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August 24,2008 (WeekendEdition)

The image on the left is the one taken on Friday night and the one on the right taken on Saturday.  We took both using the Nikon D40 and the Meade 2045 telescope. 

One parameter we did not control for in this comparision was the exposure time.  The exposure time will affect the amount of noise and contrast in the image.  We know the one on the right was taken at 1/30th of a second.  It is fairly obvious by looking at the craters that we were able to achieve a sharper focus by using the angled viewfinder.

The images below show approximately the same area on the moon.  The one on the right definitely shows greater detail.  It was likely due to better focusing, but we may also have been better at not disturbing the shot.  We'll eliminate that variable in the future by using a remote trigger.

This outing made us realize we need to adjust and "lock in" the focus on the viewfinder when it is still light out.  It was tricky trying to both focus the viewfinder and the telescope as we couldn't tell whether one or both were out of focus at the beginning.  [Permalink] - More Moon Shots


August 23,2008 (WeekendEdition)

Last Thursday night we made our first attempt at photographing the moon using the Nikon digital camera coupled to the Meade 2045 telescope.  The results were acceptible considering we really didn't know what we were doing and were learning as we went.  One thing we did notice was that getting the moon in focus via the viewfinder of the camera was not that easy.  In this day and age of "autofocus", the viewfinder is more used for composition than for critical focusing.

Folks in the RainyDayPhotography department mentioned they had an angled viewfinder for the Olympus OM film system and perhaps we could adapt it for use with the Nikon D40.

The Olympus angled viewfinder is a high quality piece of gear.  Most of the parts are made of metal, no play in any of the parts, and the action is smooth.  On the side is a lever for flipping between the two magnification levels of the viewfinder.

We did encounter a slight problem when trying to mount the Olympus viewfinder on the Nikon body; the channel in the frame of the eyepiece was not narrow enough.  We considered a few different options (changing the frame, finding an adapter, etc...) but finally realized that if we deepen the channel, things should fit together.  So out came the Dremel and the routing tip.  However, just in case we were wrong, we decided to make the adjustment to the Delkin shield instead of to the camera.

We made the changes slowly and did test fits with the Delkin shield detached from the camera.  After a few tries, we got it properly fitted.

The angle viewfinder should enable us to both see the image more clearly and better adjust the focus on telescope before taking the shot.  We are eager to give this setup a try.  It is still clear out so we should be able to take some more shots of the moon tonight.  We'll post some comparisions tomorrow.  [Permalink] - Angled viewfinder


August 22,2008 (FirstShotFriday)

We took the Nikon-mounted telescope out last night for our first astrophotography session.  Moving the rig outside was a bit of a challenge.  We see now why it's good to have an observatory :-) 

We had to wait until after 11:30 before going outside because we were watching the first ever Olympics BMX finals in the office.  By the time we got things set up, the moon was high in the sky.  It was past full, but plenty of craters were still clearly visible.

We took a whole series of shots at different exposures.  The best ones were with the shutter at around 1/30 of a second and using the self-timer mode.  Focusing was a lot trickier then we had anticipated as the image through the viewfinder is kind of small, making critical adjustments more of a hit-or-miss proposition.  Nontheless, we got a few reasonable images.  Here is one at full res...check out those craters!

This outing was much more successful then we would have expected.  Using a digital camera had a lot to do with that.  The ability to quickly check the exposure was critical for us getting good images as we had to use the manual mode for the shoot.  The various books we have been reading on astrophotography also helped quite a bit.  We learned a lot from this first attempt.  There is a long way to go before we can hope to get images like the one we posted on Wednesday[Permalink] - Moon shot


August 21,2008 (TelescopeTechThursday)

The weather has been perfect this entire week, warm during the day, cool at night, and not a cloud in the sky.  Taking advantage of the remarkable stretch of good stargazing conditions, we have been taking the Meade telescope out every night.

Mostly we have been looking at Jupiter and the moon.  As we are just starting out in Astronomy, we spent a great deal of time playing with all of the different eyepieces and getting a better understanding of the basics of the scope.  However, our eventual goal is to get comfortable enough the telescope to take some photos with it.

When we purchased this Meade 2045, it came with accessories for attaching a camera to the telescope.  One is a normal T-mount with a Nikon adapter.  The other is an Off-Axis guider (OAG).  The OAG has a small mirror to reflect an image up to the eyepiece so one can check and correct any tracking problems during long exposures.

For photographing closer objects such as the moon, we'll be attaching the Nikon to the scope using the T-Mount.  This is a quick and simple setup and is the same for the T-Mount and the OAG:  the camera adapter is threaded onto the mount, the mount is threaded onto the telescope, the camera twist-clicks onto the adapter like you were attaching a regular lens.

Once everything has been mounted, focus can be done through the camera's viewfinder.  Note that the Nikon D40's autofocus will not work when attached to the telescope, as the focusing mechanism for this camera is actually in the lens, not the camera body.  We'll post some of our first attempts later this evening.  [Permalink] - Astrophoto prep


August 20,2008 (WowUsWednesday)

No doubt some have heard about the "Bigfoot" carcass found by a couple of yokels. The incredible part of the story is not their claim that they "found" Bigfoot, but their thinking they could get away with it.  One of these guys is actually a police office, for god sake.  Has he never seen CSI on TV?  But this post is not about that.  It is about the fact that if folks want to find something amazing all they have to do is just look up in the sky!

We don't remember who sent us this image of a "heart" made of stars, but we filed it away because we thought it would be perfect for a "WowUsWednesday" post.  There is no need to go making up fake "discoveries" using a rubber gorilla suit.  There are plenty of wonderous things waiting to be discovered just by looking up! 

The folks in the RainyDayPhotography department have been reading up on Astrophotography so they can experiment with the new telescopes using the Nikon D40.  Their first attempt will be some shots of the moon.  We'll see if they can find it.  [Permalink] - Heart of stars


August 19,2008 (TelescopeTuesday)

We know the Olympics are still going on, but both the full moon and Jupiter are high in the New England night sky this week.  Jupiter is so bright that it is easily visible to the naked eye at dusk.

Clear skies and warm weather seemed a perfect opportunity for us to setup the Meade telescope and use it for a FirstLook at both the moon and Jupiter.

When we purchased this Meade telescope back in March, it came with a few cases of accessories (objectives, filters, etc...).  In this FirstLook, we hope to try all of the eyepieces to understand their differences.

Since we are not that familiar with this telescope, we thought it best to assemble it inside and then move it out.  The scope was pretty simple to put together.  Just three screws and it is ready to go.  We will not be aligning it or using the automatic tracking this time out.  We just want to see what we can see :-)

With the scope out at the front of the building, we pointed it at Jupiter, and was treated to an amazing sight.  We could clearly see the bands of Jupiter and some of its moons.  We have a lot to learn about using this telescope, but we will be bringing it outside every opportunity we have.  Even in the middle of the Boston, with all of the street lamp and ambient light, there are still a lot of things to see in the night sky.  [Permalink] - Meade 2045 FirstUse


August 18,2008 (LiquidMetalMonday)

Remember the James Bond movie Goldfinger where one of the Bond girls was painted gold?  THAT project was what first popped into our minds when this Liquid Stainless Steel items from Thomas' Kitchen Art showed up at the office.  Unfortunately, we were not able to convince any of our editors to let us do that to the interns.  JUST KIDDING!!!!  This stuff is not designed for use on humans, but for updating the look of kitchen appliances without having to actually update the appliances.

A few readers suggested we check out this stuff after reading about the stainless steel Advantium oven installation project from a few weeks ago.  They thought the old stove would look better if it matched the new oven and suggested we paint it using a refinishing product called Liquid Stainless Steel.  They did confess that they wanted to try it, but wanted us to check it out first to see if this stuff actually works.

Of course we were intrigued.  After checking out the link, we were game.  We got enough of the various components (liquid stainless finish, clear top coat, brushes, spray-on) for a few projects.  According to the label, this is not silver paint, but an actual finish made with stainless steel.

If this works well, we have a LOT of interesting projects where a brushed stainless steel look would be a perfect accent.  We are eager to give this stuff a try.  Check back with us at the end of the month to see what we did with this "brush-on" liquid metal and how the projects turned out.  We hope this stuff works, as it would be cool to have a stainless steel intern.  Oh, right...  [Permalink] - Liquid Stainless Steel


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