get there (including the short
stop). As usual I set up just south of the main tent along with friends
Raymond Li, Peter Lukic, Dave MacDonald and Walter
MacDonald. I slept in comfort on a real mattress in my mini-van.
This year I purchased one of those pop-up gazebo tents (see photo at
left) for shade and it proved invaluable, but even more so against the
downpour we experienced on Thursday night!!
|Aug. 5 - 6
Fri - Sat
Set up the scope after dinner, the sky is quite clear and transparent
after last night's thunderstorm. During the night dew accumulated and
fogged up the finder, but my main scope was just fine with the Kendrick
heater and dew cap. During the day I purchased a
Sky Quality Meter, which gave me a measurement of
21.35 at the zenith on the Friday night. I
did visual observing for half the night as I'm working towards
completing the Herschel 400 list:
a little imaging (2.5 hrs is not really long enough to get that much
done!) with the scope a f6.3, but since I was imaging thru the diagonal,
it was probably around f5. I did a simple polar alignment, which was a
bad idea! I only managed to image M27 and M31 and none of the
results were good.
|Aug. 6 - 7
Sat - Sun
Sunny and hot during the day on Saturday. Ready to image by sunset,
some clouds and haze in the south, but otherwise quite clear, except the
sky deteriorated somewhat during the night. This time I did an
"iterative" polar alignment to ensure a better tracking. I also did a
periodic error correction training (first time ever!) except I did it on
Vega, which is a poor choice (should have chosen a star near the
celestial equator). Despite the above, I still could not take exposures
longer than 15 seconds without trailing! The scope kept "falling
behind" meaning I had to often press the West button so the scope would
catch-up with the sky. All images taken below are with a 10-inch
LX200 at f6.3 (no diagonal)
Today the Greater Toronto Area was hit by the strongest thunderstorm I have ever experienced in my life - and I got to experience it to its fullest as I was out and about with my family when it hit! It was about 3 pm and we were driving north on Kennedy Rd. (Scarborough) when the thunderstorm arrived. The rain was so heavy that traffic came to a halt as it was impossible to see beyond the hood of your own vehicle, meanwhile walnut-sized hail pelted our mini-van so hard that I was worried of possible damage to the body. The weather report on the radio alerted us of potential tornados which got me quite concerned because what we were experiencing sure looked like could have sparked a tornado any moment.
After about 30 minutes the downpour slowed and it continued to rain heavily, so we made our way home, however, every 500 yards or so the road was flooded. Road sections flooded by one or two feet of water were common, while in some places even three feet of water accumulated, and that's where many cars got stranded.
We got home safely after 2 hours, even though we had traveled only 10 km. Later we found out that this storm completely washed away a section of Finch Avenue near Keele and that hundreds of homes had their basements flooded. And yes, a couple of tornados did touch down, but outside of Toronto and in less populated areas. It was definitely a storm to remember.
|Sep. 3 - 4||
The sky is quite clear, comfortable temp at 18'C at first but later
dropped to 13'C, little wind, no bugs. Had to chase away a skunk!
|Sep. 4 - 5||
the scope set up from last night. Quite clear, no wind, a little dew,
and the mosquitoes are out! The temp ranged from 15'C to 12'C.
Took some more colour images of M27, and NGC 891
|Oct. 1 - 2||
The sky is clear, no wind, no dew, mild (14'C --> 11'C). Took about
one hour to do an iterative polar alignment, getting a pretty good
alignment after 5 iterations.
|Oct. 29 - 30||
For the first time I set up the scope for
remote operation from inside the house. One phone cable to
operate the scope via Earth Centered Universe and one USB cable to run
the CCD camera. Everything worked flawlessly!! Tonight I finally
got smart and did a quick drift alignment, plus a proper periodic error
correction (PEC), and they paid off - I could easily expose up to 1.5
minutes without any trailing!!!
|Year End Stats||
|Observing / Imaging Frequency||
|Final Comments||2005 was an excellent year for me as the
acquisition of the CCD camera allowed me to spend much more time than
usual doing astronomy. That's because I can now have fun with
imaging from my backyard, whereas before I would not even set up since I
cannot do any serious deep sky observing from the backyard due to the
light pollution. Imaging has been a "distraction" and thus I did not
reach 1000 deep sky objects as I was planning. (14 to go!)
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