Sunday, June 7, 2009

It was a Perfect Night for Tinkering

Clear skies were upon the village of Cincinnati on Friday. The fact that a full moon was washing out all but the brightest stars and Deep space objects did not detour me on this fine night. This was a blue collar night. OK what do I mean by that? In Astronomy there are maintenance duties that need to be performed on a regular basis to the equipment. Along that same path, if you got new "toys", they need to be worked with and adjusted if needed to give you one hundred percent for when you are attending that star party 1500 miles away. You want to be focused on observing or astro-photography not fiddling around with something. One of those, "Now how did that thing go together" moments are best left to a blue collar night. You should try to schedule one of those nights at least once every three or four months. I like to do a blue collar night with friends with good reason. They might be able to help you out with a question or a deed and quite frankly the friends I have in this game are a hoot. We laugh and have a good time. Pictured is Todd, lord and master of link can be found in right hand column.

The very first thing I checked out was my new Celestron solar filter well sort of. This filter employs the use of Baader astro-solar medium. It looks like Mylar as in balloons you find at the store but oh so much more.The sheet is coated both side which is very important. It limits the light entering the scope. Its rating is ND-5 which means that the film transmits 1/100,000 of visible light (.001%) while reflecting (blocking) 99.999% of unwanted light. The film absorbs all ultraviolet rays and reflects infrared light rendering both absolutely harmless. By the time I got setup and looking for the Sun it was headed into the western treeline. Rats! I was able to get a look at the sun brief as it was and sure enough ZERO nada sunspots again, Grumble Grumble. My next toy to get setup with was my new 2"star diagonal by Astro-Tech. It connected to the back of my scope very easily. the fit and finish on this Diagonal was very good. But hey it's not what the cookie looks like. It's all about how it tastes and this cookie was sweet!!! For the modest price of 139 @ Astronomics, this thing performs very well. Is it a Televue everbright? Nope, But for someone who has a sweet wife with a combination lock on the checkbook like me, I am very pleased with the performance/price equation. Side note: The Combination lock is because if I had the choice of this new doohickey for my telescope or groceries for the family for all week well you know which one I am going to choose ....The doohickey of course! The wife keeps me well grounded.

Any time you change something in the optical path on a Schmidt-Cassegrain like the diagonal or focuser you should always perform a collimation on the scope.The alignment of the primary and secondary is so crucial in this particular type of telescope. In preparation for Collimation of the scope I bought some Bob's knobs for the secondary mirror. They are knurled knobs as opposed to the adjustment screws found on a stock secondary.They make collimation so much easier. The plus here is you are not wielding a screwdriver near the corrector plate (glass front of scope). I ordered these puppies almost two weeks ago they had not arrived by Thursday and I was kind of getting nervous. Will they get here in time to make it on the Friday Blue collar night list? Murphy was taking care of this scenario personally it seemed I had Emailed the company and asked them when it shipped. They said Monday. It should be there this week. They were right ...It arrived on Saturday. If I ever find out where Murphy lives I am going straight over and kick his butt. No install but I did collimate the scope with the help of Pat Freeman he looked and I used the screwdriver. The collimation was out. I knew it was off from the last time I used it. Within five minutes the scope was back in collimation. The seeing was horrible so I did not do the airydisk fine tune collimating ritual thingy. Besides that, I would soon be changing to Bob's knobs and I would have to recollimate when that happened anyway.

I had a point and shoot camera. Some one needed it more than I did I guess because they stole it out of my house. I had use of my wife's Nikon Coolpix for the evening to take pictures of Blue collar night for the blog. Pat and Todd were busy tinkering with their astro-photography setups and I thought "Hey lets try out the Coolpix on the scope". I had a camera mount for afocal work so I got it out and started setting it up. I had no idea what to expect. I did not know this camera well at all. I got the camera setup and aligned to the eyepiece. What to shoot? How about that big bright piece of rock in the sky behind me? That would definitely show up on the camera's chip. Here are the results. I could not figure the focus thing out so things are a bit blurry. The Moon was identifiable which I guess is a plus eh? This is one of many picture shot at the Moon. I do not think I will be submitting this to Sky and Telescope for use in their magazine. Now what ... Hey Saturn is up. The camera is set up. Why not see what this little pink camera can do in the hands of a hack?
Saturn was a challenge. It seemed to overexpose the disk no matter what ISO I used. Remember the seeing was terrible. Everything seemed to boil in the eyepiece. I did get a bonus on the photo. Saturn's moon Titan showed up well in the photo. Look at the picture then look at the 4 O'clock position. Now that was a coolpix albeit out of focus. I was happy to get my work done on my equipment and visit with my fellow astronomers. I had such a good time. When I left, Pat was taking shots of the Ring Nebula and Todd was cursing because he did not have live view on his camera. Just another perfect night...

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