Sunday, September 23, 2007

AT80EDT First Light

Last month my buddy Daniel gave me a Meade LXD650 German equatorial mount--basically the GEM version of the LX200 mount that I already use. Catch is, it doesn't work right. I dig into it and find the problem, a gear is turning on a shaft where it's not supposed to. I get that repaired, and $35 later I have a working* mount. But what am I going to do with it? I could de-fork the LX200, but it's non-trivial to get it back onto the forks and aligned. Or I could find a scope that's portable and designed for photography.

So that's what I did. I started researching apochromatic refractors. I've been getting nice shots with the big SCT, but it's limited to smaller targets due to the long focal length, so I'm looking for something with less focal length. I'm also trying to not spend a whole lot of money. So the Tele-Vue NP-101 that I really like is out: $3,700 is way out of my league. The Orion ED80 is a popular choice, and at $600 it's right in my sweet spot. But Barry has one, and while it's a very nice telescope, I want something different. The Meade Series 5000 ED APO triplet looks promising, but I never found an entirely positive review. Finally after a lot of research, I decide on the Astronomy Technologies AT80EDT. It's a triplet design, which means it uses three lenses instead of the usual two. It has a two-speed focuser like the one I added to the LX200, and comes in a nice case.

One Astromart "wanted" ad and a week later I'm the new owner of a nearly new AT80EDT. She's a beauty--white finish with grey, gold and green accents. The views through her are sweet, too. She rides just fine on the big LXD650 mount too. Here she is lit by the first quarter moon:

Friday night was the big night. Barry talked me into going up to the Eagle Eye Observatory for an overnighter, and what a night it was. Fridays are public night at the EEO, and there were about 40 guests there. The observatory operator had his hands full, so Barry & I took up the slack. He had his 10" LX200GPS going, while I put the binoviewers in the AT80EDT and aimed it at the Moon. I love it when someone looks into the scope and exclaims, "Oh my God!"

After the guests left and the Moon set, I hooked up the camera and went to work. I don't have the mount set up for autoguiding yet, so these are kinda rough. Each one is 40 x 30 seconds for just a 20-minute total exposure time. They're enough to get me really excited about imaging with this telescope though. Up first is M31, the Andromeda Galaxy:

Then there's M45, the Pleiades. I somehow managed to pull out some of the blue nebulosity even with the short exposure:

And last is M42, the Orion Nebula. Always a crowd-pleaser:

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

M8, The Lagoon Nebula Again

I shot this 13 months ago, and I'm amazed at the difference. Same equipment, same location, but wildly different results. 17 x 3 minutes, Rebel XT, 10" LX200 @ f/6.3.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Adventures In Selling

I won this spiffy case at Texas Star Party this spring, and have decided to sell it to help fund a new telescope. I figured I'd start with Craigslist, since a local sale wouldn't involve packing and shipping. The day after I put up the ad, I got a nibble:

Subject: ATA Equipment Case - $300
Date: September 10, 2007 6:38:39 AM CDT

Just view your advert on craigs web,I am willing to purchase the item asap.I hope its still avaliable for sales?I will like to know your last asking price for it?Please get back to me today so that we can proceed further...

OK, that sounds promising, even if the wording is a little off.

From: Jeff Phillips
To: Barry Johnson
Subject: Re: ATA Equipment Case - $300
Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2007 09:17:26 -0500

Hi Barry

Still available for $300. Let me know.

Then I get this little gem:

Subject: ok: ATA Equipment Case - $300
Date: September 11, 2007 8:19:20 AM CDT

Sounds Good.
I will like to proceed with payment asap and will like to handle shipment myself when you must have gotten your cash at hand.I am in no rush to pick up the item till funds are clear at the bank.As there are too many scams on internet as regards buying and selling with large bogus account.My mode of payment will be via Electronic Cashier Check drawn on US bank.(Bank Of America).You will probarbly need a business check paper to print and cash or deposit the check today.The business check paper is sold for $20 at any stationery store,staples or at your local office supply outlet.I will add the cost of supplies to your asking price with an extra offer for accepting my mode of payment.I work with an auditing firm and will not have time to mail a check.Electronic Cashier checks is fast and secure.I will need your name and address with valid email address to send the Echeck to your email which you can print immediately when you must have purchase the supplies at staples or any stationery store.Kindly delete the advert of this item if my mode of payment is accepted.I will await your email asap.

Is this guy on crack?

Subject: Re: ok: ATA Equipment Case - $300
Date: September 11, 2007 9:28:30 AM CDT

Don't waste my time, you smarmy lagerlout git. You bloody woofter sod. Cash American, or else bugger off, pillock.

I don't think we'll be hearing back from Barry.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Interstellar Light Collector

You may have seen this on CNN. An Arizona group is claiming they have harnessed the power of moonlight to heal sickness and disease.

Ho-lee crap. I've been beaming concentrated moonlight into my eyes for a while now, and it still hasn't cured my presbyopia.

Interstellar Light Applications is making science fiction into science fact with the first project of its kind in world history. Using one-of-a-kind specifically designed and engineered light tracking and capturing technology, ILA explores the benefits and uses of moonlight’s unique qualities. ILA also facilitates research into the applications of the brightest stars’ and celestial bodies’ spectral properties. Only true visionaries see possibility when others see road blocks and with their state-of-the-art invention, ILA’s creators and researchers are surpassing all technologies of today and are capitalizing on alternative spectrum light research for the future. Their work presents unlimited benefits for the medical, agricultural and industrial fields. With ILA you are illuminating endless possibilities.

Ooh, sciency!I can't wait to see what their "alternative spectrum light research" reveals! That you can get suckers to pay money to sit in moonlight reflected off a mirror?