Sunday, September 18, 2016

Harvest Moon - Next Night

This is the day after the Harvest Moon taken from Roosevelt Forest in Stratford, CT while camping with the Boy Scouts.




Harvest Moon
Location: Roosevelt Forest, Stratford, CT
Date/Time: 09/17/16 10:12 pm
Camera: Nikon D3000
Telescope/Lens: Nikon 70-300mm
Barlow: None
Focal Length: 300mm
f/5.6
Mount: Fixed
Filter: None
Autoguiding: None
Exposure: 1/1250 sec
ISO: 800
Temp: NA
Post Processing: Photoshop, Lightroom

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Pet Caterpillar

Proof that I take more than just astrophotos. My wife, Alexandra Mack, just happened to catch our 'pet' caterpillar metamorphosing into a chrysalis while procrastinating on exercising.






Monday, September 5, 2016

M25 and M73 - the Messier that almost wasn't!

M25 is an open cluster in the constellation Sagittarius and located some 2,000 light-years away (source: wikipedia).  M73 is an asterism (group of stars that appear close to each other from earth) in the constellation Aquarius and located located 2,500 light-years from Earth. Messier described the object as a cluster of four stars with some nebulosity, however, no one since then has observed it (source: wikipedia).  Of course I would have liked to have longer exposure but M25 went behind a tree and I was entertaining an out of town guest (brother) during the session.

These two objects represent 40 and 41 on the Messier Objects with an ED80 project that I am working on.

M25
Closeup

Wide Field
M25
Location: Happy Frog Observatory, Monroe, CT
Date/Time: 09/03/16 10:15 pm
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i, Backyard EOS
Telescope: Orion ED80 80mm f/7.5 Apochromatic Refractor Telescope
Barlow: None
Focal Length: 600mm
f/7.5
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G GoTo Telescope Mount
Filter: None
Autoguiding: QHY-5L-II-M attached to an Agena 50mm Guide Scope with Helical Focuser
Exposure: 20 x 80 sec, 1 x 90 (28 min)
ISO: 800
Temp: 30 C
Post Processing: Deep Sky Stacker, Photoshop, Lightroom

M73
Closeup

Wide Field
M73
Location: Happy Frog Observatory, Monroe, CT
Date/Time: 09/03/16 11:15 pm
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i, Backyard EOS
Telescope: Orion ED80 80mm f/7.5 Apochromatic Refractor Telescope
Barlow: None
Focal Length: 600mm
f/7.5
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G GoTo Telescope Mount
Filter: None
Autoguiding: QHY-5L-II-M attached to an Agena 50mm Guide Scope with Helical Focuser
Exposure: 17 x 80 sec (23 min)
ISO: 800
Temp: 30 C
Post Processing: Deep Sky Stacker, Photoshop, Lightroom

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

M72

M72 represents the 39th Messier object I imaged over the past 6 months.  It is located approximately 58,000 light-years away in the constellation of Aquarius, contains over 160,000 stars, and 9.5 billion years old.  Although it is considered large at 100 light-years across it appears faint do to its great distance.  I managed to get 18 - 90 second sub-photos out of 32.  Unfortunately wispy clouds moved in.  Although weather was not cooperating I did get a chance to use my new Agena StarGuider II 50mm Mini Guide Scope with Helical Focuser.  It worked perfectly with the autoguider.  The Orion ST80 worked well but I wanted to lighten the load on the mount.  Also, I should be able to use this with my 8-reflector on the mount.

Closeup

Widefield
M72
Location: Happy Frog Observatory, Monroe, CT
Date/Time: 08/27/16 11:45 pm
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i, Backyard EOS
Telescope: Orion ED80 80mm f/7.5 Apochromatic Refractor Telescope
Barlow: None
Focal Length: 600mm
f/7.5
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G GoTo Telescope Mount
Filter: None
Autoguiding: QHY-5L-II-M attached to an Agena 50mm Guide Scope with Helical Focuser
Exposure: 18 x 90 sec (27 min)
ISO: 800
Temp: 37 C
Post Processing: Deep Sky Stacker, Photoshop, Lightroom

Sunday, August 28, 2016

M56 and M71

M56 is a globular cluster located in the constellation of Lyra, and is approximately 32,900 light-years from us.  This cluster is 84 light-years across and is speeding  towards us at 145 km per second (source: Wikipedia, Universe Today).  M71, also a globular cluster, is located in constellation Sagitta. It is approximately 27 light-years across and 12,000 light-years away (source: Wikipedia).

M56 - Crop

M56 - Widefield
M56
Location: Happy Frog Observatory, Monroe, CT
Date/Time: 08/23/16 11:30 pm
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i, Backyard EOS
Telescope: Orion ED80 80mm f/7.5 Apochromatic Refractor Telescope
Barlow: None
Focal Length: 600mm
f/7.5
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G GoTo Telescope Mount
Filter: None
Autoguiding: QHY-5L-II-M attached to and Orion Short Tube 80mm
Exposure: 24 x 60 sec, 2 x 90 sec (27 min)
ISO: 800
Temp: 32 C
Post Processing: Deep Sky Stacker, Photoshop, Lightroom

M71 - Crop

M71 - Widefield
M71
Location: Happy Frog Observatory, Monroe, CT
Date/Time: 08/24/16 00:30 am
Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T3i, Backyard EOS
Telescope: Orion ED80 80mm f/7.5 Apochromatic Refractor Telescope
Barlow: None
Focal Length: 600mm
f/7.5
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G GoTo Telescope Mount
Filter: None
Autoguiding: QHY-5L-II-M attached to and Orion Short Tube 80mm
Exposure: 28 x 60 sec (28 min)
ISO: 800
Temp: 34 C
Post Processing: Deep Sky Stacker, Photoshop, Lightroom

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Backyard Observatory Using SkyShed Plans


This project took approximately 3 months to complete from start to finish.  It can be done quicker but I had other commitments, i.e. a job and a family, so I worked on it part-time.  Although it is highly recommended that you have a helper building this, I built the SkyShed without help and, therefore, had to be creative while doing some parts.  The shed is 8' x 8' so I had to hybridize the plans from the 6' x 8' and 8' x 10' plans to construct it.

Note: I used deck screws of various sizes rather than nails to attach the all the boards.

STEP 1 - Identify the Site and Build the Pier (4/14-5/3)

This was done in a previous post: Building a Concrete Telescope Pier and Adapter.


STEP 2 - Construct the Floor (4/23-5/19)


After leveling the ground as best as possible, six 7' 10.5' pressure treated (PT) 4x4s were set on paving stones and cinder blocks until they were level. A seventh 4x4 was cut in half and added to the center for additional support. Roof shingles were used for further leveling.  Two 8' - 1 x 4s were attached to the ends of the 4 x 4s.  The SkyShed plans called for laying down 1x10s for the floor, however, I decided to put a sub-floor of half-inch PT plywood and then add PT 1 x 10s.  After a couple weeks the 1 x 10s started to warp so I removed them and and made my floor out of 0.75" plywood.  I added two coats of all-weather varnish for protection.

STEP 3 - Construct the Walls (6/13-6/21)



I the frames of the walls separately and then attached them to the floor with deck screws.  Since I was working alone I did not attach the walls to the frames yet.  I pretty much followed the plans from SkyShed except I purchased a 14" by 21" aluminum window from Amazon.


I had to be creative in order to hang the T-111 walls.  Fortunately I have numerous clamps to fill the job of a helper.

STEP 4 - Construct the Roll Off Rails (6/29)



I followed the updated plans from SkyShed for the roll off support for the most part.  I built my Roll Off Support Jacks out using 1/4" thick 4 x 4 steel plates from Lowe's (I cut them to size) and 5/8" diameter 8" galvanized bolts.  I had to chisel a hole in the paving stone to make room for the bolt.  The cost to make my own was a little less than $30.  Lastly, I had a problem with leveling the far beam as an uneven very large boulder or bedrock was exposed on the surface.  I had a bag of concrete leftover from the pier so I built a small berm using local rocks and poured the concrete into the berm to make a level platform.

STEP 5 - Construct the Roll Off Track and Support Runner (7/1)




Getting the garage door track was little time consuming as I had to check with several garage door companies before I found that would order it for me.  I ordered 4 - 9' sections and screwed them onto to roll off support beams.  I contacted a SkyShed installer for advice on what screws to use to hold the track, they recommend #10 or #12 panhead bolts 2.5" or 3" in length.  At first I used the #10 screws but when I was sure they would not hit the roller balls, I used the #12 screws.  Also, I ordered 20 nylon rollers and hinges from Amazon.

STEP 6 - Build the Roof Frame (7/12)



I followed the plans from SkyShed for the the gable and roof construction again using deck screws.  I build the gables on the ground and then attached them to the secured roll off slider.  For building the roof frame I used a 2 x 6 for the main cross beam and used a 2 x 4 support to level and hold in place.  I then added 2 x 4 angle braces for added security.  Next, two 2 x 4 trusses were added to each side of the structure.  Following SkyShed plans, I attached 2" by 4" hangers with #9 Simpson screws and then the 2 x 4 support beams into the hangers.

At this point, the roof is ready to be attached, however, I did not realize the metal roof had to be ordered and it would be at least thee weeks to be delivered (that's what I get for not checking).


The above photo shows the shed with the temporary roof consisting of 1/4 inch plywood with 30-gage paper.  The good news is, it did not leak!

STEP 7 - The Door (7/13)



The door was pretty much to the SkyShed plans only I used the T-111 rather than the 10" boards. Also, I used higher quality poplar 1 x 4 rather than pine.

STEP 8 - The Roof (8/10)




After removing my temporary roof, I installed the charcoal gray steel roof.  Again I followed SkyShed's plans for this but just a couple of notes for the non-roofers:

1) the screws are specially made for installing metal panels as they have a rubber washer attached to seal it from rain,
2) it is extremely hard to find a beam to screw into, you might want to turn the crossbeams onto their side so you have a larger target.

So what do you do if you do miss the beam?  I missed four times.  What I did to fix this was remove the screw, attach another board next to the beam I was aiming for, then put the screw back only now there is a board to catch it.  It may not be pretty but it works.

STEP 9 - Weather Proofing (8/12)


For weatherproofing I attached a 1 x 6 onto the backside of the roof about 1/4 inch above the wall.  On the roll-off side I attached a 1 x 10 onto the roof covering the opening.

STEP 10 - Electrical (8/17)




I purchased a 30 amp circuit breaker box and ran 14/2 Romex wire in 3/4 inch PVC conduit out to the shed.  The conduit was buried to a depth of six inches.  The shed has 2 outlets on the wall and one at the base of the pier. 

FINALLY - The Happy Frog Observatory is done!  (a.k.a. BMAS North Observatory after the local astronomy club I belong to)