Posts Tagged ‘SCT’

A bright Supernova for NOT the Oregon Star Party!

September 4, 2011

Well the supernova sure has brightened a lot over the last week!

Supernova in M101, August 25th 2011, about a 3 hr exposure with an 11in scope and 2500 iso on a canon D60.

From the night of the 3rd sept. 1.5hr exposure comprised of 20s unguided exposures (chosen frames) of a cpc1100 with a canon 60d at prime focus (f6.3 reducer).

It now easily outshines the galaxy core and is the brightest thing in the field.

So it turns out one of the reasons I had the Pine Mountain Observatory to myself to do ‘supernova LIVE’  (Sept 1st) was because some of the folks had drifted off to the Oregon Star Party.  I too was advised to go, in part for the great skies of the ochico, and part for the company.

Getting there was a bit of a nightmare in that I set the wrong GPS coordinates (a combination of relatively little sleep the night before, and just drifting along with the scenery).  Either way, by the time I worked it out I was 50 miles down the road, and the GPS kept on trying to send me down dirt roads to nowhere to get back.  The tricky thing about dirt roads, is if they are good, you can get up to 45 mph-ish.  If they are not good, not only will you be doing well to make walking speed, but 10 feet can make the whole thing utterly impassable to a polite little underpowered low clearance suburban car like mine! (or the even more devastating, can get the car stuck!) Thus it was after an hour or so detour down a road that started like a ‘freeway’, then it  narrowed and narrowed and eventually turned into a road where I might as well have been trying to drive down a rough rutted river bed.  I think I did well to survive the turn around! Especially seeing as I was miles in the middle of nowhere by this point, with no apparent traffic on the road!  Eventually I decided to retrace my steps down the black top and do it right!

Thus is was that it was about 5pm by the time I arrived at the Oregon Star Party.  I had a brief exchange with the staff, who insisted on a 75 dollar registration fee.  I told them I was there just to take a look around- ’75 dollars’, that I probably wouldn’t even be there a full day ’75 dollars’, and so it went on.  Just for the record, that would make visiting the Oregon Star Party significantly more expensive than Disneyland, which is some 85 dollars for a day pass.  Apart from the OSP is just a bunch of guys sitting out under the stars ontop of a hill.  Now I was actually interested in talking to some of the vendors they had there, particularly Celestron and Orion (the latter about their crappy capture device on their deep sky video camera), but I was knackered.  So I put up my feet in the car and dozed a bit, trying to recover some strength and in part to work out what to do.  Eventually the organizer came out and said they were ‘locking the gate’ at 7pm.  This was bullshit, there was no gate.  Shit what were they going to do imprison everyone ontop of the hill for the night?.  I got his message thoguh, so at that I rolled back a mile or so down the road and found a place with a good northern horizon and set up the scope.  The ochico is notorious for having a fine dust that gets onto and into everything, including optics, and so I was quite happy to not have folk around disturbing the dust.  Set the scope up on M101 and cooked myself some ‘ramen noodle’ soup type stuff.  Hunger and a bad day are by far the best cooks, and it was the best meal I’ve thus far had on the road, snarfed down with butter and bread! Ahhhh!  Then I basically went to sleep for a few hours till M101 effectively set before packing up the scope.  Skies were, I have to say good!

Next day, I meandered over to the John Day fossil beds.  They were on the map and I had no real idea what the hell it was all about.  Turns out there are some fairly reasonable badlands here, full of fossils.  Regrettably however the fossil museum was an hour down the road in the wrong direction, and a tired thunderf00t wasn’t really up for it.  The sedimentary stuff here coincidentally is from the primitive cascades, and goes back 20 million years!  Yeah, exactly to when the supernova overhead capped off…..ooooooh!

Some of the 'Badlands' near the John Day Fossil Beds Oregon.

Picked up wifi and power at Prineville and processed the acquisitions of the night before, as well as a video of supernova so far.  By that time I had really only enough light in the day to make it back to Pine Mountain, where fortuitously, the deep sky forecast was near perfect!  Plus this really the last chance before the moon becomes a serious issue for a couple of weeks to get a good piccie of the supernova.

On Saturday night on Pine Mountain they do outreach, so I agreed to give them a hand: that night many a person was put into perspective with the Cosmos! 🙂  The odd thing was, all of this was apologetically put into perspective with distance and years in the millions, and of the hundred or so people I talked to, there wasn’t so much of a sign or a peep from anyone expressing the young earth creationist view!

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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!