Had a chance to take a few days off from work to spend up at Mintaka Hill. My wife and I met a number of the neighborhood astronomers in our area. They live on both sides of the valley. I did get a lot done at the observatory. The focuser/rotator is operational and I have set up automation for the Tak refractor. We still have to figure out the roof remote operating system but have plenty of time for that. Meanwhile I paid a visit to Joe D.’s observatory. Joe lives across the valley from us and a little higher up. His passion is spectroscopy. I looked at his set up because I will be using some of the same equipment when it arrives in a few months from now. Anyway I had a chance to view my observatory from a unique vantage point as you can see! I guess we did clear a lot of trees!
We begin the journey back into high resolution planetary imaging! This is a much different challenge. I have done some planetary work in the past with mixed results. The most important variable is seeing. To really get the details you want the atmosphere has to be like the “glass ocean” or like the ocean that is completely calm with no waves. I don’t know if that ever happens! The guys who are expert with this actually live near large bodies of water. Maybe that’s not a coincidence. The other problem is that planets are usually low in the sky for us here in mid northern latittudes so at these altitudes, usually less than 60 degrees the atmosphere is more dense. So tonight we are going to be at the telescope in the TSH (short for Talavera Space Hut) and let’s see what happens! Certainly we have the equipment to do it. I understand most folks are using SCTs for this but RC optics should work great I would think. After all that’s what the Hubble is using! We also have a great permanent mount, high frame rate USB 3 camera so no excuses there!
This video demonstrates the equipment we will be using for planetary imaging: AT12RTC scope, Celestron Skyris 132M usb 3 camera, Moonlite stepper focuser and of course our trusty Paramount ME mount!
In this video segment, the telescope is turned on, initialized and we are waiting for Jupiter to come up over the mountains!
In this video some of the basic functions of the program Firecapture are demonstrated. Use of ROI (region of interest) is explained. Live video of Jupiter as we begin the session.As it is for deep space imaging, video also should be calibrated for dust but the ROI function can also help.
In this segment we point out some additional features found in the Firecapture program. The image details are somewhat improved as Jupiter climbs a little higher in the sky
In this final sequence we are capturing an R-G-B sequence of Jupiter
What a difference a couple of years makes! Our community known as Talavera continues to grow like crazy along with the town of Las Cruces, NM. Along with huge growth comes increase in lighting and unfortunately the lighting is not exactly sky friendly. I am truly amazed in the 4 years I have been here the light dome from town has been steadily increasing to the point now where it is close to 50 degrees over the western horizon! Thankfully we now have Orion’s Belt Observatory in a dark site (for now), dedicated to deep space imaging and spectroscopy. So what to do with the Talavera Space Hut as we affectionately call it?
I have thought about this for awhile now and what we decided to do was convert it to a planetary observing site. We can also do video astronomy for community outreach as we have in the past. Possibly narrow band projects etc but for now we have reinvented the Hut for the purpose of solar system observations. On Saturday March 4th I started this transition with a full evening of solar system observing and what an amazing night it was for that! I think the images are self-explanatory.
Not too bad for a first night of solar system observing!
Thanks for reading!