January 2014

BBC Stargazing live

Every year I’ve watched BBC Stargazing Live and this year was going to be no exception – only this time I was armed with my own scope!

The first couple of nights were cloudy as in previous series but the third night it was clear and they went to a location shot in Norfolk with Mark Thompson presenting and behind him was Jupiter in the sky. Well that was it I knew I had to get outside and take a look but I wasn’t sure what direction Jupiter would be in and it was getting late as I was watching on Sky+ as I couldn’t watch it live.

On the way home from work the next day it was quite light in the sky and there was a bright star/object to the east, I wonder. When I got home I got out my scope and pointed it to the east again not worrying about polar alignment and BAM there she was a bright disk with four little dots – two either side – it was Jupiter and its moons! After a little play with eyepieces and the x2 Barlow I had a clear view I was amazed I could see the bands, I got everyone out the house to come and look and with a tweak of the R.A and DEC controls it was back in the view finder. Everyone thought it was amazing especially my young boys. The youngest being only 3 years kept looking up at the sky and then back through the scope as if he was wondering why he couldn’t see it with his eyes.

The next few nights while it was clear I made the most of it and got as much observing in as I could.

Imaging

Now that I’d seen Jupiter quite a few times I thought it was about time to have a go at imaging. I did a little reading before I started and quickly worked out that I needed something to hold the WebCam in place as recommended by so many others I popped to the local chemist and picked up a couple of old 35mm film pots and cut the bottom off of one and taped my webcam to it and hay presto my fist imager!

NO!

After a little testing and a bit more reading I soon realised I was supposed to take the lens off the WebCam and the telescope will become the lens, Doh!

Imager Mk2

I dismantled the WebCam and removed the built in lens and carefully removed the on LED. I also thought it was about time I Polar aligned my scope and attached the motor drive for R.A. tracking. Polar aligning was actually quite easy with the EQ2 and once the tripod was level it only took a few minutes.

Now I had an aligned scope I found Jupiter and started the tracking motor. For a while I marvelled at Jupiter but then popped in the modified webcam and using SharpCap2 I managed to get an image on the laptop screen but it was just white with four little moons. I had to play around with the gain and the exposure but eventually I had it in view and in focus.

I did a few captures for processing in Registax6 but because of the resolution of the capture they were all too big to process. :o(


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