Tuesday, September 25, 2012

New Telescope Mount

Dreams Come True!

My new telescope mount arrived recently. Upon opening the box I was astounded by the mount's beauty. It's like a jewel, a big mechanical jewel! The mount is a Paramount MX produced by Software Bisque. It not only looks beautiful, it's functionally beautiful. It operates with exquisite precision under computer control using SKY X, super astronomical software created by Software Bisque.

I spent hours installing software and reading the manual. Then I set it up for a first trial on cloudy September 15. The Sun appeared often enough through infrequent clear spots to provide a target for testing. I initially worried about lifting the 50-pound mount onto the tripod, but two "handles" on the mount made this easier than I expected. In the first picture below the silver 20-pound counterweight balances the telescope in right ascension. The new rock-solid tripod features leveling screws for each individual leg.
The next image below shows my Lunt 100 mm solar telescope with a blue DMK41 camera. A north-south line is chalked on my driveway. Later, I painted this line, along with marks for each tripod leg, so I can set up rapidly in the future. The camera now connects directly to the mount, and its data is fed to a laptop through the wire seen on the left below. I no longer worry about snagging camera wire as the telescope moves. Camera data, camera power, and signals to control the mount all pass through ONE wire, a vast improvement over my previous mount! The wire seen on the right below supplies power to the mount.
The black vertical bar seen below within the mount (perpendicular to the tripod base) is an altitude adjuster used to precisely set the polar axis to my latitude. The red "X" on the shaft between the counterweight and the telescope points to the north celestial pole.
My goal for the first cloudy day trial was to accomplish daytime polar alignment using the Sun. If the mount is perfectly level, facing perfectly north, and adjusted perfectly to my latitude, the right ascension axis should point directly to the north celestial pole. In practice none of these adjustments are perfect. First, I homed the mount. Then I commanded it to point to the Sun. After acknowledging warnings about inappropriate eyeball-melting Sun disasters the mount slewed to the Sun and placed it only slightly off center within the field of view of my 20 mm reticle eyepiece! Yes! I felt like cheering! It's nice when equipment works the way it should on the first try! I corrected my slightly inaccurate initial polar alignment by using the mount's fine azimuth and altitude adjusters to center the Sun on the eyepiece cross hairs. Then I synchronized the mount to the Sun and told it to track the Sun. Everything worked beautifully, including the ultra-precise N-S and E-W motion controls. 

In spite of imperfect conditions I tried for a solar image through the clouds and got the result below. Although not as sharp as images possible on a clear day, it shows two sunspots in amazing detail considering they were viewed through clouds!
Sunspots 1571(Left) and 1569(Right) (Click for full detail.)
I've dreamed of owning top quality astronomical equipment like this all my adult life. Sometimes dreams do come true!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Nice Day in the Sun

Perfect Weather!

After nearly a month of clouds, heat, and high humidity a huge Canadian high pressure area settled over Virginia on September 10. My morning observing window was beautiful, with cool, low humidity air and gentle breezes from time to time. Too bad there weren't more solar features to go along with the nice weather. I did manage to capture a few nice pictures with good detail. Sunspot 1566 was accompanied by two filaments as shown in the image below.
Sunspot 1566 and filaments (Click for full detail.)
Inverting the previous image emphasizes the floating nature of the filaments.
Sunspots 1562 and 1564 were about to rotate around the Sun's western limb.
Sunspots 1562(R) and 1564(L) (Click for full detail.)
I made several mosaic attempts. The best result shows a strip spanning the width of the Sun. Sunspot 1567 is emerging on the left and sunspot 1566 is to the right of center. This mosaic is composed of 5 individual images. Unfortunately, the blog format will not display this detailed image at its full size.
(Click for full detail.)
My new telescope mount has arrived! More about this in my next post. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Photo Restorations

Cleaning Up The Past

I recently gained access to a number of old family pictures I had never seen before. The first picture below is my daughter's great great grandfather, John Jacob Katenbaugh/Kettenbach, born in 1862. The picture is so old it was on metal instead of paper! It took hours to clean this image, but the result was worth the effort.
Another of my daughter's great great grandfathers is Charles Christian Harms, born in 1858. He is shown seated below. I was able to remove some stains and torn blemishes.
More torn defects were removed from the following picture of my daughter's great grandmother, Margaret Catherine Harms Gaydell, the daughter of Charles Harms. Margaret was born in 1896, so the picture below is from approximately 1898.
Finally, stains, blemishes, and grime were removed from this amazing picture of both my wife's maternal great grandparents holding my wife's infant mother in approximately 1922.
Click on the images to see them in full size.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Quiet Sun

Solar Features on August 16, 2012

A pleasant, clear, mild, low humidity morning dawned on August 16. Although relatively few features were present on the Sun, I couldn't refuse such a nice opportunity to observe. Good seeing prevailed, so images were captured in good detail. Two significant filaments were present.
C-shaped filament (Click for full detail.)
Another filament near the limb (Click for full detail.)
Only one sunspot faced Earth. It was near the Sun's limb where some nice prominences were visible.
Sunspot 1543 and prominences (Click for full detail.)
The following 6-image mosaic shows the placement of features along the Sun's western limb.
Limb mosaic (Click for full detail.)
The inverted version of the limb mosaic highlights the floating filament near the bottom.
Inverted limb mosaic (Click for full detail.)
There have been no opportunities for observation since August 16. I'm eagerly awaiting arrival of my new telescope mount sometime in the next two weeks!

People say I'm crazy doing what I'm doing
Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin
When I say that I'm o.k. well they look at me kind of strange
Surely you're not happy now you no longer play the game

People say I'm lazy dreaming my life away
Well they give me all kinds of advice designed to enlighten me
When I tell them that I'm doing fine watching shadows on the wall
Don't you miss the big time boy you're no longer on the ball

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go

John Lennon