Astronomy with Araz

It was a semi-cloudy night on Friday, July 25, 2014. That night, I met my friend, Araz Boghossian, who is a photographer, electrical engineer, and amateur astronomer, in King City. Using his vehicle, we went to a lake near his house. Before we parked, a man that was there questioned why we were there at this location. We explained to him why we were there, and was all right with it.

We quickly unpacked all our equipment and got it assembled. It was a good location, but since it was near a lake, it was infested with large mosquitoes, hungry for human blood. I had a mosquito repellent clip-on, but it didn’t work (I later learned I didn’t set it up right.) There, I was able to use my new equipment, such as my new flip mirror, which allows me to connect two devices into my telescope, such as an eyepiece or a camera; and my DC adapter, which lets me connect the telescope to a car adapter to run the telescope off its power supply.

We did a lot of astronomy there. We first aimed at Mars. Since it is moving away from opposition, it didn’t give us much detail, and we quickly moved onto Saturn, swatting mosquitoes at the same time. Once we had Saturn in view, we had a look at the beautiful, ringed Saturn. When Araz saw Saturn, he was awestruck by its beauty. We kept looking at it, and we noticed three of its moons glowing dimly in the telescope. It was quite amazing and surprising that we were able to see three of its moons.

Using Araz’s camera, we decided to take a few pictures of Saturn. Araz, fighting the bugs around him, quickly got his Nikon DSLR camera, switched his lens with his T-ring so that he can put it in my telescope. Once it was firmly attached, I flipped the mirror. Initially, there was no image, however, we quickly realized that it wasn’t focused properly to the camera. The eyepiece and the camera require different focusing, which meant we couldn’t see using the eyepiece and the camera at the same time. Fortunately, we were able to get Saturn in view of the camera. Once Saturn was centered in the camera, we were able to take many photos. The first few were relatively blurry, but as we played with the focusing, the clarity improved. Eventually, we were able to get a great set of images of Saturn, which clearly showed the gap between the planet and the ring. It was beautiful.

After a good imaging session, we decided to move onto M51, a galaxy I have yet to find. After, unsuccessfully, trying to find it among a sea of stars, we decided to try taking some images of the night sky itself. Therefore, Araz removed his camera from my telescope, replaced the T-Ring with his 18 mm lens, and left the shutter open for a long time. He was able to take some star trail images, which meant that the camera wasn’t moving with the Earth’s rotation, as a result, it captured the movement of the stars in the night sky. He showed me the pictures, and the images were well captured. At the same time, I was still looking at Saturn, and it was still shining beautifully.

After his long exposure images, we decided to try and take a long exposure image on my telescope’s piggyback mount. We tried to take a picture of the Big Dipper, which didn’t turn out as we hoped. The image we took was more of a star trail image than an image of the Big Dipper. This meant that my telescope wasn’t properly tracking the night sky. I would need to get my telescope repaired.

After that, we decided to call it a night. We packed up our equipment and headed back home. It was a great night. The sky was clear enough to view the planets and the stars with. Waking up the next day, I was covered in mosquito bites. Nevertheless, it was a great experience. Hopefully, the next time Araz and I meet, we will have more targets to search for, and my equipment will finally begin to work better.

Until then, happy observing!

Deep Sky Observer – The Orion Nebula

On January 21, 2014, the sky was clear again. Therefore, I decided to take my telescope out once more. Outside was a temperature of -18 oC. It was not that windy. I set up on my driveway, which had a great view of the constellation Orion. My goal for this session was to find the Orion Nebula once more and properly image it.

When everything is set up, I align my telescope to two stars: Betelgeuse, and Mirfak. It was a successful alignment. After alignment, I slewed to M42. I looked at it through my eyepiece, and I saw the glorius green cloud of the Orion Nebula, also known as M42. Since I already tried taking an image with the DSLR, I tried to image it using the CCD Camera.

For those who don’t know, A CCD Camera is a camera that uses a chip to collect the light and create an image from it. CCD stands for Charged-Coupled Device. It is a major advancement in digital imaging technology. It is used not only for light detection, but when high-quality images are needed. The first images I took, such as my triple-transit Jupiter image, or my Saturn image, were with a CCD camera.

After fiddling with the telescope, eye piece and CCD camera, I was able to find an image of three stars. I don’t know if that was M42, however, I was happy to be able to image far away stars from my CCD camera, designed for planetary imaging. Unfortunately, after processing the video footage, I realized it was not M42, but were three stars that were poorly focused. After filming the stars for a few minutes, I decided to stop CCD imaging the stars. I was determined to find M42 though.

Orion Nebula Stars captured using CCD Camera

Orion Nebula Stars captured using CCD Camera

Therefore, I decided to use the DSLR Camera again. I eventually found M42, and took a few long exposure images of it. Looking at them now, it is much clearer this time around, but not at the level that I want it to be at. I believe there might be a focusing issue on my telescope. I’ll need to look into that. Below is the image of the Orion Nebula:

The Orion Nebula

The Orion Nebula

During my imaging attempts of M42, I went to the side of my house, and I saw the Big Dipper, clear as night, between my house and my neighbour’s house. Seeing it at its position inspired me to image it, but at a later time, after Jupiter.

After imaging M42, I set my sight to CCD image Jupiter. However, before I could do that, I see my computer has restarted and repairing itself. Waiting for it, I realize that the computer is on a cycle that prevents the operating system from booting. I don’t know why, but I believe it was because of the intense cold prevented the proper functioning of my computer. Therefore, I decided to take my computer inside to warm up. With my computer out of order, I decided to focus my attention on capturing that image of the Big Dipper.

I relocated my set up to the dark area between my house and my neighbour’s. I set the camera on top of my piggyback mount. I then set the telescope to capture many long exposure images of the sky. They turned out beautifully.

Wide Angle View of Stars

Wide Angle View of Stars

The Big Dipper Between Two Houses

The Big Dipper Between Two Houses

Stars with Jupiter in the sky

Stars with Jupiter in the sky

Note that on the center-bottom portion of the images, my telescope was visible.

After I was satisfied in the quality and number of images taken, I decided to refocus my attention on Jupiter. I went back inside to obtain my laptop. At the same time I also went to swap out the batteries. To conserve used batteries, I reused a set of old batteries having warmed up to room temperature, thus allowing any extra charge to be used up. I went outside and replaced the batteries.

I set it up and I set the telescope to realign itself to Jupiter. However, the telescope was starting to give me a No Response 17 code. That means that my hand controller lost contact with the Altitude motor, which means I had no up or down capabilities. I conjectured it to being exposed to the cold for so long. However, I also read that it could be due to the used batteries having been completely drained. Regardless of why, I decided to call it a night. I brought all my equipment back in, and got warm.

That night was not only quite successful, but has been the busiest I had ever been. I ran back into my house to get equipment more times than any other time. I got a better image of M42 despite it not being at the quality I desire it to be. I was able to image a farway star using CCD. I was also able to get a lot of long-exposure images of the big dipper and the night sky. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to image Jupiter. The next time I observe, I will image Jupiter. I also discovered focusing issues when I use my DSLR camera. It will have to be resolved if I want to get better images. It has been a great learning experience, and I hope to do it again.

Before I conclude the post, I have one announcement to make:

  • The Facebook page is officially live. If anybody has any questions, feel free to ask them there. The link is:

Thank You for following my blog. I hope you enjoy it. Happy Observing!