Astronomical topics and views of the night sky. Software and tips about telescopes, mounts, and digital astrocameras. Panagiotis Xipteras, an amateur astrophotographer, presents you amazing views of the planets, stars and galaxies.
Believe me, it is an unforgettable moment to see Her Majesty live! This is the most sensitive camera I have seen so far. Is that thing from this world? Does it come from the future? If you see the Andor Ixon live you will not be able to answer these questions. Maybe the friend of mine, the owner of this marvelous system, could do it.
A cup of fine british tea is next to the Andor. Notice the size of the camera.
The camera sensor can be cooled down to -100°C under the ambient temperature. The Electron Multiplying CCD (EMCCD) has an unheard sensitivity. It enables charge from each pixel to be multiplied on the sensor before readout, providing single photon sensitivity. This approach will revolute the low light photography as we know it today.
The photography of faint planetary nebulas is in my opinion, a suitable application area of this EMCCD cameras. Since, planetary nebulas are very small and faint, the astrophotographer should use a scope with high focal length (e.g. 5000 mm) and the camera booster on.
The procedure how to capture the star light may be different comparing to the traditional methods, where few long exposures are taken. e.g. 8 exposures of 900s each.
Andors SOLIS (TM) is the dedicated control software for Her Majesty.
Many short exposures are often the case, when working with an EMCCD. e.g. 1000 exposures of 2s each.
The Ixon weights 3.5kg making sturdy focusers inevitable. The big Starlight focuser is suitable for this cam.
I almost forgot to spend some words about it ;-) This is the Ritchie Chretien telescope collecting the photons for the Andor camera. It has a focal length of 2000mm and focal ratio of f/8, making it probably suitable for capturing Quasars in NIR (near infrared) spectrum. We didn't tested it yet.
The Ixon is connected to the scope via the Baader system ...
...and special customized adapters made by http://www.astroholgi.de. This shop accepts orders and delivers to all european countries.
Impressive: The front view of the RC telescope.
Dust on the secondary mirror absorbs only 1% of the light. Do not clean the mirrors, even they look dirty. Remember: Dust does not reduce the value of your scope. Scratches do it. Dust is removable. Scratches are not.
Many parts of this scope have been improved. The mirrors stayed unchanged.
This is the celestial object NGC1499, the so called California nebula in the Perseus constellation. Since this nebula is larger than the field of view my camera covered, making a mosaic was inevitable to achieve high resolution and depth. This mosaic shown above consists of two parts with 6x900 seconds and 4x900 seconds sub exposures each. The telescope had a focal length of 660mm at f/5.2. A color camera QHY8L (with 7.8mu pixels) was used to capture it. Compared to other similar photos in the net, the high depth of this image is obvious. It is a pure RGB image, not a narrowband composition, so will notice many faint stars in it, being de facto invisible in most narrowband approaches.
Despite the bad seeing of the last nights, I decided to make some tests on Jupiter, with 5 meters focal length and f/38.4 using my TIS DBK21 color webcam on a Televue Powermate 5x. The best focal ratio to match this camera is f/28, i.e. 4 meters focal length for 130mm aperture. Hence, I have to use a Televue Powermate 4x instead to get best results. However, the biggest issue here is ... the weather (not the focal ratio).
Image 1: Luckily, the great Red Spot was visible during the observation
Image 2: The great Red Spot was easily visible was observable through the scope
Image 3: The seeing was very bad during that night
Image 4: Anyway, a low quality photo is better than no photo at all ;-)
Abb. 1: Die Galaxie in Triangulum bei 90 Minuten Belichtungszeit
Mit einem scheinbaren Durchmesser von 62" belegt diese Galaxie die doppelte Fläche als der Vollmond am irdischen Firmament. Nur 3.000.000 Lichtjahre von uns entfernt, liegt unsere Nachbargalaxie M33 ein wenig weiter als Andromeda. Halb so groß wie unsere Milchstrasse ist sie und trotzdem kann man ihr schwaches Licht nur in den dunkelsten Herbstnächten beobachten. An ihren breiten Spiralarmen wurden noch nie Sternexplosionen beobachtet; ein Zeichen ihres jungen Alters. Unzählige Sternhaufen, extragalaktische Sternentstehungsgebiete und etliche blaue Riesensterne sind auf hochauflösende Astrofotos identifizierbar.
Abb. 2: M33 Close-Up
Die o.g. Aufnahme dieser Galaxie, auch "Dreiecksnebel" genannt, wurde mit einer Astrokamera des Typs QHY8L bei 660mm Brennweite und Blende f/5.2 gemacht. Eine hochauflösende Aufnahme ist unter http://album.astrodigital.net verfügbar.
Abb.3: NGC604 ist ein Nebel der Galaxie M33 Der Abbildungsmaßstab entspricht hier 2,6m Brennweite und 0,6"/Pixel
After the new AstroProfessional 115mm f/7 telescope (Serial No #1533) has arrived, Holger and me decided to make a first light during ... the day. Yes, the Sun were up there and we couldn't wait even a minute ;-). So we mounted his new telescope on a Losmandy G-11 mount and we put my Baader Astrosolar filter on it in order to observe* the Sun. Our neighbor star was very active that week, promising an exciting gazing day :-)
Image 1: AstroProfessional 115mm f/7 APO on a Losmandy G11 (Gemini)
The AstroProfessional 115mm (f/7) is a air-spaced triplet. It is a full-metal construction, no plastic parts anywhere. The lenses had a greenish coating, the telescope tube was white and stable built. It was securily mounted with two stable tube clamps on the mount. As I observed the Sun through this scope, I remembered the exellent views I had last year with Mike's TMB 115mm, as I observed the Sun from the backyard.
Image 2: The famous TeleVue Evebrite diagonal on its sturdy focuser
The focuser has a reduction gear. It is well built and beefy. I didn't detect any backlash, so it was already well adjusted in the factory. Let us be honest, it is not a Starlight focuser but it works fine and it does not need to be changed or tuned even for astrophotography.
Markus, a friend of mine, owns a same telescope and he is also very convinced about its capabilities and its overall quality. After inspecting Markus's scope a couple of days later, I had the impression (better said "I was quite sure") that the factory producing this telescope (AstroProfessional) has a well organized test team with competent test engineers, and a serious quality assurance department.
Image 3: The dew shield is long enough to prevent icing at night
That's funny. The Solar filter shown above (Image 3) has been custom made for my Takahashi FS-102 telescope but it fits also on the AstroProfessional APO :-) The dewing cap of the AP has a smaller(!) diameter than Tak's one.
Image 4: The first photons hitting the telescope lenses are coming from the Sun
Visually, this scope offers sharp views across the field. Is it a TMB? No! I think, it is an AstroProfessional :-) Anyhow, I loved the views through this scope. We were using my japanese Takahashi 7.5mm and 12.5mm LE eyepieces for our observations.
Image 5: A Baader Astrosolar foil is mandatory for Sun observations.
There is a dedicated 3 inches flattener for this beautiful scope. To be honest, I am not a fan of focal reducers, since most of them introduce chromatic aberrations, and spot sizes having unequal thickness across the field. Also vignetting could be an issue with most reducers if you are working with large camera chips. So I think the best way to work with a scope is by using its dedicated flattener at its native focal length! Hence, if you want to work with two focal lengths, I honestly recommend you to buy two scopes ;-) A short one and a long one :-)
Anyway, I've heard there is a good reducer called Ricardi reducer (click here) able to work with this scope but I don't have any experience with it. For sure the dedicated flattener (click here) gives you the tightest spot size across the field by also keeping most of the optical capabilities of the scope.
The photo above confirms my visual experience I reported above. The Umbra and Penumbra regions of the Sun spots were clearly and with high contrast visible at all magnifications up to 105x. Holger and me were gazing the Sun for many hours before we decided to end our observation session.
Conclusion: I have never observed the Sun so brilliant at this price tag.
This scope is a fun to use and highly recommended.
This is the planet Venus on May, 3rd 2012 as captured with an apochromatic telescope at 820mm focal length with a Nikon d3100 DSLR. The phase of Venus was 24.3%, its apparent size 39,8" in a distance of 64'000'000 km from the Earth.
Quasar RX J121803.82+470854.6 with a magnitude of 21.04 mag and a redshift of z=1.743
Quasar SDSS J121732.69+465829.3 with magnitude of 18.4 mag and a redshift of z=1.99071
Our Universe expands and these redshift values indicate extreme distances. The photo above is taken from the city by using amateur equipment, i.e. five inches telescope and a color camera QHY8L with Sony ICX413 sensor in only 7x900 second exposures. An IDAS LPS P2 filter is used to block the light pollution of the nearby city lights. The photo can be downloaded here.
Image 2: Messier 106 and its neightbourhood
The photo above shows the original image where both Quasars are located. Both of them are in the same field of view with Messier 106 in the constellation of Canes Venatici.
This scope is like a faithful friend. It keeps what it promises. The tiny TSAPO65Q 420mm, f/6.5 flat field quadruplet is ideal for traveling, suitable for guiding, and exceptional for deep sky work. Due to its user friendly focal ratio, it is a joy to use.
Photo 1: The TS APO65Q telescope
Telescopes like this one are called "Geheimtipp" in Germany. This high quality quadruplet is capable to carry heavy camera trains and to maintain flatness till the edges of an APS sensor, commonly used in DSLR cameras. This portable scope is also suitable for visual observations of the Moon or the Sun*. More photos of it are available here. It belongs to a friend of mine.
-- *Warning: a Baader astrosolar filter is mandatory in that case.
Two apparent neighbor star clusters belong to the most attractive objects of the Gemini constellation. The small open cluster (NGC2158) is far behind the large one. The light of the 97 variable stars in NGC2158 needs almost 13000 years to reach the large open cluster (Messier 35) in the foreground.
Equipment: FSQ-106ED(f/5), Nikon d3100, Aperture(Mac), MaximDL. This photo is the result of three stacked, unguided exposures with 184+145+114 seconds.
Here we are again! I wish you a happy new earth year 2012. Let's look at the stars again! Towards the galactic disk, in the Monoceros constellation, an impressive open star cluster called NGC2232 is visible even in small instruments. This group of stars has a brightness of 4.2 mag and an apparent size of 53 arcmin in our sky. It has a diameter of approx. 18 light years and its light travels 1200 years to reach our planet [Wikipedia]. A high resolution image is available at: http://dark.astrodigital.net.