Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Astronomy Corner

This morning, while I'm looking at the window which is my astronomy corner, and it's now full of other stuff and plants, then I proceed to write the following.

Earliest stage: I was using my Tele Vue Ranger on my Gitzo G106 with Manfrotto 410 head.  I scanned around from the limited window.  I lived in the city center but it was an old factory area and thus, it's pretty dark at night.  In the days of good transparency, I could identify quite a number of constellations there.  In addition to my Ranger, I would also use my Pentax 10x50 PCF III.

Planet stage:  I was using virtually the same setup.  I acquired a Philips ToUCam and begin the work of hand tracking with a 5x Powermate!  Guess what, it's doable and I could resolve a number of cloud belts on the Jupiter, and I could resolve the Cassini division of Saturn as well!

Encouraged with these results, I was tempted to go tracked planet imaging.  I've conducted a series of feasibility test to see what's the biggest aperture that I could use.  I've tried a Nexstar 5, and I finally settled with a C8.  The C8 is a very big scope when used with an open window, but then I found a Giro mount with Tech2000 GiroDrive could do the work!  I considered it a huge success since I managed to capture the great opposition of Mars, and some nice moments like the double shadow transit of those Galileo satellite of the Jupiter.

But then my kid grew up and they would like to buy a piano, so I've to reduce in size since my astronomy corner has to shrink in size, there's simply insufficient room for me to keep those bigger gears.  In the hope to get better image, I sold my alt-az tracking Giro mount and replaced it with an equatorial mount (LXD55).  I have replaced my C8 with a C5.

With new imagers like DMK 31AF03, DMK 21AU04, DBK 21AF04... I could approach or even exceed the images taken with my C5 than my C8!

Solar stage:  Guess what, I was addicted to solar imaging and in particular H-alpha.  And I also got a fantastic deal on a second hand Solarmax 40.  On the other hand, I found that with my C5, I couldn't do much no matter how I squeeze but I found H-alpha imaging more or less undeveloped by then.

At first, I couldn't understand why my ToUCam H-alpha images were so bad!  But one day, a thin layer of cloud moved into the field of view and I then know there must be something wrong with the color camera.  I found that with my color camera, there're two correct exposures!  Then, I began to study the inside of the CCD and I found the Bayer color filter matrix was the problem!  Only 1/4 of the pixels were useful in H-alpha and thus, I ordered the b/w chip to replace for my ToUCam Pro!  Guess what, I've stucked myself with at least four or five ToUCam Pro in total, but they all suffered from premature death.  Blame me on my poor soldering skill?

I've found that monochromatic imaging would be the key.  Thus, I took the plunge.  I was among the very first people who ordered a DMK 31AF03 from a Australian non-astronomy dealer.  It gave me huge success over b/w modified ToUCam Pro due to its much better circuitry and uncompressed high frame rate.

With this success, I proceed to do imaging of the sun in Calcium K, and then I also did white light with a Herschel Wedge.  Those were really lovely memory.

Minimizing stage:  I've a very clear calling from above, so I quit my job and go for the seminary.  And after my graduation, my wife also got the same call and thus, In order to survive and to make myself "lighter" for any new challenges, I began to sell most of my astronomy stuff.  Right now, I only have my aged Tele Vue Ranger which no body would buy it since the lens was not in good condition.  I've sold all my solar filters except an aged Thousand Oaks Type 2+ which was filled with "millions" of pinholes.  I've even sold my TG-SP II which I planned to use for wide field imaging for life time.

Now, I may still do what I used to do in the early beginning and in fact, I still have more than I had in the earliest stage.  I am sure that I shall continue with this wonderful hobby.

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