Friday, December 30, 2005

Things That Look Ridiculous

Part I: An ETX-90 on a Meade Super Wedge. A classic case of too much firepower. (File under Astronomy Nerd Humor.)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

That's More Like It

There's still room for improvement, but this is more like it.

CSC said 4/5 for seeing, but I don't think it was that good. A low-frequency undulation, like the image was breathing.

12 Arcseconds

Mars is now just 60% as large as it was at the end of October--12 arcseconds.

Pretty good seeing for a change.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Disappointing Saturn

I actually rolled out of bed at 0200 to shoot this. The scope had been sitting out for 6 hours, so it should have been well-cooled. Seeing seemed pretty good, but it was kinda breezy out. So I'm just not sure why I can't seem to get a good, sharp focus on these. I shot a series of six, adjusting slightly between each one, and the third one was the best--but that's not saying much.

Collimation looks good to my eye--maybe I need someone more experienced to take a look.

I wonder if performing the raw mod to the NexImage would make a difference ...

Saturday, December 24, 2005

M42 II

Turns out there was a lot more in there to be seen. Layered in PS CS2, layer masked out the core to keep it from blowing out, Noise Fixer filter.

Friday, December 23, 2005

M42, the Orion Nebula

Click image for full-size.

It may not be the greatest M42 shot ever, but it's mine and I'm proud of it! Digital Rebel XT, 10" LX200@f/6.3, 8 x 30 sec, ISO 1600.

Mars Is Shrinking

Time's running rapidly out for the Red Planet.

Lord of the Rings

First try with the NexImage on Saturn. It was still kind of early, and the planet was only about 45° up. Seeing probably 3/5. They'll get better.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I'm Your Venus

It's OK if you don't get too excited about this shot of Venus--it's not all that exciting. But consider that this is the sight that got Galileo kicked out of the Church, and it's a little more interesting.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


I used to think Ian was speaking Chinese, but am now pretty sure it's French, at least when he's watching Clone Wars and shouting "light say-BARE" at the screen.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

10 Days Old

Last night's Mars shots just plain sucked, but this shot of the 10-day-old moon with the Digital Rebel XT turned out pretty good I think.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Mini-Hands On: Meade LightBridge

I had an opportunity last night to get my hands on Meade's new truss-tube dobsonian, the LightBridge. Cloudy skies prevented actually observing with the telescope, so I'll just describe the mechanics.

The scope comes packaged in two large cardboard boxes, one for the base and another containing the optical tube assembly (OTA) and truss tubes. The base is typical for a commercial dob, being constructed of particle board covered with a white melamine veneer. Assembly is straightforward with the supplied allen wrench.

Meade offers the LightBridge in two variations--"standard" and "deluxe." The primary difference between the two involves the azimuth bearings in the base. The standard version consists of hard plastic pads, similar to the bearings found in other imported dobs. The deluxe version I used had a 10-inch or so roller bearing assembly sandwiched between two metal plates. The bolt holding the swivel base together has a hand knob for easy assembly, and uses a thrust washer to allow adjusting the tension of the azimuth motion. I found the motion to be smooth and precise, without the stiction I have with my smaller Hardin Deep Space Hunter. By tightening the tension, I didn't experience the loose feeling that other roller-bearing designs sometimes have.

The OTA is in two pieces, obviously. The primary mirror has a removable cover, but the secondary remains exposed. The six truss tubes are permanently attached in three sets of two. Attaching the poles to the primary tube involves fitting the flattened end of the tube into a slot and over a pin, an arrangement that worked well and felt secure. Three knobs held the tubes in place. The upper cage then attached easily with three more knobs. It wasn't immediately obvious which way to turn the upper tube, but it's correct when the seams on the two tubes align. The finished assembly felt rigid and secure. The truss assembly is open, with a shroud planned for future release. The white finish is attractive, but the flat black interior wasn't particularly black. Further, some parts of the white trim are visible through the focuser drawtube. Serious observers may want to flock the interior of the upper tube. The altitude bearings are aluminum, and rode on a felt-like material on the base. The motion was smooth, but not balanced at low elevations. Meade apparently is holding up the final release of the LightBridge so that a friction brake can be installed.

The supplied 2-inch crayford focuser felt smooth throughout its range, with only light effort required to turn the aluminum knobs. There's no finder scope, but Meade is including either a red dot finder on the standard model, or an advanced reflex finder (actually a modified rifle sight) on the deluxe model.

The optics are made in Taiwan by Guan Sheng, which enjoys a reputation for "surprisingly good" quality. The primary is center spotted--a good thing since this telescope will require collimation every time it is set up. Meade isn't including any type of collimation aid in the package, nor do they sell one themselves. The representative I spoke with uses an Orion LaserMate.

The LightBridge is certainly attractive to look at, and I suspect it's nice to look through. I don't know how useful a truss is at the small sizes the scope is currently offered at. The lack of a finder scope or object locator makes the scope a bit more challenging to use. Still, it's a nice package and I expect it to sell well.

<edit> Read another review on the LightBridge here.</edit>

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Better: Part III

Reprocessed less aggressively, and tweaked color to be more "Hubblesque."

Friday, December 02, 2005

Thursday, December 01, 2005


This is the first, quickly processed image from this evening. Much better seeing, and it shows.