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Suburban Viewing with a MallinCam

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#1 Bob S.

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Posted 16 December 2007 - 10:16 PM

Tonight, I took my 14.5" f/4.3 Starmaster out for a spin. The Moon was blazing about half full and so I dared not to use my I3 image intensifier due to the bright Moon. I decided to use my MCHC astrovido camera with my WATEC-35 and used NGC 235 (Sculptor Galaxy) as my first object of interest. Although some 35-40 degree away from the Moon, I was getting very nice images on my 3.5" LCD Color Monitor. Because of the Moon, color was not particularly apparent and I even made the views more monochrome for clarity/sharpness. I then did some eyepiece work and then put the camera back in and looked at M1 (Crab Nebula) in color with some filamentary detail. I used the electronic zoom on my camera to make the Crab bigger on the monitor. Just for giggles, I took the camera out after looking at some other objects and eventually went back to the Crab with an eyepiece. My goodness, I know I was not very well dark adapted but the Crab was simply a faint cotton ball in the eyepiece. NOW, I knew for SURE why assistive optics have become my weapon of choice for DSO's. I could see things in very nice detail and in color. With a conventional ep, the view was simply unimpressive and lacking almost all detail. What I think people are missing in the eyepiece vs. assistive optics debate is that in suburban settings, if you want to see any level of detail in deep space objects, you almost have to have assistive optics to see anything these days. Bob Schilling

#2 jayscheuerle

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Posted 17 December 2007 - 09:28 AM

And there are those of us who DREAM of suburban levels of light pollution... ;)

I suspect this device is going to alleviate all sorts of frustrations for me and entice me up out of the ATM dungeon for more nights outside... - j

#3 rolandskythree

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Posted 17 December 2007 - 03:14 PM

Hi Bob. Glad you posted. I know you have been enjoying the MC with your nice sized aperture scope. Like you, we saunter out to our observing pad with a full moon and still look at some DSOs. It just freaks people out that we do it. But heck, it is nice viewing except for some loss in contrast as long as we don't get too close to Mr. Lunie. Does it get any better?

Roland

#4 Douglas

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Posted 17 December 2007 - 03:27 PM

I agree with Bob.

If you are viewing from suburban locations with any level of light pollution, folks start talking about averted vision. I call it averted imagination!

No mistaking the details when I use the MallinCam.

- Doug

#5 jgraham

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Posted 17 December 2007 - 03:47 PM

Neat stuff. I found the same to be true using my CCD for assisted observing. Way back when I used to drive out into the country to find dark skies, but I haven't had time for that in years. Assisted visual observing has completely re-awakened my interest in good old back yard astronomy. Stuff I could dream of even from a dark sky site with a big telescope is within easy reach of my little LXD75 SN6 fitted with my DSI/DSI Pro even on a moon lit night. I'll never forget one wonderful evening last summer exploring galaxies across Ursa Major. What made this particularly fun is I've all but given up trying to object galaxies visually from my back yard even with my 16.5" telescope. Anymore I love to sit at my control desk with The Sky fired up or a copy of The Pocket Star Atlas and go after faint fuzzies just to see what they look like.

#6 rolandskythree

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Posted 17 December 2007 - 03:56 PM

It get's even worse: the tools have caused at least a few observers to choose to DOWNSIZE their scope. In this day in age, that says a lot about the utility of the astro video, especially when light pollution or marginal weather conditions affect a lot of observing. Roland

#7 Bob S.

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Posted 19 December 2007 - 11:41 PM

Roland, I am one that downsized from a 20" scope to a 14.5". As you know, I use both an I3 and a MallinCam Hyper Color camera. Tonight, with the Moon more than half full, I looked at the Flame Nebula, Horsehead Nebula and then panned around the Orion Nebula and M43 to view all of the detail/structure in the various objects. I certainly could not do these things with my 14.5" on a pretty full Moon night without my trusty Mallincam and handheld WATEC-35 color LCD monitor :jump: Bob

#8 bobhen

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Posted 20 December 2007 - 12:29 PM

As I posted in the “end of eyepieces” thread - dust lane detail in NGC 891, the outer “wing” nebulosity in M76, the Horse Head, and the core of M42 with detail that matches a CCD image taken from an AP Mak, etc., etc., etc. - all seen in less than 30-seconds.

And, of course, this is all taking place in my backyard, with a mass-produced 11-inch scope, 15 miles from center city Philadelphia under the most horrendous light pollution you can imagine with the images coming up on-screen in 30-seconds or less. Knowing what these cameras can do even if I moved to a pristine, dark-sky site, I would still use the camera a good portion of the time.

Bob

#9 jgraham

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Posted 20 December 2007 - 01:23 PM

Neat. I'll never forget my first night out with my my (then) new DSI. The equipment I was using at the time really wasn't up to the task (an Orion StarBlast on a Meade DS-2130 mount) but I wanted to try imaging anyway and at $299 the DSI was too tempting to pass up. For my very first target I decided to go for broke; M1. I have never seen M1 from my back yard and even from our dark sky site it's tough. I was shocked that I was actually able to see it using 15 second exposures using a little 4.5" telescope, and after stacking only a half-dozen or so images I could easily see ghostly detail. After that I slewed over to M42 (a little easier target) and spent the rest of the night in awe of the beautiful images. I've always loved M42 and thought viewing it through my 16.5" was fantastic, but what I could see with my little StarBlast was amazing. Since then one thing I enjoy is using my imagers to observe an object, then once I know what I'm looking for go out and look at it visually with one of my big telescopes. I don;t know how many times I've had a wonderful "ahah!, so there you are!" moments doing this.

#10 Bob S.

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Posted 22 December 2007 - 05:45 AM

I finally discovered a DOWNSIDE to suburban viewing. Early this morning at 2 a.m. the Moon was almost full but the sky was clear. I looked at the CSC and it said that the Moon would be pretty low at about 5 a.m. and nice and clear with decent seeing and transparency. I woke up at 5 a.m., bundled up, put a battery in the 14.5" Starmaster, rolled it out onto the driveway and then looked up. Oh my gosh, a marine layer had come in and there was nary a star to see! I guess this newfound convenience makes one careless :rainbow: Bob

#11 jgraham

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Posted 22 December 2007 - 10:14 AM

heh, heh, I have a similar problem; I often lose way too much sleep. Since I started using my cameras to observe I'm out out every clear night and I often stay up much later than I should whereas before I'd only make the effort if it were exceptionally clear. Assisted visual astronomy has really brought the fun back into this hobby for me.

#12 Peter Argenziano

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Posted 22 December 2007 - 11:41 AM

Wow, Bob! Now that's what I call a good use of this technology!

I've been away for a couple of days and was surprised to see the end of eyepieces thread locked and then removed. Seems some unnecessary comments were posted -- there's always room for everyone's opinions without any personal reprisals.

Perhaps my comments were misinterpreted. Let me set the record straight: I happen to think this type of video astronomy is great. Further, I have nothing against its use. However, for me, YMMV, it would be limited to outreach events or observing with groups in a suburban setting or simply allowing one to observe from their backyard. I think it would entail a great deal of work to completely shield the monitor so that it could be used at a dark sky site without sacrificing someone else's dark adaption. If I understand correctly, one would not want to use a red screen over the monitor or even dim the monitor significantly. I know at a couple of the dark sites that I use a red flashlight that is overly bright and reflected off of white paper can ruin your night vision, so I would imagine that the monitor would present a unique challenge.

My comment about hoping that not many start coming to dark sky sites seemed to have touched a nerve with some. What I meant was that if these rigs become commonplace it could lead their users to become less dilligent about protecting the darkness, thereby causing a segregation of those who prefer a more traditional experience. I remember once this past fall where a guy had such a setup. He positioned himself at the end of the observing field with no one on one side. Then he constructed a sort of tent using heavy black tarps to encircle his equipment, positioned the monitor close to the ground, and even employed use of his truck as a barrier. This worked out well, but I wonder if everyone would be willing to put the time and effort into it that this guy did. He spent well over an hour getting ready before he ever turned the monitor on. He also walked around the field to ensure that there was no light trespass.

Just my :penny: :penny:

#13 Bob S.

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Posted 22 December 2007 - 12:10 PM

Peter, I am GLAD that you hit a nerve with some. Since the very beginning of use with these monitors, I have been very concerned about their effects on our dark sites. The joy that these systems brings can negatively affect the goals of imagers and visual folks who are trying to tease the most out of their scopes and their human receptor systems. I posted a thread on the subject after reading your thoughts and hope that we come up with solutions that will allow coexistence. If we monitor users cannot do that, then I think they should be banned for the welfare of others who have driven to the dark site. I have NOT yet heard of a technique from anyone on the other thread that appears to be truly acceptable yet. I know that with some ingenuity, we will get there and we had better do it fast! Thanks again for your thoughtful inputs. Bob

#14 rolandskythree

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Posted 22 December 2007 - 11:15 PM

While I love the video astro tools, I can appreciate the sensitivities of EP users when there are too many monitors nearby. I know it is very exciting to use these tools but EP and astrovideo-with-monitor users are typically in the same physical space....and here we are in electronic space sharing as well. I would offer this: astro video users are kind of like Recreational Vehicle users in campground with lots of tents. Tenters and RVers have learned to respect each others equipment, techniques, and space. In observing the heavens, I believe it falls on the astro video users to go the extra mile to protect dark skies in an observing site. There is no argument that the astro video user sees more detail, but that does not mean everyone wants to go there. Many of my friends do not. So, I pick the corner area or mount the monitor in a protected fashion. I need not make lots of unnecessary noise about what I see; I simply announce it in case anyone wants to look; usually they do; sometimes they don't. In like manner, on CN posting, it is a bit harder to define, but posting has to have a soft edge but still keep the obvious excitement about what we can see with the tools.

Clear skies....keep observing.

Roland

#15 jgraham

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Posted 25 December 2007 - 11:53 AM

I funy thought just struck me... the topic of this thread was originally suburban viewing. Since I do all of my viewing from my back yard the thought of dragging equipment out to a dark sky site never occurred to me. Actually, I did think about it once, but the idea at that time was to use my old van as a portable control room. Even when I observe from home I like to keep my electronics and biology separate; electronics inside and lawn chair outside. Welll, I do make one exception; my CD player comes outside with me. :)


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