I’ve just returned from the Winter Star Party in the Florida Keys. What a week! We teamed up with the guys from Officina Stellare and showed their scopes on our mounts. At first we set up very visibly on the berm, but after two nights of being beat to death by the wind, we relocated to a more sheltered spot. Giovanni Paglioli and I participated in the informal astrophotography workshop Wednesday morning (who schedules these morning events at a star party?!?!). I talked about the importance and challenges of tracking and pointing, and Giovanni shared some image processing tips that I found extremely useful.
A great many customers came by and I always enjoy seeing and hearing stories about people and their adventures in amateur astronomy. Friends in the business that I only see every so often were also a welcome addition to dinner, lunch, and/or the occasional brownie from Mickey’s Kitchen.
One of the biggest thrills was the AMAZING seeing we had one of the nights. I saw Saturn through an 8 inch refractor at 800 power. You could see the Enke division in the rings, and it was like a basketball hanging in front of your face. Just phenomenal. Having evolved to an imager now, it was nice to remind myself why I got started in this hobby in the first place by looking through some eyepieces. Globular clusters are always my favorite treat, and a friend with a passion for planetary nebula showed me some things I could appreciate. I could never really get into galaxies through an eyepiece though unless it was a REALLY large dob. With a camera though, a whole new world opens up.
My own journey into the imaging world is really starting to accelerate. I’ve started taking both an MX and an ME (I’m going to need a bigger car soon) to my favorite dark sky sites every new moon, and it’s intoxicating to be running both mounts at the same time. I’m using a modified Canon DSLR now, and a QSI CCD with a filter wheel on the second scope. I must say, my previous stance on one-shot color is tempered now by actual experience. Previously I had said:
>Frankly, it's just plain silly to think that I'm ever going to switch to a monochrome camera and use a color wheel.
Listen carefully; you may hear the sound of me eating my words… The one-shot has its uses, and it’s convenient, but man alive is that CCD image clean in comparison. Once you get the hang of it, combining the color channels really isn’t that big of a deal either. I’m thinking about shooting DSLR one shot color on one scope, and luminance on the other and mixing them. Is there no end to the things to try and experiment with in this hobby? Silly boy, I was worried about time too, and the CCD can do it's work in far less time and number of subs compared to the DSLR as well.
Scope wise I’m still quite happy with my Mak-Newt, but now I’m also acquiring a very fine wide field instrument from Officina Stellare that I fell in love with at the Winter Star Party last week. I’ll report more when I’ve had a chance to give it a work out under the stars.
On the software front, I’m continuing to work on an iOS project we hope to have launched by the NEAF time frame. I’m also about ready to let go of an X2 plug-in for the QSI cameras on the Mac. QSI was kind enough to give me access to the Windows X2 plug-in that they wrote, which I then ported to the Mac. I also have a Canon DSLR X2 Mac plug-in that I need to get back to soon.
There’s lots of cool stuff on the burners here, and stay tuned for some exciting developments to come out over the summer!
02-27-2012 9:10 PM