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Thursday, December 25, 2014

A keyboard for stargazers - The Razer BlackWidow Chroma

Razer, a computer peripherals company, recently included an illuminated keyboard in its portfolio. Although it was primarily made for the gamer scene, it has many useful features for stargazers.

Image: The Razer BlackWidow Chroma keyboard

This keyboard is suitable for astronomy applications since the red light keeps the eyes adapted in the darkness. Each key can be separately set to a specific color  (see image). The keyboard can be dimmed.

Stargazers may want to:
  • set all alphanumeric keys in red
  • set control keys in light red
  • set often used letters (e.g. N, G, C, M, _, I, m, a, g, e) in dark red
  • turn off all keys usually not really needed (see image)
to improve the work with MaximDL, TheSky, or AstroArt at night. All these settings make things easier at night when every key stroke counts.

The keyboard can connect the personal razerzone.com internet account of the user in order to share his/her settings across other Razer devices. It supports the import / export of the settings on a hard drive. My own settings are available for download on my site.

This modern keyboard is built like a tank. It works on Mac and Windows, even on old Windows XP machines.

Some years ago, I have developed a free app (RedScreen.exe) to also protect eye adaption during your astronomy sessions. If you like, you can download it here for free.

Thanks for reading.

Panagiotis Xipteras

Monday, December 22, 2014

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Pinwheel Cluster in Auriga

Image: Messier 36 is the "Pinwheel Cluster"

Messier 36 is an open star cluster in the constellation of Auriga. It is a worthwhile target for small telescopes. Learn more about this object at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messier_36

Equipment:
Telescope: Takahashi FS-102 at f/5.9
Camera: SBIG ST-7XME
Adaptive optics: SBIG AO-7
Mount: Losmandy G11


Friday, October 10, 2014

A fascinating image of the SH2-240 nebula

Image: SH2-240, copyright (c) 2014 by H.Weber and M. Noller

We are proud to present you a demanding target tonight. This is the Simeis 147 (SH2-240) nebula in the Taurus constellation, a large and faint celestial object mainly considered by advanced space photographers. This image is exclusively published in this blog under the permission of its authors.

Exposure:
Hα: 8x1200 sec
OIII: 4x1200 sec
SII: 5x1200 sec

Equipment:
CCD astrocamera: ICX814-based CCD bei -15°C.
Filter: Baader narrowband filters.
Lens: Sigma 105 mm f2,8 at f/4.
Guiding: Takahashi FSQ 85 with Starlight Loadstar camera.
Mount: Losmandy G11.

Astrophotographers/ authors:
Image acquisition: Holger Weber, www.astroholgi.de
Photo processing: Markus Noller, www.deep-sky-images.de

/px

Sunday, October 05, 2014

A night full of magic

Image 1: The h+x star cluster in Perseus
Equipment: FSQ-106ED, fl=530mm (f/5), t=190s, QHY8L, JPZ mount

Image 2: NGC6791 star cluster in Lyra
Equipment: FSQ-106ED, QHY8L, JPZ mount

Image 3: Messier 38 in Auriga
Equipment: FSQ-106ED, QHY8L, JPZ mount

Image 4: NGC2232 open star cluster
Equipment: TOA-130, QHY8L, JPZ mount

Image 4: M13 - The Hercules Globular Cluster
Equipment: TOA-130, Nikon d3100, JPZ mount

Image 5: Messier 45 - Pleiades, the seven sisters
Equipment: FSQ-106ED, Nikon d3100, JPZ mount

When I am working on such delightful celestial objects, I sometimes think astrophotography is a pre-stage of poetry. The astrophotographer, invests all his experience trying to interpret a fact into a shapes and colors, so a poet tries to interpret his emotions after looking these pictures into wonderful words. /px
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Further infos are available in wikipedia:

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Diamonds in the sky - Messier 35

Image: Messier 35

Messier 35 redefines the term beauty in a timeless manner showing countless sparkling stars in a velvet background. 
(Image by Panagiotis Xipteras)

Thursday, October 02, 2014

The nebulas IC405 and IC410 in Auriga

Image 1: The bizarre structures of the nebulas IC405 and IC406 in the Auriga constellation

Image 2: Imaging setup

Equipment:Astrocamera: ICX814-based CCD on Canon 200mm (f/4) lens, Baader Ha (7nm) filter, 5x900s.
Autoguiding: Starlight Lodestar on Takahashi FSQ-85EDX (no kidding :-o)
Mount: Losmandy G11 mount with Gemini II GoTo controller on Berlebach tripod

Author: Holger Weber (Astroholgi), Germany, Internet: http://www.astroholgi.de

Saturday, September 27, 2014

M76: the Little Dumbbell nebula in Perseus

Image: Little Dumbbell in Perseus

The Little Dumbbell planetary nebula, also known as Messier 76, is located in Perseus constellation.
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Equipment: FS-102 (f/6), reducer, SBIG ST-7 XME, Baader LRGB filters, MaximDL, Aperture.
Exposures: Luminance=6x120s, Red=2x120s, Green=120s, Blue=120s.
Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Dumbbell_Nebula

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Astronomy photos with a 76mm telescope

 Image 1: The Epsilon Nebula in Aquila
TV76 (f/5), TV 0.8x reducer, Nikon d3100, Vixen GP, unguided, 1x3min, ISO400, no flats, no processing
The Epsilon nebula was (as always) invisible through the eyepiece under the light polluted city skies.

 Image 2: The Whirlpool galaxy M51 in Canes Venatici
TV76 (f/5), TV 0.8x reducer, Nikon d3100, Vixen GP, unguided, 3x3min, ISO400, no flats
M51 was visible with the TV76 at 70x magnification under the light polluted suburban skies! I never thought ...

Image 3: The Sun with spots at 1200mm focal length
TV76 (f/15.8), Powermate 2.5x, Nikon d3100, Vixen GP, unguided, 1/800s, ISO400, Baader Astrosolar sun protection filter.
The view was sharp and full of details in focus.

  Image 4: The globular cluster M13 in Hercules
TV76 (f/5), TV 0.8x reducer, Nikon d3100, Vixen GP, unguided, 1x30s, ISO1600, no flats

 Image 5: The double star Mizar and Alcor in Ursa Major
TV76 (f/15.8), TV Powermate 2.5x extender, Nikon d3100, Vixen GP, unguided, 1s, ISO400, no flats

Image 6: Red Super Moon Sept.28th, 2015
TV76 (f/5), TV 0.8x reducer, Nikon d3100, Vixen GP, unguided

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The E nebula in Aquila

Image 1: B142-3 dark nebula in the Aquilla constellation

The dark nebula B142-3 is a dust formation near Gamma Aquillae obstructing the light of the background stars. It is also call E nebula: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E_Nebula since the dust forms the Greek capital letter "E".
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Equipment: Vixen GP, Televue-76, focal length 380mm, f/5
Exposure: 206 seconds, unguided, no flats used, photo processing in Aperture v3 (Mac)
Download: http://dark.astrodigital.net

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Daystar Quark "Chromosphere" on Takahashi FSQ-85

After an intensive research, how a powerful and affordable Hα telescope could look like, a stargazer of my astronomy club made the final step and ordered it. His doctrine was:


"The most expensive telescope is the one you will buy twice"


In times of a contaminated telescope market, where paper launches and low-quality products flood the world, his way was long. I remember a greek epic story I have been told as I was a child. It was the Journey of Odysseus to Ithaca. Particularly because it takes years to settle on a type of equipment perfectly matching your needs.
Image 7: The complete Ha telescope setup

Hence, my colleague didn't follow the cheap way. He followed the affordable one. Now, every single screw of his setup makes sense. His system consists of:

This setup is suitable for astrophotography as well.
Image 1: ICS custom case for the Takahashi FSQ-85

This customized case for the Takahashi FSQ-85 is made in Germany by ICS. The waiting time paid off.

Image 2: The Japanese Takahashi FSQ-85 in its german ICS case

This case is a secure place for these exceptional Takahashi optics. It is a metal construction with wood plates inside it. I think, it is birch wood. The foam inside it secures the optics from shocks and vibrations during traveling.

Image 3: FSQ-85 quadruplet refractor on Losmandy G11

The german Baader Clicklock system on the Baader diagonal has a compression ring inside providing a fine connection to the eyepiece.

Image 4: A sturdy setup for Ha observing and astrophotography

Sure, this telescope is overmounted on the american Losmandy G11. Anyway, this is a sturdy setup also suitable for photographic use.

Image 5: Baader ERF90 on the Baby-Q via astroholgi.de adapter

The quality of the ERF filter mount is exceptional. Its creator Astroholgi accepts orders from all EU countries. The Baader ERF-90mm (Energy Rejection Filter) protects the telescope as it prevents heat development in the tube.

Image 6: The cable hub and the battery pack. Note his self-made 5V USB connector for the Daystar Quark.

Astroholgi's power supply consists of three 12 V gell cells connected in parallel. Its better suited for traveling than an old-fashioned, heavy car battery. Astroholgi's cable hub makes the setup looking tidy and clean.

The Daystar Quark device requires an USB connection (5V) with 1.5A to work properly at its optimum temperature level. The USB bus of a computer (maximum 0.5A) can not provide enough power to supply the Daystar and it should not be used! An extra 5V/2A USB power supply is already included in the box when you buy the Daystar.

You can adjust the optimum setting using the potentiometer on the Daystar Quark (see also image [11]). A green/red LED indicates the current working status of the Quark. Green means the operating temperature is reached. During the review the LED changed from red to green 10 minutes after switching it on.

Image 8: Astroholgi's ERF adapter for the Baby-Q

AFAIK, refractors up to 80mm aperture do not need any ERF filter for Ha observing with the Daystar Chromosphere eyepiece. Up to 120mm aperture only an UV/IR filter in the diagonal should be sufficient. From 120mm and up, both an ERF filter and an UV/IR filter are mandatory.
Caution: Quadruplet refractors of any aperture need an ERF filter (see also image [9])!

I can confirm this for my Televue 76 refractor as it needs neither ERF nor UV/IR filter for Ha observing with Daystar's One-Thousand-Dollar-Baby but I can not guarantee that this is the very best way to do so. Please consult your dealer for accurate information. Anyway, the Daystar Quark Chromosphere delivers fine views of the Sun both with my Televue 76  (without ERF) and my friend's Takahashi FSQ-85 (with ERF).

Image 9: ERF and Ha Daystar eyepiece on the FSQ-85

There are two versions of the Daystar Quark: (a) Prominence and (b) Chromosphere. He chose the second one in order to be able to see details in the Sun disc. Anyway, I can confirm that, the (b) Daystar Chromosphere version delivered excellent views of both the protuberances and the Sun disc. I have successfully tested that on his FSQ-85 and my Televue 76 apo. I will publish a small review of it later in this blog.

Image 10: The Daystar Quark requires an USB connection

The "Daystar Quark Chromosphere" simply converts your refractor to a Hα telescope. The Daystar device has a 4.3x telecentric inside. This barlow-like amplification device produces an orthographic view of the subject. Perfection or not, the focal length of the telescope is multiplied by 4.3x. That means, the FSQ-85 now works at f/22.8 and 1935mm focal length with the Daystar. You may now think, it is still a bargain.

Image 11: A Pentax XW 20mm eyepiece is a good choice for the Daystar Quark

However, there is no such thing like a free lunch and you need an excellent, fat eyepiece to get the best out of such a configuration. You might want to observe at low magnification and enjoy the larger field of view. Takahashi, Televue, or Pentax provide suitable eyepieces in the 15...40mm range. Such eyepieces are heavy and you'll probably pay 1000€ per kilo to buy one.

Furthermore, if you want to use 2" eyepieces on the Quark, you need Astroholgi's 2" adapter (see image [11]) dealing with the issue that the ethalon element in the Quark is a bit smaller than Astroholgi's 2" adapter and it does not fully illuminates it.

Both low-cost eyepieces shown in images 10 & 11 significantly degraded the good image quality came out of the Daystar Quark. So once again, the common law of business balance has come true. In other words: "if you pay peanuts you get monkeys".

Image 12: The Daystar Quark on the Baader Bino

The Daystar Quark Chromosphere we used for this review has proven to be an impressive piece of engineering at an affordable price. But IMHO although its innovative concept tries to open new ways towards bargain Hα gazing, you should consider the total system costs. You might want to combine this red jewel with fine optics to get the best out of it.

Demanding Hα work was never a cheap affair.

Panagiotis Xipteras
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daystar quark h-alpha filter eyepiece okular test review fsq-85 losmandy g11 Baader Bino

Saturday, August 30, 2014

DWB111 and NGC7635 nebulas

Image 1: Bizarre structures in DWB111

Image 2: Thousands details in NGC7635

Equipment: ICX814-based CCD on Canon 200mm (f/4), Ha (7nm) filter, autoguiding: Starlight Lodestar on Astroprofessional APO 115/800mm on Losmandy G11 mount.
Author: Holger Weber (Astroholgi), Germany, Internet: http://www.astroholgi.de

Monday, August 11, 2014

NGC7000, Pelikan, and Butterfly Nebulas in Cygnus

Image 1: Bizarre structures in IC1318 

Image 2: Thousands details in NGC7000, IC5070 and IC5067

Equipment: ICX814-based CCD on Canon 200mm (f/4), 5x900s, Ha (7nm) filter, autoguiding: Starlight Lodestar on Astroprofessional APO 115/800mm on Losmandy G11 mount.
Author: Holger Weber (Astroholgi), Germany, Internet: http://www.astroholgi.de

Sunday, August 10, 2014

RedScreen (Win) makes your computer screen red !

Here is a small program for astronomers and sky-gazers having a PC next to their telescope. My freeware makes the computer screen red, keeping the eyes adapted in the darkness, since the red color does not disturb astronomic observations.

Image: Red Screen for Windows in action

Download it for free at: http://www.astrodigital.net/download/redscreen_windows/redscreen_windows.html

Thursday, August 07, 2014

NGC5317 and other galaxies in Virgo

Image: NGC5317 (NGC5364) and other nearby galaxies in the Virgo constellation

More info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NGC_5364
Original image: http://bit.ly/XNQ6ok
Photo stuff: Exposure 4x1200s, QHY8L (crop) OSC ccd, 660mm, f/5.2

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Our neighbor star on June 4th, 2014

Image: The Sun on June 4th, 2014

Many large  sunspots indicate high solar activity. A couple of them were visible in the photosphere of our neighbor star on June 4th, 2014. The photosphere is the lowest layer of the Sun's atmosphere. It is 400 km thick and its temperature varies from 7500°K to 4500°K. Sunspots and granules are visible through an amateur telescope equipped with special safety film [see also Baader Astrosolar (R)], which is mandatory for Sun observations and photography.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Saturn: The ring planet on July, 16th 2014

Image: The ring planet in July 2014

Yesterday night, I spontaneously decided to make some shots of Saturn, since the ring planet will loose on altitude in the next years making it a difficult target. Saturn was 9.5AU away from the Earth and had an angular size of 18" and a brightness of 0.45mag.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A six days old moon (2014)

Image: The six days old Moon

Up on the terminator line: Aristoteles and Eudoxus craters.
Up-right: the Hercules and Atlas craters.
Below the Posidonius crater is the landing site of the Apollo 17 mission.
Middle: The Apollo 11 landing site, the Theophilus, Cyrillus and Catharina craters
Down: Maurolycus (black wolf) crater
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HiRes image: http://bit.ly/1s8kK8f

Saturday, June 07, 2014

The Sun with spots (one year after the maximum) - photos taken in June and July 2014

Image 1: The Sun with spots on July 6, 2014 (focal length 1964mm@ f/9.3)

Image 2: The Sun with spots in white light in June 2014 (focal length 1000mm@ f/7.7)

Sun's magnetic activity smoothly comes up and down every 11 years (see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_cycle). Although a little bit delayed, the last maximum was in 2013. Hence Sun's activity will be lower in the next six years, finally coming up again till it enters its next maximum by 2024. Many dark spots on the Sun surface is an indicator of high solar activity.

Both photos are available for free download at: http://bit.ly/1oH5D0J and http://bit.ly/1xZID2l

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Red and black nebulas in Cygnus

Image 1: LBN159 SH2-99 NGC6857 in Cygnus

LBN159 is a dark nebula towards the "Orion Spur" of our galaxy. Dark nebulas are huge amount of dust obstructing the light of the background stars. 

Image 2: Digital zoom on both emission nebulas SH2-99 and NGC6857

NGC6857 (up) is a tiny emission nebula having a brightness of  11.4m and an apparent size of 0,6". The second nebula SH2-99 is apparently located under it.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Christmas Tree cluster - Fox Flur nebula - Conus nebula - Hubble nebula


Image 1: The worlds around the Christmas Tree star cluster

The Christmas Tree star cluster is located in the Monoceros constellation. The bizarre Fox Flur nebula and the beautiful Conus nebula are surrounded by a rich, colorful star field. The Hubble nebula and its RMon central star are found at upper right side of the photo. Two regions of this image reveal faint details when processed with special astrophotographic software. See below:

Image 2: The double star on the top of the Conus nebula NGC2264

Image 3:  Details in the Hubble reflection nebula NGC2346

Image data:
Three sub exposures of 1200s each, stacked and processed with MaximDL and Aperture.
The focal length was 660mm (f/5.2), a QHY8L one-shot-color camera, auto guided with a Lodestar on a FS60C was on prime focus.

Links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monoceros
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NGC_2264
http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap020701.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fox_Fur_Nebula
http://burro.astr.cwru.edu/stu/advanced/archive_hst_1999.html
http://www.redorbit.com/education/reference_library/space_1/stellar_bodies/2574376/hubbles_variable_nebula/

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The red planet on April 7th, 2014

Image: Mars one day before its opposition 2014

This is Mars one day before its opposition on April 7th, 2014 at 21:26 GMT. This photo is a sum of 1900 stacked video frames taken at 4m focal length (f/30.8). It truly conveys the visual impression at 300x magnification.

SURFACE DETAILS:
Top: Olympia Planum is covered as always with snow.
Centre: Accidalia Planitia
Bottom left: Aurorae Planum
Bottom right: Meridiani Planum, where the rover Opportunity has landed (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meridiani_Planum).

Video: Mars through the telescope


MARS
Brightness: -1,47mag
Distance from Earth: 0.62au
Angular size: 15"
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