Sunday, August 31, 2008

My field notebook transformer

My 12V field notebook transformer was burnt last time when I tried to capture Mars in a nearby playground, I checked the electronics inside but nothing was wrong apparently, so I didn't throw it away.

After I guess now maybe 5-6 months, I managed to check it again, this time, I found the problem. It's right inside the plug, the fuse was burnt! But I was too quick to cut the wires, so instead of replacing the fuse, now I will make direct connection clips to my 12V Sealed Lead Acid battery, and it will simplify my setup as well.

Actually, there's another fuse in the connection chain, so the one inside the plug is actually no necessary.

20080831 Sun

Seeing is poor at 4/10, transparent very bad at 1-2/10. You know it's very hard to have both so bad at once! Anyway, that's life.

Telescope: Borg 45ED II
Filter: Coronado Solarmax 40 + BF10
Camera: DMK 31AF03

The sky was so foggy that visual observation with a 20mm eyepiece rendered zero detail, computer processing brought some surface detail as well as a small prominence on the top left, around 10-11 O'clock position.

1646 (GMT+8):-

The cloud cover was very uneven in thickness, so I couldn't do a prominence shot due to the fact that part of the sun was overexposed and another part was underexposed.

The sun has been moving slowly to a more favorable angle to my home window, so I shall be able to use my C5/PST setup very soon, maybe after one or two months. Actually, I've tried it today but it's still half blocked by then.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

20080830 Jupiter (Ranger and C5)

Jupiter was rather low in the sky, and so please expect a lot of atmospheric dispersion.

First up was my Tele Vue Ranger, with Tele Vue 5x Powermate. This was a test of my recently self adjusted objective, last time the image was so bad and from the images below, I knew the problem was fixed.

2325 (GMT+8):-

2328 (GMT+8):-

TIS DBK 21AF04 was used to capture the images. Seeing was very bad at 1-2/10, transparency was like 7/10, pretty good.

Next up was my Celestron C5 at f/30 by using a Tele Vue 3x barlows, again the poor seeing was further magnified by this setup, so we have virtually zero detail.

2350 (GMT+8):-

Monday, August 25, 2008

Polar scope for TG-SP II revisited

The following photograph shows the original designed configuration:-

You can imagine that it's extremely hard, if not impossible, to get your eye on the eyepiece. I didn't realize that, and with the spot light from the camping site of our totality trip (in the direction of the Polaris), it rendered the whole thing useless.

However, I just found that how about if I mount it to the side way? That is, just to rotate the mounting plate by 90 degrees, maybe it's another story altogether? I really hope so.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Total Solar Eclipse: Starry sky

The sky was really great there, there's some light but the sky was also absolutely dark. Deep sky scanning cannot be any easier, since you could see fuzzy patches on the sky, and then you point your binoculars or telescopes there, those were deep sky objects!

The sky was very bright towards the Polaris due to the spot light inside the camping site. I had a very hard time to polar align my mount. I imagined that if I had a better polar scope, the job could be done far easier. But anyway, I was unexperienced in polar alignment indeed, so I didn't be able to capture anything great.

The following images were stacked by using Deep Sky Stacker and then post processed by Photoshop.

Canon 450D, wider field shots were taken with the kit lens at 18mm with aperture stopped down around 1 stop, those closer shots were taken with a 50mm f/1.8 stopped down around 1 stop. Due to the poor polar alignment I could get, the images were downsized, and my 200mm f2.8 was left inside the camera bag.

20080824 Sun (DSLR)

I've tried to setup my Borg 45ED II again today, to test the DSLR. This time, I tried in both white light and CaK.

Telescope: Borg 45ED II without extension tube
Filter: APM Herschel Wedge + ND3 (white light) or Baader CaK (Calcium K)
Camera: Canon 450D

The combination barely reach focus, but since the image scale is rather small, I would use a barlows both to increase the image size and at the same time, allow more back focus. Therefore, I've used a Tele Vue 3x for the images below.

White Light, 1558 (GMT+8):-

CaK, 1604 (GMT+8):-

CaK, 1605 (GMT+8), longer exposure:-

Friday, August 22, 2008

Total Solar Eclipse: Totality

Nothing special to write about, excellent moment. I told my friends, photographs are just to bring up great memories, they are by no means even a record of this terrific event, absolutely amazing and fantastic and ... Nothing could describe.

Single exposure:-

Combination of several short exposures:-

Combination of three longer exposures:-

That's about all.

Total Solar Eclipse: Partial Eclipse

This is a very terrible process... at first, it seems very clear, but when it's near the totality, cloud moved in and it nearly ruined everything, let's begin with the partial phrase first:-

Cloud moved in as expected... I guess I was among the very first batch of people to remove the solar filter. I was thinking that even if the cloud cleared up, I won't be able to catch the totality since it's all behind the cloud. Therefore, I removed the filter in order not to miss any of those invaluable moments. Don't look into the view finder because it's extremely dangerous.

As you can see from the last frame of the above, the diamond ring appeared just when the cloud cleared up!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

20080819 Double Shadow Transit

I missed that, I arrived home so late that it's then only a single shadow transit... What a pity.

Telescope: Tele Vue Ranger
Barlows: Tele Vue 3x
Camera: DBK 21AF04.AS

For some strange reason, I saw a pale red patch of light on the screen. I remember last time when I was using my Celestron C5, I saw a similar ghost patch. Was that due to poor seeing? Or internal reflection of some sorts? It's even more strange for it appeared in both my Ranger and my C5... I shall investigate further.

The DBK has a hard time to get correct color balance, especially with the chromatic aberration of the Ranger, I've to adjust it after processing.

2252 (GMT+8):-

Monday, August 18, 2008

Total Solar Eclipse - 衣/Clothing

This is probably the shortest part.

Before the trip while I'm packing up my suitcase, I was wondering what sorts of clothing that I should prepare for myself. Normally, in the hot summer, we need some short pants and T-shirts and that's about all. But the weather forecast revealed that it can be as low as 12 degrees Celcius at night!

I bought four sets of summer clothing as mentioned above, wearing one T-shirt and a long pant, and to deal with the potential "cold" weather, I also brought a thicker long sleeve clothing, as well as a water proof jacket, both as the wind shield as well as to keep myself warm.

For the T-shirts, the Hong Kong Astronomical Society has given two specially designed ones for the participants. They're very simple and beautiful, actually, it also helped us to pass the customs since they knew where we were going. They are particularly useful during the Beijing Olympic when security level is much higher than usual.

However, I knew that most of the clothing that I prepared was useless.

First of all, we have no real chance to bath, and so we didn't need to change very often. The dry weather was playing a part too. Despite it's terribly hot during the day, you could hardly get any wet. Finally, we were giiven one more T-shirt sponsored by Bosma, a Chinese telescope manufacturer. So, we actually have far more than enough.


衣食住行, 似乎是生活的基本需要... 但在這個行程之中, "行" 所佔的比重比其它三項都要多!

"住" 差不多差成最不重要, 或許要這樣說, 有地方可以棲身就算了

"食" 其實也差不多, 算是餓不死, 不拉肚子, 也算不錯!

最後, "衣" 也不能理會, 舒適就可以了... 日夜溫差雖大, 但其實晚上也不算太冷... 只有其中一個早上, 我才用穿上一件風褸... 其實不穿也不打緊!

日全食, 就變成了我們一行百多人所唯一進求的東西, 其餘的事情, 也就變得不重要

Sunday, August 17, 2008

20080817 Partial Lunar Eclipse

One word says it all, cloud.

The moon was too low in the sky and so it's very likely to be covered.

Anyway, maybe next time.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

20080816 Sun

Seeing like 4/10, transparency 7/10.

Borg 45ED II, SM40/BF10, DMK 31AF03. Close up with 3x barlows.

Part of the aperture blocked by the window frame.

1343 (GMT+8), surface detail shot, push process the prominence:-

1345 (GMT+8), prominence shot:-

1353 (GMT+8), close up of the prominence on the top of the last shot with 3x barlows:-

Friday, August 15, 2008

20080815 Sun (DSLR)

First time really got chance to try out DSLR with H-alpha solar filter, but I didn't get enough time to do tracking, so I'm doing all things on fixed tripod.

Seeing is very poor since the sun is very low already, transparency dropped due to the low angle as well. The sun is pretty inactive, too. I can see some very subtle prominence.

A very slight hint of the prominence at the lower right corner, 1748 (GMT+8), focus way off... exposure is hard to control for color CMOS, red is way saturated, but green and blue is under... so none of the channel is useful. SM40/BF10/Borg 45ED II at prime focus:-

This is taken with a 2x barlows, red channel is saturated, while green and blue channels are void.

This is taken with a 2x barlows too, red channel is again saturated, green is a bit over and blue is useful but noisy.

DSLR and H-alpha is very hard to do, live view is used but the focus is still very hard to determine. I guess it could be better when the sun is more active. And I guess a modified DSLR should be better, since H-alpha signal is effectively removed by the low pass filter, so now what we're capturing is from signal leakage, and thus the high noise level. Green and Blue channel will be even worse since they both require even stronger signal leakage.

Not an good tool indeed.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

20080813 Moon

Seeing at something like 2-3/10, very poor, I can never make sure the correctness of the focus as well as the collimation which I tried to tweak tonight with the DBK on Jupiter and its satellites. Transparency like 7/10.

C5 at f/20 (Tele Vue 2x), DMK 31AF03.

2246 (GMT+8):-

2251 (GMT+8):-

Very poor seeing, cannot really do collimation well, and the combination of these two factors result in some sort of "double" image.

20080813 Jupiter

I almost lost interest in astronomy after the total solar eclipse trip.

The view was just so impressive and it overwhelmed everything else. The dark sky there was similar, so that I really think it's worthless to do astronomy in Hong Kong.

Anyway, I told myself that I should start doing something or else I will really lost interest.

Seeing at something like 2-3/10, very poor, I can never make sure the correctness of the focus as well as the collimation which I tried to tweak tonight with the DBK. Transparency like 7/10.

C5 at f/30 (Tele Vue 3x), DBK 21AF04, 20080813 2238 (GMT+8):-

I guess I should fine tune the collimation when seeing gets better.

Total Solar Eclipse - 地/Place

Along the way to Weizixia, there are some really beautiful sights.

Weizixia is a small village indeed, but the local government takes this chance to develop its tourist business. This is a special place built to promote tourism, and in the memory of this total solar eclipse. Don't be fooled by the green floor, it's not real grass but instead all plastics. The dome might host a real telescope later, and the building contains two exhibition hall (astronomy related theme), as well as a room for seminar.

I really hope that it will be really used afterward, but I know it's hard.

Along the way, we can see something interesting, for example, this one. It's a snapshot taken with a 200mm lens on the bus, my best guess is that it's some form of tomb, but later I guess that it's not, since the other tombs are just different.

Maybe some people decided to find something useful there?

I called this one "天山一角" similar to another say "冰山一角" (tip of the ice-burg), again, taken with a 200mm lens from quite far away. Visually these mountains are far more contrasty and feature rich with binoculars.

Without water, we have nothing else. Weizixia is great and can survive the small village because of these water, I believe. They're just cold and enjoyable! They are melted from the snow of the mountain above.

A lovely field view, planting Hami melon.

But then people told me, one planet should host two melons, but in order to make one big, the other weaker ones are removed at their early life. Kind of 兩個只能活一個 (two but can only survive one).

The sky used to be identical in any part of the world, totality is an exception. But for the night sky, it should be the same everywhere. However, because of the light pollution from the land (people), we have difference.




這個旅程確實辛苦,甚至有點讓我覺得自己 out of context... 我意思是說平日的生活被切底打亂了...





當然,這樣艱苦的去追求一個夢,一個別人看起來可能沒有價值的理想 - 親身一看日全食...

就更能叫人重新思索人生... 我想,這個行程,這個地方,確實提供了這樣的一個平台!

無悔 ... 這是一個很好的經驗,日全食以外的一個額外禮物。

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Total Solar Eclipse - 住/Accomodations

Somehow I shall say, we're all very surprised when we see these tents! It's exactly the same one as we can see in the news for disaster relief. I was assigned to number 75.

This is a VIP grade tent, originally they said it's of those Mongolian style, but it ended up like this. These tents are very big, you have four very big beds inside, when I said it's big, I mean they're at least enough for two persons to sleep very comfortably.

We have a power bar inside so that you can charge up your batteries, I guess it's the single most important feature. The bed is clean, I would say.

Inside the tent, we got a lot of room for storing equipments. My friend actually placed his mount inside my tent since the sky was a little bit darker near my tent.

Inside the tent, we got a single light bulb, but it's very bright enough for this kind of sky.
The Hong Kong Astronomical Society did bring something to show our areas, we have some flashing light (light pollution?!) at night too. The tent has extensive lighting, and they won't even switch it off during the night. A big enemy for stargazers, but then the clear dark sky is not too much affected, you can still see the milkyway and so many other deep sky objects clearly with unaided eyes. The only problem is that, you can never got really dark adapted under this kind of situation.

Worst yet, the lighting is not very well designed. I would say without them, I can see the roads, but with the light flooding into your eyes, you cannot really see clearly when you're walking toward the lighting.

You got to find something interesting to shoot during the day. Actually, this kind of tent is very comfortable with the local weather at night. Gentle wind is shielded very effectively, if you were to sleep outside, it could be pretty cold combined with around 12 degree celcius ambient temperature.

However, the colouration plus the materials for building up these tents are not good during day time. When the sun comes out, you immediately know! Light can leak from any places, and the intense heat can really built up fairly quickly. People measured that it's well over 40 degrees Celcius.

So the best way is to sit outside the tent under its shadow, with some very gentle wind, it can then become a bit more comfortable. But if you step inside the tent door, even with the door wide open, you feel the heat inside.

Don't get me wrong, I should have said those were curtains but not door. There is no door, no lock, and nothing. You risk putting your equipments there unattended, but somehow you really have no choice.

Some hard working guys decided to take chance to try out the equipments, but I dare to keep my energy for the real moments.

There are some trees around, but they won't affect the eclipse viewing. I never tried my setup on the sun those days, since I know it's not hard at all, and worst yet, you cannot do anything even if there's anything missing, you really even can't buy a screw there.

Actually, I love this approach the most. Even to make the filter during the wait.

We spents two night there, there's plenty of water supply, I mean you have several long arrays of tapes. But there's no bath room. Gentlemen and ladies were cleaning themselves in front of those tapes by their own means, but I choose to clean briefly only with a small towel. The best thing I could do is to wash my hair and that's about my limit.

The toilets are nice in the first day. You got water to flush, but I guess maybe some people are not used to flush water after usage, so it became hell like in the next morning. Luckily, the local staff were nice enough to clean up the mess afterward. But still, some friends got constipations because of the toilet.

If you asked me, I would suggest two simple things:-

1. add a shinny, maybe silver color, cover for each tents and I believe the tent will become very comfortable to stay inside during the day time

2. make two shelters in the place where we have two big arrays of tape, one side for gentlemen and another side for the ladies... so that you can at least "bath" more freely

Anyway.... it's still a very "impressive" experience!

Four nights without bathing....


對城市人來說, 這確實是一個鬼地方!

就說沒有地方洗澡已經就夠了... 聽說當地人沒有洗浴的習慣, 所以就是貴賓團也是沒有沖身到方的安排!

但試想想, 一個一千人都不夠的響村, 竟然可以召待二千人以上, 其實已經很不錯了!!!

這個營地要留上幾天, 其實不是太大問題, 但慘痛的是, 我們很多人都是趕了兩天路來的, 兩天的疲累, 臭臭的身軀, 竟然沒有地方可以清潔一下, 實在有點是痛, 但無論如何... 我只能說, 我不是為洗澡而來的!!!

這個地方的設計也可以... 床很大, 真的很大... 沙就是多, 但整天也看見有人灑水, 很不錯吧!

在場有 Internet 供應, 收費也不貴, 但那兩天, 我就乾脆讓自己斷線幾天, 反正日間天氣那麼熱, 也不好去上網! 晚上星光閃閃, 幹嗎要對著電腦?

其實在這個行程中, 可謂居無定所... 在火車上過了一晚, 因為空調不好, 睡得不好... 然後兩晚在這個繁星點點的地方, 當然不願多睡, 最後一晚在巴士上坐了一整夜! 好不容易才逃回香港溫暖的家!

過程中, 先是看日食的熱情, 才忍受了那幾夜! 日食後, 就是想家的感覺, 就足夠了那差不多兩晚在車上的苦情... 看來, 人只要知道一切都只是暫時的, 短暫的, 忍受似乎算不上甚麼!

Total Solar Eclipse - 行/Travel

Total solar eclipse is when the shadow of the moon cast on you. So, it's a meeting of the shadow of the moon, the sunshine and you on the planet Earth.

However, it's not always easy especially if you stay in the same place. Total solar eclipse is not a rare event if you can travel. Life is funny in the sense that you can move, you can fight for something you really wanted.

In order to chase the shadow of the moon, we chose to travel.

Weizixia is a very remote place, a small town with less than 1000 people. In order to be there, we took a very early bus from Hong Kong to Shen Zhen, three friends with a common goal started there. As a amateur astronomer, we brought our gears as well.

So after that bus trip, we took taxi to the Shen Zhen airport. And after more than 8 hours of flight, we arrived Urumqi, the only big airport that we can reach. China is really big! It has a saying that if you don't even go to Xinjiang, you don't know how big China is. Yes, it's real. I can't imagine to fly that far but yet we were still within China.

It has a 2 hours difference, but for the sake for administrative ease, we share the same clock. So after our dinner, we arrived the train station nearly on the next day, that means we have travelled for more than 20 hours already to this point, but we were still far away from Weizixia.

Actually, I loved to travel on train. You can sleep along the trip and thus you actually use zero time for travelling, nothing is wasted. However, this is not the case this time. The compartment is very crowdy and hot at night, I couldn't sleep well until maybe 3:00am.

Ok, after another 9 hours, we arrived Hami.

The next big city that we can reach with mass transit. We still have another 11 hours of bus travel, and now we met all the friends from Hong Kong, over 140 of us! The local police even arranged a police car to open way for us.

How long did we travel? I forgot. Just extremely exhausting, no way to take a bath. I don't even brush my teeth. Sugar free chewing gum is the only viable option.

Upon arrival, we found our "tent" is very undesirable as well, but then we have no choice. Anyway, we all say, if we can see the totality, everything is worth.
And you know, we actually can:-

So, life is a means to create "coincidence". We travelled so far and so long to chase the shadow, and I know many people did try, but only part of their rendezvous success... since cloud can move in to ruin every effort.


日全食就是一個巧合, 但這是一個可以捕捉的巧合...

你要守株待免, 可能等一生也沒有這機會, 但只要你去追, 幾乎每年都有機會!

我們為著這個月球的影子, 跑到老遠的小村落, 遇到許多本來沒有機會相遇的人, 也看到許多本來沒有機會看到的事情!

生命就是製造相會的能力, 有生命就有選擇權; 但當然, 一切還當看天意

我們追趕了好幾天, 險些就讓一點點雲破壞了一切!

機會 - 於人來說當然要爭取, 但努力了, 卻不一定會成功!

似乎很悲, 但這卻正是生命有趣的地方!!!

看到了! 這當然極其中要, 但過程當中的領悟和感受, 也十分寶貴

這是認識世界, 也是認識自己的好機會...

我碰上了一首好歌, 碰上了一班好人, 碰上了月影, 也遇上了自己的某一面!