All posts by Rob

More Moon Shots

No not with astronauts… some images I took with the LogitechQuickCam Pro 4000 while my sister and brother-in-law where here.

It’s not as easy as it looks

Ok. Where do I begin?

Over the past month I have been out a number of nights to try some different things. As I indicated previously I had yet to try out the AutoStar or do any actual imaging of the sky. Needless to say it took me three different nights of fiddling with the camera in the dark before I was able to obtain anything useful. In a word… theQuickCamsucks.

After a lot of frustration I finally turned my scope towards the moon. The first thing I noticed is that even as bright as the moon is, I still had trouble seeing it on the iBook screen. I had even more trouble trying to find the optimum focus as even simply handling the Flexi-Focus knob caused the scope to “shudder.” Well, to make a long story short I was finally able to obtain three decent images sequence stacks to process. I combined them in a neat little map of what I imaged plotted on the full moon.

Not to shabby eh? Well Ok I’m not operating the Hubble here but I think they came out pretty good for my first actual success.

Just this past Monday January 31, I took the scope out in the yard just after sunset in order to attempt to view Comet Machholz (C2004 02) to the North. As I was aligning the Autostar for some quick sight seeing I was looking through the finder scope at Rigel when a man-made satellite passed through my field of few (FOV) approximately 2° to the north. It was one of those really cool “unexpected accidents” that had me looking at the right place at exactly the right time. The total transit time across my FOV was approximately 19:07:40 to 19:07:53 EST (thirteen seconds).

After a little research I discovered this satellite was COSMOS 405 R/B passing overhead at about 821 km altitude. I couldn’t find a reference anywhere to the launch date but I presume it is a Russian (Soviet era?) bird. Using Starry Night Pro 5.0 software by Imaginova (, I recreated the scene as I saw it.

Anyway, the AutoStar works great and I’ll try to be more timely in my log updates as to not omit as much detail as I know I’ve done here.

The First Upgrade

Ok, so I got the right angle viewfinder and the flexible focus rod so I could use the scope near zenith. I need to get outside to align the viewfinder properly to a distant object (a magnet on the fridge from 20 ft doesn’t cut it), but the installation of the focus rod went off without a hitch.

I also received the 1.25 inch QuickCam adapter and after some searching online was able to figure out how open the case, remove the lens, and install the adapter over the CCD chip. I suppose it was naïve of me to believe I could simply plug it all in, open a window, and image something. J Apparently, (and now that I think about it, it makes total sense) the QuickCam will only be useful for imagine fairly prominent light sources (ie. Planets, the moon etc) as it is a crappy $50 camera to begin with.

I did manage to “image” the display on the cable box in the front room just to get some experience with the imaging and image stacking freeware I found. I still found it more comfortable to post-process the stack in Photoshop however.

I’m excited to try out the Barlow lens as well… anyway, we’ll see how it goes. I still haven’t fired up the AutoStar yet. Maybe tonight!

First Light!

Took the new scope (Meade ETX90AT) out into the back yard tonight for some manually pointed viewing of the near full moon, Saturn which lay about 20º east, and what I think was the Orion Nebula. The moon was super bright at waning gibbous. When I backed up from the eyepiece I was temporarily blind in that eye. I do recall reading about some kind of filter for cutting some of the moon-glare.

I definitely need to get the Meade #825 8x25mm right angle viewfinder I’ve read about as the stock, straight sight-scope is useless above 30º alt. I took a couple of shots thru the eyepiece (Meade 26mm Super Plössl) with my Olympus D-460 digital camera for kicks and giggles..

I obtained less than stellar results but remember how I did it. I’m super excited to get a Barlow and the QuickCam hooked up! I picked up an Apple iBook tonight… not specifically for this application but I will be able to use it outside for some digital imaging with the Logitech QuickCam Pro 4000 I already own. Kind of exciting.

I’m not sure why I got the astronomy bug all of a sudden but it feels good. Until tonight I hadn’t actually laid eyes on Saturn’s rings in over 20 years…it’s still there!