Saturday, December 10, 2005
Last night before everything was shrouded in a very dens fog, I got a chance to shoot an image of the Moon with the Zeiss Diascope 85 (500mm f/5), the 32mm Televue Plossl and the Nikon Coolpix 4500.

Click to enlarge

The image is a stack of 9 original images, 1/125s, f/3.7, iso 100, 2272x1704. The image has been processed slightly using Noiseware Professional (noise reduction and unsharp masking) and histogram adjustment. The image was cropped to 800x600 (approx.)

Posted by Math on 12/10 at 10:05 AM | (0) Comments | filed in: Lunar scraps | Print
Thursday, December 08, 2005
First light!

Tonight I got a chance to test the Zeiss diascope 85 and the Manfrotto tripod astronomically for the first time. The Moon was high in the south, and my first impression was! Although the seeing was not very good, the Moon was there, crystal clear, in the Zeiss 20-60 eyepiece. What a view. The Alpine Valley was clearly visible at lowest magnification (20x). Beautiful! The contrast between the Mare and highland areas was stunning. My girlfriend also came out to have a look, and her first reaction was: “I never have seen such a clear and sharp image of the Moon through any other instrument we owe”.  We also noted another thing with this little instrument. Usually, at first quarter, we see only the half of the Moon that is illuminated. I only have seen earthshine, or any un-illuminated part of the Moon with a crescent Moon or with a lunar eclipse. But with the Zeiss we could see the contours of the whole of the Moon, full circle. This telescope definitely has a lot of contrast. I am very eager to try it on some of my favourite deepsky objects, like the Orion nebula and the Pleiades.

After the first views with the zoom-eyepiece I tried all my other eyepieces. The 25mm TAL plossl, the 32mm Televue plossl and the whole Lanthanum range (25mm-5mm). They all snapped into focus nicely. The 32mm Televue offered even a slightly wider field of view than the 70-degree Zeiss zoom eyepiece at 20x. Next I tried to focus the Zeiss with one of the deepsky filters or the Baader IR/UV cut filter mounted at the base of the eyepiece. With the 32mm Televue Plossl it was no problem.

What I also noticed is that with this Manfrotto tripod and the 45 degree angled telescope it is no problem to observe objects in the zenith, and because of the 45 degree angle, you see everything oriented in the sky as you see it with your naked eyes. I hope to do some serious deepsky observing and shoot some solar and lunar images with the Zeiss in the next few months.

I am excited excaim

Posted by Math on 12/08 at 08:00 PM | (0) Comments | filed in: Equipment | Print
Saturday, November 26, 2005
No clear skies......
After last night’s severe snowstorms I hoped for “clear skies” this morning. But when I got up, I was in for a little surprise. It was still snowing, and according to the local weather station we will keep this weather for the most of next week: cloudy, sometimes snow, temperatures around zero degrees Celsius and ……… no clear skies!

Anyway, I decided to test our new Zeiss spotting scope on the birds again. I bought the Diascope 85 together with the zoom-eypiece, and yesterday I got two other Zeiss eyepieces from Leo (a fellow observer who lives just down the road) to test them. The quality of these eyepieces is also outstanding, good eye-relief, very clear and transparent; but for now the 20–60x zoom is just OK for me. In the near future I hope to get an adaptor to connect the Nikon Coolpix to the zoom eyepiece. I’m very pleased with the quality of the spotting scope. The images are good, but they can get a lot better when I can shoot the images using the Zeiss eyepieces. The camera will also be modified a little, but more about that later. I will keep you updated!

Today I shot two good images from a Chaffinch using Televue Plossl and the Nikon Coolpix connected to the Zeiss. I also recorded some footage from a Greenfinch with the camcorder connected to the Zeiss with a TAL 25mm Plossl. Click on the images to enlarge them or to start the movie.

image image
Posted by Math on 11/26 at 02:05 PM | (1) Comments | filed in: Birding | Print
Friday, November 25, 2005
Birds in the backyard!
Yesterday we got our new birding scope, an 85mm Zeiss Diascope together with a Zeiss zoom eyepiece (20x-60x). The first impression I got when looking through this small instrument can be described in one word: stunning! I never had an instrument with this optical quality. The Zeiss Diascope will not only be used for birding, but also for astronomy. I think it will be very good for observing (and imaging) the Moon but I'm also very curious how it will perform on larger deepsky objects like the Pleiades, the Orion Nebula, M 31 or the Double Cluster in Perseus.

Click to enlarge

Today however, it was completely clouded, so I tried to shoot some images from a few backyard visitors: a Robin and a Collared Dove. I used the Coolpix 4500 and a Televue 32mm plossl connected to the Zeiss Diascope with a special “astro-Adaptor”. Below are the first results (click images to enlarge). All images were only slightly processed (unsharp masking, levels, contrast brightness) and finaly resized from 2272x1704 to 800x600.

image image image
Click to enlarge

Posted by Math on 11/25 at 09:31 AM | (0) Comments | filed in: Birding | Print
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Deepsky Top-100 (17): M 36, the Butterlfy Cluster
Towards the end of the year, Auriga climbs higher and higher in the night sky, and within its borders lie three of my favourite open clusters, M 36, M 37 and M 38. All three open clusters will be included in my Deepsky Top 100, but I will start with M 36, which I observed and sketched this week (8 November 2005).

Le Gentil discovered M 36 in 1749, while he was working as an assistant of Jaques Cassini at the Paris Observatory. Messier observed M 36 on 2 September 1764. It lies in Auriga, near the galactic anticenter, at a distance of 4100 light years. When you look in this direction (Auriga), you look away from the galactic centre, towards the nearest stretch of our galaxy's rim.
Posted by Math on 11/13 at 10:17 AM | (0) Comments | filed in: Deepsky TOP 100 | Print
Monday, November 07, 2005
Celestial Christmas Trees
Although its another 6 weeks till Christmas, you already can enjoy the view of three celestial Christmas trees around this time of the year: M 39 in Cygnus, M 103 in Cassiopeia and NGC 2264 in Monoceros. However, if you want to observe all three in one night, start early in the evening and stay up until way after midnight.

1. M 39 (NGC 7092)
At the end of October / the beginning of November Cygnus is high in the southwestern sky around 20.00 hours UT. You can find M 39 about 9 degrees to the east-northeast of Deneb, the bright star marking the tail of the Swan. Although M 39 fits in the 48’ field of view of my telescope 8-inch Klevtzov, I find that M 39 is at its best in my 15x80 binoculars (f.o.v. 3.5 degrees). With plenty of space surrounding the cluster, M 39 stands out nicely from the neighboring star fields and its triangular shape makes it look like ......... a Christmas tree. M 39 has a diameter of 31’ and visual magnitude of 4.6. In the 15x80 I see about 20 to 25 stars ranging from magnitude 7 to 10, a very pretty sight.
Posted by Math on 11/07 at 01:26 PM | (0) Comments | filed in: Deepsky log | Print
Sunday, November 06, 2005
During my short holiday in Drente (Netherlands) I visited the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope, one of the observing facilities of ASTRON. It was quite an impressive sight to see the telescopes lined up in the field.

The Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope is one of the most powerful radio observatories in the world. It enables astronomers to study a wide range of astrophysical problems: from pulsars to kinematics of nearby galaxies to the physics of black-holes. The WSRT is an open user facility available for scientists from any country. It is also part of the European VLBI network (EVN) of radio telescopes. This allows the astronomers to obtain some of the sharpest and more detailed images possible in astronomy. (Text from ASTRON Website)

I took a few snapshots from the radiotelescope for my astronomy journal. Click on the images to enlarge.

image image image

Posted by Math on 11/06 at 04:11 PM | (0) Comments | filed in: General | Print
Friday, October 28, 2005
Camcorder astronomy
Yesterday I finally got my EZ-pix digital camera holder from ScopeTronix. I need this camera bracket to shoot live images of the moon and the sun with my Canon MVX25i camcorder. I tested the setup last night on Mars using my TAL 200K and a Tal 25mm plossl eyepiece. The seeing was lousy, Mars was right above the roof of my house, and the air was very humid. I still got some satisfying results with the camcorder at the eyepiece. With the 25mm plossl (80x) and 14 times optical zoom I was able to get the camera more or less into focus using the camcorder’s color LCD screen. With this low power eyepiece the camera showed mars in color and a broad dark mare-band with Syrtis Major was clearly visible (not really sharp, but just the outline). Of course I have to do some more testing with focussing, exposure and gain control, but the first results look very promising. Today I tested the same setup with the Coronado PST, and again the first results where very promising. The camera recorded a small prominence and a large filament without any trouble. I just have to experiment with some more powerful eyepieces (20, 15 and 12mm) to get some more detailed views. I will keep you updated.

Click to enlarge

Posted by Math on 10/28 at 12:58 PM | (0) Comments | filed in: Equipment | Print
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