Saturday, June 23, 2018

Mars Power

Wow.  Three and a half inches of rain in the past 24 hours.

That is a lot of rain for central Virginia.

The astronomy forecast for the remainder of the weekend doesn't look good.  There may be a brief window for viewing Mars tomorrow morning, but I'm not counting on it.

Shoo, clouds!

So, in lieu of fresh images of Mars this weekend, this post is going to feature some of the equipment that I use during my driveway astronomy sessions.

Specifically, what do I use to keep everything powered during an all night session?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Weekly Mars, a Double, a Little Gem, and the Lagoon

The astronomy weather forecast for this morning by Astrospheric was right on the money.  The sky was nearly cloudless, completely moonless, had average seeing, and had average transparency.

Good enough to bring the telescope out.  And, I didn't have to burn a vacation day from work to do it.


 After getting the equipment situated, I attached the imager and immediately captured many tens of thousands of frames of Mars for "seeing conditions going south" insurance purposes.  I then continued my survey of the sky surrounding Mars -- like I did in last week's post, "Mars' Neighbors."

Mars is still in Capricornus so I thought I'd take a look at the stars that define that constellation's shape.  I'm pretty pleased that I did!  At least one of Capricornus' stars is a double.  These two stars, Algedi Secunda and Algedi Prima, are separated by only a little over 6 minutes.  To the unaided eye, they appear as one star!

Algedi Secunda and Algedi Prima

Diffraction spikes are pretty!

Just to the right of this double, by about 8 degrees, is another gem of a find!

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Mars' Neighbors

Another cloudy weekend.

Friday morning looked good, however.  I took yet another vacation day from work so I could take a long post-astronomy nap after staying out all night with the telescope.

Mars rise was actually just a few minutes after midnight.  By the time I had all of the equipment outside and set up, Mars was already high enough in the sky that I could start observing.

Its southern polar ice cap was visible and so brilliantly white through my eyepiece that my jaw dropped.  I quickly put the imager on and captured a few tens of thousands of frames for insurance's sake; I wanted images of Mars, but I'd rather have them when Mars is higher in the sky -- less atmospheric murk through which to peer. 

While the Astrospheric forecast said that seeing was going to get better as dawn approached, if I'd waited and the clouds rolled in, I'd be really unhappy.

Mars was to cross the meridian shortly before 0500 and that would probably be optimum for imaging.

So, I bided my time by exploring the neighborhood around Mars.
Well, at least the neighborhood of Mars from our perspective here on Earth.  Mars is currently in the constellation, Capricornus.

There are some interesting things to see around Capricornus.  Some images to follow after the jump break and, of course, the latest image of Mars!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Focus on Mars

No new images this week, I'm afraid.  Clouds and rain for the entire week.

Don't worry, though.  I'm continuing the focus on Mars anyway!

One of the frustrating things about using a telescope at high magnification is getting perfect focus on an object.

Touch the focus knob to give it a twist and you'll impart vibrations on what you are seeing through the eyepiece or the imager . . .  Wait a few seconds for the image to stop shaking, evaluate the focus and try again.  And again.  

Change magnification by swapping the eyepiece or the imager?  You'll need to adjust focus again.  And again.

I've mitigated this with a DIY project to add electronic control of the stock focuser that came with my SkyWatcher.

Here is a photo of the focus controller's display showing the temperature, focus tube position, and bar graph of relative position.  The display is covered with dew, hence the streakiness of the photo -- pointing out the importance of water resistance in astro gear. 🙂

Focuser OLED Display

The display will stay illuminated while the focus tube is moving and will timeout after a few seconds of the tube stopping.

Focus on Mars ahead!

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