Fossil Light at Kelling, spies the ISS

Posted by XTSee on 11th October , 2011

At the Kelling Heath Star Party there were many hundreds of telescopes, from little Meade ETX90’s through to giant 24inch Dobsonians, and gorgeous high tech Refractors setup for astro-photography with some very expensive looking cooled CCD cameras and guide scopes.

One of the big Dobs that really caught my eye was Fossil Light, constructed entirely by Martin Lewis of SkyInspector.co.uk. I spent quite a while talking to Martin about the scope. It is a wonderful example of fine engineering, with well thought out design. Everything has been carefully considered to ensure it performs as well as possible, and it looks remarkably modern for a scope that was built back in 1996. Bear in mind this was in the early days of the Internet when there was very little information about constructing telescopes, and he had to rely on the few books available at the time. How we take the Internet for granted nowadays!

Fossil Light 18inch f/4.5 Dobsonian

Fossil Light 18inch f/4.5 Dobsonian

You can learn more about the construction of this fine telescope at Martin’s website where you can find a PDF describing how he built it in the Equipment section.

Also keep an eye out for an article he has written for the Dec 2011 edition of Sky at Night, where he explains how he was able to use his dobsonian’s to track and produce some remarkable pictures of the International Space Station.

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SPC900NC Webcam must use 5fps with LX mode

Posted by XTSee on 11th October , 2011

When I went to the Kelling Heath star party 2 weeks ago, I had a good go at using my SPC900NC webcam with my scope to so some astrophotography. Even though I had modded the camera several months ago, I’ve not tried using it for real yet! My bad. Anyway the star party gave me the kick up the butt I needed.

SPC900NC

SPC900NC

But I experienced an odd problem which took me a little while to figure out. I use K3CCDTools (or WxAstroCapture), with my Steve Chambers SC1 mod for long exposure, and it was successfully reading the image data back to my laptop for 2 or 3 images in a row, but then the next image would be blank/black (as if the LX mode had been turned off, i.e. it had gone back to a dim image where you could only just make out the stars/object being photographed), and this would occur for maybe 1 or 2 images, but then it was going back to a properly long exposed image again. This continued in a seemingly intermittent fashion switching between long exposures, then dark images.

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Jupiter at Kelling Heath Star Party Sept 2011

Posted by XTSee on 11th October , 2011

The following photo of Jupiter is one I took at the Kelling Heath Star Party on 24th September 2011 aligning/stacking about 1000 frames at 5ps (320×240), using my SPC900NC in video mode on my C6-SGT XLT SCT telescope tracking on CG-EQ5 mount, and post-processed with Registax.

Jupiter 24-11-2011 C6-SGT SPC900NC Registax

Jupiter 24-11-2011 C6-SGT SPC900NC Registax

I had also tried using K3CCDTools with this footage, but I find that Registax always seem to produce finer detail, and I was pleased to see the great red spot was evident in the final image. You can also see one of the moons, Io off to the left of the planet. At the time Ganymede and Callisto were out of view, and Europa was behind Jupiter.

On this night it was quite dark (new moon not yet up) and clear, and Jupiter was at about 15° above the horizon and with less atmospheric turbulence.

Older pictures can be found on my Jupiter photos page.

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Kelling Heath Star Party

Posted by XTSee on 22nd September , 2011

Going to the Kelling Heath Star Party in Norfolk today. Taking both my scopes, and praying for clear skies! Looking forward to seeing other folk and their kit too. Should be fun.

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How to use Meade f/3.3 Focal Reducer with SPC900NC & Celestron C6-SGT

Posted by XTSee on 1st August , 2011

I have a Philips SPC900NC PC webcam that I use for astrophotography with my Celestron C6-SGT XLT SCT Goto telescope. I have modified it with the Steve Chambers LX (Long Exposure) mod and wanted to try out a fairly good easy starting target to experiment on its capabilities.

Pleiades seemed to be a good choice, but after having a go, I discovered that the field of view of the webcam was far too small to capture the whole of the Pleiades. So after reading up on the capabilities of focal reducers to;

a) give a wider field of view, and
b) to give a brighter faster image, i.e. shorter exposure times,

…I decided to get a Meade f/3.3 Focal Reducer.

The Meade focal reducer will screw directly to the backplane of the C6 SCT tube (any Celestron SCT), by unscrewing the visual back (the holder the star diagonal slots into) from the backplane, screwing the focal reducer onto the backplane, and then the visual back onto the focal reducer.

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Orion Star Count Survey 2011

Posted by XTSee on 1st February , 2011

Two nights this week I have participated in the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s Star Count Survey for 2011.

You can take part by counting as many stars as possible in the constellation Orion, in an area bounded by the four main corner stars, go here for instructions and to take part (you must do it this week Monday 31st Jan 2011 to Sun 6th Feb)…..

http://tinyurl.com/6f7ob3e

The survey is intended to highlight the problem of urban and rural street lighting causing light pollution, and to help map out light and dark parts of the country.

Excluding the four corner stars, people in towns may only see 6 to 10 with the naked eye, no telescopes, or binos allowed!

Yesterday, in the shadows of my garden in Corby Glen, Grantham, Lincs, on the edge of the village, after about 20 minutes allowing my eyes to dark adapt, and using “averted vision” to use the sensitive monochrome region of my eyes, I was able to make out 23 stars. The sky was clear, but a bit hazy, with some light wispy clouds. Tonight I repeated the test, and much clearer, I was able to make out 31 stars.

How well did you do?

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I used to be an Astrologer, but I’m alright now!

Posted by XTSee on 24th January , 2011

I do think its funny the way that the BBC Stargazing Live program broadcast on 3rd Jan 2011, has got a lot of astrologers very hot under the collar about Professor Brian Cox debunking/dismissing astrology. There’s certainly a lot of discussion going around on social media sites Twitter.

The following article discusses “the 13th zodiacal sign Ophiuchus”, and also again refers to the Stargazing Live episode with Brian Cox and Dara OBriain’s comments and the astrology fraternity do seem to be quite annoyed by it all!

http://www.skyscript.co.uk/13thsign.html

It’s all a storm in a teacup.

Tonight I re-watched the first episode, where Brian and Dara have the model of the solar system on a table, and they are obviously in good humour, live on TV and making every effort to make an entertaining show, and granted its obvious they are out to take the micky out of astrology, but its also quite obvious to me that they were very tongue-in-cheek, and I’m amazed astrologers are taking it all so seriously. Do they have no sense of humour? Did they not see this coming?

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Should I buy an XT8 or XT10?

Posted by XTSee on 14th January , 2011

Just recently I got the following email asking me my thoughts on whether to choose a Skyquest XT8i or the XT10i….

Hi,  I have had a look at your website which is very informative. I recently sold my skywatcher  explorer 200mm f/8 telescope as I do wish to purchase the orion skyquest xt10i. Although not a  beginner with telescopes I wouldnt say i’m an intermediate either! The skywatcher was actually a gift but I wish to purchase a dobsonian mount with a computerised star finder, so the xt10i has caught my eye and been recommended numerous times.

May I ask, I have read on a few occasions that the xt8 would be a better purchase in terms of magnification due to having a better focal length but less aperture?

Basically, I do want to do some basic astrophotography as featured on your website, discover deep space objects, study the moon and the planets in the easiest way possible, with the best instrument possible for less then £1000. surely the xt10i fits that bill?

Thanks in advance for any advice,  Stephen

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Orion-XT10.com now on Twitter

Posted by XTSee on 13th January , 2011

At last I’ve got around to setting myself up on Twitter.com as @jpXT10, mainly so I can follow some of my fave astronomy related sites and famed people, like the Jodcast, Brian Cox and Chris Lintott, the Sky at Night and so on.

I decided it was high time I did this after seeing the Twitter responses on the BBC Stargazing Live program earlier this month.

If you are on Twitter, please tweet any pages you find useful in this blog or my main website using the Tweet icon below (and at the bottom of all topics/pages), and for latest developments Follow Me using the button below! Not quite sure what I’m going to tweet about, but we shall see!

Follow jpXT10 on Twitter

Cheers
Jim

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Planning makes all the difference

Posted by XTSee on 23rd October , 2010

This is the first observing session with my Celestron C6-SGT Go-To scope for a very long time. I brought my scope along on our short camping break at Marsh Farm caravan site, Saxmundham in Suffolk, and tonight the damp weather has abated, and the forecast predicted a very cold spell coming in from the North.

Quite right! It was -2ºC last night, with a hard frost on the ground. The site is pretty, with a little river, several carp fishing lakes, islands and bridges, good for astronomy, nice and quiet, with good horizon views all around, and although there are lampposts lit at night, they are not huge floodlights!

I got togged up with several layers to make sure the night would be enjoyable; a T-shirt, then long-sleeve ski vest, plus my favourite chunky knit wool and fleece-lined hooded jacket, then a water/wind proof jacket to keep the heat in. I use ski-Salopettes for my lower half. This is vital, as normal trousers or jeans are useless for keeping legs warm. To finish off, decent water-proof walking boots for feet, and another ski-hat under my hood for my head! I don’t care that I look like a spaceman with all this lot, and at this time of year we are the only caravan on the site anyway.

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