January 2011 Meeting Notes
Discussion of business items this month included an update on a possible new dark observing site, plans for a winter star party and discussion about approaching the Bartlesville Public Library with the idea of a joint telescope lending program. After the business meeting, Daryl Doughty gave a brief "Introduction to the Orion Region". This month's program, titled "The Cheapskate Astronomer’s Introduction to Astrophotography", was presented by Rick Bryant.
Introduction to the Orion Region - Daryl Doughty
The winter Milky Way, spanning the sky from southeast to northwest during January nights, is sparser than the summer Milky Way because we're looking outward, away from the center of the galaxy. Nevertheless, it includes more of the brightest stars than any other region of the sky. For this reason, the constellation Orion is one of the most recognized, and is a particularly good target for measuring night sky visibility and the effects of light pollution. Daryl started with the Globe at Night website, which is a citizen-science program that encourages people all over the world to record the brightness of their night sky. There are two observation periods during February, March and April, when anyone can contribute by making simple, naked eye observations of how many stars can be seen in Orion, and comparing with a set of standard magnitude charts. To find out more about how you can participate, visit <http://www.globeatnight.org/index.html>
Daryl gave an interesting account of the mythology of Orion, sometimes shown as a warrior, but more often as a hunter. The myth includes numerous adventures, culminating in a fatal sting to Orion by Scorpio, the giant scorpion. To memorialize Orion, Zeus placed him among the stars and put Scorpio on the opposite side of the sky so that the two would never again encounter each other. Daryl then gave an astronomical description of the constellation Orion, it's celestial highlights, including the stunning Orion Nebula, and it's context within the surrounding region. Hopefully, Daryl will repeat this engaging tour of the Orion region in more detail, under the night sky, at our winter star party.
The Cheapskate Astronomer’s Introduction to Astrophotography - Rick Bryant
Most amateur astronomers aspire to astrophotography at some point in their hobby. But capturing those beautiful images of the night sky can seem complicated and intimidating to a novice. The endless questions about equipment, the challenging problems of telescope balance and tracking, camera characteristics, and image processing, not to mention the issues of cost and time, can overwhelm the fledgling astrophotographer. By describing his own path, his successes and failures, from complete novice to accomplished astrophotographer, Rick reassured us that with patience, persistence and creativity, it's possible to climb the astrophotography learning curve and achieve very rewarding results. And, it can be done on a budget.
Rick's imaging efforts began simply, with a camera on a tripod. While he was able to capture Comet Hale-Bopp on film, the limitations of this technique quickly revealed themselves as star trails, caused by the unfortunate fact that the Earth rotates. Nevertheless, he persevered, successfully capturing photos of the January 2000 lunar eclipse, using a Pentax K1000 camera and a 500 mm movie camera lens as a telescope, strapped to a tripod with leather belts. Always the frugal shopper, by frequenting pawn shops and on-line websites, Rick accumulated 3½ optical tube assemblies, 3 pairs of binoculars, 2 equatorial mounts, a home made computer control system, a modified DSLR camera, several camera lenses and a computer, all for under $1600.
The acquisition of his first equatorial mount, with slow motion controls, allowed Rick to manually track his targets, eliminating the star trails. This also opened the door to longer exposures, fainter targets and deeper, brighter images. He worked with several different cameras and modified webcams, but it was the fortuitous access to a Canon Digital Rebel DSLR camera, for an unrelated project, that led him to a new level of astrophotography. The camera was the perfect match for his interests in comet, wide field and deep space photography.
Eventually Rick acquired a DSLR camera, which he modified by removing the standard infrared filter fixed to the front of the imaging sensor. This allowed the camera to record the red hydrogen alpha light that stunningly highlights nebulae along the Milky Way. The addition of a home-made computer controlled system that motorized both axes of his equatorial mount eliminated the long tedious manual guiding.
Clearly, Rick's astrophotography path has been a very successful one. His astrophotos are exceptional, and deserve a spot in any national astronomy magazine. A stunning example is his recent composite photo of the December 21, 2010 total lunar eclipse, which can be seen at <http://sites.google.com/site/bartlesvilleastronomyclub/home/lunar-eclipse-122110-by-rick-bryant> . But the journey is not over. There will undoubtedly be more equipment, always-advancing technology and new techniques to be explored and mastered. The results will be exciting and inspiring.
Monday, February 7, Daryl Doughty will present "Ken Willcox: The Birth of an Eclipse Chaser", in the Bartlesville Public Library Meeting Room. For more information, see the meeting announcement on our website home page at <http://sites.google.com/site/bartlesvilleastronomyclub/> .
BAS Public Website: http://sites.google.com/site/bartlesvilleastronomyclub/
BAS Yahoo Group: http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/BvilleAstro/