Saturday, March 1, 2014

EQ8 and a cold winter of Stargazing

My new mount arrived about 3 months ago (a big thanks to Nick and everyone else at the Vancouver Telescope Center!).  I must say sheer size of the EQ8 completely blew me away.  I thought the EQ6 was decently sized by by comparison the EQ6 is just a toy. Aside from the size and weight the mount performs beautifully.  Tracking is amazing and it easily carries my SCT, Refractor and Imaging gear.

Last winter I was limited to setting my telescope up in my driveway, spending about an hour getting it properly aligned and then checking on it periodically.  That has all changed! Since I got my Skyshed Pod set up in the backyard I no longer have to set up and take down my telescope or cart all the gear back inside.  I really only had to align it once at the beginning of the winter (although since the ground froze it has shifted a bit).  The best part is that I can run the mount, camera and autoguider all from the comfort of my house using Teamviewer.

Ironically, despite the fact that I have a ready to go observatory at my disposal there have been few observing opportunities.  Until recently its been an incredibly cloudy, snowy winter.  And now that its clear its unbearably cold; with the windchill it was -50 last night! Although I don't need to be outside to run anything, temperatures that cold are not good for the equipment- my cutoff is around -25.  I've also been working with my new Monochrome CCD camera to try and figure out exactly how to process images with it.  I think I've gotten most of the bugs out of that; now all I need is suitable observing condition.

Throughout the winter Jupiter has been well positioned for observing. At its transit I think its over 50o.  Below are some of the few images I've taken this winter; all are taken with my Lumenera 135m video camera and stacked using Registax.

This image of Jupiter is the first composite (LRGB) planetary image I've taken.  I used a monochrome camera with LRGB filters and combine the images using Nebulosity.  If I remember correctly, this was 5000 L frames and 1500 each of RGB, using the best 20%. 

This high resolution photo of the Compernicus crater was taken through my Celestron 11 HD using a Lumenera 135m camera.  500 frames, stacking the best 15%.

About 3 weeks ago, (if you used an appropriate solar filter) there was a set of sunspots you could see without a telescope.  Here in this image (taken with my 85 mm refractor) you can see two groups of sun spots.  Each of the central sunspots is larger then the entire Earth!

Here is a close up of the largest part of the sun spots.  Its slightly out of focus for some reason, but still amazing detail. The dark central area is called the Umbra and its the location on the Solar Surface where the Sun's magnetic field is nearly perpendicular to the surface.  The lighter area is called the Preumbra area and occurs because the magnetic field is at more of an inclination to the rest of the surface.

Hopefully the weather improves and more astronomy can be done!

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