Thursday, September 3, 2009

Shooting Star!

And now for something completely different. I've been very busy lately so haven't posted much. Just got back from vacation in Maine a week ago and took this picture while there. It's truly amazing to be in Maine. You can see the Milky Way just by stepping outside! No need to go way out in the country... I guess Maine is mostly "in the country!"

Anyway, here's a picture I took and by sheer chance, captured a shooting star!

Clear skies,

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Listed on Craigslist! $40 Million X-Ray Telescope

You don't see something like this listed every day on Craigslist!

It's a $40 Million dollar x-ray telescope for only $3 million!


Google Earth Does The Moon and Mars Too!

In celebration of America's lunar missions and specifically the Apollo 11 landing on the moon 40 years ago, Google has updated Google Earth and has added the Moon and Mars to it's list of features. Of course, Google added Google Sky a few years back.

See this video to see how to access the Google Moon's features.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Canon 1200mm f/5.6 lens!

Here's a great lens to go with your Canon dSLR to shoot the moon. It's got 1,200mm of focal length as well as a relatively fast f stop of 5.6.

This should just about fill up the frame with a Canon crop sensor (APS-C) camera such as my Canon 30D. With the crop factor of 1.6x, the lens becomes a 1,920mm lens. My Coulter is roughly 2,400mm with my 30D and can barely fit the moon in on one frame.

The price is a bit high, but for those with the money, it's well worth it!

Here's the B&H video of it on an outing.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Phottix Cleon II C8

The weather has been really lousy here around Washington, DC lately. I haven't done much astro or lunar photography. I did however, pick up a new wireless trigger release for my Canon 30D. It's the Phottix Cleon II C8. The name is too long, but besides that, it's very innovative and well thought out.

My old Cactus wireless trigger only had one function. A half press would focus the camera and a full press would take the shot. If you set the camera on continuous shooting, a 3 second hold would initiate as many shots as you wish until you press the release again. Handy, but functionally limited.

The Phottix Cleon II C8 (the C8 designates that it's made for Canon primarily through the cable connecting the camera to the receiver) has a ton of features.

First, it can be used without the transmitter. You are probably thinking, "WHAT? That would make it a wired trigger." That's right! The Phottix can be used as a wired trigger. I find this a very innovative idea.

Second, it has a flash shoe connector built into the receiver. This allows it to be placed on the camera in a very prominent and easy to see spot. The Cactus receiver just dangled off the side of the camera and would turn whichever direction it wanted so you couldn't see if you had a good connection. The Phottix can be turned either forward or backward on the hotshoe so that you can see the LEDs respond to the trigger.

Third, the trigger has 3 settings. The first is just as a shutter release. The second has a 2 second delay which is very handy since changing the delay on the camera takes much longer to set and undo. The last is a continuous setting. All you have to do to initiate continuous is to slide the slider into this position and the camera shoots continuously. Again, very handy in that you don't need to go to the camera to change this setting.

It's quite a nice step up and a very handy improvement in terms of features. There is more product information here:

(I have no relationship with!)

There's also a very thorough review and comparison of the Phottix Cleon II and the original Phottix Cleon here:


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

9 Day Old Moon 4-4-09

It seems like ages since I last posted a night time moon shot. I have to apologize since we've been preparing for visitors for Spring Break and also for getting our taxes done early. Whew! The weather here has also been dreary and overcast for most if not all of the nights since my last post!

This was taken over last Saturday night. As usual, taken with my Canon 30D and Coulter Odyssey 1,500mm (13.1") Dobsonian telescope with a Baader UV/IR cut filter. I post-processed the image with Registax 5.

I hope to take and post more as the full moon approaches!


Monday, March 9, 2009

St. John's Church Steeple and the Moon!

It was a balmy 70 degrees on Friday so I took a late afternoon walk around the White House here in Washington. I had recently picked up a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 macro lens so I wanted to try it out.

I walked by St. John's Church which is where Barack Obama attended on the day of his inauguration. I looked up and saw the moon and the steeple in an interesting position!


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Scopetronix Maxview DSLR II

I had the opportunity of grabbing a much-longed-for Scopetronix Maxview DSLR II 2" eyepiece projection adapter from Astromart over the weekend and it arrived last night.

What a beast! This is the biggest eyepiece projection adapter I've ever seen! In the picture above, you can see it beside my Canon 30D with my 17-85mm zoom. The 1.25" adapter sits to the left. It supposedly will hold a Nagler 31mm eyepiece without difficulty. I can imagine! It reminds me more of a World War I hand grenade more than anything else. 

I've owned the Scopetronix Maxview DSLR 1.25" version when I had my 20D. You can see pictures of it here. The "II" 2" version is significantly larger than the 1.25" "I" version!

I hope to be able to use it soon. The weather is not cooperating. Very cloudy and rain predicted for tonight and tomorrow here in Washington...


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Diversions Dance Company of Wales?

You're probably wondering what in the world Diversions, the Dance Company of Wales is doing in an Lunar and Astrophotography blog? :-)

Let me explain. A while back, I was contacted by Joe Fletcher who's the director of the company about using my "Full Moon at Perigee 12/12/08" photo for a backdrop to one of their performance pieces. I was thrilled and honored that one of my photos was selected. I just heard back from Joe that they started performing the piece, "Lunatics" a couple of weeks ago and that he will send me a DVD of the full performance once it comes out.

I received a care package with T-shirts for my girls last night and my daughter was very happy to wear it! Thanks Joe and Thanks Diversions!

Ambrose and

I haven't been out under the stars much the past few weeks and thought about what I should blog about. I came to this the topic in the title because I love these two web resources. My astronomy hobby would be unimaginably hindered without them. I have become huge fans of both services.

Let me start with's classifieds. Back in the Summer of 2007, before I purchased my first telescope, I did a lot of research on the web for telescopes and mounts. I quickly came to the conclusion that this astronomy hobby was going to be EXPENSIVE! How could I possibly get top quality equipment when the top quality scopes were very expensive?!?!?

Using Google, Astromart consistently popped up as a resource I should think about. Unbelievably, I was very hesitant to plunk down the $12 lifetime fee to get access to the listings! 

Astromart is very smart in some ways. They don't give you access to the prices that the sellers are asking without joining. This proved irresistible to me and so hesitatingly, I signed up and paid my $12 fee. 

It has been BY FAR, the best $12 I've ever spent. Astromart (AM) has given me discount prices and access to the top equipment and rock bottom prices. Not only is it a great resource for getting great equipment, it's also a way to "try before you buy." In other words, you can buy something (if you know that the price is good) and try it for a while and if you don't like it, turn it right back around and sell it again at virtually no cost to you if you price it about the same as youas what you paid.

I started off by researching small refractors and decided on an Astrotech AT66ED APO. I waited for a great deal to come along and about 2 weeks in, my dream scope appeared on AM. I was brand new to the hobby so needed everything along with the scope. The package deal I bought included a AT 2" 99% reflectivity dielectric diagonal and a Stellarvue multi-reticle red dot finder for a total of $350 shipped. At that time, the telescope was selling new for $329 alone. The 2" diagonal was listing new for $150 and the SV RDF was selling new for $58. I saved $188 on my first purchase alone!

It has been amazing ever since. I've bought and sold more items then I ever thought possible. I started with no name or big name (Meade, Celestron, Orion) eyepieces and have ended up with almost exclusively Televue eyepieces at this point! They're all Plossls but they're very good Plossls.

My total scope investment is around $1,500, yet I've bought and sold almost $5,000 worth of equipment. With a little bit of skill, I've also been able to make a bit of a profit on some of the items I've bought and have been able to upgrade gradually along the way.

Besides astronomy equipment, I've also purchased camera equipment and tripods from AM as well. I've found that astronomy buffs sell their camera equipment at better prices then camera enthusiasts do! I LOVE!

As for PayPal, PP has made using AM and other sights a total pleasure. After using AM for over a year by paying for things through postal money orders and personal checks, I've switched to an entirely PayPal system without investing an additional penny! I first sold a couple of items on AM to fund the PP coffers. Once I had a bit of money in PP, I then purchased and sold more items using the funds entirely from PP. It has sped up the time it takes to buy and sell equipment by 100 fold. I used to have to make a special trip to the post office after every purchase I made to buy a postal money order and mail it off to the seller. The seller would then wait until they received the postal money order until they shipped the item. This would generally take about a total of 2 weeks from the time I agreed to buy the item to the time that I actually received the item. 

Now with PP, I can buy and sell equipment at a lightning pace. If I'm buying an item, I send the user the funds through PayPal, then the seller generally puts the item in the mail the very same or very next day. I receive the items within 2 or 3 days!

If I'm selling, I generally conclude a sale within 24 hours of posting it on AM, have the funds in my account in that timeframe and have the item shipped the next day. 

All this without spending any additional personal money except the funds in PP. This happens becuase PP lets you buy and print US Postal Service services directly within PP. All I need to do when I sell something is to head down to the post office with the package and drop it off since it's already packaged and paid for. I know this may be old news to some of you but this is a world changing service that I am now finally enjoying (like just about everyone else in the world!).

Enough about my two favorite web services for now. Off to do more telescoping and photographing!


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Full Moon 2-8-08

I was surprised by how rapidly the moon turned full this cycle. I thought it would be Monday or Tuesday, but it happened on Sunday the 8th. I quickly grabbed the Coulter and headed out to see if I could grab a couple of shots. I used my new technique of only taking a couple of shots. I used my new Canon Angle Finder C to zoom in on the image while focusing and it worked fairly well. Seeing conditions were not great though. This image was the best of the few that I took.

Televue Pronto and Ash Panoramic

I spotted a Televue Pronto for sale on my local Craigslist. I quickly contacted the seller and picked it up this past Sunday. It is my first Televue and it is built like a tank! I tried it out on Sunday night and the views through it are quite nice. At only 480mm, it doesn't quite have the reach of my Coulter which is 1,500mm but it's a nice widefield view. It also came with a Televue 20mm plossl and a Meade 20mm research grade ortho and a 7mm Meade research grade ortho. Lastly, it came with a Televue Ash Panoramic mount. The Ash Panoramic and TV Pronto work beautifully together.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Quarter Moon February 3, 2009

Here's the best shot of the moon I took last night (February 3, 2009) from my back yard. I discovered something about my setup last night. I have been using my Canon 30D in high speed mode shooting roughly 20 frames at 5 frames per second. Looking at the photos today, I noticed that only the first one came out sharp out of the bunch of 20. I must be having some major mirror slap vibration issues. It couldn't be low shutter speed or motion blur since I was using a relatively fast 1/250th of a second and I wasn't touching the scope.

I will try reducing the frame rate to 3 fps to see if that makes a difference.

This shot was the best of the first shots I took. It look very clear and so I ran it through Registax's wavelet sharpening filters and it came out surprisingly well for a single exposure.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Venus dangling from the Moon 1-30-09

The moon was again was again forming a beautiful combination with Venus on the night of January 30, 2009. I went out with my Canon 30D and my 17-85mm IS lens to get this shot handheld. Again this shot doesn't really show how beautiful the two were that night. They sparkled and shone brilliantly.

Monday, February 2, 2009

One Third February 1 Moon

It was a relatively warm day and I was bored with the Super Bowl, although I got back to it before the fantastic finish, so I went out to the front yard and grabbed this shot of the moon with my Coulter Odyssey 13.1" Dob and my Canon 30D with a Baader UV/IR filter. This is my first post-processed shot so there will be more coming.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Waxing Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter in a line!

Thanks to NiteSkyGirl, I watched some terrific segments of Jack the Stargazer's videos. The segment covering the week of February 15 to 22 tells of some very exciting events coming up. This entire week will have a pre-dawn treat. The waxing Moon, Mars, Venus and Jupiter (our largest satellite, the red planet, the smallest planet, and the largest planet) will all be dancing around each other starting on the 16th. On the 22nd, half an hour before dawn (typically around6:30 to  7:00ish), you will see all four celestial bodies lined up in an almost straight line! I know if the weather forecast is good, I'll be packing up my photography stuff to head up to the highest/clearest point around here and getting some (hopefully) great shots! The photo above is a screen shot I took of the great and free multi-platform software called "Stellarium". Google it, download it and enjoy the sky much, much more. I know I have.

Moon and Venus 1/29/09

I came home from work last night and looked up as I got out of the bus and saw this wonderful view of the moon and Venus. The pictures don't do it justice. They were both so beautifully bright. I look forward to tonight. The weather is supposed to be clear and they will swap positions.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Day before transition

I work one block from the White House in Washington, DC and I took a stroll through the Lafayette Square area which is directly in front of the White House the day before the inauguration of Barack Obama. I saw this street sign and the sun trying to fight it's way through the clouds. I did a bit of HDR tone mapping on it and it brought out some of the shadow detail in the lamp. You'll notice that I used some fill flash on this shot to bring out the sign. You'll also notice (as I just did) that there are two surveillance cameras mounted on the bottom of the two glass lamps. I guess they were taking pictures of me while I was taking pictures of it! :-)


Friday, January 16, 2009

Nice night, but VERY cold!

Last night (1/15/09) was a very clear and crisp night. Cold doesn't begin to describe it. In fact, it was the coldest night of the year. It was around 18 degrees the last time I checked before bedtime. Waaaay too cold to go out and observe/photograph. I did however, break out an item that I've had for about a month now and haven't had much time to play with. It's a Meade DSX go-to mount. I've paired it up with my Astrotech AT66ED APO but have been focusing so much on Clifford (my big red Dob) that I haven't even had a chance to play with it yet. It has a very minimalist handset with limited features but supposedly tracks well. When the weather gets a bit warmer, I'll go outside and give it a try with some long exposure photography. Orion is sitting beautifully in the sky shortly after sunset...


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Orion Accufocus

While waiting for the clouds to lift, I thought I would continue to upgrade Clifford, the big red Dob and so went looking for an Orion Accufocus. I was finding that my focusing the scope was disturbing the view and caused both visual and photographic shake. I thought that getting the Accufocus would help eliminate this. I hope to find out after it's installed.


Monday, January 12, 2009

The full moon has come and gone

I've had no luck this go-around with another moon at perigee so close to the last one. I had hoped to be able to get a couple of shots of our closest satellite, but the weather would not cooperate with my work schedule. Two days last week, the weather broke and gave us clear beautiful days, only to gradually become cloudy shortly after sunset. On Wednesday, I watched the big beautiful moon on my way home from work and was eager to get the scope/camera setup out, but instead, watched slight wispy clouds drift over it as I approached home. By the time dinner was over, it had become a solid but slightly transparent shroud. When I was finally ready, it was a faint glow in the heavy overcast. The same thing happened on Thursday night as well. I'm hoping to get a break in the next day or two...

This past weekend was almost completely cloud covered so I missed the full moon altogether. Sigh...