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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Needle Galaxy

Thanks to tsuyu (the rainy season in Japan), I’ve had some time to process some images. This image has an integration time of 680 minutes in LRGB. The cool thing about this image is that the photos were taken while I was asleep. The automation process in CCDAP worked wonderfully. Over the course of several weeks in May, the observatory was under the control of the computer. All I had to do was tell the program what I wanted to image and how many images to take and that was it. Opening/ closing of the dome, temperature regulation of the camera, focusing, mount control, autoguiding, weather monitoring (the dome did close once due to cloud cover), camera rotation, filter changes were entirely automated. I still needed to do the calibration frames, but most of the hard work was done. Automation is a good thing…when it works. The weakest link in the system is the focuser. I’ll be replacing the focuser very soon with a FastFocus system and Lacerta. This will give continuous focusing which should improve the FWHM. Currently the FWHM is around 3.5. I expect that number to decrease to around 2.5 or better. Stay tuned...

The Needle Galaxy lies about 40 million light years away. The edge of the galaxy is visible which makes this a popular target for astrophotographers. The distinct shape is narrow and pointed which is why it's called, "Needle Galaxy". If you look closely at the image you'll see some faint fuzzy objects which are other galaxies. For an even closer look at this galaxy, please check out the image NASA took with the Hubble Space Telescope. George

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Air Conditioner Covers

Recently, we had several air conditioners installed to keep things cool for our guests (and us) during those muggy summer afternoons and nights. We didn’t like the “industrial” look of having so many air conditioners in front of our home. The solution was to make covers to hide and protect the units. It sounds easier than it was. The covers required several hundred parts that needed to be made from scrap lumber. 

Each slat was cut on the bandsaw. That's 120 pieces! Then each slat required a spacer and that's 240 additional pieces! 

The rough lumber was planed. After each cut on the bandsaw, the piece needed to be planed. This project started to get tiring quickly. I guess that's why it's called, wood "working". 

Putting the pieces together was a simple process of gluing and nailing. 

The lid was the next thing to be made. Using scrap siding from the remodel, I went ahead and cut everything to size. 

Each piece was planed and routed. That's another 48 pieces. 

Before the slats for the lid were installed, a moisture barrier was added. The bottom of each board was then stained by Erika and I glued and nailed the whole thing together. (The moisture barrier is not pictured).

Erika finished staining the inside and outside of the covers and the lids and bodies were assembled in place. They were too heavy and awkward to move as a single unit. 

Mission accomplished...the air conditioners are hidden and protected. I'm glad this project is done. Up next, it's time to do more tiling. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

NGC 2403

NGC 2403 was imaged in March 2017. Integration time is 12 hours in HaLRGB and processed in Pixinsight. I wished I had more integration time, but the weather prevented any chance of gathering more photons. The jetstream is above Kyushu during the winter. This causes the "seeing" conditions to decline, making focusing a challenge. FWHM averaged above 3.5 most of the integration time. It was frustrating to go outside and see that the night sky was crystal clear, but the high winds in the atmosphere was making focusing close to impossible. This produced bloated stars in many of the images. Rather than throwing out those images, I went ahead and processed what I had. No worries, there's always next year to try again. 

NGC 2403 is a spiral galaxy located about 10 million light years away. Here’s a much better photo of this galaxy. Image processing continues to be challenging, frustrating, and rewarding. The original image contains much more detail, but some of that detail was lost converting to a format suitable for this blog. On to the next project...the Needle Galaxy (NGC 4565).