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.

Orion’s Nebula M42

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Orion Nebula M42
Orion Nebula M42

Having a cold and a 39 degrees fever I couldn’t resist from not observing tonight. Tonight’s object was Orion’s nebula (a.k.a. M42). I had to try my new SynGuider, so things went slowly at the beginning while trying to understand the menu options and also attempting to aligning my newtonian with my Megrez 72.

The reason I was using my newtonian this time was because my FluorStar is sent for service maintainance. Unfortunately I’ve got some troubles with my crayford focuser and so I needed someone to check it out.

Regardless, both the newtonian and my Synguider did an excellent job tonight autoguiding a star and allowing me to take a shot on Orion’s nebula. I used ISO1600, experimenting with different exposures. At this particular shot it was 75 seconds.

Skywatcher’s Synguider

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Skywatcher Synguider
Skywatcher’s Synguider

Having limited time to spend while trying to set up all the equipment, level the mount parallel to the ground, adjust the balance of your mount with the telescopes attached on it, polar align your telescope, if you have a GOTO mount then you may need to star align, … The list can be made long and supposedly you do road astronomy then your time is consumed by many tasks this late evening planning on loading your car and transferring your equipment to a remote location free from light polution.

You’ve been waiting more likely for the perfect weather circumstances by now and have been thinking all the time about taking shots of your favorite object? Then welcome to the club. By the time you are ready to start your exposures a cloud is passing by, blocking the view. Other times a mist is joining the scene, or technical issues arise. Either way you’ve been wasting way too long time on things that could instead been made easier.

Skywatcher came up to a solution when it coms to guiding and created a gadget by considering that guiding is no easy business for anyone, considering your weight distribution while you’re tracking the heavens above having backlashes, attaching a camera adding by more weight to your equation, your power supply may not be even, or many other factors that may add to your guiding frustration.

With current solutions on autoguiding you need a special camera, software and a laptop. But why make things so complicated when there is the perfect solution for users with Skywatcher’s GOTO-mounts?

I strongly recomment this synguider, and I’ll start posting photos showing the difference between life before synguider and after 😉

Partial solar eclipse in Sweden

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Unfortunately we didn’t get the chance to see anything behind the thick layer of clouds and heavy mist passing by the entire morning yesterday. However, we had news channels, local radio stations and news papers droping by asking us about facts regarding this fenomena. Seems when it comes to Sweden that only Stockholm had good visibility.

I’m going to attach a few Youtube clips I saved as a memory from this event.



The interviews were made by Swedish national TV (short: SVT, Sveriges Television)

The Sun through H-alpha

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Less then 48 hours left before the partial solar eclipse that occurs during the tuesday morning 2011-01-04. I was testing my equipment and saw that there were a few sunspots. The image is photographed with a Canon EOS 50D at ISO 800 through a Lunt LS60THa H-alpha telescope.

The news have already been requesting curiously on details about the partial solar eclipse on tuesday. Regardless the weather conditions we will be there taking care of our guests and giving interviews. If the weather allow us to observe anything I promise to get back here with some photos.

More newspapers publishing about the solar eclipse on tuesday:

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

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I wish every blog reader a merry Christmas and a happy new year!