Month: February 2011

Discovery’s last journey

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Early STS concepts: Image from Wikipedia
Early STS concepts: Image from Wikipedia

A historical decision (article in Dagens Nyheter) been taken in NASA for a while ago retiring all old space shuttless  (a.k.a. STS: Space Transportation Missions) starting with Discovery. I remember back in my early years reading my grandfather’s space magazines originating from the 70:ies regarding the plans for constructing these advanced ships, taking people out for space missions. Back then, it felt almost like science fiction. I recall the accidents with Challenger and Columbia as if there were yesterday and what devastating consequences they had upon the astronauts families, NASA’s budget and the common view on the risks astronauts are taking trying to conquer and master space. It never was an easy job considering all the risks and accidents that happened through all the years even if the shuttles gave a false safety thinking in comparison to the Apollo missions back in 60:ies. Regardless the STS program was made to be longlived and it has outlived many previous manned space programs in time length. I personally will miss these shuttles that wrote history (Hubble Space Telescope, International Space Station. MiR), but this retirement means also the opening of a new era taking humans further deeper into space in future missions, such as the planet Mars!

http://www.nasa.gov/

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/main/index.html

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The sun through Mylar filter

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The sun through Mylar filter
The sun through Mylar filter

Mylar filter blocks most of the visible light spectra (up to 99.9%) in difference to an H-alpha (see my previous blog entry). If you want to manage observing sun spots cost efficiently and cheap then Mylar filter would do the job for you. Although an H-alpha filter would provide you with more details such as solar prominences, the Mylar filter is just allowing you to watch the sun’s cromosphere and there fore just sunspots. However, since this filter is lightweighted, can be carried easily around and can be mounted on ordinary camera lenses that would allow you to witness a Venus/Mercurius passages or a solar eclipse if you want to travel somewhere without carrying around heavy telescope equipment.

I personally prefer Baader’s astrosolar filter due to good quality. A Mylar filter must be kept dry and in room temperature if you want it to be long lived. It is nessesary to inspect your filter before attaching it on your telescope/camera lens since even a small pinhole can damage your eyes permanently during observation, without even noticing!

The best way to inspect your filter before using it, is by placing it infront of a flash light in a dark room. That way you would easily be able to spot any damage on it’s surface.

To photograph the sun doesn’t only require you to have the right settings on your camera, but you have to take multiple shots in order to get a clear shot spared from atmospherical distortions which are more intense and common during daytime. Most astrophotographers are using explicitly a web camera to shoot planetary objects, allowing them to get rid of unwanted images by running the video sequence through a software such as Registax. I’ve got a Youtube video showing you how these atmospherical distortions look like, by clicking here (Beware of the sound).

The image above shows the sun spots 1161 and 1162 as they appeared on Sunday 21 February 2011. Canon EOS 50D, ISO 250, Shutter speed 1/8000, WB: Custom, William Optics Megrez 72 Doublet APO, Image was processed in Adobe PS.