From the Director

Rex

 

 

 

by Rex Parker, Director

Seeing the “Invisible” Deep Sky. Lest you despair that the famed Messier objects are forever lost in the glare of skyglow in central New Jersey, consider this. It was Alfred Lord Tennyson who wrote, “I must lose myself in action, lest I wither in despair”. AAAP has been taking steps to acquire and make ready the latest technology for members to pursue electronically-assisted astronomy (EAA) at Washington Crossing Observatory. This emerging technique is revolutionizing the field. EAA has generated great excitement among amateur astronomers around the world and especially in regions like ours because it is capable of restoring visibility of deep sky objects that are otherwise lost in light polluted skies.

Standing in the middle of the continuum between eyepieces and long-exposure astrophotography, EAA renders images in near real-time with markedly greater sensitivity than the eyepiece. High resolution images are acquired in mere seconds of sensor exposure typically and immediately rendered as color (RGB) images on the monitor. Specialized software can also stack and average multiple frames swiftly to display an image with increased signal/noise, usually in less than a minute. True color is markedly enhanced for deep sky images compared to eyepieces, especially for planetary and emission nebulae and even galaxies. The camera sensors have far greater color sensitivity than the essentially monochrome (scotopic) vision of the human eye in low light, and the software improves contrast by subtracting out the background skyglow. Yet not to leave visual astronomy aside entirely, comparisons with eyepieces can be readily made using a second telescope or a flip-mirror assembly on the same telescope.

The current telescope and mount equipment owned by AAAP and installed at the Observatory are listed below. The picture which follows gives some relevant technical details on the two cameras discussed above. The appropriate software is all ready to go on the PCs and several Keyholders are trained to use them. Please don’t hesitate to contact the Observatory Chair (observatory@princetonastronomy.org) or me if you’d like to visit the observatory this spring and learn how to use the equipment. It’s a privilege of your membership in AAAP.

Telescope equipment for member use at the AAAP Observatory as of March 2019.

Paramount-ME #1, robotic equatorial mount

  • Mount run with TheSkyX planetarium and control software under Win10 computer.
  • Celestron-14 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, D=355mm (14-inch), f/11, FL=3900mm.
  • New Stellarview 80 mm right-angle finder scope on the C-14.
  • Explore Scientific ED127 refractor telescope, D=127mm (5-inch), f/7.5, FL=950 mm, triplet air-spaced apochromatic refractor.
  • Numerous 2-inch and 1-1/4-inch eyepieces for these telescopes.
  • Starlight Xpress Ultrastar Colour CCD camera.
  • Starlight Live and SharpCap software cameras.
  • Verizon FiOS is available inside the Observatory.

Paramount-ME #2, robotic equatorial mount

  • Mount run with TheSkyX planetarium and control software under Win10 computer.
  • Hastings-Byrne 61/4-inch refractor, f/14.6, FL=2310mm. This fine historic instrument is a great planetary telescope, dating to 1879 with the original air-spaced doublet lens and steel tube intact.
  • Takahashi Mewlon-250, D=250mm (10-inch) Dall-Kirkham reflector telescope, with -inch TMB Optical dielectric-diagonal and Feathertouch 2-inch Crayford focuser.
  • Numerous 2-inch and 1-1/4-inch eyepieces including Panoptic 27 mm and 41 mm for the M250.
  • ZWO ASI 294 Pro color CMOS camera
  • Starlight Live and SharpCap software set up for EAA cameras

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This entry was posted in March 2019, Sidereal Times and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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