Friday, June 22, 2018

Finally! A Decent Lens For My Canon T5i 📷

To make a long story short, until now, the only 2 lenses I had for use with my (Astro-modified) Canon T5i were:

  • A very beat-up Canon 75-300mm with plenty of small scratches on the front element, and a missing AF/MF switch. However the seller was a very nice guy: He knew that I was pretty desperate to get a lens (any lens) just so I could start shooting right away. So he found it for me, and gave it to me for $20.
Sometime later, I got myself...
  • A new Yongnuo 50mm F/1.8 - Which has a housing made from plastic, and has lousy (soft) optical properties. Yes, I know, I know, it's only a $50 lens which was made in China.
I hope to post some of the resulting images from each of these two lenses very soon. I've finally managed some which aren't too awful...

And so, today, my new Opteka 85mm F/1.8 "portrait lens" arrived
I chose it, mainly because it was $99.95 - and I'm on a low budget.
Luckily, just about everything I'd read about it was positive.

Well, the lens arrived (from B&H) today, and it looks very promising. I'm very excited to try it out; but of course, I don't even have to mention what the weather will be like for the next few days, do I?

Well, I hope to add a bit more to this post later, and...write some new blog posts about some of the other things going on.
Oh, and books! ...A few short book reviews will be coming...

Clear skies!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Just Some Pics Of My (low-budget) Barn Door Tracker Mount.

This is my current, low-budget, tracking mount. It's a barn door tracker, which was made by another amateur astronomer. I got it from Astromart.

I made a few minor improvements, and I'm able to get up to 50" exposures (some times) without star trailing.
I'll add some more details to this post in the future...

Clear skies!


Friday, June 8, 2018

Nebulosity Software! And Some Links...

It's always neat to find out that your original software license is still valid :)

Check out Nebulosity, and the various other software at the Stark Labs Site

Here are some great DSLR-Astrophotography Links I just came across:   




Clear skies!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Back Into Astrophotography and 2 Great YouTube Channels

Well, I'm "officially" back into Astrophotography 📷
And I've never been more focused on trying to improve my captures, stacking, and results. As always, there is a lot more to learn...
Thanks to the generosity of a fellow named Sebastian, from the Cloudy Nights 🌙 community: I got a (motorized!) Barn door tracker. He only asked that I pay for Shipping.
I've actually owned a few different barn door trackers in the past... But this is the first time I've gotten one to work properly.

I assembled, tested, and adjusted the barn door tracker. And I got myself a (new) sturdy tripod, a good ball head mount, etc. And use it on every clear night now - It's like my best friend 👍

Stationary tripod Astrophotography (before the arrival of the barn door tracker)

Since I can't see Polaris, from where I set-up (The Pantry Window Observatory): I'm getting up to about one minute exposures (without star trailing). I use a protractor for a (rough) polar alignment: Set altitude to 42° (here in NY) + an azimuth to true North (determined by compass, etc.). 
For me, it's magnetic North + 14° West. So, my alignment isn't perfect, of course... I begin to get egg shaped stars in my exposures when I go above a 135mm lens.
But, 30 seconds with a 100mm or 135mm lens makes me very happy! I hope to write more about this in a future post.

Barn Door Tracker in action

In any case, these are some of the realities of doing astrophotography on a low budget.  

View out of the Pantry Window Observatory

As for a future (dream) project, I'd like to hook up a one shot color CCD to a Canon lens 👍 I did it once, with a Meade DSI, years ago. It was fun; and some of the resulting images may be seen right on this blog (older posts). A low-cost achrochromtic (80mm) refractor would work as well. One with a fast F ratio, and a low price tag would be great...

I have recently discovered two great amateur astronomers, who actually discuss low budget astronomy equipment!
Many bloggers and YouTuber's claim to focus on affordable equipment...But these two gentleman are the only ones that I've found who do. I cannot recommend them highly enough!

I strongly urge all amateur astronomers to check out their YouTube channels:

There is a lot more that I'd like to write, but my chronic pain and Fibromyalgia has me stuck in bed today.

Clear skies!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

What This Blog Is About

This Blog is about challenges. Or, more accurately, overcoming challenges. It's also about tolerance, and about patience

This Blog explores the hobby of amateur astronomy, as enjoyed by:

Those who live under severely light polluted, urban skies.


Have a very limited budget.

This particular blog is unique, because it deals with the existence of both of these conditions.

My hope, is to share as much useful information on this blog as I can. So that perhaps one day, this blog may also be considered a great resource, for those of us dealing with the same challenges.

Clear skies! 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Just An Old Pic I Found

...And this is what a well collimated reflector looks like:

Clear skies!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Electronically Assisted Astronomy...

I just stumbled upon this gentleman's site.
And absolutely love his work; especially his writing.

He very eloquently (and amusingly) describes the typical plight of urban amateur astronomers. I've recently become very interested in EAA, and just learned of the existence of this software.

He is the creator of AstroToaster - An extraordinary camera controlling application, that anyone interested in EAA will eventually discover. As for me, I'm very excited about it, and will be going back to that Site right now; to absorb everything I can about this (relatively) new method!

Much more to follow (when I'm on an actual keyboard).

Clear skies!

Friday, March 30, 2018

Inspiration For Urban Astronomers - Especially Astrophotographers!

My Brothers, Louis & John, sparked my interest in binoculars & telescopes at a young age. 
Later, my Brother John bought me my first telescope, I believe it was for my 14th birthday. It was a small refractor, and I've been lovin' Astronomy ever since. I'm 48 now.

I've never let the fact that I now live in an urban area stop me from enjoying Astronomy. Why should I?
I'll admit, I've become pretty frustrated in the past. Even took a hiatus from the hobby, several times. 
But the important thing is to keep coming back...

More to follow...

Clear skies!

Friday, November 6, 2015

A Document On Nebula Filters, And A Book On Astro Sketching

I've always been a huge Fan of the light pollution filters made by Omega Optical (I usually order them from DGM Optics). If interested, check-out This great PDF document (found via the "Mega-Nebula Filter Site" linked to above).

----- I'd like to take this opportunity, to just briefly mention a new must-have book!
I'll write a full Review of it here, for the blog, in the near future. -----
So, just the bare minimum for now:

I'm very happy to report, that Rony De Laet, an amatuer Astronomer who's work I've greatly admired for many years - Has written a book! 'The Casual Sky Observer's Guide'
I bought (the electronic version of) it immediately! And, I simply love it!
I highly recommend it! (Hopefully, Santa Claus will bring me a paper version of the book for Christmas?)

I have been following his impressive, and very inspiring Website for many years...
Besides the fact, that the Author is obviously a binocular fanatic (like me!) -- He also produces amazing and inspiring pencil sketches! Using Binocs, of course!

In a nutshell: What impresses me most, is his minimalist approach in regards to equipment.
He has been able to do all of this, mainly with just two pairs of binoculars. Two pairs, of what many amateur Astronomers might consider modest binocular models. In other words, not "Alpha" model or super-expensive units.
A pair of 8x56's and a pair of 15x70's (along with a SkyWindow mirror mount).
Very inspiring.

It is basically something that I would love to be able to do: Choose just two pairs of binoculars, to be used for any and all observing (and sketching).
In fact, I'm working on doing just that...
I've always seemed to be spending too much time comparing the performance of various binoculars -- Instead of simply investing in two good pairs, and using them (instead of always scrutinizing their optical abilities).

To be continued...

Incidentally, I've noticed that The SkyWindow looks like it's available for order
once again - The Website was undergoing renovations for a while there... 

Clear skies!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

VHT Nebula Filters From DGM Optics

The VHT Nebula Filters from DGM Optics - First impressions

Just a short Post, for now.

You can see the full line of (1.25") nebula filters available, from DGM Optics Here Of course, they are also available for 2" eyepieces.

As I mentioned in my previous Post: The pair of Garrett Optical 100mm binoculars were in need of some nebula filters...More specifically, the pair of (stock) 1.25" eyepieces needed filters. And, I wasn't 100% sure which types I would go with, this time around. These binoculars are much larger than any pair I've used before.

I was originally thinking: A pair of (1.25") GCE's (again)... Unless, (I thought to myself) after consulting Dan: He might suggest something different this time? Perhaps NPB's? I was anxious to find out.
Well, I did ask Dan (of DGM Optics [via e-mail]) and he recommended The VHT's. And it made a lot of sense to me. Here's a Link to the Info page, for the various filters.

Here is the transmission curve, from Omega Optical, the manufacturer: 

Also, from Omega Optical's Site regarding The VHT's:

"An excellent Nebula filter for smaller scopes (4-6 inches aperture) where light gathering and throughput are at a premium. It is also quite effective with larger scopes."

I have been very intrigued, with the measured spectral information shown here on DGM's page. The white graph on the lower right is of GCE Filter.
I also can't help wondering exactly what the measured spectral results would be, for my actual filters. That would be neat.

I haven't had many nights of good seeing, in which to thoroughly test them - But so far, the VHT's have been able to boost the contrast, on the few nebulae that I've tried them on.

And, finally, for astrophotographers - Here are some examples of how these filters help when imaging.
You'll see links to some Reviews of DGM nebula filters Here.

I plan to post a short Review of these filters here, in the near future.

Clear skies!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Bortle Scale - Route 6 In Cortlandt NY -

The Bortle Scale - Bright suburban skies, and Route 6 In Cortlandt NY -

   Image credit: created with the free software Stellarium, retrieved from Sky & Telescope.

I'm happy to report a short, but successful "mini-field-trip" to Cortlandt New York, courtesy of my BIL, Nelson. It was the first outing for my recently acquired Binocs:

The Garrett Optical 100mm binocular telescope
The New 12x60 handhelds, from Oberwerk.

Nelson enjoyed, and remarked about the abundant FOV in the 12x60's (compared to the narrow FOV of the big Garrett's). 

Among the objects observed, were: 
M31 - The Andromeda Galaxy
M33 - The Pinwheel Galaxy
The Double Cluster in Perseus -
(NGC 869 [h Persei] and NGC 884 [Chi Persei])

And, The Milky Way looked great!

I went ahead, and set-up Google Earth, as was described on the very interesting (if somewhat eclectic Page) Here

According to this neat new map - My local skies, here at home, are:

Bortle 6   Bright suburban sky 5.1-5.5
  • the zodiacal light is invisible
  • light pollution makes the sky within 35° of the horizon glows grayish white
  • clouds anywhere in the sky appear fairly bright
  • surroundings are easily visible
  • the Milky Way is only visible near the zenith
  • M33 is not visible, M31 is modestly apparent
  • limiting magnitude with 12.5" reflector is 14.5

If this overlay technique is accurate, then my local light pollution is just about as "good" (maybe even half a magnitude better) than I had originally guesstimated. And I'm really happy about that...

If this is in fact, the case - Then I'll take it! I can work with 'Bright suburban sky'
*Correction* - I am, in fact, in a White Zone... *sigh*
What was I thinking?

Light pollution link.

What this all actually translates into now, for me...Is that I will (eventually) have to confirm this map's accuracy. By "manually" checking the naked-eye visibility of several different constellations / stars, etc.

According to this map, the skies (which I thought were awesome) during a recent Astro-outing, in Cortlandt New York, are:

Bortle 5   Suburban sky 5.6–6.0
  • only hints of zodiacal light are seen on the best nights in autumn and spring
  • light pollution is visible in most, if not all, directions
  • clouds are noticeably brighter than the sky
  • the Milky Way is very weak or invisible near the horizon, and looks washed out overhead
  • limiting magnitude with 12.5" reflector is 15
 Clear skies!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Finally: A Binocular Telescope!

I'm very happy to have "picked up" visual Astronomy observing again.

F/5.3 100mm Garrett Optical

I finally managed to get a nice pair of (early model) Garrett 100mm Binocs. And, I'm going to need a new pair of nebula filters for them.
I was shopping around, just looking, etc. 
But, it didn't take long for me to realize, that I'd be best off with a pair from DGM Optics! Duh!

So, my next Post, will be about the selection and use of nebula filters for this instrument...
Along with a short review.

Clear skies!