Thursday, July 30, 2009

20090730 Sun

Rainy, sunny and cloudy these days. It sounds funny but it's real, and therefore, if you have to shoot, you need to be patient. Everything taken with my trusty setup consisting of the modified Tele Vue Ranger with a JMI NGF-CM, Coronado Solarmax 40 with BF10, and then tracked by Meade LXD55. With the introduction of the new tube ring, the whole setup is far more stable and much better balance and it is a pleasure to use.

First is a full disc shot taken with the reducer, 1612 (GMT+8):-

Push up the exposure to show the prominence better, 1613 (GMT+8):-

And then I put the Tele Vue Powermate 5x in the optical chain, I believe that I've forgotten to remove the reducer this time.

1616 (GMT+8), this active complex is getting weaker:-

1617 (GMT+8), the small emerging (or dying) active spot:-

1619 (GMT+8), finally, one of those tall prominence:-

Nice day indeed, and when I packed up my stuff, it's totally covered.

20090729 Moon

Hazy sky, captured with a Canon 100-400mm wide open with Kenko 2x (f/11 effective), contrast detected autofocusing in LiveView mode. I need better sky to test again.

ISO 800, spot metering, IS off, RAW, stacked of 10 frames by Registax V5.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

20090729 Sun

Seeing 4/10, transparency 6/10. Tele Vue Ranger with NGF-CM, Solarmax 40 with BF10, DMK 31AF03 tracked by Meade LXD55.

1446 (GMT+8), with reducer:-

1452 (GMT+8), with 5x Tele Vue Powermate:-

That active complex is quite interesting, the few bright spots at the middle are nice as well.

DIY reducer experiments

I have two small objective lens, one is 30mm f=122 and the other one is 21mm f=200mm. They might be suitable as the optics for a webcam/eyepiece reducer project.

For the mounting, I've some cheap 1.25" filter lying around and I can remove the filter glass and replace them with one of the lens above. The 30mm lens is a bit too big for this purpose, but still, I can stick the lens on the filter mount so that they could be attached to eyepiece/webcam. The 21mm lens fits nicely within the filter mount.

Both of them works basically. However, with my transformed Ranger, I found that both of them failed to reach focus, I need around 5mm more in-travel. So, I will probably need to give up.

Having said that, there's still one more way to try, i.e. to mount that 21mm lens directly inside the BF10 for solar imaging, but I will need to invent a good detachable way.


Put that 21mm lens inside the BF10 still failed, since this lens has rather long focal length and the big reduction factor requires more in-travel.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

20090728 Sun

Seeing 2/10, transparency 6/10 without much cloud around.

1645 (GMT+8), with reducer:-

1646 (GMT+8), with reducer:-

1645 (GMT+8), with 5x:-

Monday, July 27, 2009

For Sales: Planet Imaging Solutions

Let me know if you're interested. Here is what's included in the deal:

First of all, this is a small notebook from Sony.

The detail specifications:

- Sony Vaio U3 ultra small notebook
- 820 grams only
- Size: 185 x 140 x 32mm
- Crusoe 933MHz CPU, 512M RAM, 20G hard disk
- RJ45 network, PCMCIA, USB * 2, 1394 * 1, VGA out, audio in/out
- Battery life around 1.2 hour (rarely used)
- Installed with Windows XP and Ubuntu Linux

Mine is upgraded to 512M RAM and even comes with a PCG-DA1S cable to connect to VGA directly. I will also include a Asus Wi Fi as well as a USB 2.0 PCMCIA card as well. No drop frame when used with the ToUCam Pro.

Secondly, this is a ToUCam Pro with an extra case if you prefer the newer look. The original lens is included as well as an Mogg adapter to connect to any 1.25" focuser, threaded for filter. Finally, a Baader UV/IR blocker is included. This filter is very useful for imaging Mars.

All items for $420 USD including paypal fee and shipping to US or similar destinations, or you can take the package without the notebook at $120 USD shipped.

A very nice free filter box

I have several color filters, plus two filters for my Herschel wedge. Those color filters do have their own box, but the cover is made by glass, so I never use them in the field since they will be broken very easily and it could be quite dangerous. And for other filters, I found it quite troublesome to open each box, take them out and put them back every time... Having so many boxes at once is pretty bad.

Today, I've received a new filter which is for my Canon 100-400mm, and that box fits all of my filters very nicely. Great free box.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

20090723 New active region forming

Most people will forget about the sun after those special events, but as a solar "addict", I definitely won't. I even hear someone who had become a solar addict after watching a couple of totality.

I setup my Ranger with the new ring, and now the 410 head can be removed and that improves the stability greatly. Don't get me wrong, the 410 head is very stable, but that's its weight and the raised profile on an offset platform which upset the performance of the whole LXD55, now it works very nicely. Good news to me indeed, since it's less than $10 USD to solve this problem.

Let's go back to the photographs, you can see three very bright dots near the center of the solar disc. The prominence loop which we saw yesterday was gone. As you can see from the above shot, the sky was pretty covered... It's not bad since I managed to take two shots!

1509 (GMT+8):-

1511 (GMT+8):-

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ranger fully transformed

Today I used the tube ring of my Canon 100-400mm and it does not work very well, it actually slided when we're observing, but as expected, there is no room for the scope to drop out. And after the observation, I got a new ring which is a third party ring for the Canon 70-200mm f2.8 and it does not fit well. Again, this is expected and I placed some padding material and now it's very firm unlike this morning. This ring will stay with my Ranger and the ring for the Canon 100-400mm can be returned to its intended partner :-)

Now the transformed Ranger is ready for any serious battle under the starry sky or sunny sky!

2009-07-22 Partial Solar Eclipse in Hong Kong

I decided to stay since the weather forecast is not too favorable. The venue for my observation is Nam Cheong playground which is around 10 minutes of walk from my home, and thus I can be more aggressive in taking more equipments.

Equipment Line up:-

1. Tele Vue Ranger with Solarmax 40 and BF10
2. DMK 31AF03.AS for H-alpha capturing, controlled by my Sony Vaio U3 (too old!!!)
3. Takahashi TG-SP II on Gitzo G106, powered by the notebook USB port!
4. SLA 12V 7aH battery
5. Konica Minolta Z5 12x zoom DC with Baader solar filter
6. Canon 450D with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L with Thousand Oaks Type 2+ for white light
7. A couple of eclipse shade


1. ahmou
2. Johnny and family
3. My wife and her brother
4. Evelyn and her sister
5. and a couple of passerby

Data and lesson learnt:-

1. Eclipse starts at around 08:14:00 as estimated from a video clip (less accurate)
2. Eclipse ends at around 10:45:06 as estimated from another video clip
3. Should go to the venue earlier since I have to explain and talk to the passerby and thus I cannot setup my equipments as fast as I can
4. There should be a backup for battery, I have but it's only for the cameras but not for the mount this time, the 12V SLA is really running out of juice during the last 10 minutes or so.
5. My 12V 7Ah battery should be dying, I believe it has less than 4Ah capacity right now.


This is my first shot, and this is my only H-alpha shot since this scope has been so busy:-

Some selected pictures:-

Here we begin, I was too late to setup my stuff. I don't expect so much questions from passerby but I enjoyed talking to them.

Most friends arrived, it's fun to have people sharing the view and the joy.
The moon matches on:-
The wisdom of some people around the spot (街坊的智慧):-

The natural pin-holes projections:-

Another natural filter, i.e. the cloud:-
Work in progress:-
DC and eclipse shade (各施各法):-
DSLR and my Thousand Oaks (各施各法):-

The eyepiece view should be the best of all:-

Last bit of bite, see you all next time!

Video clips: they could be boring but if you know cantonese, it could be quite fun to listen how people response to the view, and also what we chat during the show:-

Bad, YouTube does not allow longer clip, anyway, here's what the clip revealed:

"First contact time was around 8:14:00 as calculated from the movie clip, the voice recorded is a funny bonus. It's good to record the response from friends and passerby."

The observation site, and the setup, and the friends. Observing with friends are so nice and the joy are multiplied:-

All the way until the end, the 12V 7Ah battery was running out of juice... it's unexpected, maybe the DMK is sucking up too much energy? The mount should be pretty energy efficient... anyway, got to prepare another battery box as back up next time.

ends at around 11:28, i.e. 10:45:06

Finally, an animated GIF:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

20090721 Sun

Just setup my Ranger/Solarmax to see if there's any big prominences around. I really want to see the moon cuts into the prominences, but it seems like the chance would be very small, there's no big prominence today and probably no tomorrow as well. Very low activity indeed.

1509 (GMT+8):-

1510 (GMT+8):-

The sky is pretty fuzzy today despite it looked quite good, maybe there's a layer of thin cloud moving around.

Final Preparations

1. Site visit: I went to the potential observation spots this morning at around the time for the eclipse tomorrow so that I know exactly where the sun will be, and whether the composition would be good enough.

a. Sycamore/Willow playground: this is a very small playground (mainly football and basket ball field) very near my home, this place is alright for the observation since the sun cleared all the obstacles already. However, the surroundings are not as nice for wide field shot.

b. Nam Cheong playground: this is a much bigger playground for 5 more minutes of walk, this place is alright for the observation since the sun cleared most obstacles already. However, there is a few tall buildings around which could block the view, and there are so many people there in the morning. The composition would be nice for wide field shot due to the trees, etc.

This is outside of the playground, less people, just the road side:-

This is inside the playground, there's a sitting bench around:-
A few minutes later in the same place:

On using simulation software, the sun might be blocked by that tall building during the first contact, so I will go to (a) instead. But (b) is more flexible indeed... still waiting for confirmation, maybe decide on spot!

I will go to Nam Cheong park for the sake of my friends.

2. Time synchronizations: I've updated my phone clock, my cameras' clock so that I know better when the eclipse will begin, I will also use the time from GPS.

3. Decision, decision, decision:

I will need to finalize my equipments as follow.

a. H-alpha should not be missed because it's great for close up, white light close up is meaningless since there's no sunspot. Therefore, I shall bring my Ranger, Solarmax 40 with BF10, and they will be tracked on my TG-SP II. I will need that 12V SLA to power my notebook as well as my DMK.

b. White light close up will be done with my Canon 100-400mm handheld, the Kenko 2x will be left at home with the absence of sunspots. Thousand Oaks Type 2+ will be used for the filtering. I shall also take a few wide field shots (at 17mm or 50mm?) say in around 10-15 minutes interval.

c. White light close up video will be done with my KM Z5 with DIY baader filter, it will do its work on the TG-SP II as well, mostly from the very beginning (5 minutes), the very middle say 20 minutes, and the end of the eclipse (5 minutes).

d. An umbrella and a big bottle of water for myself.

4. Finalizing everything:

The business end, one scope for H-alpha close up and one DC for video recording in white light:-

The dirty end, I really felt sad, Windows is running slower and slower everyday, and now I can only use 3.5 fps in order not to have any drop frame, even 7 fps will not do, crazy indeed! Time to upgrade my notebook (but where is the money?!):



1. Fastpack 350:

- Canon 450D with kit lens for wide field shots
- I gave up the Canon 10x30 IS
- All filters were placed on the top part
- Ranger/Focuser in the bottom half
- KM Z5, filter, DMK also in the bottom half
- Bottle of water on the side

2. Another bag

- All cables (hopefully really all)
- Mount, counter weight, battery
- Mounting plate

3. Canon 100-400mm in its own bag, should fix on my belt

4. Tripod handheld, one more umbrella

I hope nothing important were left at home.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Saturn with Canon 100-400mm and Kenko 2x

It's still small, especially when the ring is closed these days. Anyway, the ring is detectable with this setup. And I guess Jupiter should be more interesting.

Out of focus, you can see the diffracton ring:-

The second one is better focused:-

Both capture video EOS Camera Movie Record and processed by Registax V5, 150% resized.

Testing: One... Two... Three....

Functional Units:

A. Mount: I prefer to use my TG-SP II since it's much lighter, but my LXD55 can hold far more stuff and stand quite a lot of imbalance, and give more stability

B. Capturing:

- White light: I will be using my Canon 100-400mm at 400mm plus a Kenko 2x, that would give 800mm effective focal length, Canon 450D will be used for image capturing and it will be controlled via a timer release. Thousand Oaks Type 2+ will be used for filtering.

- H-alpha: I will be using my Tele Vue Ranger at prime focus, maybe with a reducer or barlows for closer up, DMK 31AF03 will be used for image capturing and it will be controlled via my Sony Vaio U3. Coronado Solarmax 40 with BF10 will be used for filtering.

- Video: I will be using my Konica Minolta Z5 in video mode, 640x480x30fps at maximum zoom. A small DIY solar filter will be used for the filtering.


- Since my Ranger was not yet mounted via a ring, so I have problem balancing it with the Canon 100-400mm. That means I will have to use my LXD55 to handle that imbalance. And that would add significant bulk to the setup. The H-alpha setup is also the most troublesome one which requires a computer, a bigger battery, etc.

I shall try to capture the sun in H-alpha tomorrow to see if there's any big prominence around. If it does not, I will skip this one altogether.

The Minimal Setup:

- Gitzo G106 with Takahashi TG-SP II, 6A SLA
- Scope stuff mounting plate
- Konica Minolta Z5 with DIY filter for video recording
- Canon 100-400mm with Kenko 2x and Canon 450D, Thousand Oaks Type 2+, timer release

that is, the Ranger side is replaced by a small 12x zoom DC.

That would be very portable and easy to setup. Adding the H-alpha part will mean double the weight, and that might not be feasible and not worth the effort.


Additional Remarks at night:

Just a sudden thought, maybe I can take H-alpha with my Ranger as well as white light video with my KM Z5 before and after the first contact?

And then switch to Canon 100-400mm with 2x afterward?

The balance issue could be resolved by then.

A solar filter for my 12x DC

I had made so many of them in the past, but none of them were as elegant as this one. This one consists of the 52mm adapter, a small piece of baader film, plus a 52mm red filter. Originally, I wanted to take out the red glass but the retaining ring is too firmly attached, so I gave up, instead, I sandwiched the baader film between the red filter and the adapter.

Here's the result:

It does not look good, but it's more related to the sky condition today. And the bottomline is that, I will only use this DC (Konica Minolta Z5) for video recording.

20090720 Sun

The typhoon left rather quickly. Today we got around 60-70% of cloud cover, and the weather forecast is very favorable on the eclipse day locally, and at least I won't be making too bad a decision to stay.

Today I tried to shoot in white light again with my camera lenses so that I can see how to make good use of them. Autofocus by using LiveView contrast detection is better than conventional DSLR focusing when there is no sunspot to focus, but contrast detection using the solar disc edge could be very accurate! Better yet, you're not limited by the aperture, autofocus is available even at f/11!

Again, I tried the 200mm f2.8L with Kenko 2x as well as the Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L with kenko 2x.

200mm with 2x:-

400mm with 2x:-

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Typhoon number nine here!

Water are sneaking in from my (south west facing) observing window, the rubber insulation were all wet and this is the first time that I have seen this within ten years.

Here's a section copied from the Hong Kong Observatory website:-

= begin quote =

Tropical Cyclone Bulletin

Here is the latest Tropical Cyclone Bulletin issued by the Hong Kong Observatory.

The Increasing Gale or Storm Signal, No. 9, is in force.

This means that winds are increasing significantly.

At 3 a.m., Typhoon Molave was centred about 40 kilometres north of Hong Kong Observatory (near 22.7 degrees north 114.2 degrees east) and is forecast to move west-northwest at about 25 kilometres per hour across Shenzhen.

Molave is still rather close to Hong Kong. Gale force winds are generally affecting Hong Kong. Winds will strengthen further with heavy rain and squalls. As local winds turn southwesterly gradually, places previously sheltered from the winds will become exposed. Members of the public should take precautions as soon as possible. In the past hour, the maximum sustained winds recorded at Lau Fau Shan and Tai Mei Tuk were 91 and 88 kilometres per hour with maximum gusts 113 and 134 kilometres per hour respectively. A high water level of 2.9 metres above chart datum is expected at Quarry Bay between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. The high water level may cause flooding in low-lying areas in Sheung Wan.

= end quote =

Friday, July 17, 2009

20090717 Sun taken with Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L USM

Taken with Canon 100-400mm at 400mm wide open f/5.6, Thousand Oaks Type 2+ Glass, IS turned off, tracked by Meade LXD55.

Taken with Canon 100-400mm at 800mm wide open f/11 (Kenko 2x), Thousand Oaks Type 2+ Glass, IS turned off, tracked by Meade LXD55.

Both autofocused by LiveView contrast detection, I would say the result is very excellent, sharp and well defined edge. Now I will need some sunspots around to conduct any futher test, and maybe I shall use this combination for the upcoming partial eclipse and any total solar eclipse trip that I might go in the future.

This solar filter is originally bought for my Tele Vue Ranger and it's a perfect fit with this lens, even better than the Tele Vue Ranger!

A very tight fit, just perfect! Judging from the result, I guess that I have a very good reason to keep the Kenko 2x.

Enhancing the DIY solar filter cell for my Canon 10x30 IS

I make it something like a box:-

This is the inside of this box, notice that I have sticked some soft foam inside in order to create a better fit. Once the 10x30 is stucked in, it will not drop off by itself, even with strong shake. Of course, extreme care must still be exercised due to the intrinsic risk of solar observations.

This is how it looks like when fitted:-