Archive for the Astronomy Category

Hey, I’m now at

Posted in Astronomy, Astrophotography, Book Reviews, Observing Logs, Online Course Reviews, Podcast, Reviews, Sketches, Telescopes, Tips on February 28, 2012 by geminijk

Please bookmark my main site for my blog. Maybe I’ll be back to WordPress, but ONLY if my blog grows to a point that I get a dedicated hosting service. Until that time, please remember to head to

Thanks, see you there!

John Kramer

At The Eyepiece 09/09 by At The Eyepiece | Blog Talk Radio

Posted in Astronomy, Observing Logs, Podcast, Telescopes, Tips with tags , , , , , on September 10, 2011 by geminijk

At The Eyepiece 09/09 by At The Eyepiece | Blog Talk Radio.

Listen to the latest At The Eyepiece episode. I discussed my thoughts on outreach, the importance of visual observing, the benefits of outreach with video, and the need to be a balanced outreach coordinator.

Featured guest announcement for Friday, August 19th show

Posted in Astronomy, Podcast with tags , , , on August 13, 2011 by geminijk

Be sure to tune in for the August 19th show folks, when we talk to John and Greg, the writers for the Star-Splitters blog. This is a FANTASTIC blog that is dedicated to observing double-stars, so be sure to tune in next Friday, August 19th at 8PM CST!!!!

In the mean time, take a listen to the July 29th show, when we had a wonderful interview with Charlie Warren, editor of Amateur Astronomy Magazine, here’s a link to the show below.

At The Eyepiece Show – Interview with editor of Amateur Astronomy Magazine.

M51 – Whirlpool Galaxy & SN 2011dh

Posted in Astronomy, Astrophotography, Observing Logs, Sketches with tags , , on July 5, 2011 by geminijk
M51 - Whirlpool Galaxy & SN 2011dh by geminijk
M51 – Whirlpool Galaxy & SN 2011dh, a photo by geminijk on Flickr.

I “think” this is confirmation of SN 2011dh in M51. From my comparison’s to other photos, it sure looks like it. Kind of neat to capture this. I am a bit disappointed with the overall detail of the galaxy, I need way more practice with galaxies, which seem to be the most challenging of objects so far with the DSI II and Meade LS 8 ACF, even at f6.3.

Via Flickr:
Supernova SN 2011dh is highlighted.

Meade LS 8 ACF @ f6.3
Meade DSI II
5 x 11.3 sec exposures
Envisage, DSS, processed PS & Picasa

M10 – Meade LS 8 ACF and DSI II imager

Posted in Astronomy, Astrophotography, Observing Logs, Telescopes with tags , , , on July 5, 2011 by geminijk
M10 - Globular Cluster by geminijk
M10 – Globular Cluster, a photo by geminijk on Flickr.

I was rather pleasantly surprised on how this image turned out. I am having some difficulty using DeepSky Stacker (DSS), it has a hard time stacking my FITS images for some reason. I have had to use Envisage to not only acquire, but then to view the FITS images as well to try and determine which ones could be problematic, then deselect those in DSS to finally get a good stack. I’m pleased with this so far, and very happy with how my focus is turning out while using the Bahtinov Mask.

Via Flickr:
Meade LS 8 ACF @ f6.3
Meade DSI II
7 x 11.3 sec exposures
Envisage, DSS, PS & Picasa

Observing Report – SN 2011dh in M51(Maybe)

Posted in Astronomy, Observing Logs, Sketches with tags , , on June 27, 2011 by geminijk

I ‘think’ I have confirmation of spotting the SN 2011dh in M51. Friday started out as a very gloomy day, with thick cloud cover, but at dusk the clouds were quickly retreating, and I could see blue sky toward my north west. Sure enough, a quick peak outside at 9pm CST, confirmed the skies were clearing, with some lingering high clouds still looming around. At 12am, the sky was clear, and most importantly, the sky transparency seemed to be good as well.

I grabbed my LS 8 ACF, set it up outside and took the caps off to permit its auto-alignment, while I go in and do some research for the possible position of the supernova. My brief search yielded some fine astrophotos by amateurs, as well as some nice sketches. I was a bit concerned that I would not visually be able to confirm SN 2011dh visually, since the apertures described were 10″ and larger scopes. An 8″ should still be able to reach down to 13.9 by a quick calculation here at this website, so I was encouraged enough to go out and give it a try, especially since recent updates indicated the supernova has brightened to magnitude 12.7.

I sketched M51 on Saturday morning. I have the suspect supernova noted with 2 lines. I have two concerns about the confirmation of SN 2011dh. One is the fact that there is a star that I see in images that is on the same side of the galaxy as the supernova, even though its listed at mag 13.4, its still may be what I have caught. Second is the fact that I could not see any confirmation of the arms of the galaxy extending out to that suspect object. If there were visible arms, even a hint, then I would feel fairly confident I nabbed it. But here’s the sketch either way, let me know what you think.

M51 has disappointed me before, at least for the ability of me to see galaxies arm’s better, but I could see the core easily, and indeed NGC 5195 was easy as well. I could also see a distinct brightening in the core of NGC 5195, which I tried to represent in the sketch.

Its very exciting to spot SN 2011dh visually, if indeed my further researching can confirm that is what I captured. My next project, if weather and time permit, is to capture it photographically with the DSI II. Friday night was a fantastic observing session overall, and my next post will be expanding on the remaining deep-sky targets I viewed that evening as well, but I’m thankful, if indeed confirmed, I just nabbed my very first supernova! Try for yourself next time your out, at the eyepiece.And don’t forget, to call into the At The Eyepiece Show if you want to share your observations, I’d love to hear about it. Below is a quick finder chart for M51, which rides high this time of year, thus very well placed for observing.

Bahtinov Mask – A must have accessory for astrophotographers

Posted in Astronomy, Astrophotography, How To, Reviews with tags , , , on June 24, 2011 by geminijk

Focus Daniel-san, Focus!” Mr. Miyagi’s advice doesn’t just ensure you won’t get your butt kicked in your next karate tournament, but its a great peace of advice for astrophotographers as well. Ensuring you have accurate focus when using a CCD, or even DLSR, can be a downright challenge at times. Thankfully, there exists an extremely easy to use device that is also very economical; just the thing for me I thought.

FarPoint Bahtinov Focus Mask for Meade CATs

Enter the Bahtinov Mask. This super simple accessory is placed over the front of your telescope, and works by ingeniously creating a pattern on your screen or DLSR viewfinder (if equipped with LiveView) as your focusing on a star. The grid patter creates an ‘X’ on your screen, with a vertical line on either side of the image of the star.

Out of focus live image – Click to enlarge

As you adjust your focus, your trying to get the vertical line exactly between the ‘X’ pattern, the below image now shows a properly focused image of a star as viewed on screen using the Bahtinov Mask.

In focus live image – Click to enlarge

That’s it! Take the mask off the scope, slew to your target, and image all you want, with the peace of mind knowing your astrophotos will have the best possible focus for nice, tight star images. I picked up a FarPoint Bahtinov Mask from for a measly $19.95. Now ensure you pick up one for your particular scope, they have a mask for Celestron as well as Meade CAT’s. I’m not aware of the difference between say a the Celestron version to the Meade, but it probably is a slight difference between the physical dimensions, since your placing the mask over the front, that measurement is very important.

If your an astrophographer, the Bahtinov Mask is a great accessory to have, and takes the trial and error guesswork out of focusing. So take it from Mr. Miyagi and “Focus Daniel-san, Focus!“, your astrophotos will thank you.

At The Eyepiece on BlogTalkRadio

Posted in Astronomy, Astrophotography, How To, Observing Logs, Reviews, Sketches, Tips with tags , , , , , , on June 11, 2011 by geminijk

Its been some time since my last blog entry here, but that doesn’t mean I have been slacking altogether. Besides dealing with some personal circumstances, work load and some bad weather, I have been busy with exploring other ways to augment this blog. I’m pleased to announce that a weekly talk radio show is now available for everyone to participate in or simply listen too. That show is At The Eyepiece, and is on Also, for readers here, my main blog is At The Eyepiece on For now, I’m going to use both WordPress and Blogger, but I find more options on Blogger, thus my preferred host site.

Why a podcast and talk radio show you may ask? Well, I decided that there wasn’t a show or podcast out there that discusses amateur astronomy from the standpoint of observing and equipment, so I decided to make my own.Yeah, its that simple.

So here’s the show link: At The Eyepiece

My format may change somewhat as the show gains traction, but my thoughts are simple. I’m looking for amateur’s simply wanting to share their passion for stargazing with others, and their experiences with astronomical equipment, two of my favorite things. So here is a breakdown of the format.

1. I want to schedule an amateur every week to discuss how they got into astronomy, what equipment they have used and what equipment they currently use, what are the likes or dislikes of that equipment, and what area’s of astronomy are they mostly interested in and why. And DON’T think you have to be someone that has a $5000 dollar scope to participate; I want folks that are the average backyard stargazer. Sure, from time to time it’s going to be fun too to talk with someone that has $20k of equipment that they use for imaging etc, but I’m interested in all levels of experience and capabilities. After all, I can’t go out myself and hunt down galaxies with a 32″ DOB, fun to hear maybe, but what would REALLY excite me is someone discussing how they are working through the Herschel 400 with a 10″ or smaller scope, if you get where I’m going here.

2. Mini reviews. Kind of similar to above, but if you have a scope that you want to call in and do a verbal review on, and do Q & A with listeners, here’s the chance.

3. Observing tips or targets of interest for this week and of course, sharing observing reports. I love to read about what others are viewing, especially, no specifically, with equipment of 4-12″, cause that’s about my range too. We’ll encourage each other by sharing our experiences at the eyepiece (pun intended).

4. Whats hot on the astronomy forums. If you see something there that you want to discuss further, well bring it up here. I really think this format is a great way to expand on those topics. I’m not looking to replace forum discussions, I’m looking to augment them and expand on them perhaps, so don’t be shy.

5. I want to reach out, as the show gains traction, to manufactures to actually be interviewed as well, or to present their products etc. Here’s a real delicate one, cause I do NOT want to open up a “lets bash them” type of show cause others may never want to do it again. So if we “play nice” with whoever eventually is open to an interview, who knows what else can happen.

These are just my initial ideas. The show is not going to focus on the science of astronomy, but how we as fellow amateurs and backyard stargazers utilize our skills and equipment to enjoy the beauty of the night sky and to share that with others.

So there ya have it. Currently the show is 30 minutes long and every Thursday night at 11pm CST, but please check the show periodically for updated scheduling. I am planning on updating the show to a full hour if we gain some listeners and guests to commit to calling in. As the show gains in popularity, I hope we can add another night, or perhaps change the time to earlier. Does this sound like fun folks? It certainly does to me, and that’s why I’m volunteering my time and efforts. If you have thoughts, or are interested in participating, please email me at

M13 Globular Cluster

Posted in Astronomy, Astrophotography with tags , , on April 17, 2011 by geminijk

M13 DSS Processed

Meade LS 8 ACF
Meade DSI II
Envisage FITS imagers
processed in Deep Sky Skacker
10 x 11sec exposures

First Light Report – Astrophotography with the Meade LS 8 ACF and DSI II Imager

Posted in Astronomy, Astrophotography, How To, Observing Logs, Reviews, Tips with tags , , on April 5, 2011 by geminijk

Its been some time since posting. The warmer weather is finally starting to loosen winters cold grip, and with it more and more opportunities for some observing. With my plans for this year in expanding my observing sessions to include more of an interactive format for the purpose of astronomy outreach, I decided to give  astrophotography a try. I acquired a Meade LPI Lunar and Planetary imager and a Meade DSI II imager for that very purpose, and this past Saturday had my very first opportunity to play with them under the stars.

Meade LPI First Impressions and first light.

The Meade LPI has been out of new circulation for quite a few years now, but I found a used one at a reasonable price on Astromart. The reason I opted for the LPI was two main reasons. First, I read a very interesting story by Rod Mollise that he did back in 1996 on using the LPI for Binary Star measurements. Since double-stars are a very large interest to me now, I figured the LPI would fit my needs nicely to give this a try. Second, the LPI has the unique capability (without mods) to do long exposures, well if long exposures are up to 15 seconds that is. I have been researching webcam mods for quite some time, and with some work, you can turn some images into long exposure cameras as well. Not really wanting to chance modifying a camera, I decided that pursuing a used LPI imager for the right price is a great way to get into imaging.

The LPI isn’t my first foray into imaging. In fact, I bought my Celestron Ultima 8 PEC specifically to get into astrophotography. Those were the days of Pentax K-1000s’, hyperized film, and very long exposures where your sitting at the eyepiece of your off-axis guider painstakingly correcting the drives manually for any tracking errrors. After about 3 sessions, I resolved that it was not for me, and completely turned to visual observing, and have been enjoying that ever since.

In 2004, I purchased an Orion Electronic Eyepiece, something at the time that was fairly new device with promising capabilities. This device permitted you to see the Moon and planets on screen via a RCA jack (needed another device to connect to computers USB, I used WinTV device), but it was nothing like the view at the eyepiece, so after a few observing sessions with this device, and a very mediocre image of Jupiter obtained a few times, that device too sat in its box for many years. It wasn’t until just this past year, with the arrival of the Meade LS 8 ACF that I again got the astrophotography bug, and got this old device out for another round, and I’m glad I did. My very first night using this electronic eyepiece with the LS 8 ACF, and with significant help from an updated Registax program, I was able to produce a very adequate view of Jupiter (see my posts from 10/10).

With the knowledge that digital imaging has come a long way, and thanks to software such as Registax, one can obtain some nice planetary images with very modest equipment. I didn’t however want to stop at simply planets, thus my research on a capable webcam like camera for planetary imaging and binary stars, and my results turned me to the Meade LPI.

Now the LPI has some promising capabilities, but those remain to be seen in the coming months if it will fill the needs of a simple USB webcam device capable of producing pleasant views of the Moon, planets and even some double-stars. So I thought, if I’m going to be getting into some limited astrophotography, why not really get into astrophotography with the Meade LS 8? After viewing simply gorgeous images produced with a ETX-LS 6 by Warren on CloudyNights (rigel123 ,,  I decided to give the LS 8 ACF a try at astrophotography, and I’m so glad I did!

First night with the Meade DSI II on the Meade LS 8 ACF.

Now, before you read on, note that none of these photos are going to grace the inside of S&T or Astronomy any time soon, astrophotography is an art that I need many more nights of practice to get anything “acceptable” by amateur astronomers points of view, but I”m simply thrilled at how easy it was to use Meade’s Envisage (part of the AutoStar Suite) and the LPI and DSI II cameras.

The Envisage program comes with the AutoStar Suite, and was already on my PC. The drivers for both the LPI and DSI II were needed next, and with some initial issues (me trying to complicate a normally easy step of driver selection) I was ready to roll. Plugging the DSI II into the USB port, and starting up Envisage and I was ready to go. The Meade LS 8 ACF was already aligned and ready (its a LightSwitch of course!) with my first target of the evening, M42. I used the 14mm UWA to center it, and then swapped with the DSI II. A quick selection of “Live View” on the Envisage software showed 4 large donuts. Obviously the Trapizuim, but way out of focus. Focusing is certainly a critical step, and it took me quite some time of focusing, pausing for the vibrations to stop, re-focusing etc before I was as satisfied as I was going to get with the image of the stars on the screen. Now a very important step that I did next was to use the parfocal focusing ring that comes with the DSI II, and place on my 14mm UWA. I next took the DSI II out of my diagonal, and put the 14mm in its place. Moving the eyepiece physically up and down, ensuring NOT to touch the focus of the telescope, permits you to then select the appropriate point when the 14mm UWA eyepiece is focused to the image in the scope, then you tighten the parfocal ring at its lowest point on the eyepiece barrel, and now your eyepiece should be parfocal to the DSI II. Very helpful and crucial step IMO.

Swapping out the 14mm UWA for the DSI II, I now began the imaging session in full swing. Simply, what a blast! I was shocked that in just 11 seconds of exposure, I could clearly start to see nice detail in the nebula, I was hooked. Playing with the exposure times, going from 5.8 seconds all the way to 1.5 minutes, I was able to see on screen different aspects of the nebula. Shorter exposures permitted smaller stars, permitting me to easily discern the diamond shape of the Trapezium stars. Long exposures created larger stars, but pulled in more photons of the nebula itself, and filling the screen, even with hints of color!

The most exciting aspect of this evening was the fact that I did not expect to be able to see that detail so quick on the screen, and immediately my mind was racing with ideas on broadcasting my observing sessions with the DSI II. No, its not as capable of live views as say a Mallincam, but it can certainly render some pleasing view of deep-sky objects with 30 seconds or more of exposure times. Fun, fun, FUN!

The remainder of the night was familiarizing myself with Envisage, and different exposure times for a variety of objects (see the links to the photo stream below). I was quite pleased with the Meade DSI II, and even more pleased that I can now pursue astrophotography and limited live streaming with the Meade LS 8 ACF. So stay tuned for a dedicated series of articles focusing on beginning astrophotography with a Alt-Az scope such as the Meade LS 8 ACF. I also plan on focusing specifically on the long exposure capabilities of the Meade DSI II when used on a Equaltorial mounted scope, such as my Celestron Ultima 8 PEC. In the mean time, enjoy the link to my photos below.


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