Attempts at Comet Lovejoy: At Glen Major again.

On January 12, I went up to Glen Major again to try my hand at imaging the comet again.

It was cold as always, but that didn’t stop me. I quickly assembled and aligned my telescope to my two favorite stars, Betelgeuse and Polaris. Before I tried imaging the comet again, I decided to take 10 images of the Orion Nebula to stack back home. The result was not good. The images turned out to be blurry, and unfocused. It’s disappointing. In the future, I need to figure out why it is so unfocused. Maybe the telescope needs to acclimatize to the ambient temperature (-20 C :P). Maybe there is a problem with the mirrors. Whatever the case, I need to find a solution.

I then began searching for the comet using my camera. I started taking pictures of the sky to try and find the comet, but I noticed the pictures displaying signs of trailing, which meant that the mount became too cold to operate properly, which led me to pack up and go back home.

Before going home, I was able to image the cityscape on the road to Clairemont. It was beautiful, but imaging it was difficult. After that, I went back home.

I may have not captured any good image that day, but on January 14th, I was able to image a close approach of Venus and Mercury from my bedroom. Here is the picture below. Venus is snuggling beside the tree, and Mercury is a step away from the tree.

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Venus and Mercury between a tree: 20″, f/5.6, ISO 1600

Keep Looking Up. You never know what you will find.

 

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Attempts at Comet Lovejoy: From my backyard

This new year gifted us with many great opportunities to see something truly unique. It’s called C/2014 Q2, also known as, Comet Lovejoy.

Comet Lovejoy was first discovered by Terry Lovejoy in Australia in August 2014. Ever since that time, it has brightened significantly, and has now crossed the celestial equator becoming visible for the Northern Hemisphere. Since the start of the new year, I’ve been trying to image the comet. The next few posts will chronicle my attempts to image the comet.

 

My First Attempt

On January 6, 2015, I started my journey on my front yard, freezing myself in sub-zero temperatures. I opted to use my tripod instead of my telescope. I started taking pictures of the full moon. It was magnificent!

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The Full Moon

After capturing a number of good images, I went on to image the Orion Nebula. That took more effort, but it was all for naught, as my images were not focused enough. It was heartbreaking but there was no point sulking on it.

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Orion Nebula Out of Focus

 

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Cropped_Orion_Nebula

I then decided to try my hand at imaging the comet, and I was dealt a good hand. Using my father’s telephoto lens, I was able to image the comet near Orion. I took a number of two second exposures of the image, adjusting the image to get the comet at the center of the frame each time until it was just right. I was able to stack them together to reduce the noise. The final image was dim, but I have, indeed, caught a comet.

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Comet Lovejoy – Highlighted

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Comet_Cropped

My camera’s memory was filling up, and I decided to end the session with a few images of the Pleiades. Those were one of the best images I had captured that night. The seven sisters were shining beautifully that night with all their grace.

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M45/The Pleiades

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The Pleiades_Cropped

That night was a successful night. I was able to image many celestial objects. It served as the start of my journey to image the comet, and other Deep Sky Objects. I continued my journey in the next few days.

 

Clear Night of Winter

There are rarely any clear nights during the Canadian winter. That’s why this night of clarity was not to be missed. On December 7, 2014, after bundling myself in two layers of jackets, and a scarf, I went outside, with my telescope, to image Orion.

After assembling, and aligning my telescope to the Full Moon, I was ready to explore the night sky.

The whole time I was there, I experienced problem after problem, and I was able to conquer them all though. For example, I found Orion, but it was a very dim gas cloud from my eyepiece. I needed to image it, but my father’s camera had no liveview. I had to use the internal viewfinder, which couldn’t see Orion, which means I couldn’t focus properly. I could see Jupiter, though.

I slewed to Jupiter and focused the camera. After a few images, I slewed to M42 and started imaging it. Each image turned out bad, because of significant trailing from the telescope. Tracking is still a major issue. I soon decided to image the Moon out of frustration.

I tried imaging M45, but trailing was too great to get a good image. Looking closely at the eyepiece, I realize that there was a one second delay from my command to its response. I tested it by going to M42, and imaging it. The results are here, and they confirm what I feared.

I soon packed up and went back inside, because my battery died. This session was quite productive. I saw M42, and Jupiter, and found a problem to correct on my telescope.

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: https://www.facebook.com/jolyastronomy

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

WORK CITED

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charge-coupled_device

http://www.celestron.com/c3/support3/index.php?_m=knowledgebase&_a=viewarticle&kbarticleid=2434

A Cold Christmas Night

Last night, three days after the Toronto Ice Storm, Santa brought us astronomers a Christmas gift: Clear Skies! Therefore, I decided to take advantage of it.

My goal for this session was to view a rare astronomical event: the occulation (blockage) of a star by an asteroid. The star was a 10.4 magnitude star (not very bright). The asteroid was a 15.4 magnitude asteroid (dimmer than the star). To see it is a slim to nil chance, but I tried.

At 10:50 pm, I took my telescope out in the bitter cold and got it ready to view the stars in the snow. For the first time, I was able to align the telescope using the SkyAlign feature. In previous sessions, I failed to align the telescope using the SkyAlign feature. Yesterday, I succeeded in that. After aligning the telescope, I got the coordinates for the star in Ra/Dec and Alt/Az coordinates. When the telescope slewed to it, it was behind the trees. I had to readjust the telescope to view it away from the trees. When it came time, I looked into the telescope and I saw small stars. However, I don’t think I saw the star that was to be occulted. It was disappointing, but I wasn’t surprised. I was not prepared or experienced enough to find such a small and unknown object. I decided to move on to other objects on my list.

I first slewed to the bright object in the sky, Jupiter. I saw the beautiful stripes, and its 4 beautiful moons. It’s always a sight to see Jupiter. I can check it off my list now.

The next object I saw is Sirius. One fact about Sirius is that it is a double star system, with a star 2 times the size of the sun, and a white dwarf that already died. Looking at it myself, I saw the star, and I think I saw a bulge from one side of the star, which is probably Sirius B. I can’t be sure until I view it closer. I can now cross the constellation Canis Major off my list.

The next objects I observed are the two brightest stars of Orion: Betelgeuse, and Rigel. I first slewed to Betelgeuse, the bright red supergiant. It was magnificent. I next slewed to Rigel. I had to move my telescope a bit, but I was able to find it. It wasn’t as bright as Betelgeuse though. I was able to cross of Orion off my list of constellations.

I looked into the sky and saw a small cluster of stars, and I saw M45 also known as the Pleades, or the Seven Sisters. It is a star cluster that is visible to the naked eye, and is made up of 7 stars. I decided to  look at it through the telescope. Doing that, I saw the magnificence of the 7 sisters in its formation. It was awe-inspiring. I crossed it off my list under the Deep Sky Objects Category.

Remembering my previous session where I could not see the horsehead nebula due to the battery dying on my telescope, I decided to slew towards Orion’s sword, a collection of three stars that represent the sword of the mythological hunter, Orion. The vicinity of those stars are quite interesting. I see dim stars close together and in interesting patterns that one can’t see without a telescope. The most notable one that I saw was at the middle star. There I saw a dim green-tinted cloud of sorts in the sky. I have never seen that before, but I learned about it in the first few lecture videos in my Astronomy class. I believe I saw M42, otherwise known as the Orion Nebula. This was my first sighting of a nebula. I was very excited, and will explore further in the future.

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The Orion Nebula through my telescope imaged using an iPhone 5s.

Continuing my journey, my telescope started to become sluggish and unresponsive, which lead me to conclude that the batteries died once more. With that, I decided to call it a day… but not before manually moving my telescope to the rising Waning Gibbous Moon through the trees. It was a very nice sight and another addition to my list.

After that, I packed up my telescope and decided to call it a night.

Overall, it was a very eye-opening experience. I tried to find a unique star event, however, I failed to find it. I was able to observe Jupiter, Sirius, Betelgeuse, Rigel, The Pleiades, the Orion Nebula, and the Waning Gibbous Moon. It was truly an interesting and productive night, which took me a step further in my astronomy adventure. I hope you will come with me.

WORK CONSULTED

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sirius

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleiades

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orion_%28constellation%29

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betelgeuse