Impressive early efforts of a beginning telescope user

M42 - The Orion Nebula - by John Burkett
M42 – The Orion Nebula: Two exposures, “…a minute at 400 ISO and a minute at 100 ISO. One each. I just erased the center from the ISO 400 on top of the ISO 100 layer.” – John Burkett

CAA member John Burkett writes about how he, a person who says he has used a telescope only six times in his life, created images that would be the envy of many a veteran amateur astronomer.

Wanting to do astrophotography for many years, I could never justify the expense if I rationally totaled the equipment costs; clearly, the only solution was to be irrational.  Feeling time-pressured in July ’17 to acquire a longer DSLR camera lens for the {total solar} eclipse, I bought a used Stellarvue 130 instead. 

The first time I used the goto mount, I didn’t know if it was polar-aligned or not, and gave up at 3 AM.

The second time, I had acquired a magical device called PoleMaster.  It says “click on Polaris”, but how do I know if I’m clicking on Polaris or not? 

The third weekend, I was more confident of the polar alignment but only then realized the need to know names of stars to align the mount. After an hour or so with an app, I found Altair and confidently  pressed “enter” on the hand controller. Wow, this was exciting, the mount started moving, the scope is spinning around and when it stopped, the telescope  was pointing below the horizon. I spent an hour or two, staring at the equipment wondering if I put something together backwards or selected the wrong hemisphere, or broke it. I released the clutch and pointed it at the moon so I could say I captured something.

The 4th time I set up the CGEM, I went through the motions of a three-star alignment, repeatedly. This took all night, since I didn’t know any star by name yet.

Photo: Horsehead Nebula (Barnard 33) in Orion. Photo by John Burkett
The Horsehead Nebula (Barnard 33) in the upper-right, is located just to the south of the star Alnitak in Orion’s Belt, and part of the much larger Orion Molecular Cloud Complex. The large glowing cloud to left of center is NGC 2024 – the Flame Nebula. Photo by John Burkett.

Finally, on the 5th CGEM weekend, being frustratingly entertained, I was able to align everything. I selected the Dumbbell, took a shot and captured it. I continued to do the tour of random DSOs (deep-sky objects). I noted the same length of trails in a six-minute exposure as in a two-minute exposure.  The camera body to mount had uncorrectable play, so I determined its natural sitting and wrapped the intervalometer cable around the camera so that it would dangle in the desired direction, using its weight to avoid the unintended motion of the less than ideal mounting.

Just in time for some use-it-or-lose-it vacation, I wanted to spend a week at this. To be honest, I’ve been a self-described night sky [amateur] photographer for many years, so once I had the mount figured out, exposing and {image editing} was second nature.  As in DSLR camera photography, I shot both over and under exposures, choose the best two and just erased the over-exposed center of one layered image, on top of the other image in Photoshop. And that is my beginner M42 with a DSLR on a goto telescope adventure. I think I’m going to enjoy contributing and learning astrophotography.

Burkett notes that his digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR) is a Nikon D810 not modified for astrophotography. He shot the images from Kissimmee, Florida in February 2018. And yes, we are among those awestruck at his first efforts. — ed

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March 12: Monthly Membership Meeting

Photo: The Milky Way by Alan Studt
Milky Way Rising – Photo by Alan Studt

The monthly meeting of the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association will take place Monday, March 12, beginning at 7:30 PM. The evening’s program, “Astrophotography and other Cool Pictures,” will be presented by club members Alan and Gale Studt. The couple will present photos featuring starry night landscapes, panoramas, and star trails blended with earthly landscapes! For the technically-curious, Alan will go over his gear and basic procedures. Plus music and more!

Following the presentation and a brief social break, the club will conduct its membership business meeting.

Our monthly meetings are held on the second Monday of every month (except December) at 7:30 PM at the Rocky River Nature Center; 24000 Valley Parkway; North Olmsted, Ohio, in the Cleveland Metroparks.

Member Photos: Solar Eclipse 2017

This is a gallery of eclipse photographs made by members of the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA). Some members traveled to various places along the path of totality to experience the total solar eclipse. Some CAA members stayed behind, photographing the deep partial eclipse. We are fortunate to have a number of talented photographers and astrophotographers as members and pleased to be able to exhibit their amazing work here. We will add new images to this post as they are received so check back on occasion! Please note: these images are the property of their individual creators and may not be used without the photographer’s expressed permission.

Photo: Total Solar Eclipse by David J. Watkins
The solar corona visible at totality. Photographed from Lebanon, Tenn., Monday, August 21, 2017. Credit: David J. Watkins
Photo: Total solar eclipse. Photo by David J. Watkins.
The diamond ring effect prior to second contact. You can also see some of the chromosphere along with some prominences (orange-red color). Photographed from Lebanon, Tenn., Monday, August 21, 2017. Credit: David J. Watkins
Photo: Early eclipse with sunspots. Credit: Alan Studt
Early eclipse with sunspots. Credit: Alan Studt
Photo: Partial eclipse progression. Credit: Alan Studt
Partial eclipse progression. Credit: Alan Studt
Photo: Partial eclipse at maximum. Photo by James Guilford.
Maximum Eclipse – Hiram, Ohio. Northeastern Ohio witnessed an 80 percent coverage partial eclipse on August 21, 2017. Several sunspots were visible before the Moon covered them leaving only one in sight at the left end of the crescent seen here. Credit: James Guilford.
Photo: Edge of lunar disk against Sun. Photo by James Guilford.
Before Maximum Eclipse – Note the “bumps” on the edge of the Moon’s dark curve: silhouettes of lunar craters and mountains against the brilliant Sun. Canon EOS 50D: ISO 320, f/11, 1/1600 sec., 800mm telephoto. Credit: James Guilford
Photo: Partial Solar Eclipse. Credit: Bruce Lane.
Partial eclipse taken east of Glendo State Park, Wyoming on Highway 270, about .7 mile north of the center line for totality. Technical: Canon EOS 60Da, ISO 320, 1/160 sec., ETX-125 telescope with polar alignment. Credit: Bruce Lane
Photo: Partial Solar Eclipse. Credit: Bruce Lane
Nearing Totality: Partial eclipse taken east of Glendo State Park, Wyoming on Highway 270, about .7 mile north of the center line for totality. Technical: Canon EOS 60Da, ISO 320, 1/160 sec., ETX-125 telescope with polar alignment. Credit: Bruce Lane
Photo: Totality with Venus. Credit: Ted Sauppé
Totality with Venus: From southern Illinois, where he took a shot of the totality, Venus showing to the right. Taken with a Samsung Galaxy Note5. Credit: Ted Sauppé
Photo: Total Solar Eclipse by Steve Koryak.
Totality, Casper, Wyoming. Credit: Steve Koryak
Photo: Total Solar Eclipse. Credit: Steve Koryak
I took these two photos in Casper, Wyoming. These are the first and the eighth in the sequence made under thin clouds! I missed the diamond ring at first and second contact because of helping five other people seeing their first eclipse! Technical: Nikon D5100,ISO 800, 6-inch f/4 telescope on clock drive, starting at 1/4000 sec. down to a few seconds. Credit: Steve Korylak
Image: Temperature Plot, August 21, 2017; Medina, Ohio. Credit: James Guilford
Temperature Plot, August 21, 2017; Medina, Ohio. Credit: James Guilford
Photo: Colander as Eclipse Projector. Credit: Matt Franduto
Colander as Eclipse Projector. Credit: Matt Franduto
Photo: Totality with Earth Shine - Handheld. Credit: Matt Franduto
Totality with Earth Shine, Regulus to the Left – Handheld Photograph. Credit: Matt Franduto
Photo: Diamond Ring Effect. Credit: Chris Christe
Diamond Ring Effect. Credit: Chris Christe
Photo: Totality Composite showing Corona, Prominences, and Earthshine. Credit: Chris Christe
Totality Composite showing Corona, Prominences, and Earthshine. Credit: Chris Christe

July 29: A great night for stargazers

Photo: Astronomers with their telescopes. Photo by Alan Studt.
Under Starry Skies – Photo by Alan Studt

by William Murmann, CAA President

We had one of our most successful public star parties for the Medina County Park District last night (July 29) at Letha House. I don’t have an exact count, but I think 100 or more guests came for the event under great clear skies and mild temperatures. The parking lot was full. Lots of young families came with children, many of whom got their first look at the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, and other objects through a telescope.

Photo: Waxing Crescent Moon, July 29, 2017. Photo by James Guilford.
Waxing Crescent Moon dominated the sky for the CAA’s Public Night. Photo by James Guilford.

Many thanks to all who helped! Observatory Director Jay Reynolds had a busy night showing the night sky with our 12-inch and 8-inch scopes. Education Director Nora Mishey spent the whole evening in the building, talking with folks about her educational astronomy displays, sharing home-baked cookies, and discussing our club. Three platters of Nora’s cookies quickly disappeared.

Photo: Woman using telescope in red-lit observatory under starry sky.
“First-light” observing with the just-completed eight-inch Meade. Photo by Alan Studt

 

 

 

 

We had 14 scopes at the event. Two of them were brought by nonmembers who hopefully will join our club. I was busy during the evening talking with people and showing the Moon with my scope, so I may not have a complete list of members who helped. If I missed anyone, please let me know.

Photo: Group pauses to watch a passage of the International Space Station. Photo by James Guilford.
Watching the Space Station. Photo by James Guilford.

A big thank you for helping to VP Tim Campbell, Bob Wiersma, James Guilford, Alan Studt, Rich & Nancy Whisler, Bill & Carol Lee, Carl Kudrna, Dave Nuti, Chris Christie, Bruce Lane, Jay Reynolds, Nora Mishey, and me. If you were there and I missed you, please let me know.

Thanks again everyone!

Summer Solstice Celebration: Who we are

Photo: On the Solstice Steps - 2017, by Alan Studt
On the Solstice Steps – 2017, by Alan Studt

by Jay Reynolds, CAA Observatory Director

June 22 — If you could not attend last night’s Lakewood Summer Solstice Celebration, it was something extra special.

The clouds dissolving into blue skies, a small crowd building into thousands gathered by the water’s edge. Without instruction, slowly quieting, to watch the magic that they had come for: a magnificent sunset. As the top of the Sun, disappeared, the quiet, polite, spontaneous sound of applause could be heard.

CAA was there.

Aside from all the “other” activities, the solstice steps and CAA telescopes were the most embraced by the crowd. At each scope, lines and lines to catch a glimpse of Sun and Jupiter!  All while a “friend of the club” provided event drone coverage, with a requested emphasis on CAA.

Photo: Suzie Dills, Michael Estime, Jay Reynolds Observe the Sun, by Carol Lee
Suzie Dills, Michael Estime, Jay Reynolds Observe the Sun, by Carol Lee

Our friends at Channel 3 came out in force, with their drone, a live remote truck, a reporter doing a story on Lake Erie, and Michael Estime doing weather hits. Michael specifically pointed out CAA several times, with CAA, busy in the background doing what we do best! Our own Nora Mishey, specifically, in one of the “weather hits” to show how much fun she was having.

Photo: Climbing High to See the Sun, by Alan Studt
Climbing High to See the Sun, by Alan Studt

Last year was the first city of Lakewood Solstice event. Last year’s attendance estimates, by police, were 3000-4000 people. This year, Lakewood police estimated attendance… 15,000. They base that on Lakewood’s, usual Fourth of July attendance. Last night was equivalent. Not all 15,000 were by us, or the steps. At the Celebration’s peak, people were spread out over the entire park.

Photo: Solar Filter Card, by Alan Studt
Solar Filter Card, by Alan Studt

While we can only estimate how many actual people we served, attendance makes last night one of the largest non-dedicated astronomy events that we’ve supported. (Our largest dedicated astronomy event was 2012 Transit of Venus which 7,500 attended.)

Photo: A Bucket Full of Sunlight, by Alan Studt
A Bucket Full of Sunlight, by Alan Studt

Members were on their feet from 4:30 till 10:30 with no breaks, too many smiling people to speak with! As the evening progressed, you could hear the familiar sounds from telescope viewers expressing the happy appreciation of the views of our Sun, Jupiter and its moons. Of course when Saturn came into the scopes, you heard breathless disbelief and the question, “Is that a sticker?”  “That can’t be” or the quiet statement “Wow!”

Photo: Anticipation Grew High as Sun Drew Low, by Alan Studt
Anticipation Grew High as Sun Drew Low, by Alan Studt

We can be proud of not only our representation, but the patience and kindness of our members. Even members who did not have scopes were engaging the audience and making sure visitors “got the most” out of it.  Visitors were polite and showed outright appreciation and said thank-you a lot!

Photo: Gary Kader's Antique Telescope Projecting Solar Image, by Alan Studt
Gary Kader’s Antique Telescope Projecting Solar Image, by Alan Studt

Finally, we earned the gratitude of Lakewood City Hall organizers and the mayor’s office.  Not just gratitude but increased equity in our already good relationship. Organizers, and the mayor, expressed their appreciation so many times during the evening. At the end of the night, overwhelmed by such success, we were asked three times, “what can the city do for CAA?”  Not something we generally hear after an event.

Photo: Spectacular Solstice Sunset, by Alan Studt
Spectacular Solstice Sunset, by Alan Studt

All this, is a demonstration of this organization, it’s who we are!

Do your best with what you have and you may just make a masterpiece

Photo: IC 434 & B33, The Horsehead Nebula - by Joe Golias
IC 434 & B33, The Horsehead Nebula – by Joe Golias

The Cuyahoga Astronomical Association has a number of members interested in and skilled at astrophotography – an activity that is both similar to and different from traditional terrestrial photography. One of our skilled practitioners is Joe Golias, owner of Astrozap.com – local maker and seller of telescope accessories. Golias was in attendance at a winter star party in Florida when he made the remarkable image seen above.

“Conditions were pretty good throughout the week with the exception of one strong storm that hit mid week,” Golias wrote. “Otherwise is was clear, calm and warm most of the time. This was not my intended target but had some issues with a dead battery the first night in my mount which killed my go to capabilities. I had to pick an object that I could easily see through my spotting scope and just decided to concentrate on this object the rest of the week.”

Technical Information:

Object: IC 434 & B33 – The Horsehead Nebula
Acquisition Data: The Florida Keys, February 2017
Telescope: Takahashi FSQ-106EDX IV @ f/5.0
Mount: Losmandy G-11
Camera: SBIG STT8300 with self-guiding filter wheel.
Exposure time: 12 Hours using the following filters. HA, Red, Blue & Green.
Processing Software: Images Plus and Photoshop 7.0.

Milky Way stars during public star party

Photo: Looking South Along the Lake at Letha House Park, Milky Way Glowing Overhead, the Moon Sinking Low in the West. Photo by Alan Studt.
Looking South Along the Lake at Letha House Park, Milky Way Glowing Overhead. Photo by Alan Studt. Nikon D810: ISO 3200, 13 sec., f/2.8, 14mm.

We had great sky conditions for our August 6 public star party at Letha House Park. We didn’t get an exact count, but I think there were between 75 and 100 guests who came for the program, including Park Ranger Bob who stopped by to say hello.

I had to make a quick count in the dark, but I think we had about 12 telescopes for this Medina County Park District program. Two telescopes were brought by new members who I believe joined one of our star parties for the first time.

Many thanks to Dave Nuti, Chris Christe, Bruce Lane, Jay Reynolds, Nora Mishey, Carl Kudrna, Rich & Nancy Whisler, Bob Wiersma, Alan Studt, Rob Seig, Bob & Mary Deep, and Gale Franko who joined me to help with the program!

Thanks to Jay, who manned the observatory and gave our new 12-inch go-to scope a workout to show the night sky to our numerous  guests.  And thanks also to Nora, who brought delicious homemade cookies and her astronomy Q & A display, and who served as a host in the building to help promote our club and the park district’s programs.

Reported by William Murmann, CAA President

Photo: Summer Milky Way. Photo by Alan Studt.
Summer Milky Way. Photo by Alan Studt. Nikon D810: ISO 5000, 15 sec., f/2.8, 14mm.