The ASCOM Horror Show

Wed 05 February 2014 by psu

In older and simpler times, telescopes were older and simpler. You put the tube on a mount. You stared at an atlas to figure out where the object was. You pointed the tube roughly at a bright star and then used the finder to move around until you could see ...

Category: Astro

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Sky and Telescope, April 2013

Wed 24 April 2013 by psu

After my previous little nostalgia trip into the glory days of astronomical magazine publishing, I decided that it might be cool to be able to read S&T on my iPad. Back when the iPad was announced there was a lot written about how it might save the magazine as ...

Category: Astro

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How to Polar Align Your Mount, A Survey

Sat 13 April 2013 by psu

Polar Alignment is where you carefully make sure that the right ascension axis of your mount is exactly parallel with the rotational axis of the Earth. When you get this right, your mount can track any star in the sky just by rotating around its RA axis. If you get ...

Category: Astro

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Sky and Telescope, April 1980

Sat 30 March 2013 by psu

When I was in high school in the early 80s, my parents bought me one of the now classic Edmund “Astroscan” 4 inch Newtonian telescopes. This was a simple enough machine to use. The scope was a short tube with a small red bowling ball attached to the bottom where ...

Category: Astro

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Maxim DL Setup and Workflow

Thu 28 March 2013 by psu

Spring in Pittsburgh remains cold and cloudy. But, I did get out for one night in March and managed to run my whole setup from end to end to get one picture. So as a final illustration of how the whole process works, I'll describe step by step how ...

Category: Astro

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Flat Field Adventures and Maxim Workflow

Sat 23 February 2013 by psu

One of the nice things about astronomy is that the Universe doesn't change much. You can leave it alone for months or years and when you come back everything that you remember will still be basically in the same place. You have to remember this when winter comes to ...

Category: Astro

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CCD Picture Techniques Part 2

Mon 29 October 2012 by psu

I haven't written anything down lately because I've spent the last couple of months working out various details in my workflow for taking pictures of tiny dim objects trillions of miles away from the Earth. Astrophotography is perhaps the most purely technical of all of the possible photographic ...

Category: Astro

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CCD Picture Techniques Part 1

Thu 13 September 2012 by psu

Here is an obvious fact that you learn when you try and take pictures of distant astronomical objects: distant astronomical objects are really really dim.

Consider the following photograph of a regular terrestrial scene (as they say in the astro-photo biz):

psu_20120812-03177

The following histogram gives you an idea of the ...

Category: Astro

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C, C, and D

Sun 12 August 2012 by psu

It all started with the hot pixels. The Mallincam video camera that I had bought provided wondrous views of the skies above, but these views were always accompanied by a collection of colorful extras: pixels activated by the heat of the camera would glow red, green or blue next to ...

Category: Astro

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Mount Lessons

Wed 02 May 2012 by psu

I've had my Astro-Physics Mach1GTO equatorial mount for about two months now. The mount has continued to perform better than I could have expected, and I expected a lot. So while it may seem like I have already gushed uncontrollably about it I have just a few more things ...

Category: Astro

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Grab and Go

Tue 15 November 2011 by psu

One key to enjoying the telescope hobby is to know how to set up and tear down your equipment quickly. This is especially true around Pittsburgh where the weather can change instantly from perfect to disastrous. Over the past couple of months I have developed a reasonably systematic routine in ...

Category: Astro

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Deep Sky Projects

Fri 09 September 2011 by psu

Astronomy is an endeavor that is full of catalogs. And I don’t mean the ones that are on the Internet that are designed to separate you from your hard earned cash. For much of its history, astronomers did little else than catalog what was in the sky. Before the ...

Category: Astro

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Tens of Dollars

Wed 17 August 2011 by psu

A guy at the office and I have a running joke about the amateur astronomy business. I will opine that the market is just begging for some great product to solve problem X for every telescope user in the world. And then we both snicker that one could make tens ...

Category: Astro

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Spring To Summer and The Nexus of All Things Dorky

Wed 29 June 2011 by psu

As spring has turned into summer we are up against our last few chances to look at the really faint fuzzies in the spring sky. I refer of course to the mega-clusters of galaxies in Virgo and Coma Berenices. This week in Pittsburgh has been miraculously clear from summer haze ...

Category: Astro

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Fine Tuning in the Virgo Cluster, Plus a Surprise

Mon 06 June 2011 by psu

Somewhat uncharacteristically Pittsburgh has had five reasonably clear nights in the last two weeks. In fact, we’ve had so many nights that I actually skipped one due to fatigue. On the other nights, I have taken the opportunity to try and fine tune setting up my little observational “system ...

Category: Astro

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A Subject for Yet Another Cloudy Night

Sat 28 May 2011 by psu

Pittsburgh is on its way to about the tenth day in a row where the dusk brings a bank of clouds and haze from the west. So I'm going to talk about field of view, image size, focal length and image size and a cool photo-related astronomy service. Anyway ...

Category: Astro

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Late Night with the Mallincam

Wed 04 May 2011 by psu

If there is one thing that I have learned in my now medium-long lifetime it's that in Western Pennsylvania you cannot count on clear skies lasting. So when the clouds parted last Friday night at 11:15pm, I had a short quandary. On the one hand, it was 11 ...

Category: Astro

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Telescope Mounts

Fri 22 April 2011 by psu

It clouded over in my yard, so I'm writing this instead of fiddling with my telescope. Aren't you lucky.

First, some background. As I mentioned before, the Mallincam is a device that is something of a hybrid. On the one hand it is a long exposure camera not ...

Category: Astro

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Tinkering with the Stars

Wed 16 March 2011 by psu

Anybody who knows me knows that I am not a tinkerer. This may sound strange coming from a professional software engineer, but I've just never been very good at it. I never took things apart as a kid. I never built my own hardware back when you could still ...

Category: Astro

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A Telescope In the City

Thu 14 October 2010 by psu

I never expected to get back into telescopes. While they were my first hobbyist love and contributed indirectly to my final choice of career, the time of my real interest had long passed by. It also does not help that I live in the suburbs under a semi-permanent light dome ...

Category: Astro

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