Friday, July 29, 2011

Sweden Sky

I've a trip to Sweden with my family earlier this month. I was thinking that I might have some chance to take some good starry skies, but then I missed the fact that there's nearly no dark night in summer for places that high in latitude:

For example, at around 10:30p at night, it looks like this:-

Even when it's 1:30am, it's still blue... exposure like 10 seconds will saturate the whole frame.

A Photograph in the Hong Kong Cultural Center

This is an event at the end of 2010, it marks an end to life of my solar imaging virtually. This is a joint event of Hong Kong Birding Society and Hong Kong Astronomical Society:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Trip to Shek O with friends

Planned to go on Friday but the weather forecast was unfavorable, so we switched immediately to go out last night (2011 July 27). Since we're committed to eat our dinner with our own families, we went only until after 8:30pm.

This is the group which I used to observe, they're my hiking friends, my wild camping friends and they're my great brothers in the church. We didn't go out observing together for many years since we have kids at home. After selling most of my equipments recently, I am now using around the same set of equipments like when we first went out observing! So it's a memorial moment indeed.

I didn't bring my camera and tracking mount since I wanted a lighter load despite one of the observing buddies will drive us there. I hurt my foot a little bit when traveling to Sweden so I needed to avoid further injury.

Observing is always fun with friends. We hunted so many deep sky objects under an exceptionally good sky (in Hong Kong standard) when the Milky Way stretched over 90 degrees! It's very rare in Hong Kong these days. It's one of the best skies which I've seen in Hong Kong.

We found all our good old "friends" (observing targets) and we enjoyed sharing the view and of course, the way of finding them. Describing a target is a good way to observe more. Ten years ago, we were using star charts but these days, we have our Android phone and IPad for immediate reference and confirming the targets with the help of various detectors inside these modern mobile phones.

About the equipments:

We have a set of 15x70 and also my Canon 10x30 IS, frankly speaking, I prefer the view of my 10x30 IS for it's just much sharper but not much dimmer. IS is very helpful indeed and I felt in love with it especially with it's huge portability.

The Ranger is still in great shape! In such a dark sky, we could resolve quite many clusters and we could detect any Messier objects that could be found in our charts. Upgrading it by adapting it to a 2" focuser is a great move and now I know why the Pronto was so popular! My NGF-CM works well with the heavy Pentax 40mm XL, and the Pentax is very comfortable with eye glasses or without. It yields over 5.4 degrees of view and it's even wider than all binoculars that we had.

This was the first time that I was really using my 13mm Nagler on deep sky objects and it's again exceptional. I won't sell it without a great reason. Pushing the power from 40mm (12x) to 13mm (37x) is pretty dramatic! The sky was darkened further and the stars were better resolved, some brighter faint fuzzy was rendered with detail to our eyes.

We spent most of the time with the Messier objects around Scorpius and Sagittarius... we visited the Coat Hanger and also we waited for M31 just because we visited it years before.

Visual observation is nice for it's just so simple and fast to pack up all the stuff after around 3 hours of observation.


Some further remarks in Chinese (Cantonese):

今次行程超滿足, 也帶來許多舊回憶和舊感覺,我們大概已經十年沒有再特地出去觀星。沿路走入石澳山仔 (大頭洲),海浪聲和那條山路都很不錯,有一點行夜山的感覺呢!

今時今日我只剩下一支 70mm 望遠鏡,和一支 Canon 10x30 IS 雙筒,這正好跟十年前差不多。不過,現在我那支 70mm 卻可以上 2" 目鏡,這叫它比雙筒更廣闊更好用,我亦多了一只 13mm Nagler,中低倍的表現實在驚人!這目鏡配合 Ranger 實在最好不過。

石澳昨晚的天色很好,銀河清淅可見,應該有超過 90 度,是我有史以來在香港看過最好的銀河!如果進行拍攝,效果應該不錯呢!但因為我上星期扭傷了腳,所以不宜帶太重的儀器,結果還是打消了念頭。後來發現這倒算不錯,因為我們可以花更多時間來觀測,不然只是短短三數小時,恐怕我也只能拍幾張相片而已!



感激志光哥第日要返工都陪我地出去,又多謝阿茂既車出車入與預備,更要感謝天父預備好天氣,叫我地可以舊地重遊,更與天上的老友重逢 :-)

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

A Simple Night with the Starry Sky

I have been reducing my equipments since now I know what I love to do and what I want to do. The sky is very nice these days and so I picked up my stuff and went for a short observation session.

My destination is Pak Tam Chung, not exactly a dark site but it's readily accessible with or even without a private car. By public transportation, I got there at around 1 hour and another hour for coming back, with a total cost of $40 HKD.

I packed everything inside my Fastpack 350 basically. I've my Takahashi TG-SP II, my 450D together with a Samyang 8mm f3.5 and a 50mm f1.8. I didn't bring a lot of lenses since I want to relax and enjoy! Other than that, I placed my Gitzo G106 in a small bag and carry it along side. Oh yes, I also have a couple of star atlas and also my Canon 10x30 IS for visual observation and scanning.

Polar alignment the TG-SP II is not very easy but it does not require great accuracy since I will only use a 50mm lens or a fisheye. That little polar scope works even with one of the cables plugged in, if you plug it both, the objective is obstructed by too much so that you cannot even see Polaris.

Here're the results basically, with a 50mm f1.8 lens, four shots stacked:-

Taken with the fisheye, while the sky was not yet dark, 4 shots stacked. Using a fisheye is harder than imagine in Hong Kong, you will have aeroplane in each shot basically, and you will to keep exposure short and you need luck!

Another one taken with the fisheye, I've to skip a few shots to avoid the aeroplane tracks:-

A picture of myself in front of the fisheye:-

An accidental Iridium flare.

The bus station is just 2 minutes away, I was the only one on the bus in the return trip.

Finally, the Samyang 8mm f3.5 was quite nice, stop it down by one-stop (f5.6 in the next click stop, so it's more than one stop), and stars were basically pinpoint. No focusing required with the huge depth of field, you can trust that infinity mark since the tolerance is huge.

I did scan the milkyway and the whole sky especially the Scorpius area. I didn't check my star charts since I just want to relax, and I just point to what I can remember, and also to scan around like a kid for anything interesting.

This is a convenient place such that kids could go without problem, guess what, I arrived home at 10:00pm... I started packing up my stuff at 9:00pm, and next time, I can pack at 9:05pm or even 9:10pm and I still won't miss the bus.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Skeye for Android

I'm still using my old fashion WM6 mobile phone but my wife has a new Android mobile.

I just found that there's a free application called Skeye which can show the sky with labels like Google Sky Map, and better yet, there is a aiming circle for this application and it's even built with the concept of DSC (Digital Setting Circle) in mind!

To fix it on the OTA, I've seen in youtube that people made brackets specially for it. And now since I only have a small refractor, I'm thinking that a simple sport armband would work, and it's going to be neat and tidy!