Friday, October 5, 2012

Astroswanny at Siding Spring

Joining us virtually in a Google+ Hangout live from South Australia was Dr Ian Musgrave who caught the grazing Occulation of Jupiter by the Moon early in the morning.

A great interview with Peter from the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the ANU.

Here is our first live cross on the mountain as the guys took over the most amazing "office space" in the southern hemisphere.

The wonders of truly dark sky are simply breathtaking!

As a young boy, I went on camping trips with the family to some of Australia's most amazing and remote national parks. Armed with a banged up old pair of binoculars, that my Dad bought to watch Greg Chappel's magnificent cover drives at the Gabba, I would sit for hours sweeping the heavens, marveling at the majesty above.

Warrumbungle Ranges National park was my favorite, although very hot during summer, which limited some of the walks we did, it had the additional advantage of being the Astronomy Capital of Australia.

Nearly four decades later, as I sit on top of the mountain near the 3.9m AAT, I marvel at the fact the skies are still as dark and amazing as ever, yet perhaps I appreciate them even more now.

On this trip I bought my 14inch Skywatcher which has a whole lot of light pulling power! Not that you need it, with some Messier objects being naked eye standouts, I was again blown away by the incredible beauty. The Tarantula Nebula almost filled the entire field of view.

The purpose of me being here, this time, is to assist with the Siding Spring Observatory Open Day tomorrow the 6th. Like me four decades ago, hundreds will descend on the SSO tomorrow and many will capture the passion of Astronomy for the first time.

With the new observatory nearing completion a new chapter will begin making the mountain more accessible to everyone, promoting the great work of everyone at the Anglo Australian Observatory, the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics and the ANU, creating great opportunities and pathways into the grad programs for the next generation of scientists. observatory will bring great photographic opportunities to the southern skies, better coverage of the Variable star catalog, more eyes on the approaching asteroids.

Last night I spent hours out under the stars, not doing anything in particular, just bouncing around to various Nebula and globular clusters. Playing with my DSLR and fine tuning things. This photo shows all the trials and pit falls of astro-photography.

Image Credit - Peter Lake - M17 Swan Nebula Dobbie and a DSLR ;-)

You can see the collimation of the telescope is not the best, the focus is slightly off and the 15 sec image shows some traking issues. Not surprising for the type of dobbie, and given I threw it together as fast as I could. Having taken some test shots, I can fix the collimation, and get the camera in better focus.

All this off course is easy (most of the time) on my other telescope the magnificent beast that is iT11. You can see the difference that the tried and proven routines of the scopes bring, why it takes alot of the pain out of the process. Sometimes its fun, just to tinker and refresh your skills at the eye piece, see what you can actually get out of a DSLR that isn't chilled to -35 degress, but just relax and take the time to soak it all up.

Image Credit: Peter Lake - M17 Swan Nebula iT11
So, I'll be out again tonight, and see if I can improve on last nights efforts. If you are around tomorrow and want to come up to Siding Spring and enjoy the open day - come say hi.

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