Friday, October 18, 2013

The Equipment

My telescope is a fork mounted Celestron CPC 1100 HD Computerized telescope on a heavy duty tripod and equatorial wedge, which are in turn mounted to a custom dolly from JMI telescopes which is bolted with 1/2" bolts into 1/2" nuts concrete permanently epoxied into my driveway. This is as close as I can get to a pier, (a permanent mounting) in my current situation. For various reasons, there is no place to build a home observatory in my yard, so for now this will have to do. The mount is rock-solid, I just have to re-align each time I observe.

The after-market customizations include a Celestron 80mm guide scope (the smaller telescope piggy backing on the larger one). Attached to the guide scope is an Orion G3 color CCD camera. This secondary scope and camera will autoguide the main telescope while it is taking long exposures. The main scope and camera will track objects as they move across the sky well enough for visual observing, but not with enough precision for long exposure photography.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

First Blog

With this Blog, I hope to chronicle what I anticipate being a long and enjoyable journey in Astrophotography and AP Timelapse Photography. I am pretty much a novice in these fields, and have no formal training, just a love for the beauty of nature, a fascination with our place in the universe, (and a love for gadgets, which doesn't hurt a thing in these pursuits).

For me, these two photographic art forms bring a sense of scale to our place in the universe, and the passage of time. There is beauty in the night sky which defies the ability of our language to describe. It is on a scale of immensity which defies our mind's ability to comprehend. It takes a telescope to see these objects, because they are so far away that very few photons of light make the journey across the void of space to earth, and to our eyes. Our retinas are incapable of sensing so little light. the telescope gathers and focuses the light, and magnifies the image so that our eyes can see something of what is out there, but in the same telescope, we would still only see these objects as little white ghostly wisps of an image, if that. So how do we get from there to the beautiful colored images of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST)? Enter the CCD (charge coupled device). This is the sensor at the back of your digital camera that replaced a roll of plastic covered with silver halide particles which, in the old days was called photographic film. There are a myriad of reasons that digital photography is far superior to film for Astrophotography (AP), most of which are similar to the reasons a digital camera is much more user-friendly than film, with almost instant feedback being the main reason. The images you will see here are produced by a CCD specialized for AP capturing photons of light which escaped the objects pictured thousands, or millions, or hundreds of millions of years ago. It takes light that long to make the journey to earth, to my front yard, to the CCD on my telescope, and to be processed as an image on my computer. We are just now seeing the light which left the object of our photograph that long ago, and in that sense, we are literally looking back in time thousands, or millions of years. To me, that is very exciting, and fascinating. How lucky are we to live in a time when we can see such things? Here is my first photo of our nearest Galactic neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy, which is 2 million light-years away, and contains 300 Billion suns.