Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Mosquitos, the Beehive, and Saturn

The rainy season has produced a bumper crop of mosquitos, so you have to be brave and covered up when you venture outside to look at the stars.

It is still a little cloudy, but the stars are really nice in between the clouds, because the air is clean and dust free.

I put my vintage 1986 Minolta zoom lens on the camera and mounted it piggy back on my little telescope. The scopes motors tracked the stars while I made some 30 second exposures. I think my camera weighs as much or more than the telescope, so it didn't track perfectly. But a couple pictures came out nice enough to have me excited about the possibilities when I get more practice in.

This picture shows the beehive cluster and Saturn. You can pretty easily see them with your naked eye, if you are in a rural area and know where to look, but you'll need binoculars to see it this well. I shot this around 11 pm, Bonaire time, which is about 10 pm Eastern time. I was looking East and it was maybe 45 degrees up from the horizon. It will probably be different if you live to the north of Bonaire, but Saturn is pretty bright, so you should be able to find it if you look East. Post a comment if you see Saturn and the Beehive.

You'll need to click on the picture to make it big enough to see anything

The faint lines outline the main four stars of the constellation Cancer. The beehive cluster, also known as M44, and the "Praesepe" is inside the box. Saturn is the bright object to the lower right of the box. Posted by Picasa

I did a Google search and found that the Beehive Cluster lies about 580 light-years away, and spans about 10 light-years across. Saturn is probably like about 73 light minutes away, but you can't really tell from looking at them. Of course, if you watch them from week to week, you'll see that Saturn's location is changing with respect to the stars.

This was shot for 30 seconds at ASA 800, with the zoom at about 135mm and f4. I didn't do much post processing to this picture except to resize it for the web.

I need to make a gizmo so I can let the camera ride piggyback on the big telescope. It won't mind the extra weight, and I'll be able to make corrections to the tracking too, to get nice pinpoint star images.

I'll be making an electric remote shutter release for the camera soon too. I need to find a couple switches to wire up to an old computer sound card to CD player cord and connector. Right now, I'm using the camera's self timer to make the exposure. It actually works pretty well, 'cause the mirror goes up when I push the shutter release button on the camera, and then two seconds later the camera opens the shutter to take the picture.

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