Posts Tagged ‘cpc11’

A Night looking at Uranus!

August 24, 2011

Uranus is frequently overlooked and for many reasons.  Firstly, lets just say its name hasn’t phonetically aged well.  Secondly it’s small and faint, barely visible to the naked eye, and even the most powerful telescopes show little more than a tiny featureless grey-green disk.

Most powerful telescopes will show the five main moons of Uranus, Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania and Oberon.  The innermost of these Miranda, has, if memory serves the highest cliffs in the solar system (due to being previously (presumably) smashed by an impact) and has an orbital period of about 1.5 days.  That means you should be able to easily see its movement over the period of a night.

Now I had tried this previously, and had been surprised that the planets movement was comparable to the movement of its moons, but that night had been scuppered by a flat battery.

Movement of Uranus vs background stars

The stars in the background are fixed. The two picture of Uranus are taken a few hours apart, and while the moons (relatively close to the planet) don't move much, the planet conspicuously moves against the background stars!) (click to enlarge)

So it was that I set out with my scope on the evening of 22nd Aug 2011 to see what could be captured.  I decided to head up to an observatory site that had previously seemed good up near the top of the somewhat active volcano, Lassen Peak.  The site is high, almost 2 miles up, but the seeing was less than perfect (a very constant ~ 5mile an hour wind, which was probably a blessing in that it bought warmer air from somewhere, but was also a curse due to the wind chill- I was surrounded by snow fields!).

Nonetheless, at prime focus of the 11in CPC1100 with ~1000 iso and 4 second exposure on a canon 60D seemed to bring out easily at least 4 of the moons of Uranus.

After that, I just had to maintain the kit for 8 or so hour.  A pain in the ass, as there were several pieces of kit that all need to work or the night would be ‘lost’.  So you basically have to periodically check all the batteries on the various time lapse and tracking kit are working functionally.  The bottom line is you can actually get quite a lot of sleep, but its horribly disjointed. The practical upshot of which was the next day I was wiped out to the point where I had actually planned to head up into Oregon to do something, but for the first time ever on a road trip I did something I’d never countenanced before.  I stayed a night in a motel!!  First time in 5 years!  A motel 6 I should add!  All I wanted was somewhere where I could get a shower, a bed for the night, and damn, just sit back for a moment, put my feet up, and have a glass of wine……ahhhhhh.

I was REALLY happy when I processed this, not really for what I had hoped to achieve, which was to get the motion of the moons, as while it was visible, it wasn’t that great.  But what was great was the motion of the whole Uranus system against the background stars.  I knew this MIGHT be visible, but I really didn’t expect it to looks as cool as it did!  Now it should be said that most of the motion you see here is probably not due to the motion of Uranus, but due to the motion of the Earth.  Nonetheless, its still really cool!

The finished results!

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Thursday n Friday (29th) July, Lotta Processing, Lotta Piccies!

July 30, 2011

The night of wednesday and thursday morning was when it all came together.  This is when I was sizing up what the kit I had could do, gather the knowledge to actually do stuff.  The problem comes is it almost worked too well, to the point where I was drowning  in data.  I have two laptops capable of timelapse, one camera capaable of whole sky timelapse, videocams n webcams capable of going on the back end of the scope as well DSLR that can mount up on the scope.  Sure it’s great having those options, but it’s almost too many options.

Plus I’m still a noob at the processing, particularly of the deep sky stuff.  After many an hour of fiddling I managed to get Deepskystacker to play ball with me:

M51 the Whirlpool Galaxy

M51 the Whirlpool Galaxy, ~ 10 x 30s exposures (11in SCT), stacked with DSS

Globular Cluster M22

Globular Cluster M22, ~10x15s exposures with a cpc1100The Helix Nebula, planetary nebular in Aquarius

The Helix Nebula, planetary nebular in Aquarius

With the deep sky camera I want to give folks an idea of what they will actually see at the eyepiece.  With the other stuff over the period of a day or two I managed to put together some moderately good ‘whole sky zooms’

The night of Thursday was a COMPLETE BUMMER!  So I decide that finally, I need a night of sleep, so I just rolled out of Ridgecrest to the hills above it.  Nice quiet area, looks to be used for motocross (albeit very rarely).  Same place I stayed the first night.  Beautiful night, not as black as the first night, but still very good.  I charge all the batteries up for the DSLR.  They run for about 3hrs, so I have to get up every 3 hrs to change the batteries, but hell, that still looks to a solid nights sleep to me.  This time I take off the lens guard which was preventing me getting the full 180 degrees.  The night was warm and fresh, although the dust gets up your nose every now and then.  Indeed it was so pleasant that I just got out a sleeping mat, and slept on the ground int he desert.  I love that sort of thing, waking up intermittently to see the Milkyway directly overhead, and spanning from horizon to horizon in a silver arch.  The time lapse ran solidly from sunset to sunrise.  Perfect, every movement timed, every footstep placed, a flawless executions, till I get down to the town and take a look at the piccies.  Turns out it wasn’t properly focused: GAAHHHHHHHHH.   GAHHHHHHHHHH.  GAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!  To further rub salt in the wounds the dark sky forecasts look poor for the next few days.  Dammit!  I needed that footage!  It was then I realised that I had probably left the wide angle lens for the webcam up on the pass.  Its only worth about 30 bux, but there is no real chance of finding one on the road, and none whatsoever in Ridgecrest.  I decided in the end to head up to the pass, for the third time.  I could see the weather looked fairly intense and brooding over the mountains.  The weather was some of the wierdest I’ve ever seen.  In the valley is was 40 or so mph winds, very strong.  However by the time I got up to the pass, it was dead calm.  Found the lens, took about 30 second.  A big relief.  But the wierd thing was the clouds appeared to be static.  Never seen anything quite like it.  Usually clouds can always be seen to move against foreground objects, but not these clouds.  They were moving incredibly slowly.  I set up the wholesky timelapse as it might look cool!  Shortly after dark it started to rain, turns out only a few drops, but it’s impossible to tell how things are going to go in the mountains when you can’t see the clouds.  I took the camera in.  A mistake as it turns out, but there were thunderstorms within 30 miles.  After that the clouds burned off somehow, and I set the timelapse up again.  DAMN!  I want whole sky, dusk till dawn!  Still had to get up 3 times during the night to change the battery, but no big deal.