Thursday 24 May 2018
Attended the ABC’s Guinness World Record stargazing party last night at the Brigidine College St Ives NSW on Sydney’s North Shore with a small family group.
A crowd of about 200 students and families with a large variety of telescopes and binoculars. I took a 7x50 binoculars and the guide scope off the Orion 102mm ED refractor with a star diagonal. There were lots of ABC provided $6.50 micro telescopes with micro tripods. News reports today say about 40,000 people took part all over Australia at hundreds of sites. Guinness reports the record of the most people watching an object in the sky at the same time (the moon) is well and truly broken.
Very busy for the last week of clear skies chasing NEO candidates. A record 16 NEOs confirmed already this month with observation listed in MPECs.
(See Results ).
Saturday 12 May 2018
With Mars approaching a very favourable opposition and the other photogenic planets Jupiter and Saturn also accessible I purchased a new colour video camera to see if I can improve on my planetary photography. Except for the venerable old web camera the Philips ToUcam 840K none of my other cameras are colour or designed for taking images of planets. So when browsing the Iceinspace chat site I stumbled on Justin’s 1st attempts at imaging Jupiter with a ZWO ISA120mc video camera I rushed out and bought one.
Using the Orion 102mm refractor with a Tele Vue 3x Barlow on the Skywatcher EQ5 pro mount I spent the clear nights of 7th, 8th and 9th imaging Jupiter and Mars. Following advice from another expert on Iceinspace I downloaded Autostekkert and spent some hours processing dozens of AVI clips in an attempt to match the quality of images displayed on Iceinspace. Not certain I have succeeded.
Jupiter at 12:32UT on May 9, 2018 showing the famous red spot and transiting moon Europa and its shadow.
Also spent 4 nights following up eight NEO suspects resulting in eight further MPECs (See Results ).
Tuesday, 24 April 2018
Website finally up on the new web host and accessible on
With new email account. I can now be reached on
Observed and reported on 6 candidate NEOs so far this month listed in six MPECs. (See Results ).
Saturday 16 June 2018
Last night was a great night catching up with old SAO class mates over pizza and red wine at the Arcadia Observatory residence . Shown here some of the old boys struggling to set their gear under dark and very cold skies. Some observing was eventually successful. Jupiter, Saturn and Mars were queuing up on east to be observed, imaged and displayed on the large plasma TV screen inside the warm lounge room. The observatory C14 was also put to use observing some handy galaxies such as M83 and M104, in real time, indoors on the big screen.
The month of May finished with a record number of 18 NEO confirmations and associated MPECs including observations by Arcadia Observatory. In June so far six NEOs confirmed including one comet
22 October 2018
September was a good month for NEO follow ups, scoring 12 new NEOs and MPECs. So far October has been an almost total washout with only 3 days of good observing weather. There has been 183mm of rain so far in October and the garden and the rain water tank are happy. Managed to get in 4 hours of survey on the 8th covering about 68 square degrees of sky around RA 01h, DEC -30˚. Manually blinking 40 fields of 1.5 x 1.1 degree images is extremely tiring even if the fields are not too crowded. Found a way to tune Astrometrica moving object detector to reduce false detections from about 60 per field to 3 or four typically. So I managed to process all the images on the same night
31 August 2018
Finished with planetary “pretty pictures” imaging. Reconfigured the C14 for HyperStar operation that gives focal ratio of 1.9 and an appropriately large field of view of 1.51 x 1.15 degrees. Continuing with routine NEO follow up work and an occasional survey run. Six NEOs confirmed in August.
31 July 2018
Have been chasing the planets, especially Mars since I set up the big scope with the original SCT configuration utilising its long focus of 3.9m. Image scale on the ZWO camera chip is now almost twice that with the Orion 102mm and 3x Barlow. With continuous cloudless skies I was out there observing the three conveniently accessible planets on 24th, 26th, 29th and 30th. Got lucky with the seeing yesterday getting some exceptional images of Jupiter and Saturn. Mars was still hopelessly difficult due to the still raging global sandstorm. Learned a lot about post processing using Autostakkert 2 and Registax 6. See best of the images below.
22 July 2018
Decided to restore the observatory C14 to the original SCT configuration to enable a larger scale and higher resolution images to be taken of Mars at opposition. This required removing the SBIG ST8300M CCD camera and Hyperstar lens from the front of the telescope and reinstalling the original secondary mirror. It was soon obvious that the scope needed re-collimation. After three hours of struggle with the 3 adjustment screws I gave up for the night. The main problem was that image of the out of focus test star target would disappear at the slightest turn of the collimation screws due to the very small field of view of the ZWO video camera. It would then take an inordinate time to find and get it back into the camera field of view. The next night, employing a more organised and pre-planned approach I was able to collimate the scope close to perfection. The main trick was to adjust each screw the tiniest amount at a time, so as not to lose the image off the screen. With the camera at prime focus of 3910mm compared with focal length of the 102mm refractor setup of 3x714 = 2142mm, the image scale almost doubled. Also the pixel scale is a much better match to the theoretical resolution of the 350mm diameter C14.
16 July 2018
More planetary observing with Mars approaching its maximum angular diameter of 24 arc seconds which it will reach on the 28th this month. Mars is still obscured by the global dust storm but some faint features were captured
5 July 2018
Set up the Orion 102mm refractor on the deck to check on Mars as it closes in on it’s opposition at the end of the month. Using the same setup as tested last month, Teleview 3x Barlow and the new ZWO 120MC video camera, the global dust storm currently raging on the planet was very obvious. Almost all surface features were missing, appearing as a fuzzy orange ball with a faint southern polar ice cap. What a blow, just when Mars has the best opposition since 2003 and the next one this close not until 2037. Also took some nice shots of Saturn and Jupiter. Both were conveniently in the same quarter of the sky.
June finished with eight successful NEO follow ups and associated MPECs