Oddly enough August has been a good month for me (and many of the other members of the club) imaging-wise… I’m nowhere near as prolific as Fred (who must have set a record for number of images taken during August) but I got some decent time on a few DSO’s and I got a shot at the first part of the eclipse too.

August kicked off for me on the 7th with a session at Fox Observatory. This was my first time imaging through the 14″ at f/10 with my SBIG ST2000-XCM, and I was eager to figure out how to autoguide at long focal lengths. My own Celestron 9.25 was waiting for its first light on DSO’s, and this was info I could really use. I started out with M57 (the Ring Nebula) because it is a small but pretty bright target and a good choice for imaging at Fox. It took me about 2 or 3 hours to work out how to focus and guide the big Meade but I eventually got things under control. I think that I did a pretty good job for the first time out:


I went out on several occasions over the next week but really concentrated on learning how to collimate my 9.25. I am quite familiar with collimating a newt but things are just enough different with an SCT to send me back to the drawing board. I found it very dificult to get the scope to collimate with the Bob’s Knobs that were installed on the OTA when I got it (I bought the OTA used but not abused), so Fred suggested that I swap them out for hex screws instead. With some help from Fred I got the new screws in and this made collimation quite a bit easier for me. I don’t know why the Bob’s Knobs were such a pain – most folks rave about them but I had a large amount of trouble with them.

Finally the time came to try out the new scope for imaging. We were at our “sorta dark” site at “Area27 North”, a boat ramp on US27 about 7 miles north of the I-75/US27 interchange. This is a very good compromise site for imagers – the sky is quite a bit darker than at Fox Observatory. On this night I got a good shot at M20 (the Trifid Nebula) through the 9.25 at f/6.3 (.63 reducer installed):


The autoguider was working perfectly throughout, so I thought I would try an experiment – I took a single half hour frame just to see what happened:

30 minutes

The resulting shot won’t win any contests, but it proves that my rig is working well enough to expose for as long as I care to.

The next night I went out to “Area51” (our “dark” site) to try to get some longer exposures through the 9.25. I set out to get the Helix nebula but when we first got out there it really wasn’t high enough in the sky to shoot. While I was waiting I got a quickie shot of globular cluster M13:


Not a barn burner but it passed the time.

Finally the Helix was high enough to shoot. I framed my shot and took four 15 minute frames, stopping in between each frame to remove the dew from my corrector. Did I mention that it was extremely damp out? I really need to get some dew prevention going if I’m going to do exposures as long as the camera wants them.

Anyway, here’s my shot of the Helix:


I wish I could have stayed to do another couple of hours on this image (it would have really helped out), but it was already close to 3am and I was completely exhausted.

Bennett and I met up at “Area27” on August 28 to shoot the total Lunar eclipse. I snapped off 64 shots throught the 9.25 at f/6.3 with the Canon Digital Rebel. We had a great time, even though the sun rose before the Moon came out of totality. It has been insanely busy since Bennett and I met up to shoot the eclipse so I really haven’t had much time to sit down and figure out what to do with the shots until today (it’s a holiday after all).

I’d done a couple of quickie “get something out there for the club newsletter” shots but here’s the first really “thought-out” still image from the set. It’s a merge of a properly exposed picture of the lunar disk being eaten up by shadow and a shot that overexposed the still-lit lunar surface but brought out the reddish tinge of the eclipsed lunar surface:

getting near total

This is now just one frame in and the inspiration for my main project for the day – an 11 frame animation of the eclipse (or at least as much of it as I could photograph). Here is a 200X200 version of the animation. Click it to go to a 600X600 version of it in my gallery:

small eclipse

I selected the frames manually and processed each in Photoshop to enhance and combine features that I wanted to show. I aligned the frames and assembled the animation in Image Ready. This was a lot of fun to do and I hope you enjoy it.

August 30th was my birthday. I got a huge suprise – a very good friend (whom I would name in an instant but I’m not really sure that he wants the notoriety) gave me a brand new hard case for my ED80. I can’t thank him enough and I’m both floored and touched by the gift. My wonderful wife got me a Kendrick dew system with a heated dew shield for the 9.25 and a strap for the ED80. My dew problems are hereby resolved!

So there you have it – August in a nutshell for me. It was a really good month (given that it’s summer and we usually get squat this time of year). I hope that it proved to be at least mildly entertaining for you!


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