Posts Tagged ‘time-lapse’

Review of Brinno TLC200, TLC200 Pro and webcam timelapse

March 23, 2014

Timelapse photography looks REALLY cool, and thanks to modern technology, its now affordable to most people.

I’ve done a LOT of timelapse photography over the years.  A couple of examples:

The most expensive, and versatile way is to just use a DSLR and an intervalometer.  However if you are going to just turn the images into a HD movie, to be honest a DSLR is overkill!

One option I’ve been using for years is a webcam and a netbook.  It actually works quite well, in that there is never a a serious limit on diskspace and it can run for about 8 hrs on batteries.  I have done a timelapse of a transatlantic flight like this.

Then came some dedicated ‘off the shelf’ timelapse cameras.

tlc vs tlc pro

The Brinno tlc200 pro and tlc 200. Two dedicated timelapse cameras that recently came on the market. The principal advantage they offer over compact cameras with a timelapse capability is a ‘stand alone battery life’ where they will run for days to weeks on the internal battery (4xAA).

The first one I got was the Brinno TLC200.  It worked well enough for me to get two of them, however there is simply no contest when it’s compared to the Brinno TLC 200 pro.  The TLC200 has a relatively narrow angle lens less suited for timelapse (which typically requires wide angle lenses), it is poor at low light levels and cannot be focused.

This review is also available in video form:

The Brinno TLC200 Pro works acceptably well.  The lens is quite wide angle, and can be focused manually.  It will run on batteries (4xAA) for days to weeks (depending on how often you take pictures).  My principal problem is if you are running it off batteries, it’s almost impossible to tell if the batteries are flat, or even if the timelapse is still running.  This point can be disturbing if you are running a timelapse for months, and do not want to move the camera to check it’s still working.  It can be powered off USB, but this obviously requires a USB power cable (micro).  They do sell outdoor enclosures, but generally I wouldn’t recommend them.  They are only compatible with the standard Brinno lens, and when in the enclosure, you lose the ability to power the camera by USB.  

The camera records the movies directly to SD card.  It comes with a 4Gb card, but if you are doing anything sensible, I would recommend at least 16Gb.  The Brinno will also automatically stitch the images together into an *.avi file.  With the netbook, the most reliable method is just to record a series of images, which you can then stitch together yourself using video editing software.  I use Sony Vegas Pro (not recommended if you are starting with video editing, it’s very versatile, but that also means it’s very complicated!), but most video editing software will allow you to stitch together a sequence of images into a video file.

This is an affiliates link to the Brinno TLC200 Pro.

Brinno TLC200 Pro HDR Time Lapse Video Camera

When you compare the video of the TLC 200 Pro side by side with a netbook with a wide angle webcam, the webcam is the clear winner.  The downside is of course you need the netbook to continuously run the timelapse.  For me, I just ran a timelapse like this for over a year, so it basically ‘cost me’ a netbook.  This makes things like the brinno seem cheap.  Having said that, it’s very nice to be able to see, day to day, that the timelapse is still running away happily.  This is an option you just don’t get with the TLC 200 Pro.  However if you want an entirely self contained unit to run outside (with cover from the elements) for a day or two, the Brinno TLC 200 is superb!

If you are going to use a netbook/ notebook, the choice of webcam is critical.  You NEED wide angle.  Personally I would recommend the Genius wideangle webcam.  It gives you EVERYTHING.  Most importantly a very wide field of view, it records in 1280×720 and it has a small compact form factor with good exposure.


Genius wide angle webcam. Most superb performer for timelapse! Recommended without hesitation.

Most definitely recommended on every level!

Prior to this I had used the microsoft HD camera.  This in its native form is relatively narrow angle and less suited for timelapse.  The solution that I eventually came up with was to take the front off the web cam, and add a cheap wide angle lens.

microsoft camera

Take the front off your microsoft HD webcam, and you can quite happily add a wide angle lens, which provides quite good results!

This actually worked okay, but for me these microsoft webcams would crash intermittently (randomly from hours to days), which was infuriating if you were taking a long timelapse only to find it ruined by the camera crashing.  This is simply not an issue with the Genius webcam.  The Genius wideangle webcam I have found to be the clear winner everywhere!


Watching Yourself Sleep!

September 29, 2012

It is just so very VERY strange watching yourself sleep.  Watching yourself helpless and unconscious.  It’s one of those things that you only usually sleep with people you really trust (with or without sex), and so I was really surprised to get a v. similar response to watching myself sleep as watching someone who trusts you enough to sleep with you, sleep (an emotionally bonding experience!!!).  I know that sounds WTF!!! narcissistic, but I don’t think it is…. I’m guessing its more of that there are no biological mechanisms to determine how to respond to yourself when you are unconscious: this isn’t like seeing your reflection or similar!

However the other reason I was doing this is I was testing audio setup.  Now I’m still a *NOOB* at this sort of thing, so your feedback would be appreciated.



August 31, 2011

A fun couple of days all in! (28-29th July 2011)

So for night time I decided to indulge in a guilty pleasure, and just drive off into the quiet forests of Oregon, and just, well, sleep!  Well mostly sleep.  I did leave a timelapse going of the milky way from the forests of Oregon…. Pretty!

The next morning I was up early, and spent it bumming around crater lake.  When I first got the lake, it was mirror still!  It’s rarely that still at crater lake (normally wind disturbs the surface, as it had does by the end of this timelapse), so I set up the camera… more pretty!

While that was going down, I got accosted by one of the GIANT VOLCANIC CHIPMUNKS that roam the area!

And boy did that 4.5mm sigma 180 degree fisheye lens earn its keep at crater lake.  Y’see Crater Lake is just so big by the time you can see it, basically only a 180 degree lens will get it all in!

A keep back sign? Now that's just being a 'cliff tease'. Seriously though, these signs litter Crater Lake, which to be fair has a lot of cliffs, but does it really need all the idiot warning for people too stupid to spot poor footing and a terminal drop off?

and these ‘keep back signs’ litter the area in a way that smells of ‘frivolous lawsuit evasion’, or maybe it’s just to keep the number of Darwin Award winners from Crater Lake down.

Spent that evening on top of Mount Scott, well actually a rocky outcrop you have to climb up on near the top of Mnt Scott.  But the views were amazing. Just sat there and watched the sun go down over the lake!

Thunderf00t on mnt Scott looking down on crater lake. And yes, its about a 50ft drop off that rock! Mnt Scott is the highest point in Crater Lake NP. The actual summit has a fire lookout built on it and smells of urine. However for those willing to do a little hand n foot scrambling, there are a couple of satellite summits that have amazing views.

Spent the early evening helping doing some astronomy outreach (of a sort).  Skies were dark, but a little murky.  Had the scope catching photons from the M101 supernova till about 2am before packing up.  However Jupiter rising over the lake gave some captivating specular reflections!  Left the timelpase running till about 4am, would have been longer, but I feel asleep before changing the battery.  Damn my intolerance to sleep deprivation!

Next morning, a very tired Thunderf00t decided the air was still enough to take to the skies, using the helmet of doom!  Here I was alternating between first person flying, and flying by direct sight.  It’s really ballsy stuff in that by the plane has to be quite close (relativley) to fly by direct sight, and if you go further, you are 100% reliant on the video and RC gear working.  There is also the problem that by the time the plane is so far away, that you cannot see it, the plane also cannot see you!  So bascially you have to navigate by big cliffs and the sun to find your way home.  The bottom line is, while the plane was almost beyond the point where you could see it to fly it, it still didn’t make it over the lake.

After that little adrenaline rush I was ready for some excitement, which came in the form of swimming in an ice-cold lake formed by a collapsed volcano!

and yeah that water looks perty and blue, its just as amazingly blue when you get your head under it!  Regrettably, by the time I’d worked that out, I’d left the contraption for getting the camera underwater (a sort of ziplock bag) back in the car, 1000 ft above me on the crater rim 😦

Supernova Watch Live begins tonight!

August 25, 2011

The great thing about time lapse and high speed photography, is they give you a sense of the orders of magnitude of time, from the beat of a humming birds wings (below), to the movement of a distant planet.

However, there really is a limit to the motions you can see, and capture in the heavens on a human time-scale.  The further away things are, the more they have to change for you to be able to see them.  I figured that after sunset on the moon,

the rotation of Jupiter,

and the motion of Uranus and its moons, that was pretty much as far an object as you could look at!

Then this happens:

Yup there is a supernova popping off in a nearby galaxy, M101, which by pure chance I took a picture of last month! and yes, I intend to do the time lapse of a star exploding in another galaxy!

M101, taken on 29th July 2011, with cpc1100 and canon60D (~10min exposure)

Now it should be said that this is a MONSTROUS undertaking.  SNs typically brighten and fade over a period of weeks!  This is all but perfect, arguably a once in lifetime experience.  A potentially bright SN, in a nearby galaxy, near the new moon, when I have the time to spend on it!  We are a few days before the new moon, which means I can get good observations for maybe two weeks, before the moons glare washes the galaxy out.

Supernova Watch Live begins tonight!

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!

Watching Sunset on the Moon, and things that go bump in the night!

August 20, 2011

Well it’s a start.  Sunset on the Moon!

This is the time lapse of sunset on the moon, taken at prime focus with a cpc11 with a focal reducer and a canon 60D.  The conditions were less than perfect.  This was about 9 hrs all in, and really quite an infuriating 9 hrs.

Firstly, since my ‘run in’ with the mountain lion, I’ve become VERY twitchy about things that go bump in the night, and would periodically scan the torch around, looking for ‘eyes’.  There was also an amusing part when a piece of paper blew out of the car.  The ‘sudden noise’ in the dark elicited an immediate reaction from me, which to the impartial observer must have appeared quite funny and disproportionate! (twirling around ready to attack the piece of paper…… hmmmm….  time to switch to decaf!)

Not all bad though, amazing what the heightened senses can find!

For some reason the telescope is lousy at tracking the moon.  I think this is to do with the fact that the Earth axis, and the normal of the orbit of the moon are out by about 6 degrees.  Practically what this means is the moon not only moves at a different rate to the stars (that is it goes around the sky in about 25 hours, not 24 like pretty much everything else).  But even with lunar rate, the tracking is poor.  I think the moon is also moving up/ down due to the difference in the normal of the Earth rotation and the moons orbit, and the mount is not smart enough to work this out.  The practical upshot of which is the moon will drift out of the field of view over a period of about an hour, so I had to set the alarm to go off every 20 minutes throughout the night in order to recenter the moon.

Further recentering the frames, taken every 2 minutes in editing is also a pain in the ass.  Thankfully Sony Vegas now has a ‘motion stabilizer’ feature that takes a lot of the donkey work out of this.

This is the finished product!  Well actually, only part of it.  At prime focus the telescope can get the best part of the moon in the frame.  I just selected one crater, as it shows the shadows nicely.

Tracking on everything else is perfect, in that at the end of the evening I dialed up Jupiter, and it went straight to it.  Cute! Never seen Jupiter by the full light of day before!

The Solar System in Perspective!

August 10, 2011

The Moon, the Jovian (jupiter) system, and the Uranus system, all on the same scale (all photographed prime focus through an 11in f6.3 SCT) aug 10th 2011.

The moon, Jupiter and moons, and Uranus and moons, all to scale.

The moon, Jupiter and moons, and Uranus and moons, all to scale. Click to enlarge.

It’s all part of a larger project I’ve been working on of trying to get time-lapse of various extra-terrestrial bodies.

The real problem is the Earth is just spinning too bloody fast!  Damn, there’s a reason why all those new telescopes are going out there in the Legrange points!

Initially I was having all sorts of trouble tracking the moon!  Hmm that just shouldn’t be, it tracks everything else in the sky just fine.  Then of course, the obvious dawns on me:- it’s tracking the stars and not the moon!  The moon goes around the sky an extra time every 28 days! Thats about 12 degrees a day, or half a degree an hour!  Given that the moons only about half a degree in diameter, no wonder it kept drifting out of the field!  Okay, so I got intermediate time-lapse of the moon, that shows the project is possible.  A failure, sure, but a very instructive failure.

After the moon I took some caps of Jupiter and moons, and Uranus and moons, great for putting them all into perspective.  Then it dawns on me, that it might be possible to do a timelapse of Uranus’s moons too, that’d be really cool.  So I set up the scope to take pictures every 5 minutes.  The results weren’t that impressive (well it only ran for a few hours before dawn), but more interestingly is that you can actually see uranus move against the background stars over this period.  It really threw me, because I was trying to line up the background stars, and it just wasn’t possible, then the obvious came to mind.  Duhh, Uranus is moving!  So yeah, inadvertently I’ve now found that you can watch the planets move in real time!  Probably works best on the faint ones, like Uranus, as you can see more background stars!.

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)

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.

Wedneday 27th July (It’s like sex!)

July 28, 2011

It was a disheveled piece of human flotsam that crawled out of the mountains that morning.  I had spent a night fighting a losing battle again sleep, and had, in terms of results, very little to show for it.  I know I thought to myself, look the night might have been one long concatenated mess, but at least I can haul my carcuss down to town and get a thousand calorie breakfast from mcdonalds, and Im sure you will start to get a grip once you have  a full stomach.  Regrettably, by the time I got down to town Mcdonalds had JUST finished breakfast.  The moment was a cross between ‘Falling Down’ and that moment in ‘Evil Dead, Army of Darkness’ in the alternative ending where he oversleeps.  Oh yeah it was one of those ‘the world conspires against me’ type moments.  After a long deep sigh, the eyes snap open with regained focus: time to go on the offense!  Online I soon discovered that the reason the Orion Deepspace Video camera wasn’t working up to expectation is it has an integration function in the menus!  I laughed, when all else fails: READ THE INSTRUCTIONS.  Spent a few hours rendering and uploading what I had.  Now the next problem, that damn screw!  I need a replacement for that damn screw.  Turns out Ridgecrest has a Home Depot, and I figured that was the logical place to try for a bizarre screw.  I was wrong- they had nothing!  Arse, thousands of bux worth of telescope crippled by a tiny screw.  Then it dawned on me, I could just drill and tap a hole myself for any screw I wanted.  Deep in my mind there was a spark, I had a drill and tap and a load of screws that would fit in the car, they were part of the stuff for the airplanes.

Picked up some supplies and headed back up into the mountains, same place at last night.  This time I was more seasoned on that grinding hill though and got up all the way without even a hint of overheating.

Up at the top of mountains, I sorted out firstly the backend of the telescope,

Then the webcam.

Come the test of first light, both performed admirably.  The sky wasn’t still enough for planets, but it was wonderfully clear.

The Deepsky video camera worked as expected! (~500 bux) 🙂

The stripped MS webcam worked admirably (~50 bux) 🙂

The video of the planets shot on by eyepiece projection onto the sensor of the D60 (~900 bux) was okay, but not as good as channeling it straight into a video camera.

The 60d I have to admit is a heinous machine for astro!  I got it primarily as I needed 2 DSLRS to do some of the projects I want to get done on this trip, to work with the 40D.  The 60D just idles circles around the 40D.  I think a lot of it is simply a better sensor.  More pixels, if they are not being used for resolution, mean faster light gathering, and lower noise.  The bottom line is the 60D goes up to iso ~6000, at least 2x what the 40D will do.  The 60D will also do video, which I thought might be useful, although thus far it hasn’t panned out, although this might just be teething troubles with the camera.  Just for an example, crank the ISO up to about 5000 and do a 1min exposure (unguided, bar the telescope tracking) on M51, and this is what you get:

M51, The Whirlpool Galaxy

M51, The Whirlpool Galaxy, 1min exposure, iso 5000, canon 60d

After that, all you need is an intervalometer and deepskystacker.  In many ways it’s such a cheat.  When I was young, I improvised all sorts of devices for the tracking, and there was none of this ‘cap a test frame to see if it’s centered’.  You took the pictures, and after minutes of painstaking guiding, you had to wait till at least the next day to see how well you did when you got the film processed.  Many a time I chuckle at night as to how what used to be hours of work, and a day or two to see the results from can now be effortlessly superseeded by a minute of scope time.

Later in the night, after visiting many a deep sky object, I turned the scope to Jupiter, then Mars, then the very late moon, all using the same magnification, just so I could give folks the scale of these things, all on the same magnfication.  The seeing was abysmal!  Mars was a swimming ball!  However all on the same magnification I got Saturn, Jupiter, Mars and the moon!


So yeah, I guess its like sex, in the dark, the first time is always a fumbled and inept experience.  However, having seen things in the broad light of day, and having had time to ponder on what went wrong and why, the second time can be more of the ‘tour de force!’ 🙂

Tuesday 26th July (SCREWED, by a screw)

July 27, 2011

Tuesday 26th July.  Oh woe is me.  It always the bugger with astronomy is the more powerful the kit becomes, the harder it is to set up and get it all working.  Further seeing as it takes so long  to set it up etc, if you’re doing it you could as well be trying to do something.  However it’s a dangerous strategy.

So in the morning I headed down into Ridgecrest for breakfast and wifi at Mcdonalds.  Turns out they have some 1000 calorie breakfast (big breakfast deluxe or some such) for ~3.5  bux.  Great for a man travelling as it means you don’t have to worry about finding much food for the rest of the day.  Rendered and sorted out the files from the previous night, before picking up some food and water for potentially a few days in the mountains.

I was heading up to a place I found on google Earth that looked okay, but always difficult to tell.  Sky forecasts were excellent!  Going in I could tell it was going to be dark, very very dark, as you pass a sign going into the mountains, the first says ‘Next gas 90 miles’, and the next says ‘NO GAS’ (Sherman Pass Road).  Damn did my car struggle with that hill.  It was HUGE.  Small engine, in a very heavily laden car means the engine can, if you are not being very gentle with it, go from normal to overheated in less than a minute.  Indeed there was one point on the slope when I thought ‘that’s it, time to turn back’ as even with the heater going full blast, to suck as much heat out of the engine as possible, it was still getting hotter and hotter, and eventually I had to stop.  Fortunately a little further up the wind picked up and that helped out a lot.  But damn was this road deserted.  Once at the top it leveled out into a sort of plateau.

Found a turn off very soon just opposite the ranger fire station, and headed off down the dirt road off the road to nowhere.  Found a shade tree in the forest and put my feet up for a few hours.  Resting myself for the long night ahead.  The wind was strong, but I had confidence that it would die down by night.

At dusk, and not having seen another soul on the road I decided to head out for a astro site.  Turns out the site I had found on google was almost 20 miles away! Ag.  That would put me getting there in astronomical twilight.  The road snaked up above the trees, then I could see down the other side of the sierras and the smog in the valley on the other side.  All of a sudden the clearing opposite the rangers firestation looked very appealing, but that was 10 miles behind me now.  While I hadn’t seen another soul on the road, I was uncomfortable doing astronomy by the road side.  Drunk guy driving home at night, not paying too much attention, or expecting anything else on the road could me a recipe for a bad night.  I headed back for the dirt road off the road to nowhere, and set up the telescope!

The beginning of the night was amazing, watching the Milkyway appear out of the darkness overhead.  The initial idea was to run down the kit, and hopefully get some stuff done.  The original plan was to get Saturn, Jupiter and the Moon, all on the same magnification.

There are several ways I have of doing this.  I have a stripped down HD webcam I wanted to give a go.  That crashed and burned first.  It has one of those bright blue LEDs that needs to be covered, and I didn’ have anything to do that on hand.  Next was to try eyepiece projection on either the DSLRs or a camcorder.  That was the most annoying one.  Turns out there are screws to hold the eyepiece in, and the eyepiece projection kit slides over the top of it.  Well the location screw was missing!  I had no way to hold the eyepiece in, and no realistic prospects of finding it in the car.  Fortunately I have many screws in the car, and soon found one that would do the job, its just that it sticks out too far to allow the eyepiece projection tube to slide over the top.  NOOOOOO.   50 miles from anywhere with thousands of bux worth of kit, all rendered effectively inoperable by a 1 cent screw.  No problem, I still had that new Deep Sky video camera bought with the kind donations to this channel.  I was going to use this to give people a reasonable idea of what you can see through the eyepiece while looking at deep sky objects.  Regrettably it was still all boxed, and in the dark in the middle of no where, with no wifi, is not the best place to engage on the learning curve.   After much fiddling, I got it working, but it was shite, pathetic, unbelievably poor.  I wasn’t too fussed, I didn’t believe for a second that folks like Orion could field such a product that would perform so poorly, and that I was just missing something.  However the battery was dying on the laptop by this time, and I had to stand off on this was too.  By this time, the Milkyway was a magnificent arch overhead, the sort of thing that would move a man to poetry, but I was tired, and frustrated by my repeated failures over really small stuff.  It kind of reminded me of that Apollo 11 story.  While on the moon they managed to break off the lever that armed the return rocket.  For the want of a dime store component a multibillion dollar rocket and two mens lives lay in the balance.  Fortunately for them they managed to flip the switch using, if memory serves a biro!  I too probably could have solved all the problems given time.  But the night was getting on and I was very tired.  Set up the D60 (I’ve been v. impressed so far with the sensitivty of this camera).  This was just a 1min unguided exposure of M16 (The Eagle Nebula) (albeit with the ISO jackted to 5000).  After that I left it chuntering away doing 30s exposures at ISO 1000.

The Eagle Nebula

The Eagle Nebula, July 26th 2011

By this time it was getting cold, really cold, and I took refuge in the car, only to doze off once or twice as Jupiter rose in the East.  Went out about 4ish to see how the kit would perform on a planet, to my horror to find that the battery power supply for the telescope was struggling.  Depending on the supply, if you flatten the battery, it’s dead for good.  That pretty much put an end to the night.  Packed up everything.  The car was a complete mess by the time I finished, but had the engine running to get some juice back into the powertank.   Then drove up the dirt road to find somewhere that would have some form of shade come day break.  The horizon was already light by the time I finally pulled over for some shut-eye.