Friday, 9 June 2017

Solargraph project - 2017 first half

In 2016 I’ve been at the Astro Camp organized by the Hungarian Astronomical Society in Tarjan. Two astronomers gave me 3 solargraphs, one I gave away for a good use to Northolt Branch Astro, one was a test and this one.
The solargraph was put out on 30th January 2017 at Wimbledon Common at the windmill facing toward the Ranger Office. I really didn’t know what to expect from this project as this was my second solargraph in real use. It’s been collected on the 7th June and made me so curious, what I might find inside the enegy drink can.
Here are some photos about opening the can containing the photo paper.


But what is this thing called solargraph??
Well it is a very simple photographic camera for taking very very long exposure wide angle photos with a pinhole camera.
You use a box or a can, cut the top 1/3 off and put a light sensitive photo paper inside. So the paper is taped to the inner side of the can, whilst you make a whole onto the opposite side of the can, hopefully ending up with the pinhole camera.
After the paper carefully placed inside, taped at the top to hold it at a fix position, we close the can and tape it around to seal it from water, humidity etc. It is that simple.

But I have never made one myself yet, but definitely will in the future because solargraph is a lot of fun!!

But let's see the result of 127 days of waiting. The original photo that came right out of the can is on the left. The one on the right is post processed in Photoshop. 


And finally this is a video summary about the whole project. Couldn't document as professionally as I planned, but let's say this was the first step on this long road :)



Friday, 2 June 2017

Proper farewell to Thomas Pesquet and Oleg Novitskiy

This is a very special post for many reasons. I've been imaging the International Space Station for years now and it usually takes time to get used to the new astronauts - at least to me. Thomas Pesquet is one of the really cool ones in my opinion, he was heavily involved in science (just like the others of course) and he was/is a great ambassador for space travel, science and astronomy during his stay on board the station.
How cool is the fact, that whilst I am writing this blog post, I am also watching Nasa Tv showing Thomas and Oleg as they have just landed in Kazahstan and making their way out of the landing module.

Last night was a promising night with two very bright ISS pass, a possible SpaceX Dragon supply vehicle launch and some proper deep sky observation too.
Second over head pass details and star chart
Sadly the Dragon was grounded due weather circumstances, which wasn't the best news as I really wanted to give a try on imaging at 3000mm focal length. Next time I guess....

The first ISS pass happened just a little bit before 10pm, part of the sky was still fairly bright so I didn't give time lapse imaging much chance yet. The close up shots didn't give me the results I was expecting, but it was still an amazing experience to see it and show it to friends and their neighbours. They loved it!

Sometimes I have problem with imaging, nobody said this is walk in the park though. Occasionally, despite doing the exact same drill as usual the result is just not coming.
But remaining determent and keen on trying to achieve my best mostly pays off - sooner or later.

The second pass went up to 59 degrees of elevation. You can see the screenshots saved from They always give a very accurate prediction of the expected illuminated ISS passes.

Second over head pass star chart

As prediction showed, ISS was passing above Moon, Jupiter and even Arcturus too. Timing was super accurate as always, so decided to keep taking 30 second expos and made a composite photo with the individual frames to make its full pass visible.

                    Composite shots, one with ISS only and the other only with star trails as well

                                 This is a video footage - kind of a summary about the night

Whilst the camera was clicking, I was busy with preparing my Skywatcher 250/1200 Flextube dobson scope for close up imaging.
It went fine, quickly sorted out the good frames with PIPP in ISS mode and later, running through all the frames I had to realize the success. It always feels amazing, when some kind of details reveal themselves, parts like the Cupola, BEAM, Leonardo module, Kibo and Columbus modules etc.

Sequence of the best frames taken with telescope

Best shot with most details

Once the ISS buzz was over, I let my camera continue taking photos looking north-east direction. In the meantime - for the first time I could test my 10"dobson under clear sky with no light pollution.
After we did the most visible object - moon, Jupiter and Saturn - my hunger was huge for deep sky objects.

So I started with Albireo, a wonderful double star. Then hopped onto M57 Ring nebula, M13 Hercules cluster, Mizar double star and eventually M51 Whirlpool galaxy.

Well M51 really blow my mind!! I expected one faint fuzzy ball and that's it. Instead I saw faintly the spiral arms of the galaxy too... no words really. Not bad - just think about it, that object is approx. 23 million light-years away. Really left me speechless.

A bit of spinning with planet Earth

Skywatcher 250/1200 Flextube scope on dobson base
Zwo ASI120MM camera
Zwo Red filter
Televue 2.5x powermate

PIPP and Photoshop