Tuesday, December 23, 2008

20081223 Sun

Cleaned up everything today and I'll have a long vacation! Enjoy the sunshine in the relatively cold weather. Seeing very poor at 2/10, transparency not bad at 5/10.

Telescope: Borg 45ED II
Filter: Solarmax 40 with BF10
Camera: DMK 31AF03
Mount: Meade LXD55

1459 (GMT+8):-

1500 (GMT+8):-

Thursday, December 18, 2008

20081218 Sun

Seeing is poor at 2/10 due to the low angle, transparency is 7/10.

Telescope: Borg 45ED II
Filter: Coronado Solarmax 40 with BF10
Camera: DMK31AF03.AS
Mount: Meade LXD55

1616 (GMT+8):-

1617 (GMT+8):-

Sunday, December 14, 2008

20081214 Sun

Seeing 5/10, transparency 2-3/10. The sun is quite silent in H-alpha.

Telescope: Borg 45ED II
Filter: Coronado Solarmax 40 with BF10, PST etalon (double stacked)
Camera: DMK 31AF03.AS
Mount: Meade LXD55

1531 (GMT+8):-

Telescope: Celestron C5
Filter: PST etalon, Cheapy ERF, BF10
Camera: DMK 31AF03.AS
Mount: Meade LXD55

1553 (GMT+8):-

1556 (GMT+8):-

Saturday, December 13, 2008

20081213 white light sun

Cloudy basically, but got a brief gap (not real gap, but just moment with thinner cloud). Canon 450D, Canon 200mm f2.8L with Kenko 2x, Thousand Oaks White Light Type 2+, through the window, very poor quality.

Resized to hide the poor quality.

Goodbye my Pentax PCF III 10x50

This is my first telescope.

I didn't sell it, but instead, I give it to someone who will find it useful. It's always nice to be able to let someone else to use it. I didn't use it as active as before, and I always wish that it will be used under starry night.

It has been with me for uncountable hiking, camping trips. It has been with me for overseas trip, even my honeymoon to Egypt, to Inner Mongolia, etc.

Goodbye my lovely first telescope.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

20081201 JVM

Jupiter, Venus and the Moon formed a smiling face. This is not taken by me, but I called my wife who was at home by then, she took this snapshot with our Konica Minolta Z5 hand held.

Taken in home@walnut.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

20081130 Sight from Indoor

Jupiter and Venus came very close to each others, and the thin crescent moon was nearby. What a sight!

Taken with a Canon 450D, Canon 50mm f/1.8, Canon 200mm f2.8L, Kenko 2x, Gitzo G106 with Manfrotto 410 head.

20081130 Sun

Seeing 3/10, transparency 8/10.

Telescope: Borg 45ED II
Filter: Coronado Solarmax 40 with BF10
Mount: Meade LXD55
Camera: DMK 31AF03.AS

1420 (GMT+8):-

1421 (GMT+8):-

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Canon 400mm f5.6L

This lens is small and portable, and it has superb quality even in an astronomical standard at wide open aperture.

In terms of versatility especially when daily photography is concerned, the Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L might have an edge. The quality of the zoom is also very high, but it's not exactly "astronomically" high. Some reported that there could be internal reflection in extreme condition like the diamond ring before/after a totality.

Therefore, if astronomy performance is the prime concern, the prime lens will be better, and the prime lens is also cheaper as well.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

20081123 Sun

Seeing like 5/10, transparency 4/10.

Telescope: Borg 45ED II
Filter: Coronado Solarmax 40 with BF10
Camera: DMK 31AF03.AS
Mount: LXD55 on Gitzo G1415

The sun remained rather silent, but there's still some activities around.

1524 (GMT+8):-

1525 (GMT+8):-

1529 (GMT+8), close up with 2x barlows:-

Friday, November 21, 2008

20081121 Sun

That worm yesterday was gone apparently, but after processing it can still be seen. Seeing 3/10, transparency 4/10. This is an equipment day, I have more time than I usally have to play around. First up is my regular setup, i.e. Borg 45ED II with Solarmax 40 and BF10. Next is my C5 PST setup, and then I went back to my regular setup plus double stacked with the PST etalon.

First two are taken with my Borg 45ED II, Solarmax 40 and BF10, DMK 31AF03:-

1353 (GMT+8):-

1354 (GMT+8):-

Next three are taken with my Cheapy-ERF/C5/PST/BF10 setup, first is a close up of the small prominence, 1409 (GMT+8), everything looked big with 1250mm:-

And even tiny active regions (no number) can be shown quite nicely, 1417 (GMT+8):-

Some surface detail near that small prominences, 1419 (GMT+8):-

A short clip taken with the C5/PST to show how poor the day time seeing was at 1250mm! The contrast is no good for this one, but you could see glimpse some dim prominences here:-

Time to try out double stacking, it's a Borg 45ED II setup, with Solarmax 40 and BF10 as usual, but the PST etalon is also installed, taken at 1427 (GMT+8):-

1428 (GMT+8):-

I guess I will need to pay more time to fine tune the two etalons, this time I basically kick out the internal reflection rather than maximizing the contrast and minimizing the uneven illumination.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

20081120 Sun

Soon after taking the moon, the sun comes! Seeing is now very poor at 2/10, transparency like 4/10.

Telescope: Borg 45ED II
Camera: DMK 31AF03
Mount: Meade LXD55
Filter: Solarmax 40 with BF10

We got a small worm like structure (active region?) in the middle of the solar disc, I have a close up with a 2x barlows.

1133 (GMT+8):-

1134 (GMT+8):-

1138 (GMT+8), close up of the "worm like" structure:-

20081120 Moon (day time)

Yesterday was the last day of my job, so before I begin my new job on the next Monday, I've two days off. I took these after bringing the kids to schools.

Telescope: Borg 45ED II

Camera: Canon 450D

Mount: Gitzo G106 (camera tripod without tracking)

0949 (GMT+8), longer exposure:-

0950 (GMT+8), shorter exposure:-

On reading the histogram, the signals are stucked in a very narrow part due to the poor day time contrast, so exposure does not really matter. However, it's always nice to use slightly longer exposure to minimize the effect of bias.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

20081115 Sun

Seeing 5/10, transparency 5/10.

Telescope: Borg 45ED II
Filter: Solarmax 40 with BF10
Camera: DMK 31AF03.AS
Mount: Meade LXD55

I tried to do one set without tuning T-max, and the field is more "homogeneous".

1321 (GMT+8):-

1322 (GMT+8):-

And then I tried to do another one set after tuning T-max (my usual practice):-

1323 (GMT+8):-

1324 (GMT+8):-

Finally, another closeup made with a Tele Vue 3x barlows.

1327 (GMT+8), actually, I wanted to use a 2x, but my hand touched the 3x first and so... being lazy, I used the 3x:-


Tele Vue 3x barlows with a 16mm Tele Vue Nagler Type 6. The solar disc can just fit into the view, with nearly no black sky surrounding the red disc. Prominence can be seen even at the very edge of such a wide field. Very nice indeed.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

20081113 Sun

I was on leave this afternoon, and I managed to get back home at around 1430 (GMT+8). The sun was sinking very low, and I knew that I had only around 10 minutes to capture the sun before it was blocked by a distant building.

I was right, and during the capturing of the first clip, it was blocked only after around 230 frames. AR1008 was there, together with a few QRF, and short prominences around the disc.

The short clip:-

20081113 Moon, M42, etc

In the mid-night I woke up, without looking at the clock, I looked out from the windows. I saw quite a lot of stars (just around 20 at most!!!) and this is a very rare scene here in Hong Kong, especially inside the urban center. Most people were sleeping with their light off, and the monsoon was blowing to clear up the dust in air, that created a unique opportunity. But at this kind of weird hours, it's hard to keep up especially when you have to work on the next day.

Anyway, I told myself, why not just have a short look?

I first noticed that the moon was hanging near a distant building, "so why not take a shot?", I asked myself. And I took my Canon 450D out and attached my Kenko 2x as well as the Canon 200mm f2.8L on it. Spot metering should be fine, I opened the window, felt the cool breeze outside, what a great feeling! Press the shutter, looked at the final image, the moon was so bright that when it was correctly exposed, the building was totally absent. So, I waited around 2 minutes and shoot again. This time, since the moon was blocked partially by the building, it's just not as bright and the silhouette of the building was superimposed on the moon, and I could see some lovely craters on the other side of the moon. What a view!

Next, I tried to point my lens to M42, I could see some nebulosity! I pulled out my Canon 10x30 IS, resting my arms on the window frame, wow! What a nice view! Then I press the IS button, the stars were nearly resolved, but you know, it's just 10x, I couldn't ask for more.

Then, I told myself it's time to stop, or else I will have a hard day! It's truely relaxing...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Selling my half Sky90

I have been co-owning a Takahashi Sky90 with an observing buddy. It's more like an impulse purchase, since another observing buddy decided to sell his Sky90 quick, and since I had been dreaming about a good refractor for long, I took the chance!

In these few years, I didn't really use it much. I have been trying to use it for visual observation, for side walk astronomy, for solar/lunar imaging, and even planets. Experienced amateurs will immediately have a big question in mind....

Yes, isn't the Sky90 more for deep sky imaging?

You're right. I didn't fully use it, and that's what I mean. For the above purpose, maybe my C5 will do even better in terms of portability and also aperture. I even briefly owned a Extender Q in order to explore the high power usage of the Sky90, but it was not impressive after all. For deep sky imaging, I guess that I lacked a good mount, but I don't think that I will buy one any time soon. I would prefer the simplicity of camera lens, as well as for the portability.

I know my observing buddy will use it for better than me, as he did in the past few years.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

20081109 Sun

It turns cooler today, a real feeling of fall. The humidity drops and it's really comfortable.

There was so much cloudy today, both the seeing and transparency were very bad. I couldn't take any decent clips and so I placed the whole compressed AVI here, and you can still see some prominences and surface detail when the cloud got thinner.

Just a record.

Friday, November 07, 2008

20081107 Moon

Telescope: Tele Vue Ranger
Camera: Canon 450D
Eyepiece: Tele Vue Nagler 13mm Type 6
Mount: Meade LXD55

Seeing is rather good at 7/10, transparency also quite nice at 5-6/10.


Nothing beats the eyepiece view, or else all of us will just buy magazines and books instead of owning our own equipment?

The moon looks so nice especially with a wide 82 degree field of view, you feel like you're watching the moon out there. It's 3 dimensional! There are some cloud floating around and you can actually feel that the cloud is closer, and some cloud are higher than the others, etc. It's just fantastic! Don't forget to insert your eyepiece in the focuser.


Mirror lock-up, spot metering was used, live view is used for focusing. The chromatic abberation nearly gone when the focus is correct. I've tried EV-0, EV-1 and EV-2. The first few are taken in JPG.



EV-2, this is probably the best exposed:-

Stacked RAW processed:-

[ Stacked version pending... ]

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Time and Money

It's funny when people said, when you're a student, you have time, but you have no money; but then when you grow up, you will have more money but you will be in lack of time. That's real for most people, so what could we do?

In short, I would say, we shall try to take advantage of our advantages in different phrase of our life.

As you could see from my blog, when I was still a student, I took my small scope everywhere, to darker sky, even when I was going hiking and camping. That alone gives the best return of my investment (despite small). There is no substitute for dark sky! But it takes time to go there, and to spend your time there. Therefore, this is the single best thing that we could do when we have less money but more time.

Again, as you could see from my blog, now I'm more locked at home and my work. I don't have much money but of course, I could spend more now when compared to the good old days. So, what did I do now? Sometimes I even could not go out at night! Sungazing is one of the way out and this is my focus for these years. Next, planet imaging is great as well, for it could be done under very light polluted skies! And it takes far less time, you don't have to get very great polar alignment, you don't have to do hours of exposure, you don't have to have very clear sky! And you know, all these can even be done indoor with an open window. That's what I have been doing for all these years!

Astronomy is a life long hobby, you can enjoy it whenever and with whatever budget!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

My C mount lenses

These are small TV lens, or some people call them CCTV lens, or C mount lens. Like all the other lenses, prime lens work better in terms of image quality and they are usually faster in terms of aperture.

Currently, I would say:

1. 2.3-6mm Compustar: for really wide field monitoring, in my 1/3" DMK 31AF03.AS, it even gives some fisheye view effect

2. 6mm Cosmicar and 25mm Fujinon: they allow the attachment of a B+W IR pass filter to do some interesting project, like IR astronomy. 6mm is wide enough for wide field and 25mm is close enough as medium power.

3. 75mm Fujinon and 150mm Cosmicar: they are more useful as guidescope now, and the 2-stop faster aperture of the 75mm should be great for field with only dimmer stars, and the 150mm is also fast enough for most cases which should allow me to guide my Canon 200mm f2.8L since the DSLR has bigger pixel.

4. Vivitar 1.5x: seems like useless now...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

DMK 21AU04.AS with Asus Eee PC

I got a chance to try out an Asus Eee PC 900 which has an Intel 900MHz CPU, 1G memory as well as 16G SSD storage. Since it is so small and portable like my aging Sony Vaio U3, I wonder if it is a good computer for field usages as an amateur astronomer. Therefore, I pulled out my DMK 21AU04.AS to try out its performance.

The Asus Eee PC is a great success. I believe that it is so attractive because of its price, portability and performance. It has created a new class of computing device which people now call it a netbook. Of course, with a fully functional operating system like Linux or Windows XP, you can do a lot more than web browsing and checking your email box.

The model which I had tried is selling at $3xxx HKD (i.e. around $400 USD) and so it's very attractive indeed. It has three USB 2.0 ports so that you can hook your camera to it, be it a cooled CCD, or a ToUCam Pro, Meade DSI, Lumenera or TIS DMK/DBK/DFK. You can also use it for guiding camera, and you still have one or two ports left for devices like Shoestring GPUSB and to control your mount.

While the built-in battery is decent, but it is by no means enough for a whole night of usage. And here comes another attractive thing for amateur astronomer... it accepts 12V power input, and that's simply great. You can directly use your Sealed Lead Acid battery without any transformer, that means portability and it is also very energy efficient.

For guiding purpose, there should be no problem since you can install Windows XP to it, and many popular software will work like PHD guiding, etc. The USB bandwidth requirement is no big deal for guiding.

What interest me most for this test is those bandwidth hungry equipments, like a fast frame rate camera. The CPU of these netbooks is not fast in today's standard, and the SSD is not very fast as well. In my test, I used 640x480 which is the highest for my DMK 21AU04.AS, and I can get as high as 25 fps. And this is also the fastest frame rate that we can get with this setup. Using software ROI of IC Capture will not help for this kind of slow CPU, for the extra CPU cycle required for cropping will further degrade the frame rate.

So, given a 60 fps camera, is 25 fps enough?

Yes, I would say.

For planet imaging, you cannot use shutter faster than around 1/30s unless you are using sub-optimal sampling. For most of the time when I use my scope at f/20, f/30 or even slower, 1/15s with moderate to high gain will be the most appropriate, that implies that you can use 15 fps at most. So, the Asus Eee can do it.

For solar imaging, if we are targeting surface detail, we can easily go faster than 1/60s (actually, 1/500s is not uncommon), and so you can still get 25 fps at most. This left something to be desired, but it's still use-able, not too bad. If we're targeting prominence, we will use as slow as 1/30s or even slower shutter, in that case, the Asus Eee can do without problem.

Finally, if you're using slower ToUCam Pro which you will use 10 fps for most of the time due to the compression, the Asus Eee can deliver what you needed, and there's nothing to give up.

However, since I already got my Sony Vaio U3, I will not buy an Asus Eee at the time being, and my work horse camera is a DMK 31AF03.AS which can give 1024x768x30 fps and thus the Asus Eee is clearly insufficient, not to say that it lacks a 1394 port. My notebook hunting continues...

Goodbye DBK

I just passed my DBK to a local friend yesterday night.

I was selling my DBK since I found that I don't really have a serious scope for planet imaging. I consider 8" to be around the minimum to be really a serious planet scope. However, what I have is just a C5 and so I better leave it to someone else who can push it to the limit, use it more properly.

The DBK really shines. The first time I used it with my C5, it outperformed nearly all my old C8 shots taken with a ToUCam Pro. So, if you are really serious about planet imaging, do get one!

If I still want to capture some planet images, I can still use my monochromatic DMK, or my ToUCam Pro - which I still have two at home. :-)

Monday, October 27, 2008

C mount lens as guidescope?

Before I moved to a DSLR, I have tried a couple of prime C mount lenses for some testing deep sky imaging with my DMK, but now since I already bought a DSLR, I am wondering how can I use these C mount lenses effectively.

The longest C mount lens which I had is a Cosmicar 150mm f3.2, and I believe that it's fast and long enough to guide my longest DSLR lens which is a Canon 200mm f2.8L! Given the Cosmicar is so fast, I believe that guide stars are readily available especially when used with a monochromatic DMK camera!

Time to really test this concept.

Goodbye Baader CaK

The filter is now packed and ready to be shipped.

I found that I didn't use it enough for the past days, and actually, I found what attracted me most for the Sun is H-alpha. H-alpha can penetrate through (thin) cloud by overexposure, and you can get prominence at least, of course, it's not possible for surface detail and that's the case for CaK as well. With the poor Hong Kong sky and my very limited time, I would rather give it up at the time being.

The Baader CaK is very good and it has a very special property that it can be scale up very easily with your scope, and there's no other filter which can do something similar. By pushing up the aperture, there're always some surprise waiting for you to discover. Therefore, I would like someone who is more hard working to take over this. It simply wants a better home that my equipment cabinet.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

20081026 Sun (H-alpha and CaK)

Seeing is 3/10, transparency quite low at 4/10.

Telescope: Borg 45ED II
Filter: Coronado Solarmax 40 with BF10 / Baader CaK + APM Herschel Wedge
Camera: DMK 31AF03
Mount: Meade LXD55

The sun is very silent today, no active region and nearly no prominences. We're still somewhere in the solar minimum.

1503 (GMT+8), H-alpha:-

1508 (GMT+8), CaK:-

Saturday, October 25, 2008

20081025 Sun (CaK)

Seeing sucks, I would say it's 1/10, transparency is undefined, cloud keep moving really fast and never stop. I'm lucky (patient?) enough to have a 6s gaps, and here we go!

Telescope: Borg 45ED II
Filter: APM Herschel Wedge + Baader CaK (with ND filter)
Camera: DMK 31AF03
Mount: Meade LXD55

1336 (GMT+8):-

Friday, October 24, 2008

Lunt Solar Systems (the obstruction)

We were told that there will be no central obstruction, and today I found pictures of the filter from their website:


Yes, there's no central obstruction, but there *are* obstructions. Of course, this is kind of expected for the bigger models, however, this is not what I have expected before.

Having said that, their 50mm filter seems a real winner in terms of uniform illumination and bandpass, and it is a huge step ahead of competitions. Without the obstruction, the contrast is way better as well. And for the bigger filter models, we shall wait and see.

Equipment re-organizations

If you have been do astronomy for more than a few years, you will know what I mean.

The History

I started with a Celestron C90 (actually, a pair of 10x50 binoculars) with a camera tripod borrowed from a friend. I soon realized that I need a finder, and after getting a finder, I soon realized that I need a real mount or else I couldn't find a target easily, once I lock, the target lost. ;-)

After getting the mount, I realized that I want more field. A wider field eyepiece is the first step, but then the next step is to replace my C90 with a wide field refractor, so it comes my Tele Vue Ranger. This is the scope which I really used, it goes with me for overnight hiking, wild camping, etc. I even take it down stair to have some quick look, I guess that I have found what I really wanted, not until...

Aperture fever! You got it! My Ranger is my real first lover, I would say, so I will never sell it. I go for a Celestron C8 which is about the biggest that I can move around! That's really a great scope but it certainly wants a bigger mount, so I bought a Giro with Tech2000 drive to do planet imaging! Indoor planet imaging is fun, so much fun that I soon become in a serious lack of sleep. Other than imaging, I still love visual observation the most. Giro is too heavy and so I bought a Unistar mount, I can even go hiking with my C8 now. That was a very successful move. And then I found that I hit some bottleneck, maybe it's due to altazimuth tracking or indoor seeing condition. So I went for a LXD55... But then I found that the real bottleneck was time and energy.

Life Style Change

Life changes... I got two kids and then I soon found that I don't have so much time now, so I downsized from a C8 to a C5. I no longer need big mounts, so I sell my Giro + Tech2000, and the LXD55 is fine enough with a C5 to do some occasional indoor imaging. I don't have much time to sleep, so I couldn't keep up with indoor planet imaging. Instead, I went to the sun. White light, Hydrogen alpha, and then a Herschel wedge for the best white light, and then CaK... And I found portability is the single most important thing so I went for a Borg 45ED II... Very small really, but for the sun, pretty enough.

To push the envelop, I bought a DMK for narrow band solar imaging, and it's really powerful and fun! I also bought a DBK for planet imaging, too.

Life continue to change

I found my permenant lover? Right now I would say that's certainly the sun, but what attracted me most, is still deep sky visual observation, while I couldn't afford the time, nor the heavy gear, I still want to see how should I move on.

On the other hand, DSLR imaging seems interesting and do-able. Let's see how it moves on.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Soldering work

Conducted some soldering work a few days ago. If you have any equipments which require power in the field, you will probably need to do some soldering work yourself.

First up is a field notebook transformer, it can provide various voltages from 12V which is readily available from field sources like Sealed Lead Acid battery. My transformer failed a few months ago and after close inspection, it was found that the fuse inside the original cigarrette lighter plug! To simplify the whole thing, I had removed the plug and installed two alligator clips there so that it can be attached to a Sealed Lead Acid battery directly! Don't worry, there's another fuse somewhere and it won't burn my notebook. However, with these clips in place, the whole setup is simpler and more portable.

Next is a power supply cable for my 1394 hubs. I have a cable made with 9V battery interface, but then the native voltage of 1394 should be 12V instead. So, I bought a cable which has a 2-pin style socket in one end, and I've installed two alligator clips on the other end. Therefore, this cable allows me to connect a Sealed Lead Acid battery to nearly any plug - and I've got so many these kind of plugs from different transformers, for example, to any notebook which is 12V native, to my LXD55, and any other things.

Very neat and convenient.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

20081019 Sun

Seeing was no good like 2-3/10, transparency is great today at 7/10. The active region is basically gone, what we have is just remnant.

Telescope: Borg 45ED II, close up with Tele Vue 2x
Camera: DMK 31AF03.AS
Filter: Coronado Solarmax 40 with BF10
Mount: LXD55 on my Gitzo G1415

1333 (GMT+8), surface detail shot, prominence pushed processed:-

1334 (GMT+8), prominence shot:-

1338 (GMT+8), 2x barlows added:-

1339 (GMT+8), 2x barlows added:-

At least we have some activities!