Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Goodbye Jack.....We'll Keep Looking Up (and get better)!!!!!

I remember staying up late and watching Dr Who on PBS (yes, we sponsored them just for the Dr Who, and they cancelled it after that season).  After Dr Who, Jack Horkheimer would come on with his short spot on interesting events in space.  These were short blurps about what you could find interesting in space (with a small telescope or even the naked eye).  I always enjoyed his spots, and even looked for them often on the internet.  Unfortunately Jack passed away on August 20.

I figured the fact that Jupiter was as close as it would be for a long time, I would take advantage of the event to get some space pictures as sort of my memorial.  Well, good thing Jack was good natured, and always encouraging (after my attempt it would be necessary).  I commented that I would post the pictures good or bad, and go over my struggles.

First the struggles.  I ended up with only one shot at it.  Weather and travel worked against me, and I was unable to get out for a second night.  Well, I setup the telescope and snapped a few pictures of the moon to get started.  Obviously a full telescope is not really needed for the moon, but it was more of a checkout.  A picture is below.  Note, I was not really as interested in a moon shot as Jupiter was my real target.

Even with just a quick take, I was able to get some reasonable detail.  This was with the wider lens (as the longer lense was too long and the moon was too big to fit in).  Additionally the moon is really bright (so it was a quick exposure).  The combination of the wider lens and the bright moon made this possible.

Now we discuss Jupiter.  Sure it is alot bigger than the moon, but it is also a lot further away.  In order to get any visibility of it, I had to use the longer lens.  What this means is that the image moves across the field of view much quicker (the longer lens has a smaller field of few, and since the earth turns at a constant rate, items move quicker in the smaller space).  Making matters worse is the fact that Jupiter is not nearly as bright as the moon (much smaller and furter away, so less reflected light).  This means a longer exposure is needed.  Dark and movement are the bane of the photographer. 

Additionally, a camera is very different from an eye.  An eye can look sideways more into the lens to find objects.  The camera sort faces forward (it is mounted to do that).  It can not look around, so the object you want the picture of needs to be near the middle of the view (easy for the moon, not so much for a smaller object). 

Now some of you are saying, I need a better telescope.  There are telescopes that will track objects in space to help overcome this.  Well, my telescope is capable of this, but unfortunately the callibration process is manual.  You start by pointing it flat towards the north.  Then it will find an object that is bright, and ask you to center the object in the frame.  It does this a few times, then wholla, it knows where it is, and can find and track anything in the sky.  My problem is not so much the telescope, but my location.  Living in the woods is nice, but has its drawbacks.  I tried multiple times unsuccesfully to calibrate.  My problem is that the horizon is so high for me that all I could see were trees (except straight up, which did not help with the calibration).  I wanted to try going out to a field or something, but never got the chance. 

So with no further belly aching, I will go with my poor pictures.

Note, it did look a bit better through the telescope without the camera.  Not as much color as we see in the pictures from Nasa, but you could see the lines etc (just more gray and white than the pictures).  Did not come out well in pictures.  However, I am not giving up, I will give this another go in the future (just probably not Jupiter).

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