Playa Astronomy

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chiefdanfox
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Playa Astronomy

Post by chiefdanfox » Tue Jan 29, 2008 2:48 pm

Since there were a few of us with decent scopes this last year, and there seems to be interest in organizing a group activity, I thought I'd get this thread on the hump.

I'll bring my Celestron SCT 8 GPS and a decent pair of 10 X 50 and 20 X 50 binoculars. Last year I made a bike trailer for the scope and gear out of a dolly.

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Re: Playa Astronomy

Post by falk » Fri Feb 01, 2008 3:18 pm

Doesn't the dust a) make the seeing terrible, and b) trash your scope? I thought of bringing my 10" Dob out when the theme was Vault of the Heavens, but reason prevailed.

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Post by Ugly Dougly » Fri Feb 01, 2008 3:31 pm

The seeing of it is still better than anything cityside.

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Post by BitterDan » Fri Feb 01, 2008 3:34 pm

How did the light from the city effect your views from the scope?
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Dust, scope

Post by chiefdanfox » Mon Feb 04, 2008 9:48 am

The biggest problem was the dust, not because it was trashing my scope, but because it obscured the sky. The way optics work, and especially in my scope, the scope will "see" the atmospheric distortions, light pollution, and dust because of the way these things interact with light and light scattering.

The planet hunting was fine, as long as things were basically overhead, even in the day. Last year, Jupiter was up during the day, and was fairly low by nightfall, hence my scope couldn't see it, because of the dust. If any of you remember the moon setting late in the week, around nightfall, was quite visible to the naked eye, but my scope couldn't see it: too much dust in the air.

I have to think the light from the city didn't help the viewing, but I didn't bring my scope out to do any deep space or "serious" stuff. I wanted to do a little "sidewalk astronomy". Let folks see the phases of Venus, maybe Jupiter's red spot, some binary stars. The Moon is always a hit.

The amount of water this year leads me to think the playa may not be as dusty, although it does have a lot to do with spring rain: if the playa dries too early, then we get a lot of dust. I have also heard that it has something to do with the depth of the water (pressure) but I am not so sure about that theory.

Anyway, I kept my scope in its hard shell case when not in use, and I got very little dust on my scope. I also have the tube sealed with a filter, on the eyepiece side, so no problem with getting dust inside. The Schmidt Cassegrains are stubby and portable, and sealed. This is exactly what I bought it for. I think I will add a Space Blanket to toss over the scope if I leave it set up, because they are super light, and not likely to mess up the alignment much, and it will keep just that much more dust from setting down on the scope.

I think if you have a decent way to keep your scope protected (mine: in a case, in the car) You shouldn't have much of a problem. The biggest thing was reminding folks not to grab the thing as they approached it. It is a natural reaction, so you have to just gently be a guide, explain the sensitivity of the alignment, and just watch the great big grins forming on people's faces when they get an eyeful.

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Post by theCryptofishist » Mon Feb 04, 2008 10:48 pm

Are you saying you saw Jupiter during the day?
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Jupiter in the day

Post by chiefdanfox » Tue Feb 05, 2008 12:29 pm

Yes. It was pretty low in the sky, about 3-4 hand widths above the horizon, right around sunset. It was almost impossible to see.

Under a clear sky in Oakland, you can see Jupiter and a couple the four Galilean moons in the day, if it is well separated from the Sun. We also looked at Venus, and tried for Mercury, but too much dust. There are a number of stars visible in the day as well, although I couldn't seem to find them that day.

This year, Jupiter will be about the same "elevation" but both Neptune and Uranus will be fairly high in the sky at night. I have seen both Nep and Ur under city lights in Oakland. Just fuzzy dots, one blue, one aquamarine. The Moon will be in a crescent, coming up in the wee hours. My scope is fantastic for viewing the moon. With my 10mm lens we can pick out individual mountains poking up into the light, in a sea of darkness.

Unfortunately, Saturn will be very near the Sun at that time, too close to try to see it during the day, but Mars, Venus and Mercury all make a nice grouping, and if it is not too dusty, we should be able to see all, right around dusk.

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Post by CapSmashy » Tue Feb 05, 2008 1:32 pm

If I pick up a t ring, etc, could we do some photos? :)

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photos

Post by chiefdanfox » Tue Feb 05, 2008 2:28 pm

Sure, let me know what you have, and I'll see if the rig will need counterweights, if it doesn't then I'd be happy to let you get some shots. I am not an astrophotographer, but I do know that you might need to stack photos (digital) and since I do not have an equatorial mount, long exposures aren't really an option, unless you are thinking Moon shots, which I am sure will not need stacked photos, nor a long exposure. I do have a polarizing filter on the back side, which seals the tube, and that is not something I would remove out there.

I have a Celestron Nexstar 8 GPS, which will accept both 1 1/2" and 2" eye pieces. My visual back and diagonal are both 1 1/2".

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Re: photos

Post by Teo del Fuego » Tue Feb 05, 2008 3:13 pm

chiefdanfox wrote:unless you are thinking Moon shots
who the hell isn't?

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Post by falk » Tue Feb 05, 2008 7:43 pm

theCryptofishist wrote:Are you saying you saw Jupiter during the day?
If you know where to look, it can be done. I've seen Mercury and Saturn by day too (Saturn through a pair of binoculars that someone else had aimed for me.)

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daytime planets

Post by chiefdanfox » Wed Feb 06, 2008 8:13 am

Yep. To me both Saturn and Jupiter seem to have finer details when viewed in the day. I think it has more to do with human eyes than light pollution. At night both are really bright in the scope, and while filters help, they also add color, etc., but the planets still seem to be burning a hole in the retina. In the day, both are relatively diffuse, and the cloud banding on both planets seem easier to see, and the Cassini division in the rings seems easier to see. With the playa dust? Nipple rings are probably the only rings we are gonna see.

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Post by CapSmashy » Wed Feb 06, 2008 8:31 am

I would be using a Nikon D300. So it would probably need counterweights as it is a large DSLR camera.

Any idea on what those run? I would happily be covering the expense of any additional equipment the scope would need.


Oh, and I hear ya on the not unsealing the tube. If that was the only way to make it work, I would never expect anyone to uncork their optics for some pictures. That is my only concern about using the camera. I'll have to unseal it from the lens to put on the t ring and mount it the scope. If its another dusty year, I would simply be taking pics of you looking at stuff int he sky rather than opening up the camera. :)

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Post by BitterDan » Wed Feb 06, 2008 11:08 am

Let folks see the phases of Venus, maybe Jupiter's red spot, some binary stars. The Moon is always a hit.
That would be awesome! I can't say that I've ever seen the planets with my own eyes (well, other than it just looking like a bright star to the naked eye).

I too was wondering about camera attachments. I bring my Canon Rebel XT DSLR and I was wondering if it would mount. It's much lighter than CapSmashy's D300 but I am not sure how to do the multiple exposures for astro-photography.
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photos

Post by chiefdanfox » Wed Feb 06, 2008 11:16 am

Smash,
I called the scope vendor about mounting a D300, and if you use the body only, mounted to the back using a t adapter and ring, the scope will handle it (up to about 5 lbs.) It is a double fork arm, and essentially the same motors and gears used for the heavier 11" scope. If I need counterweight, I can just fill a sock (yours) with some moop and hang it with some velcro from the tube. Really.

I love it. White-trash astrophotography! "Hold on Mayhew, yer doggone sock has a hole in th' toe! Here, add my lucky rabbit foot, and my dentures. That feels about right."

The mounts for the front of the scope (if you used your lens) requires expensive weights, adapters and the removal of my front mirror, and I am assuming neither of us are into that sort of brain damage. I didn't ask about the price of a t ring and adapter, but the vendor chimed in that they are pretty cheap (<$50). My visual back is 1 1/4" I think I said 1 1/2" in an earlier post.

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Post by stargeezer » Wed Feb 06, 2008 1:28 pm

For taking pictures, there is another option than the T ring that I like better.

I use my digital camera with my 8" SCT using eyepiece projection. For bright objects like the moon, you can just handhold the camera and the pictures come out fine. For dimmer objects, I made a mount that works well. This keeps both the camera and scope sealed, and reduces the dust hazard.
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Post by Gravity Mike » Wed Feb 06, 2008 4:51 pm

This is a great idea. I'm an old astro-nut, but don't have crapola for equipment.

Someway of getting your stuff out into the deep playa seems best. Was there less dust out there, or just the same?

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Dust, and logistics

Post by chiefdanfox » Thu Feb 07, 2008 11:55 am

The dust was ubiquitous on the playa. I made a little bike trailer out of a dolly for my scope, so it is easy enough for me to move my rig. I even made a shooting star out of narrow metal rounds and wrapped it in ELwire (it is about the size of a garbage can lid), maybe somebody saw it last year? - green star with yellow rays - The PVC flag pole was bullshit, however.
Image

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Post by Gravity Mike » Thu Feb 07, 2008 2:20 pm

I'll look for it.

You can get collapsable fiberglass flagpoles, but a bit expensive. I've been using cheaper ones, like giant fishing poles, from a company called 'jackite.' I hang lit paper lanterns from it, 28' feet high. It 'mostly' survives the high winds (elecronics don't, all else does).

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Lunar eclipse Feb. 20th

Post by chiefdanfox » Tue Feb 12, 2008 9:55 am

Lunar eclipse Feb. 20th., right around sunset on the Pacific coast. Saturn will also be nice a cozy with the Moon. Orion is dominating the sky, and Mars is large and in the vicinity, making a great colorful sky with Betelgeuse and Aldebaran.

Anyone in the SF Bay Area can come to Lake Merritt in Oakland, Lakeshore and El Embarcadero around 7ish, if it is a clear night. I'll be there with my scope, and I am expecting a few guests via Bay Area Linkup.

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Re: photos

Post by CapSmashy » Fri Feb 15, 2008 4:42 am

chiefdanfox wrote:Smash,
I called the scope vendor about mounting a D300, and if you use the body only, mounted to the back using a t adapter and ring, the scope will handle it (up to about 5 lbs.) It is a double fork arm, and essentially the same motors and gears used for the heavier 11" scope. If I need counterweight, I can just fill a sock (yours) with some moop and hang it with some velcro from the tube. Really.

I love it. White-trash astrophotography! "Hold on Mayhew, yer doggone sock has a hole in th' toe! Here, add my lucky rabbit foot, and my dentures. That feels about right."

The mounts for the front of the scope (if you used your lens) requires expensive weights, adapters and the removal of my front mirror, and I am assuming neither of us are into that sort of brain damage. I didn't ask about the price of a t ring and adapter, but the vendor chimed in that they are pretty cheap (<$50). My visual back is 1 1/4" I think I said 1 1/2" in an earlier post.
Sounds good to me!

I'll start doing some research on the finer points of shooting pics through a telescope and track down the ring and adapter.

And hell, with as impulsive as I get somedays, much to my bank account's dismay, we might just have 2 scopes out there to play with. :lol:

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Post by chiefdanfox » Wed Aug 06, 2008 11:54 am

It sounds like the playa is very soft and the dust will be at least as bad as last year, so I think I will not bring the scope. Unless one of those Pacific hurricanes blows some real moisture far north...yeah right.
Bummer for me.

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Jupiter DJ

Post by Marscrumbs » Fri Aug 08, 2008 4:15 pm

I'd like to get a shortwave setup to listen to Jupiter radio....

http://www.spacetoday.org/SolSys/Jupite ... Radio.html

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Post by brigitgoddess » Sat Aug 09, 2008 6:52 pm

Hey Dan! You're on my facebook friends list, actually--lol. Would love to come out and do some informal viewing with you. What night are you planning on being out and where? Meet you somewhere and go out into the deep Playa from there? Can I bring friends?

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Post by Timezone LaFontaine » Sun Aug 10, 2008 10:53 am

Sorry to hear it Dan, but I understand. Speaking of planetary matters, did any of y'all come across the scale model of the solar system last year, way out in the deep playa? I think it was scaled to 1000 feet or something like that. I'd seen something similar in a large room in the Natural History Museum in NYC, but this was on a much larger scale. It was cool, kind of funky and homemade with everyday objects and, I think, some nicely fired ceramic plates with brief statements about the planets, their moons, and ... whatever Pluto is. Seeing it in that vast environment really brought to light how freakin' far apart everything is.

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Post by Gage » Sun Aug 10, 2008 4:00 pm

I would be interested in coming out after sunset and taking a look for a while. I have a low-end telescope with a few different zoom lenses, but if it's an uber-clear night, it would be worth the detour for an hour or so...

Where can I find you on the playa?
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Post by chiefdanfox » Mon Aug 11, 2008 4:29 pm

Hi Brigit! Yes, you can bring friends, and IF (big IF) I bring it, I will figure out a way to let y'all know (Mouse race?). Until I read the responses, I was planning on leaving it at home, but since some folks seem interested, I might rethink it. Binoculars would probably be a good thing to bring, if you have them.

I haven't figured out where I would be, and may not get that figured out until I get there. The dust was so bad last year that I didn't venture far. This year I have a pretty, green, powerful laser that I can use to "survey" the dust. If I find a spot that seems to have a little less (away from heavy MV traffic...maybe?), I'll set up there. Well, I can dream little dreams, right?

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Post by Timezone LaFontaine » Mon Aug 11, 2008 6:10 pm

What about somewhere near the fence in the 11:00 - 1:00 area? I enjoy heading way out there at night a few times during the week in order to enjoy The Sum of All Dance Music. (Curiously, it sounds a lot like Lawrence Welk. Go figure.)

Just a thought; I'm not sure how heavy and/or cumbersome your gear is.

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Post by chiefdanfox » Mon Aug 11, 2008 7:26 pm

That sounds like a plan. I suppose the prevailing wind will have something to say about whether it is 1 or 11. As we get closer more reports about the conditions will roll in. The whole mess with battery pack is probably north of 80 lbs., but if it comes, so will my shitty little modified dolly-bike-trailer, so I can haul it, if sober (ha!), anywhere on the playa.

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Post by zifra » Tue Aug 12, 2008 4:17 am

Hi all! Rodney here (using my girlfriend's login out of sheer laziness). Just thought that I would voice my interest in joining in some astro-photo endeavors.

While I do not own a scope yet, I do have a really trick eyepiece projection camera adapter for Nikon (it uses a standard cheapo T-mount so if anyone has another brand of camera just bring a T-mount for your camera Ritz charges like <$10 for them) and several different eyepieces for varied magnifications. Fits 1.25" eyepieces.

I would really love the chance to use it on a scope with an equatorial mount, as that is what I am researching to buy for myself, but I will not turn down any opportunity.

I use a Nikon D2X and D200, which are both fairly heavy DSLRs, but I can likely arrange for some counterbalance.

I can also speak from my experience last year that we could likely seal a scope in a dustproof bag as long as it has a front filter. For a big scope, I would use a large contractor's garbage bag (or heavy clear bag if you need to see controls on the scope- they can be manipulated with the bag on). You cut a hole a bit smaller than the filter, stretch it over the filter edge, and use gaffer's tape to seal it in place. On the other end, we would gather the bag together around the eyepiece and again seal it with gaffer's tape (special because it leaves no residue when it is removed- and yes I will be bringing plenty with me).

I hope that this plan might help to ease concerns about dust damage and get some more scopes out on the playa for me to test,... um wait I mean for everyone to enjoy!

I will be easy to find on the playa, as our 100th Monkey camp will be on the 3:00 plaza near Ice Cubed! I look forward to the opportunity to see many of you out there!!!

Rodney

PS. for those looking at getting a T-adapter to mount to the scope directly (without eyepiece) do note that you need to buy the "Celestron" or brand equivalent for the particular scope model as the spacing is different from a standard T-mount. If you use the wrong one you can't get it to focus. Found that out the hard way when I rented an 8" Celestron last year. Good luck!

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