Saturday, December 06, 2014

Skywatcher Heritage 130P

My new telescope. Although I already have a Skywatcher 130m complete with EQ2 mount and Skywatcher 80ED Pro I decided to add to my collection.
I wanted a 'Grab and Go' type scope that is light and folds up into a small compact size, the Heritage 130P fits the bill perfectly!

I am amazed at this scope, the Dobsonian mount makes it easy to use on a small table and is very well made. The tube extends and contracts easily. I have to be a bit careful with stray light as the tube is open so as I found, the garden light next door did get into the tube. The answer is simple, just move the scope into a shadow and it works fine!

The images of stars are and the Moon are very clear, certainly as good as, if not better than my big Skywatcher 130m. With the 130m I always had problems acheiving focus with a DSLR camera and could never use it. However, with the Heritage 130P it is possible to use a DSLR by simply shortening the adjustable tube until the DSLR acheives it's focus.
The two eyepieces are of good quality, but I already have a set of good eyepieces which work really well on the scope. The Heritage 130P also comes with a Red Spot Finder, which is perfect for finding the objects for viewing.
Before buying the scope I looked at lots of reviews as I was a bit concerned about the simple, but novel focus unit. It is unlike any that I have used before, you twist the top of the eyepiece holder and it moves on a thread. Simple, but effective, I found it quite easy to use and no problem at all focusing, even with my DSLR and webcam. You can see from my previous post of the Moon that it focuses quite well!

This scope is good value for money for both beginners and like myself, for someone that wants a small, compact and powerful telescope.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Lunar Mosaic

Last night I took my new Skywatcher Heritage 130P telescope out to have a look at the Moon. This was the first time that I have had a chance to do this with cloudy skies.
I love this scope, it is the same as my Skywatcher 130m, but reduces to a small size and is very light and easy to set up. One problem that I always had was taking photos with my big Skywatcher 130m, it is that it is a Newtonian scope and you cannot attach a DSLR camera as it will not focus.
I tried with my new Heritage and this did the same, but there is a difference...the tube length is adjustable!

Last night I tried with my Canon DSLR and shortened the adjustable tube to find focus on the works well!

The image of the Moon was taken using my Philips Toucam Pro II, it too had problems focusing, but a slight adjustmant on the tube length brought it into focus.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

SkyLink and SkyPortal observations

Tonight I did a full set up of my Skywatcher 80ED Pro, Celestron SLT computerised mount, SkyLink and SkyPortal on my Samsung Tab2. This together with my new Canon 1200d and clear sky gave me the opportunity to do some great observing and imaging.

I am really impressed with the SkyLink wireless plug-in and SkyPortal App! I have no problem doing a 3 star alignment using the movement arrows on SkyPortal. My Tab2 has GPS to give a perfect LAT /LONG for the SLT mount and I have also set the time exactly. Once the alignment has been carried out everything I set the scope to GoTo gave me the object spot-on!
The only problem that occurs is that when the alignment has been carried out the mount does not automatically switch on the tracking. This seems to be a bug in the SkyPortal App, to get around it I have to go to settings and switch a couple of time between siderial and one of the others. Eventually, the tracking starts up and everything is fine!

I really like the 'search' function on SkyPortal, you can see all the available objects, planets, stars etc that can be seen at that time and all you do is select and press GoTo and the scope points to the object. If you use the live view, you can select any object on the skymap, centre and is so much easier than using the handset that comes with the SLT mount.
The SkyLink cost me about £100, but SkyPortal is free, the two together is a bargain and makes observing and imaging so much easier!

Here are some of my images that I took tonight...

Dumbell Nebula - 20 subs with 30s exposure ISO 800

The Ring Nebula - 12 subs at 30s exposure ISO 800

Single exposure of Uranus - 30s exposure


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Philae lands on the comet!

 First image from Philae on the surface of the comet!

Image of the comet taken from Rosetta.

This is one of those "Where were you when...." moments!

Yesterday and today I taught three classes about the Rosetta project and how today would be the most important space achievement since man walked on the Moon. The kids loved finding out and watching the video clips of the mission. I was quite amazed though that most of the children had never heard of the mission and had no idea what was about to happen today.
We really need to to get the kids interested and educate them about what is happening technologically with the space missions and projects. I agree with Prof, Brian Cox!

This is a truly outstanding fete...well done to everyone involved in the project!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Huge Sunspots

The whole of the sun yesterday with different filters. The colours are beautiful and you can clearly see the huge sunspots disappearing into the limb of the sun.

Sunspots on a limb

Just managed to capture the huge sunspot as it disappears into the limb yesterday. Not seen the sun here for almost a week! I wish that I could have imaged it a few days earlier, it looked spectacular.

Captured using my Skywatcher 80ED with Baader film and yellow filter. Canon 1200d camera.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

ISS Photos 18th October

A couple of lovely images of the International Space Station tonight taken from Starmount at Radcliffe. Tonight I decided to take my camera out to take some photos of the ISS for a change. Used my Canon EOS 1200 with the bulb for long exposures.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

First light with the Canon EOS 1200D

In 2007 I bought myself a Canon EOS 350D and used it until recently to capture astro images. The 350D was a great camera for both astro and normal photos.
However, the 350D had it's limitations, particularly the lack of a 'live view' and zoom to help with focusing and the old CF Memory Cards. It would also be nice to have more megapixels!

I decided to have a look at the new Canon EOS 1200D and read some reviews about the camera. On one astro website this camera was given very poor reviews, saying that the Canon 1100D was much better. Other sites have said the 1200D is excellent for the price.

I looked on Argos and found that the 1200D is sold at a very reasonable £300! Also, the 1100D was sold at just £200! What should I do?
Well after a lot of thought and reading more reviews I decided to go for the current 1200D model.

I am very impressed with the camera, looks good and easy to use. Has a live view with zoom facility, 18Megapixel and SD Card, my current AF zoom lenses (200mm and 300mm) also fits the 1200D. The other facility I like are the on-screen settings in big letters. On the 350D I had to look through the viewfinder or try to read tiny LCD display which was frustrating at night.

Last night I used my Skywatcher 80ED Pro with SkyQ link and Skyportal App and set it up to take some old favourites - Andromeda and The Great Hercules Cluster. I have images these many times with the 350D.
Although the software for the 1200D is the same as the 350D the control part took a bit of time because it does much more. You also get a live preview of each image on the computer screen which is great for setting up the focus and checking tracking.

Quite pleased for my first attempt with this camera. The images were only 20 subs each at 30 seconds exposure and set to ISO 1600. Could have done much better with longer exposures and more of them, but these were just for testing.

Finished with an image of the Moon with camera set to ISO 200, 1/1000s exposure.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

45 years ago Apollo 11 launch.

45 years ago today I was 14 years old at Hayward Bilateral School in Bolton. I sat in the sunshine with my friends on the grass banking at the side of the gym listening to the Apollo 11 launch on a transistor radio...

I followed the commentry and listened out for the command words like 'Mode One Bravo' (Roll) and  'Mode One Charley' (staging) My friend Pete had bought a pack from W.H. Smiths which had the whole fight schedule of the mission. I always regretted not buying the pack.

This is an amazing video that I have never seen before:

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Light Moon Mosaic

Quite a tricky one is 8.00pm in the evening, the Sun is still shining and also the Moon. So I attempted to make a mosaic of the Moon in almost daylight.
It is easy to take the images, but it is also getting darker, so sticking together the separate images in i-image and keeping the background blue colour constant was tricky.

Not bad really for my first attempt.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Buzz Aldrin

My friend Tracy sent me this photo of Buzz Aldrin at the airport in Chicago on route to Florida. Tracy and her family where going on holiday to Florida and had to change planes at Chicago. Then Buzz Aldrin arrived in an orange fight suite to board the same flight.

Must be such an honour to share a flight with the second man on the Moon!

Colin Pillinger

Sad to hear about the death of Colin Pillinger today. A great guy with tons of enthusiasm!

He took a big risk with Beagle 2 sending it to Mars, but he had the drive to take risks and explore. Imagine what would have happened if the signal arrived at Earth and Beagle 2 began to function...well done Colin, it was worth a try!

I met Colin back in the 1980's at Summer School when I was studying with the Open University. I remember watching his programmes on BBC 2 at 6,00am in the morning when I was doing my degree. A great guy!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Very spotty sunspots

The Sun with yellow filter.

It looks like we have have finally hit the sunspot maximum! These images were taken yesterday April 18th 2014. The poor thing looks like it has the measles!
Some nice images taken with my Skywatcher 80ED Pro, Baader solar safe filter and coloured filters. A lot of activity on the Sun at the moment, the Aurora has reached K6 tonight.

Sunspots today with the blue filter.

Sunspots today showing the boiling surface of the chromosphere.

Sunspots today in natural white light.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

ISS photo sequence

This is a series of frames captured using my Skywatcher 130 and Philips Toucam Pro II webcam on April 15th. I have tried various ways of capturing close up images of the ISS with a video and stills, but it is so difficult to get right. I think it all comes down to luck at the end of the day with the equipment that I am using.

Got a lot of retweets on Twitter with this image!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Swedish Star Party

This week we have had our Swedish friends Birgitta, Kribban and Malva visiting us. After tea, I took my Skywatcher 130m telescope out into the garden to look at the Moon and Jupiter. sky was perfectly clear. It was fun to try to take photos with our smartphones.

Malva and Birgitta's smartphone photo of the Moon through my telescope.

 Malva and Birgitta's photo of Jupiter and it's moons with the Smartphone.

Later, we watched the International Space Station pass overhead...beautiful!

Monday, March 31, 2014

LEGO Curiosity Rover

Time for some LEGO therapy, great for those cloudy nights!

I saw the LEGO Curiosity Rover in this month's 'Sky at Night' magazine. It looked good and was only £24.99! I decided to get one direct from LEGO.

Now, remember that I am not a LEGO person and have never built a LEGO model in my life, but I really enjoyed building this one. It has 295 pieces, some tiny, but the instructions are very clear and easy to follow. Took me five nights to complete, nice and relaxing!

My completed Curiosity Mars Rover.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Mars Compilation

Mars will be closest to us in the next few weeks, but it will be quite low in the sky. Mars is closest to Earth about every two years. A few years ago we had a particularly close encounter with Mars and high up in the sky. I was able to take some great photos as it gradually got closer.
Took these photos with my Skywatcher 130m scope with a Philips Toucam Pro II webcam attached. Stacked and processed with Registax 3.

I am going to try to capture some images of Mars again in April, but I doubt that they will be better than these.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

International Space Station

Tonight I was looking at some older images that I took of the ISS from my back garden back in 2009 when I came across some close up images that I didn't think were good enough at the time. When I saw them and enlarged the images I was quite amazed, so I made an array of the images.

They were taken in September 2009 with my Skywatcher 80ED Pro and Canon EOS350D camera. I must have held the scope and camera on my shoulder to capture these images.

I have tried many times to capture close up images of the ISS, but these are by far the best ones!

On ITV4 there is a series of programmes running called 'Space Live', last night was a live programme from the ISS with astronauts talking about life in space. Tonight was live from the ISS control centre in Houston talking with previoes astronauts and what happens when there are problems on the ISS. Really interesting programmes.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Jupiter Moon Transit

This is a first for me, imaging a transit or rather, double transit on Jupiter. Last night was perfectly clear, so I set up my Skywatcher 80 ED Pro and Philips Toucan Pro II at about 8.15pm to witness the event. My first images show the shadow of Ganymede alone which transited Jupiter the day before leaving just the shadow. At around 8.40pm a second transit took place, this time the Moon Io. I'm sure that somewhere on the images I should be able to see Io as well as it's shadow, but it is difficult to see. It is also nice to have captured the GRS just above the Ganymede shadow on the right.

Here is a second array of images slightly larger.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Moon Mosaic 7th March


 I am very pleased with this mosaic. This was taken with my Skywatcher 130m and Philips Toucam Pro II webcam. When I captured the AVI's the atmosphere seemed very unstable and the image was constantly moving in and out of focus. In fact, I found it quite difficult to achieve focus while watching it on the laptop. After processing in Registax the images looked quite good. I then assembled the mosaic with iMerge.

Tonight I downloaded an amazing Moon Globe app for my ipad. I was able to compare my photo with the ipad by adjusting the time setting. An excellent app!

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Jupiter 3rd March

Jupiter on 3rd March 2014 showing the great Red Spot.

A beautiful clear evening with Jupiter almost at azimuth. I took a series of avi's on my Philips Toucam Pro II and Skywatcher 80ED Pro. These are taken with the 2x Barlow lens. I did take some with my 3x Barlow lens as well, but these are clearer after processing.

On the images you can see the 'Great Red Spot' on the left. An enormous storm that has raged for many years. I am really pleased to capture the Great Red Spot at last!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Aurora in Bolton

Image of the Aurora from my back garden last night.

Last night was amazing! Following a Solar Storm a few days ago the Earth was bombarded with particles from the Sun to produce the most incredible Aurora in England for many years. Although I tried hard, I couldn't see the Aurora from my house even though photos from North Wales, Wigan and Leeds were coming in in Twitter. We have a lot of light pollution to the North which doesn't help. I set up my camera and pointed it North in my back garden, the sky was clear with lots of stars visible. I then took some images at around 20 sec exposures and hoped for the best!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Moon and Venus

Had to get up very early today for this one, 6.30am to see the cresent Moon and Venus lying low in the South East with a clear sky and twilight. A beautiful sight.

I took this image with my Canon EOS350D and 300mm zoom lens sat on a small tripod on the window ledge.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Super Moon

Apparently, January 2014 had a 'Black Moon' followed by a 'Super Moon' ... sounds a little complicated, but certainly worth looking at.

To capture this image I decided to use my Skywatcher 130m Newtonian scope. I have not used it for a while, so I spent some time assembling it again and checking that everything was alright. Then I used the Philips Toucam Pro II webcam and SharpCap to take about 30 avi images of the almost full moon. After stacking the AVI's in Registax I then proceeded to make up the jigsaw puzzle of producing a mozaic with the images using iMerge.

It is fun to do!

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Cresent Moon

Taken with my Skywatcher 80ED Pro and Philips Toucam Pro II webcam. Moon mosaic of five images with iMerge.

This photo was taken between the rain storms of a beautiful cresent moon on 2/2/14. The UK is experiencing a battering of storms which have been constantly feeding in from the Atlantic. There has been flooding in some areas since before Christmas and no end in sight!
Needless to say that there are not many clear nights. This month has a 'Super Moon' so it should be interesting to see if the Moon is brighter or bigger this month.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Jupiter 2014

Here is a combination of images of Jupiter on 23rd January 2013.

Not many clear skies here at the moment lots of rain and clouds. These taken with my Skywatcher 80 RD Pro and Philips Toucan Pro II webcam.