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#6570756 Some Personal Thoughts—From an Old Timer (A Really Old Timer)

Posted by GeneT on 03 May 2015 - 02:02 PM

Today I turned 72 years of age.


     For 70 of those 72 years, I have been looking up at the sky. When I was two, my grandmother took me out to her back porch in Minnewaukan, North Dakota, (a town of about 500) pointed up into the dark Mag 7 skies and said, ‘look at the beautiful stars.’ I had no idea of what I was seeing. All I knew was that the dark night sky was an amazingly beautiful site. From that time forward, I have always checked out the night sky every chance I could.


     Over these years, a lot of hobbies have come and gone. Photography, back in the days when there was film, I used to develop my own negatives and print up my own positives from them. Color was too complicated, and too expensive in most cases. I took up shooting pistols and rifles and listening to short wave radio and music (led a dance band in high school playing tenor sax, and bassoon in the orchestra) and played basketball in high school. Boy Scouts took center stage, earning my Star award. Then I discovered girls, and all those hobbies went away—except for girls and astronomy. I found that the young ladies also liked looking up at the night sky and were interested in learning about its various objects. I also discovered that there is nothing like being out in a dark sky, to set a romantic mood.


     Astronomy is the only hobby that has remained with me over the past 70 years. In 1946, when I was three, my mother, a school teacher, moved us to Ely, Nevada, a town of about 5,000. A hill blocked the downtown sky at night, and again, I had Mag 6.5 to 7 skies—just outside my back door. One cold February night, a friend asked me if I would like to join him and his son (a friend of mine) to drive to the mining town of Ruth, Nevada to look through a telescope. I was 10 years old. I had never looked through a telescope. The owner had just purchased a 3.5 inch Questar and he did not know how to use it. The moon was about half full. I looked through the eyepiece and saw only a bright white glob, with no detail.


     Then, I saw a little knob near the eyepiece. I turned it—and suddenly the moon with all its glory of craters, rills, and plains popped into view. I was absolutely stunned. I have never forgotten that first view through the telescope. I read somewhere that the human brain loses about 25 thousand brain cells a day. At age 72, I don’t know how many I left. However, that first look at the moon through the Questar has forever seared that image into my mind.


     Sam Brown’s book All About Telescopes took a young person through some excellent information about astronomy; Leslie Peltier’s book Starlight Nights fueled my desire to keep looking up. Now, several large bookshelves are full of astronomy books, star atlases, and star maps. More recently, some computer programs and Tablet apps, continue to serve me well.


     Back in the days that I lived in Ely, Nevada, many of the people had limited financial means. I could not afford to subscribe to Sky and Telescope, so I went to the library each month to read it. A telescope was also out of my family’s financial reach to buy one. In the comics I liked to read, I saw the ads for a 3 inch reflector, for $29.95, that would show craters on the moon, the rings of Saturn, and other sky objects. If I wanted a telescope, I would have to pay for it. I was leery that the 3 inch telescope would do all that the ads claimed. At age 15, I drooled over the ads in Sky and Telescope for Unitron refractors and reflectors in the four to 16 inch category. I was drawn to a four inch, F10 Dynascope ad. It had an equatorial mount. Electric clock drive was not yet available for most telescopes. It listed for $79.95. I could not afford the telescope. I worked all summer mowing lawns at a dollar a pop. I had already saved up about $20 shoveling walks the winter before. At 6,400 feet above sea level, Ely gets quite cold. If does not snow that often, but enough so I could make some money shoveling walks. Finally, I had the $79.95 plus delivery costs saved up. I sent off for the telescope. It arrived in perfect condition.


     In dark, pristine skies, you can see a lot even with a small aperture telescope. Today light pollution is so bad that many of us live in Mag 3 skies, and even after driving for 20 miles or so, we still only have Mag 5 or so skies. Back in the 1950’s, I was viewing with a four incher in Mag 6.5 to 7 skies. I was viewing the moon, planets, clusters, a few brighter galaxies and nebula, and found that there were numerous double stars that I could split with that small instrument. There was no astronomy club that I could join, but I did have a friend who lived about a block away who also shared a deep interest in astronomy. He and I had numerous sleep-overs in the summer where we stayed up most of the evening looking at sky objects.


     These are some of my best memories of this great hobby that gives so much positive energy to my life. Looking up at the stars connect the 70 years of my life through both the good times and the bad. I graduated from high school in Ely, but had to sell my little four incher to pay for some books when attending the University of Utah, in Salt Lake City. I could not afford another telescope for several more years. Life’s journey took me through a divorce, but then I found and remarried the woman of my dreams and was blessed with two wonderful daughters and two sons. They in turn blessed Jeannie and I with three wonderful granddaughters and two grandsons. After 28 years serving in the Air Force, we found ourselves back living in San Antonio. I went through several other telescopes over the years, but ended up with a 12.5 inch, F5 Portaball, as my final telescope.


     The night skies has provided my life continuity, and brought me peace and joy second only to that provided by my wife, children, and grandchildren. The night skies and its stellar views were a constant in my life, no matter where the Air Force assigned me. The night skies were a constant in my life through a divorce, the ups and downs of the economy, illnesses and life’s good times. I was born at the end of World War II, remember the Korean War, the Kennedy assignation, Water Gate, the Vietnam War, the dot.com bust, the more recent financial downturns, and recoveries, and the more recent wars in the Middle East.


     Auriga, Orion, Pegasus, Andromeda, Lyra, Hercules, Ursa Major and Minor, Canis Major and Minor, Leo and others were my best friends. They could be counted on to march across the heavens, and return at their appointed times, and places. The planets and moon more randomly wandered through the constellations to provide some interesting relief. But, over the years, the starry skies became my best friends—friends that could always be counted on.


     More recently, I have a friend who approached me and said, ‘if you ever want to sell your Portaball, I would like to buy it.’ What she was getting at was, ‘when you die, have your wife call me. I would like to buy your Portaball.’ However, my daughter Stacy beat her to it. Stacy said, ‘dad, when you die, can I have your telescope?’ I said sure. My wife and I have talked about one day dying, and wanted our children to know that death is not something that we are afraid of.


     We are at peace with our religious faith and have told our children that death is just part of the cycle of life. We told our children that death is just part of life’s journey. We have told our children that our deaths one day will result in helping to make up the contents of more new stars as we take our places in the heavens.


     However, it is great knowing that my children have also grown to love the night sky with one of them wanting my telescope. Before those two offers, I was thinking of having the Portaball buried with me. However, there are state and federal laws to contend with, plus even if that could happen, I probably would have to buy two grave sites. I am happy that one of my daughters will carry on the hobby of astronomy with the telescope that brought her dad so much pleasure.


     What Stacy doesn't know is that along with the telescope, she will also get a 21,13, 8, 6, and 4.7 Ethos; a 10, 8, and 6 Delos, a 9 Hutech, an 8 Brandon, a 7 TMB supermono, 5 XO and other eyepieces. I will leave her instructions in my will about the value of those eyepieces, and knowing her, she will keep and treasure those eyepieces, along with my 12.5 inch Portaball, the rest of her life.


     Old age is creeping up on me. I have to be careful when driving at night. I can’t drive and talk at the same time because my mind wanders. Testosterone shots and Viagra help keep me going. Although my telescope is very portable, it now is getting more challenging to load, set it up, and take down. I don’t know how long I will be able to do so.


     However, the night skies will always be there and beautiful to behold—even if I am limited to the one power views of my eyes. That’s all the ancients had and they marveled at the night sky for thousands of years, before the advent of optics and telescopes.


     I have lived a blessed, full life. I hope to live a few more years—before I eventually turn to dust, and take my place in the heavens, to become the stuff of stars.


Gene Townsend
San Antonio, TX

  • Dave Mitsky, CollinofAlabama, ArizonaScott and 58 others like this

#6570781 Telescopes—A 58 Year Journey

Posted by GeneT on 03 May 2015 - 02:27 PM

I turned 72 years old today. 


     In the General Observing and Astronomy Forum, I shared some general thoughts on what the hobby of astronomy has meant to me over the past 70 years, from the first night I looked up at the night sky, in Minnewaukan, North Dakota. In this post, I would like to share some thoughts regarding telescopes and accessory equipment. I am parking this post in the reflector forum because most of my astronomy world was lived out with these kinds of telescopes.

     When I think about telescopes, I am reminded of how so many of us get into debates about which type of telescopes provide the best views, along with similar debates about eyepieces. I do not know how long ago what we would call the first humans appeared, but at some point they did come upon the scene. They had only naked eye views of the heavens. Some were near sighted, some far sighted, some had astigmatism and other eye defects. Yet, they looked up in skies, with little man-made light pollution, and marveled at the stars, the planets, and even a few nebula and galaxies. Some of them may even have been able to split some of the wider double stars.


     These first humans saw all this with only one power views of the skies. They marveled at the sights, and before the invention of the telescope, studied the skies very carefully for clues to the future—when to plant, when to sow, whether or not to go to war—all predicted by their reading of the skies.

     Eventually, lenses were put together and in turn, the telescope and eyepieces were invented. That totally changed our knowledge and understanding of the universe. Craters were seen on the moon. Saturn had rings and moons. Jupiter had bands and some very bright moons. We learned that the Earth was not in the center of the universe, which provoked a lot of controversy. We later learned that neither was our sun the center of the universe, which also provoked a lot of controversy. Then, we learned that our galaxy was just one of millions, and our minds were in turn expanded into the cosmos. People became fascinated with astronomy, and began buying telescopes and eyepieces. Some, who were limited financially, learned how to grind their own optics, and build their own telescopes.


     My first telescope was a 4 inch, F10 Dynascope. I found it reading the ads in Sky and Telescope. It cost $79.95. It came with a 9mm Ramsden and a 12 Huygens eyepiece. I bought the telescope in the late 50’s. I lived in Ely, Nevada, with a family that had limited income. I shoveled snow in the winter, and mowed lawns in the summer and finally had the money for the telescope. That little four incher really delivered in the Mag 6.5 to 7 skies of Ely. I had to sell that telescope to pay for books in college and I put off buying another one until after college, and I was well on the way in my Air Force career.


     Finally, while an instructor at Officers Training School in San Antonio, Texas, a Sky and Telescope ad for an 8 inch Optical Craftsman caught my eye. Aperture fever had kicked in. I bought that telescope in the early 60’s. The Dob era was not quite upon us and 8 inches was a respectable sized telescope. Back in the 60’s, the back yard views on Lackland Air Force Base were fairly decent—maybe Mag 4 to 5 skies in certain quadrants of the sky, vs. the Mag 3 skies in most of San Antonio today. That 8 incher provided great views of the planets, and some of the other brighter sky objects. A lot of double stars were nicely split by that telescope.


     We received orders for Washington, D.C. I sold the Optical Craftsman and bought an 8 inch Dynamax. The optics greatly disappointed me. However, the short tube of the SCT made it easy to load and pack up in my Volkswagen bug. However, you have to drive a long distance to get some decently dark skies in the Washington, D.C. area. We again got orders for San Antonio, and I sold the Dynamax 8 and bought a Coulter 13.1 inch Dob. Again, the optics were poor and it was difficult to transport; collimation was also very difficult. So, I sold it. The Air Force transferred us to Wichita Falls, Texas and there I bought a Celestron 8. The optics were great. I had three silver top Celestron Plossls that performed excellently with that telescope. I kept it for 10 years. It shipped to Germany and back after a six year tour. It gave me excellent views of Mars and other objects while stationed there. After being shipped to and from Germany, the collimation only needed some minor tweaking when it arrived at both destinations.


     The Air Force moved us back to San Antonio. I sold the C8 and bought a 20 inch Obsession. I never thought about a proper vehicle for transport, important because now the skies in San Antonio were about Mag 3. The telescope was of excellent build and the optics provided great views of the planets and other sky objects. However, the telescope was just too difficult for me to manage. I also did not have a vehicle that could haul a 20 incher. I caught Peter Smitka’s ad for a telescope designed to be as large as possible, and still very portable. It was called a Portaball. At that time, it was only offered in an F5, 12.5 inch size. I sold the 20 inch Obsession and bought the Portaball.


     I love the Portaball. I have owned this telescope for about 20 years. It is easy to transport, easy to set up, easy to take down, and easy and fun to use. I store it on my side of the closet, along with my eyepieces, under a bunch of shirts and suits. Due to my age, I rarely am able to get out to the dark sky sites, but I have a Mag 5 site about 30 minutes from home. The optics are excellent, and I have outfitted it with some excellent eyepieces to include Ethos, Delos, Brandon, Hutech, Supermono, and XO eyepieces.


Here are some thoughts regarding my 58 year telescope journey:


--Aperture fever is genetic, i.e. almost everyone is susceptible to this disease;


--However, aperture fever is curable;


--Aperture fever is curable if one can overcome his or her predilections to the idea that bigger is better, and replace that thought with the best is what I can afford and enjoy; some people love large 18 inch and larger telescopes; but, sometimes the hassle of setting up and using those large telescopes kills the desire to get out under the stars;


--Too many of us had to learn the hard way that bigger is not always better; for some, yes—but not for all; what is important is not size, but how you use it;


--Eyepieces are important, but again buy what you can afford; some do perform better than others, but a truly dark sky and good seeing will do wonders to maximize a telescope’s optics and eyepieces;


--Buy the right vehicle for the hobby; too often we want to try and squeeze a 12 inch telescope into a Honda Civic; it can be done; it can easily be done with my Portaball; but I wrongly thought that an 18 inch Ultra Compact would easily fit into a Honda Accord; you can get it into the trunk, but only with a lot of contortions and worry that the telescope will slip and fall crashing to the ground; I finally bought a Honda CRV. It gets great gas mileage; it will hold an 18 inch classic Dob and accessories, but it will be tight; the CRV easily holds my 12 incher, accessories, and camping equipment; the CRV nicely doubles for other uses where I need a large box type cargo area for hauling other things; I strongly recommend getting the right vehicle for your telescope;


--Don’t look at how often you get out to view as the criteria for whether or not you are a good hobbyist; work, family requirements, weather, health, and other factors determine how often one can get out and view; get out to view when you can;


--Don’t sell your astronomy equipment just because you can’t get out and view as often as you would like; astronomy is a hobby, not a job; I am a deacon in my church, and often go weeks between viewing sessions due to my church requirements; if you ever divorce, your spouse probably won’t want your astronomy equipment, so keep it;


--If you can afford it, buy premium optics and eyepieces; if not, buy and enjoy what you can afford;


--If you are buying a telescope for the first time, consider buying a six or eight inch SCT or Dob, or two to four inch refractor; learn to use the telescope and get familiar with the night sky before trying to learn imaging. Make it a two-step process—learn your telescope and the night sky before launching into photography;


--Imaging—smaller four to eight inch telescopes, with accurate mounts and processing software can provide astronomical images the equal if not better than some old black and white photos that I remember seeing years ago, taken with the 100 inch Hooker telescope; however, imaging requires patience in the setup, while doing photography, and while processing the images; many also get caught up in the ‘my equipment is not good enough and I need this’ thinking; I had a friend who had an excellent four inch refractor, a special mount for photography, and all the other accessories needed for photography; one night he showed me his mount; he told me it cost $6 thousand; I said I could not afford $6 thousand for a mount so I could do photography; he said, ‘Gene, this mount is not the one I want; the one I want costs $12 thousand'; one can get some pretty good astrophotos with equipment a lost less expensive; however, we are back to the question ‘when is good, good enough, and when can I enjoy my hobby of astronomy with what I have, and with what I can afford?’


--There is no perfect one telescope that will do it all; a good three or four inch refractor can be a good grab and go; due to their short tubes, a six to eight inch SCT packs up nicely for a trip or a camp out; an eight to 12 inch Dob expands visually the universe in the details it beings to the eye; 12 inch and larger telescopes can take one to seeing unbelievable detail on the planets and brighter sky objects, and the ability to at least see dim fuzzies that are invisible in smaller telescopes; in short, there are tradeoffs; I believe in differentiation; one telescope just can’t do it all; maybe get one for astrophotography, and one for visual and maybe one that is a grab and go, easy to take outdoors and be viewing in five minutes, and a good solar telescope for daytime use;


--A lot of questions show up on Cloudy Nights, such as ‘Do I Have to Collimate Each Time I Set Up?’ Answer: If a reflector, always check the collimation for each set up; once you get the hang of it, collimations is not difficult; ‘Why Are My Images Blurry?’ Answer: poor collimation, optics not properly cooled down (or not having reached ambient temperature); also, due to not having enough in or out focus, images will be blurry; ‘What Kind of Eyepieces Should I Buy?’ Answer: buy and enjoy what you can afford; there are good, reasonably priced eyepieces available; yes, better eyepieces do perform better, and most often, those better eyepieces are more expensive; optics with excellent figures also perform better; however to see much visual improvement in sky objects with excellent optics vs. good, a dark sky, collimation, seeing, and other factors also play an important role.


--Lastly, if astronomy is your passion, like it is mine, develop a life’s strategy for the hobby; find the telescope that meets your needs and will keep the passion alive; get the right size vehicle for your equipment; find a good dark sky site; if your back yard has Mag 5 or better skies, build an observatory and have your telescope permanently housed so to view all you have to do is eat some dinner, watch some news, and walk to the back yard, and roll of the roof to be up and viewing. If you have lousy Mag 3 skies like I do, about age 50 buy some land at a dark sky site, build an observatory and if it is secure, leave your telescope permanently housed in it; all you would have to do is after work, drive to the observatory open the roof or dome, and begin observing; you would then avoid the loading in the vehicle, unloading, setting up, taking down, reloading, and storing; at age 50 or so, the kids are almost raised, and if they aren’t, there is light at the end of the tunnel; an alternative thought is that you could buy a summer or weekend home with nice, dark skies; the area could have hiking trails and other things to do during the day, with the stars out for viewing at night; enough advice.


I love astronomy, but I blew my own life’s strategy for the hobby; at age 50, I did not come up with a strategy like I recommend above; had I done so, it would have been implemented by age 60; (maybe some land out in the dark, skies of western Texas or even into New Mexico; today I am 72. I blew my chance; I have to be careful when driving at night; even my easy to load, and set up Portaball is becoming challenging; I do dream about dark skies and having a place like I described, but I waited too long.


However, I have more blessings than I can count, and I am thankful for my parents, wife, children and grandchildren, and opportunities the U.S. Air Force gave me while serving for 28 years.
I appreciate the good people who give us Cloudy Nights. Over the past several years, I feel that I have gotten to know many of you, and count you as my friends.


I do not know how many good years I have left. But, it doesn't matter. I have a lifetime of dreams, many due to the numerous beautiful nights, that I have been blessed to have spent out under the stars.


Gene Townsend
San Antonio, Texas

  • Diego, ArizonaScott, davidmcgo and 30 others like this

#6567402 Probably our "personal best" for Saturn...

Posted by Kokatha man on 01 May 2015 - 03:02 AM

Hi - apologies for creating another thread for this but after the initial "super-sized" Saturn wherein I mentioned that I thought the best would be the total WinJupos compilation of 5 rgb sets spanning 30'33" I finally finished said WJ compilation today... :)


Comprising almost 84,000 frames from a rapid-fire sequence of 5 "classic" r-g-b captures the outcome defied our normal expectations of imaging conditions at home: I include the diffraction ring pattern from the initial collimation & you'll note that I considered this "reasonable."


Perhaps not the most "technical" terminology but it denotes that the seeing wasn't sufficient to allow me to achieve what I'd consider "good" or "excellent" collimating results...but obviously it was sufficient...and/or the seeing rose in the 20-odd minutes till we started actual imaging. ;)


We're pretty pleased with this outcome & think the new ASI174MM can take a big bow...I remember discussing the camera with Sam during the early developmental stages & agreeing with him that Lunar & Solar would probably be its' real fortes - obviously I was wrong...it is a superb planetary imaging camera! :bow:  :waytogo: 


Enough for now, I'll post .txt files of the captures etc down the track & I should be able to compose a pretty nice animation even if it only spans about 25 minutes...


Here it is in all its glory at the full 3X capture scale drizzle rate in AS!2.....I'll follow with a restrained 240% image of this & a mono red channel WJ comp. ;)


You WILL need to click on the image below..!!! :lol:







  • Gustavo Pöhls, Sunspot, ArekP and 23 others like this

#6356976 The Vintage Better Paradigm

Posted by terraclarke on 21 December 2014 - 10:11 PM

Robert (actionhac) said it all in my book when he mentioned the "warm and fuzzy" feeling. How do you put a price on the intangible quality of nostalga? It's so personal. The old scopes are embued with an essense that can't be manufactured into something modern. They have acquired it through time and use. All telescopes look back in time when you look through them and take in the expanse of space, but old telescopes from the 1950s and 60s let me look back into my own past as well. They are a talisman. Beyond my own past an even older telescope can take me back to an earlier gemeration.


A while back, I wrote this post about appreciaing older telescopes in another thread:


"There is a certain genteel beauty in the wear and use patterns that comes with age. I can only think of it as an aspect of what the Japanese call 'shibui', a certain, subtle aesthetic seasoning that grows with time. It's is almost as if the inanimate, through interaction with the animate acquires something of a soul."


Chuck mentioned the love for old telescopes even being "esoteric". I could take that to mean then, that in a way, they put us in touch with ghosts. I love that!

  • semiosteve, Vesper818, Adam S and 20 others like this

#6529111 International Space Station with C14HD

Posted by sulcis2000 on 05 April 2015 - 05:12 PM

Hi guys


here is a short video of ISS taken with C14HD edge & 10 Micron GM2000QCI Mount

Camera: Basler acA640 mono (640x480 :grin: )




This is the final image obtained with AS2! & PS.







  • Carol L, Gustavo Pöhls, chuck p and 19 others like this

#6533374 Jupiter, GRS, and Io - April 6 - v. good seeing

Posted by MvZ on 08 April 2015 - 05:38 PM

An hour after imaging Venus, I was almost done imaging Jupiter already. Here is one of the last recordings I made of Jupiter and Io with its shadow still just on the edge of Jupiter. Processing and combining the data was a bit of a pita (always for moon/shadow transits...).


The seeing was unusually good for Dutch skies, just watching the live stream of data coming in was quite a joy already :)

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  • Sunspot, brstars, Angela G and 18 others like this

#6500648 24" Clark Telescope - Reinstallation Begins!

Posted by rockethead26 on 18 March 2015 - 07:48 PM

The 24" Clark Telescope at Lowell Observatory in starting to come back together. These shots are from yesterday. I'll post more as I get them. Current target date to have it back on line is May 1st. Sorry for the quality of the iPhone images, but that's all we had.


The refurbished pier awaits in the restored dome:




First up in  the equatorial head, counterweights (less 800 lbs worth) and the center tube section:




Steady as she goes:





Thread the needle:





Swish!!! That's our head engineer, Ralph Nye, reaching out to steady the 10,000 lb load:





Ah, it's safely in place:





Then the first of the two long tube sections:





Thread the needle:





Lucky says, "What's all the fuss???"



  • MattT, George N, dan777 and 18 others like this

#6481717 My thanks to everyone here

Posted by DocFinance on 06 March 2015 - 12:40 PM

I started to just send a few notes of thanks, but the list got to be too long.  So I hope the mods will indulge me.  (Please)


I wanted to thank everyone who participates in the Classics forum.  I surf a couple every week, but this one seems like home to me.


For various reasons I can't always get outside when the stars are there, but you folks help me stay connected to a hobby that I really love.  It's been so many years since I've been able to enjoy this hobby like I once did, and this forum has brought so much back to me that I thought was gone.  Plus, it's helped me share my passion for the sky with my daughter.


Amateur astronomy has helped me find wellness, peace and perspective over many years, and Cloudy Nights and the folks on Classics have helped and  encouraged me, to reconnect with the sky.  Thank you, all of you, for your comments and questions and discussion that keeps this place going.  Your passion and love of this lifestyle come through the Internet, and I thank you for all of the smiles you've given me over the past year or so.

  • tim53, BarabinoSr, Vesper818 and 17 others like this

#6160156 Show me a Selfie with your gear

Posted by jrbarnett on 12 August 2014 - 09:46 PM


  • Paul G, paul hart, NHRob and 17 others like this

#6544804 C14 First Light -- Jupiter Good Seeing

Posted by GeorgeInDallas on 16 April 2015 - 11:12 AM

Last night was the first good night for imaging for 2 months in Dallas. I took the opportunity to make the first images with my new (to me) C14. Seeing was good (7/10). I took 2 min. videos for each channel (RGB). Selection @ 25% in Autostakkert (1.5xDrizzle). Wavelet Processing in Registax 6. RGB derotation/combine with WinJupos. Final sharpening and saturation adjustments with Photoshop/Topaz. Image scale reduced back to 67%. The scope had cooled outside for 3 hr before this image was made. I collimated prior to imaging. I am happy with the results. I believe this scope is a keeper.  I believe that is Io's shadow in transit.



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  • Sunspot, Mike Phillips, brstars and 16 others like this

#6510033 John A Brashear Time Capsule found & Opened!

Posted by Al Paslow on 24 March 2015 - 10:53 PM

Hi all,


As you may well know the John A. Brashear Factory located in Pittsburgh, PA was razed recently when a wall collapsed apparently rendering the building structurally unsound.


I have been visiting in an attempt to document the site for historical reasons.


Upon my visit again today Tuesday March 24, 2015;  I was approached by one of the members of the demolition crew who claimed to have found a corner stone with a time capsule.


After we pondered for a while it was decided to open this piece of history to determine what mysteries lie within. So a group consisting of only three crew members and myself saw what no living person has previously witnessed.


When the capsule was opened we were greeted by a letter from John followed by newspaper articles from 1891 and most recently as August 9, 1894. Pictures in the capsule of Brashear's mother and father and family members were examined and perhaps prominent people of the time including those of the Cities of Pittsburgh and Allegheny.


Some of the most interesting finds were a piece of glass with the inscription "One of the first pieces of optical Glass made in America; and a lock of his wife Phobe's hair within a small envelope and labeled a such.


Other noteworthy items; a letter from Warner and Swasey congratulating Brashear on his new factory signed by W.A. Warner and Ambrose Swasey and a book labeled "In Memorandum of William Thaw" complete with photographs in wonderful condition. A typed and signed letter from Langley with a Smithsonian letterhead was another treasure.


So here is the story in pictures at my website. Understand the images you are about to see are my exclusive property. Share  as you wish but please cite proper credit to me.


More will be uploaded with the next 24 hours or so but here's the story as it happened today.




Hope you enjoy this one!


Al Paslow


  • bierbelly, bob midiri, BarabinoSr and 16 others like this

#6521944 CN 4.0 COMING SOON!

Posted by ypsiladdie on 01 April 2015 - 09:50 AM

No, it is real.


1. There will be new forums, such as:


VIP Room - where the same five guys talk to each other.

Contrarian Observers -for observers who can't agree with anyone and are pretty sure you're wrong.

Microastronomics - for enthusiasts who insist they can see everything with a 60mm scope



2. and an entertainment link with documentaries, live feeds, and dramatic presentations, such as:


Ken Burn's eight part documentary "AREA 51"

Live from Mauna Loa, it's Saturday Night.

Hoarders - Eyepiece Edition with Medical Advice.

The Innovators - interviews with guys who build otas out of coffee cans, grind lenses with brillo pads, etc.

Ask Scott - Advice for North Carolinians

The Rebranders - a docudrama which covers the four points of the globe, from California to Taiwan, mainland China to Russia, across Europe and the Seven Seas. Join your host The Most Interesting Astronomer in the Universe and his posse as they scour the back alleys and warehouse districts of the world searching for The Rebranders.


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  • Relativist, Carol L, stevew and 15 others like this

#6511851 Jupiter - 25Mar2015 - C14HD - Arizona

Posted by djhanson on 25 March 2015 - 11:29 PM

Jupiter 25-March-2015 03:29UT

TMB 1.8xBarlow/ZWO RGB/ZWO ASI120MM-S/Moonlite

3 RGB sets (AS!2/WinJUPOS/Reg6/AstraImage/CS6)
1 hr cool down, TEMPest fans. Imaging temp of 76F (24C). 
Above average seeing for 90 minutes after sunset with very good seeing for the first 30 minutes.

cheers, dj



  • Carol L, Gustavo Pöhls, Sunspot and 15 others like this

#6506308 Jupiter and Io March 21, Finland

Posted by Arctic eye on 22 March 2015 - 02:41 PM

Finally some decent seeing for testing the ASI174MM. 5x Televue was acting as 7x and gave 12800mm focal length for my 16" Flextube dob. Jupiter was at 46 deg altitude and with an ADC corrector I decided to try L-channel with ir/uv block filter. The result was surprisingly good.


L-image, 25% of 8000 frames stacked




And then L-RGB


  • Sunspot, microflite, brstars and 15 others like this

#6456699 Saturn with ASI174MM...

Posted by Kokatha man on 19 February 2015 - 08:03 PM

Hi all - spent a couple of nights down in the Mallee trying to find a bit of clear air.....the forecasts looked good but being brutally honest the seeing was nowhere near as good as BoM or SkippySky suggested - not that we place terribly much credence in any forecasts anytime tbh..! :(

And just to be clear about things like "great air" etc that might get bandied around here ;) let me be frank herein - naturally all these appraisals are "relative" to each & every one of us...but there was no way whatsoever that the last 2 mornings qualified for anything more than "barely passable" seeing - I think we've been around long enough to know our own situations to a reasonable degree! ;)

Ok - with that "off my chest" :lol: we were pleasantly surprised with the outcome on Saturn: Jove is a bit of a dog down here at only 38-39° & requires quite extra-ordinary seeing to deliver decent outcomes - love to shoot up North for a week or 2 but we're broke & I can't keep on using Pat's lappy constantly so pennies are sort here..!

So to get a decent Saturn with plenty of surface detail in very pedestrian seeing is quite an accomplishment & suggests this camera is a "go-er"...we've managed said with the 120MM-S but without nearly as much histogram control that the software gain gives us with the 174MM. :)

I have a lot more experimenting/investigation & queries re this camera, plus the new FireCapture beta program used, but I think the preceding paragraph is a good valid observation for starters...

Of note is the fact that Pat's Dell is only a standard duo-core (with hyper-threading, thus acts like a 4-core to a certain degree) with a standard HD - we switched off the Wi-Fi & disabled Norton AV, cleared all surplus data of the drive & had no trouble keeping up the FPS...even at 200fps using 512X440 ROI on Ol' Jove.

As said the Jupiter caps weren't worthwhile but the fps with Pat's lappy showed that this machine could take it...I want a super-fast replacement to my old dead lappy but this works in the meantime! :)

If we opened WinJupos etc during captures the FPS saved did lag behind the capture rate but caught up again pretty quickly before the avi finished its' set time-span.....so it looks like you don't necessarily need the fastest machines out there. ;)

We had only a couple of spots on the camera window which were most likely the result of me having the covers off for a lot of time trying to get an optimum imaging train set-up at short notice: seems like ZWO have done some work there over time :waytogo: ...I certainly don't think the (almost) 10 metres f/l was ideal in the conditions but that must count as another plus for the specific image...

I'm making up a new imaging train & still want variability in the arrangement but think I might have an answer...

Anyway, here's a Saturn with promise, plenty of bright spots visible on the disk & whilst I'd "love" some Jovian opportunities further North atm that's not going to happen...and in many ways surface detail on Saturn is much more demanding than great Jovian resolution so we're pretty satisfied with our first efforts - but a whole lot more trialling & also investigations/queries to be done! :)

A big "thank you" to Sam at ZWO - without his generosity this would not be possible..! :waytogo:

  • Carol L, Deep13, Sunspot and 15 others like this

#6589094 Saturn 16 May (probably best to date)

Posted by kakadush on 15 May 2015 - 09:46 PM

Hello ,
Had some good seeing and managed to capture and process what i believe is my best Saturn to date , hope you like it :)
Used a 5" reflector and an ASI 120 MC cam.


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  • Sunspot, JMP, ArekP and 14 others like this

#6561364 Nice seeing: Saturn + 5 moons etc

Posted by Kokatha man on 27 April 2015 - 07:41 AM

Hi all - last week we were pleased to get a clear night at one of our imaging sites after all the cloudy skies of late...one of the problems down South when the oppositions run into the later months & Winter approaches, although when the skies are clear the seeing is usually fairly decent...unfortunately the skies haven't been too clear most of the time..! :( :)

This (infrequent imaging opportunities) has hampered our familiarity with the ASI174MM camera - for these images I had to employ contrast reduction in R6 to reign in the histograms...even though we only employed 26% for red, 23% for green & 21% for blue.
(ie, the maximum values)

This with frame-rates of 198fps for the earlier images here & 132fps for the later ones...I deliberately used those "higher" histo values but it back-fired a bit...I prefer NOT to have to pull the histo's back with contrast.

But regardless of still "getting to know" this camera effectively it obviously displays good sensitivity..! :)

...on another note I'm almost ready to load a series of screenshots & text on my website for anyone interested in seeing some of our basic - plus more sophisticated processing applications - once Howard teaches me how to collimate my scope "spot on" correctly I'll be right as rain! ;)

You'll probably need to click on the images for full sizes - plenty of activity on the Saturnian disk with bright & dark spots! :)





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  • Gustavo Pöhls, Angela G, R Botero and 14 others like this

#6549841 Post a picture of your refractors (PART 7)

Posted by Derek Wong on 19 April 2015 - 11:29 PM

This is a custom refractor with a Zeiss AS 100mm f/20 reference lens from 1959 and a tube by Matthias Wirth via APM.  My rings were a tad too big and I could not wait, so I stuffed cut up T-shirts into them.



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  • Paul G, Scott in NC, Illinois and 14 others like this

#6538135 Post a picture of your refractors (PART 7)

Posted by Paul G on 11 April 2015 - 11:48 PM

Just couldn't resist posting another pic of no. 52 ... still pinching myself, I must be dreaming!


Pretty picture! Here's my 175 tonight, had good seeing for the Io shadow transit, looked very sharp. It's on a 900 GTO. I'm 6'2" and 180 lbs for size reference.

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  • stevew, SteveG, M44 and 14 others like this

#6533038 Venus, April 6

Posted by MvZ on 08 April 2015 - 01:25 PM

Venus under better than average seeing conditions on April 6. It is a false light image: red is infrared, blue is UV*, and green is a 50/50 combination of the two. The seeing was ok, but especially in UV and with such a big scope (and at only 25 degrees altitude) it is nearly impossible to get a good steady view.



*unfortunately my UV filter had some issues... The filter I use is a combination of a W47 + BG39, and the BG39 has degraded significantly in the past couple of years; as the image of Venus moved around on the chip, its brightness changed significantly. I'm looking to get a replacement filter, probably the Astrodon UVenus filter because of its high performance (in terms of transmittance).


I'll probably also experiment a bit with other filters like the BG40 (in combination with the Wratten 47). If anyone has other thoughts, let me know! 

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  • Sunspot, brstars, Angela G and 14 others like this

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