Find us on Google+ Astronomy Box: January 2012

31 January 2012

DSO 1 - First Imaging of the Orion Nebula

As I was dodging clouds here and there, I was only able to take four decent exposures but I was desperate to get my first bit of deep space imaging done. Here are the results:

OTA: 120mm Achromatic Refractor
Camera: Nikon D3100 14.2mp
Mount: CG-4 mount
Exposures: 4
Exposure: 20sec approx
ISO: 800

After consulting the forums, it's clear that I need to know light and dark frames very well. Whatever they are, they may help with my blooming stars, but I think a little more time focusing correctly will help too.

So there it is. First of many.

30 January 2012

Constellation 1 - Orion

Here's a fun photo I took of the constellation Orion. I added in some trace lines between the component stars. I think I feel a series coming on

Lens: 20mm f2.8
Camera: Nikon D3100 14.2mp
Mount: Manfrotto
Exposure: 15sec
ISO: 1600

27 January 2012

Irish Astronomy Blues

I feel the need to prove that I've at least tried to do some astronomy during our recent bout of bad weather. One night did provide fairly good seeing but photography was right out of the question as I was dodging the clouds for most of the evening.

I'm starting to believe what I heard another Irish amateur astronomer say, which was something like; "Irish astronomers are all masochists!".

However, after acquiring a fine Celestron solar filter for my scope, I now have twice the time in which I can be disappointed by the weather. I was really looking forward to getting one seeing that we have a solar maximum coming this year. Speaking of which I'm also hoping to see some Aurora this year. Something people further north have been lucky enough to enjoy already.

19 January 2012

Mission Successful

Success! We found an exoplanet.

I say we, but it was citizen scientists Lee Threapleton and Chris Holmes who made the initial classification of the dwarf star SPH43066540 which displayed noticeable transit events. Although many other people around the world identified the transit after them, unfortunately my name was not among them as they flashed across the screen during BBC Stargazing Live.

The whole excitement of the show and of the planet hunters project has really gotten me hooked on the hunt for exoplanets. Maybe some day I'll make one of those initial classification which leads to a discovery.

Must try harder!

18 January 2012

Over 1 Million burgers... I mean, Stars Classified

And we did it! Fantastic result for planet hunters and citizen scientists everywhere. That's a million stars clissified in three days if I'm not very much mistaken.

Now I wonder how many exoplanets we've descovered.

BBC Stargazing Exoplanet Search

It's back! BBC stargazing live with Prof. Brian Cox and our very own Dara O'Brien has started this week for a brand new series, and it's been fantastic so far.

Starting with the Moon on Monday 16th, each episode concentrates on a different aspect of astronomy. On the back of the new series, Zooniverse Planet Hunters has set a goal of classifying 250,000 stars in the search for extra-solar planets. After completely smashing the target, they are now aiming for a million classified stars by the evening of Wednesday 18th. As far as I can tell, there success is inevitable. 

It just goes to show the scale of the following and enthusiasm the field of astronomy has all over the world. Between my work, I have made my own contribution to the project but I'm sure it only made a quantum dent in the numbers.

This is a very exciting astronomical week! So, keep up the great science work everyone and don't forget to tune in for the rest of the Stargazing Live series on BBC2.

Why I love the Free and Open Web

Here are some reasons:

Astronomy Cast
The Spoony Experiment
The Escapist

And some more; 4chans, vertical comics, rage comics, dubbed movies, abridged episodes, lolcats, memes, dancing babies, star wars kids, fan art, sneezing pandas, mmorpgs, forums, the list goes on...

Please don't  let them ruin our global community. Stop SOPA and PIPA!

4 January 2012

Merry Cosmic Christmas and Happy Astronomical New Year!

Happy 2012, Astro fans!

What a happy holiday it was. Family, food, and astronomical pressies! Yes, Christmas is the amateur astronomers best friend. Evidently I was a very good boy and received a brand new Crayford focuser for my telescope.

Here it is, the new William Optics DDG Synta focuser, the DDG standing for digital display gauge. The DDG tells you precisely, to two decimal points in millimetre, how much you've pulled the focus. Along with the 10:1 gear ratio focusing knob, this focuser really is fantastic!

William Optics say on their site; "Solid as a rock, smooth like a feather". Apart from being brilliantly cheesy with their wording, they are not wrong. The motion when pulling focus really is silky smooth and there is absolutely zero wobble or travel in the tube. In short, it's miles ahead of the stock rack and pinion focuser supplied with the Celestron Omni XLT 120mm refractor.

As you can see, it is a much more substantial focuser and looks stunning. A couple of minor niggles I'd have with it is that the focus tube is a little on the short side which does adversely focusing with a barlow lens. This problem however is easily remedied with the use of a simple extension tube. There is also no finder scope shoe on this focuser like the stock Synta model has but this can also be corrected buy procuring a standalone one and fastening it to the telescope somewhere.

Another plus on the other hand, is that the left focusing knob is actually a handy thermometer. Presumably for those with temperature sensitive equipment or who like to brag about their ability to withstand extreme environments.

All in all, I'm extremely happy with Santa and I can't wait to start shooting some ultra sharp images with my new toy. I will of course be detailing my thoughts on this fantastic focuser as I use it. Ten out of ten and smiles all around.