Announcement: Moved the blog to my own domain

http://imagingsaturn.risahorowitz.com/

The Imaging Saturn blog is now housed on my own domain. Please go there from now on.

http://imagingsaturn.risahorowitz.com/

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Blog Link: Lumpy Darkness, Blake Nancarrow

I keep meaning to post a link to Blake’s blog, which is chock full of documentation, data, and how-to.

http://blog.lumpydarkness.com/

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Some larger, processed, marathon images.

Ring Nebula

Ring Nebula

Trifid Nebula

another Swan Nebula

Another Swan Nebula

Trifid Nebula

Dumbbell

Dumbbell

Swan Nebula

Swan Nebula

Posted in Carr Astronomical Observatory, Imaging Equipment and Telescopes, Observing | Leave a comment

Turn Left at Orion ‘Summer’ marathon at the CAO, July 5-6 2014

All right. Rob C. came to Winnipeg in May with a lovely early edition book for me: Turn Left At Orion. I hadn’t look at it much until this past weekend at the CAO…

In brief: I spent Thursday at Norm’s mill with Tom Leonhardt (meeting Norm White for the first time – awesome dude), and visiting with Geoffrey and Ilse. Tom spent the night at the CAO and Blake volunteered his time to show off some of the sky for Tom, who thoroughly enjoyed his visit, and also got to see and photograph the sun on Friday before driving east.

Friday was a nice night, with two newbies totally wowed. I stayed up till about 3am (saw the 2:45~ Iridium Flare), having photographed the Whirlpool Galaxy and gathered a bunch of video of Saturn with my 8″ using both Ian’s borrowed ToUCam+netbook and my planetary camera (the seeing sucked, everything was swimming, anyway).

I was super lazy on Saturday and even as I took one final nap at 8:45pm I was unsure I’d be able to pull off my goal for the night: to photograph all the main ‘summer’ entries in Turn Left at Orion using my D7000 and 8″ Edge/CGEM rig. I didn’t aim to shoot fantastic images of all these object: just down and dirty identifiable so that I could have a project for the night, and get to know a bit of the night sky.

I did it! While the book quite wonderfully includes sketches of what each object would look like through a finder scope and low powered eye piece with a 3-4″ scope, all my photographs were shot at prime: so the relative scale of each object is consistent across the images.

Some bits and pieces:

  • after confirming my polar alignment was still good, doing a 2+4 alignment/calibration, and shooting some dSLR video of Saturn (much more still last night), someone must have wiggled the power supply because the mount reset itself and lost its alignment. I was annoyed, but took the opportunity to re-do it as accurately as I could since most of the ‘summer’ objects would not be visible outside of exposures
  • I used my 12.5mm cross hairs eyepiece and left the objects unfocussed. I found the big target of the shadow of the secondary mirror to be very helpful in centering in the cross hairs. This was good, since in the end, everything slewed in frame (though I did wing some minor slow slew tweaking to better position some objects).
  • I first slewed to Arcturus and used it to focus. By object 6, M6, the mount flipped over the meridian, and I lost my focus. Blake helped me find a star on the same side to re-focus on (Nunci), and by the time I’d focuseed, M6 had crossed the meridian again, so another flip. At around this first flip, Blake suggested I used my focus lock on the SCT – and my focus was really great for the rest of the session.
  • All in all, the scope flipped 10 times. 10 times. The final 8 or so objects were up high, so I was sitting on the concrete pad to see the lcd. Ian had loaned me a table and stool, which were very helpful for the other objects.
  • It was windy.
  • Below I’ve included a few details about each object (I did not take many notes) – and each object is as-shot .jpg, in the recommended order of viewing in the book. The RAW files are on hand, and I shot dark frames for some longer exposures of the fabulous nebulas, which are LINKED HERE.
  • This could become 8 total projects: each season by go-to; and each season by push-to, when/if I begin to actually learn to star hop.

Here they are! Click on any for a larger version.

1. Graffias (Beta Scorpii) – double star

14-07-05 11:16pm ISO 6400, 10s

14-07-05 11:16pm, ISO 6400, 10s
un-separated

 

14-07-05, 11:24pm ISO12800, 1/250th separated

14-07-05, 11:24pm ISO12800, 1/250th
separated

 

 

2. M4 – globular cluster

14-07-05, 11:24pm ISO10000, 6s Open. Nice.

14-07-05, 11:24pm ISO10000, 6s
Open. Nice.

 

3. M80 – globular cluster

14-07-05, 11:33pm ISO6400, 8s. Pretty!

14-07-05, 11:33pm ISO6400, 8s.
Pretty!

 

4. M19 – globular cluster

14-07-05, 11:47pm ISO6400, 6s.

14-07-05, 11:47pm ISO6400, 6s.

 

5. M62 – open cluster

14-07-05, 11:52pm, ISO6400, 6s. Pretty. Golden!

14-07-05, 11:52pm, ISO6400, 6s.
Pretty. Golden!

 

6. M6 – open cluster

14-07-06, 12:07am. ISO6400, 8s. yes: open!

14-07-06, 12:07am. ISO6400, 8s.
yes: open!

 

7. M7 – open cluster

14-07-06, 12:12am. ISO6400, 8s.

14-07-06, 12:12am. ISO6400, 8s.

 

8. M22 – globular cluster

14-07-06, 12:16am. ISO6400, 8s. Very nice, many clear bright stars.

14-07-06, 12:16am. ISO6400, 8s.
Very nice, many clear bright stars.

 

9. M28 – globular cluster

14-07-06, 12:42am. ISO6400, 8s. Very Windy! Hot chocolate break.

14-07-06, 12:42am. ISO6400, 8s.
Very Windy! Hot chocolate break.

 

10. M8 (Lagoon Nebula) – open cluster

14-07-06, 12:49am. ISO6400, 30s. wow! gorgeous pink with long dark lanes.  See bottom for stack with dark frame from RAW.

14-07-06, 12:49am. ISO6400, 30s.
wow! gorgeous pink with long dark lanes.
See bottom for stack with dark frame from RAW.

 

11. M20 (Trifid Nebula) – open cluster

14-07-06, 12:53am. ISO6400, 30s. beautiful! See below for stack+dark frame.

14-07-06, 12:53am. ISO6400, 30s.
beautiful! See below for stack+dark frame.

 

12. M21 – open cluster

14-07-06, 1:03am. ISO6400, 10s. Looks like an octopus.

14-07-06, 1:03am. ISO6400, 10s.
Looks like an octopus.

 

13. M23 – open cluster

14-07-06, 1:05am. ISO6400, 10s. Wide open.

14-07-06, 1:05am. ISO6400, 10s.
Wide open.

 

14. M25- open cluster

14-07-06, 11:07am. ISO6400, 10s. Still in focus.

14-07-06, 1:07am. ISO6400, 10s.
Still in focus.

 

14b. M24 – open cluster – (in the neighbourhood)

14-07-06, 11:08am. ISO6400, 10s.

14-07-06, 1:08am. ISO6400, 10s.

 

14c. M18 – open cluster – (in the neighbourhood)

14-07-06, 11:10am. ISO6400, 10s.

14-07-06, 1:10am. ISO6400, 10s.

 

14d. M17 (Omega/Swan Nebula) – diffuse nebula – (in the neighbourhood, also a main item on the list, see below (Ian: yeah, I did it twice))

14-07-06, 11:17am. ISO6400, 30s. First of two that I included here, can't recall why.

14-07-06, 1:17am. ISO6400, 30s.
First of two that I included here, can’t recall why.

 

14-07-06, 11:18am. ISO6400, 30s.

14-07-06, 1:18am. ISO6400, 30s.

 

15. M54 – globular cluster

14-07-06, 1:20am. ISO6400, 8s. Very bright core.

14-07-06, 1:20am. ISO6400, 8s.
Very bright core.

 

16. M55 – globular cluster

14-07-06, 1:25am. ISO6400, 8s. Nice and Open

14-07-06, 1:25am. ISO6400, 8s.
Nice and Open

 

17. M5  – globular cluster

14-07-06, 1:29am. ISO6400, 10s. In Libra. Nice.

14-07-06, 1:29am. ISO6400, 10s.
In Libra. Nice.

 

18. M10 – globular cluster

14-07-06, 1:32am. ISO6400, 10s.

14-07-06, 1:32am. ISO6400, 10s.

 

19. M12 – globular cluster

14-07-06, 1:34am. ISO6400, 10s.

14-07-06, 1:34am. ISO6400, 10s.

 

20. M13 (Great Cluster) – globular cluster

14-07-06, 1:36am. ISO6400, 10s.

14-07-06, 1:36am. ISO6400, 10s.

 

21. M92 – globular cluster

14-07-06, 1:37am. ISO6400, 10s. Bright, with blue tinges.

14-07-06, 1:37am. ISO6400, 10s.
Bright, with blue tinges.

 

22. Epsilon 1/2 Lyrae (Double Double) – double star pair

14-07-06, 1:45am. ISO6400, 10s. Not separated.

14-07-06, 1:45am. ISO6400, 10s.
Not separated.

 

14-07-06, 1:46am. ISO6400, 1/3s.  Still not separated, but zoomed in, tiny blips of the secondaries are apparent. I was getting tired, and suppose all I needed to do was expose at 1/60 or 1/125.

14-07-06, 1:46am. ISO6400, 1/3s.
Still not separated, but zoomed in, tiny blips of the secondaries are apparent. I was getting tired, and suppose all I needed to do was expose at 1/60 or 1/125.

 

23. M57 (Ring Nebula) – planetary nebula

14-07-06, 1:56am. ISO6400, 30s. Version 2. So fabulous.

14-07-06, 1:56am. ISO6400, 30s.
So fabulous.

 

24. Alberio – double star

14-07-06, 2:01am. ISO6400, 1s.

14-07-06, 2:01am. ISO6400, 1s. Separated.

 

 

14-07-06, 2:00am. ISO6400, 30s.

14-07-06, 2:00am. ISO6400, 30s. Not separated

 

25. M56 – globular cluster

14-07-06, 2:03am. ISO6400, 15s.

14-07-06, 2:03am. ISO6400, 15s.

26. 62 Cygni – double star

14-07-06, 2:06am. ISO6400, 1/3s. Too tired to separate, maybe a blip.

14-07-06, 2:06am. ISO6400, 1/3s. Too tired to separate, maybe a blip.

27. NGC6826 (Blinking Planetary Nebula) – planetary nebula

14-07-06, 2:10am. ISO6400, 10s. What a fantastic object.

14-07-06, 2:10am. ISO6400, 10s.
What a fantastic object.

28. M27 (Dumbbell) – planetary nebula

14-07-06, 2:16am. ISO6400, 46s. Love.

14-07-06, 2:16am. ISO6400, 46s. Love.

29. M71 – globular cluster

14-07-06, 2:18am. ISO6400, 10s.

14-07-06, 2:18am. ISO6400, 10s.

30. Gamma Delphini – double star

14-07-06, 2:27am. ISO6400, 10s. Don't think I could separate this one.

14-07-06, 2:27am. ISO6400, 10s. Don’t think I could separate this one. Also not in the Nexstar database, had to enter RA and DEC.

31. M17 (Swan Nebula) – diffuse nebula

14-07-06, 2:32am. ISO6400, 30s. Another version.

14-07-06, 2:32am. ISO6400, 30s.
Another version.

32. M11 (Wild Ducks) – open cluster

14-07-06, 2:36am. ISO6400, 20s. Done!

14-07-06, 2:36am. ISO6400, 20s.
Done!


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CAO, Solstice: June 21/22 2014

Fantastic first visit to the CAO for me in 2014.

The observing pad was full, and thanks to Blake, who basically has been carrying and setting up all my heavy gear because my back is out, I was able to use both my cgem and try my sky tracker on the night sky for the 2nd time (the first was my minor test on the balcony in regina, where I had to set it up 3 feet off the ground to sight polaris). I used the ac adaptor to power the scope, for the first time, and it worked perfectly (and had no heat when I unplugged it at 3am after 5 hours, v.good).

My plan was to look at a bunch of NGC and Messier objects in Virgo (just because: pick a part of the sky, explore it), while also trying to get a wide field shot of the teapot, the galaxy, and saturn. Turns out, all that business in Virgo isn’t that exciting (using Rob’s 15mm (which I will return!)), and (my lens’s field of view was not wide enough for the latter) (UPDATE: looking more closely at the image below, I did indeed get the teapot and saturn in the field of view. Working on the labelled image….)

I started with Vindematrix and confirmed I could make out the constellation naked eye (ditto with Sagittarius and Leo), then pointed at NGC 4698, but could not see anything. I also looked at M61 and M58, which was very small. Of course I got distracted. I figured out how to enter RA and Dec to goto an object, and to store an object in my HC database. I mounted the slr to my 8″, then focused on Dubhe (I thought Blake said Deneb, so the scope took a wee tour) and returned to my saved object (Panstarrs 2012 K1), and took some shots of the comet. Since the pad was so busy there was a lot of vibration, but I did manage to get at least this shot (nevermind that I forgot to record raw files, this is a native .jpg).

_DSC4463

 

I shot some video of Saturn while I had the camera mounted ( I am collecting a lot of video for future processing), then returned to Virgo to look at some other objects before giving up on that business, getting a big 13mm ethos loaned from Steve along with Blake’s 2″ Williams Optics dialectric diagonal with adaptor for my 1.25″ mount. M101 was a smudge; M108 was a smudge; M97 was a nice soft schmear; M64, the Black Eye Galaxy, was a tiny schmear.

I did, with Steve’s help, confirm that my scope has developed backlash issues (Blake admonished me for storing the mount locked). I don’t know how to fix this. But I will have to find out eventually (maybe today, says Blake). (UPDATE: yes, we fixed this. Blake found this website, describing this as ‘slop’ or ‘binding’, and Steve’s description of backlash also applies. For record keeping, I tightened the Dec grubs (both) 1/4 turn, and loosened only one side of the RA 1 full rotation. 2mm and 5mm Allan keys. We physically felt a tighter grip in both directions, and slewed back and forth in both directions to listen, which lead to a modification of RA, which I’d tightened 1/4 turn at first. Now, no give/slop, everything sounds lovely. Steve time lapsed it all, maybe I’ll link up to that at some point.).

Finally, I confirmed that M13 is very pretty (and could be the next cross stitch piece, the first being Omega Centauri, which is not visible from Canada except, Blake imagines, from Pelee Island), and that M92, Hercules, is ok.

I hemmed and hawed with the sky tracker, then pushed myself and set it up. I took 5 wide field frames at ISO 800, for 5 minutes each, pointing south, but forgot a dark frame. Then I shot the summer triangle, and learned that when pointing straight up my camera lens will not hold its focus.

Below are two versions of the same image of the summer triangle (30s, iso 6400, because I forgot to reduce the iso after focusing): with one, I let the pshop raw processor automatically ‘correct’, and with the other, I manually adjusted various settings (click for larger versions).

_DSC4486-manual-nef-summer-triangle _DSC4486-nef-auto-summer-triangle

 

Below is a manual stack of 4 images, using photoshop and various layer opacity levels, some levels manipulation after flattening, along with some black point adjustments:

_DSC4481-test-ps-stack-flat02

I’ll update this post with a labelled version of this image, which I need help with (I know that sagittarius, the teapot, scorpius etc. are all in there, I just can’t make them out because a) there are so many stars and b) I don’t know the sky well yet).

Finally, I was in the midst of deleting some accidental short exposure files (darned camera, if I go to live view it kicks me out of bulb and defaults to 30s, then I forget to reset), and remembered how much detail I was able to get out of those seemingly empty images of saturn a couple of years ago. Below is a really fascinating image, I think. ISO 1000, .6s, processed using the pshop raw editor to modify the exposure settings alone: and there is a no-noise very crisp image of sagittarius and scorpius which is the same composition/framing as the image above. Wild.

_DSC4479-teapot-scorpius-40ths

 

We are staying another night, and I think I would like to do a time lapse of Saturn over the course of time for part of the evening, while visually observing some other part of the sky. That’s it. May go for a wee hike around the Margaret Paul trail before going to town to find something to grill for dinner and some cola to go along with the rum Nicole left behind 🙂

UPDATE: this is as far as I got, with help from Tom, in labeling this image. So much more in there.

_DSC4481-test-ps-stack-flat02-labelled

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End of Video Pool Residency

Well, I wrapped up very quickly in Winnipeg and didn’t manage to write a blog post while everything was still fresh in my mind.

My final two weeks were preoccupied with finishing preparing the ecliptic file so that when Geremy arrived, we’d be ready to do some laser cutting. We had an incredibly productive four days at Assentworks, preparing various versions of the ecliptic files (layout and colour mapping) for laser cutting on to baltic birch. We began with some controlled testing of power, frequency, and speed to determine what would be ideal for each component of the cut pieces: stars, the ecliptic, the lines of the constellations, and cutting through the wood. I was pretty thrilled with the results as tests. I ended up outputting a pair of 28″ full ecliptics, with and without the lines of the constellations, along with two sets of 11″ wide pieces depicting each individual constellation with and without their boundaries. I am happily gifting the 28″ pair to the Carr Astronomical Observatory (where I am for all intents and purposes a resident artist 🙂 ). Both Geremy and I also managed to output some other items as well: he, a Settlers of Catan game board, and me, some of the Trees of Canada.

_DSC4348-virgo

virgo, as per H.A. Rey depictions, without lines.

 

Aquarius laser cut - Horowitz

aquarius, as per H.A. Rey depictions, without lines.

During that time I was also interviewed by Derek Bruekner and co-host Aleem on Eat your Arts and Vegetables radio show (I am in the last 15 minutes of the first link on the May 22 mp3 file and the first 5 minutes or so on this second link on the May 22 mp3 file.), and prepared for and delivered my lecture on May 28th at Video Pool. Finally, I prepared and delivered my poster files for the Subtle Technologies Open Access exhibition and poster session curated by Farah Yusuf.

I was happy to receive positive feedback from the poster session (Farah emailed: “I just wanted to let you know that your project has sparked a very animated conversation about astronomy btwn about 6 people (I think architecture students). They’ve been huddled in front of your posters for the last hour and the opening reception hasn’t even started yet!  It’s a thoroughly engaging project.”). I have never done a poster session before, and the invitation was not for a single poster, but a set of posters that could fill the presentation frame. I treated it as a sort of pamphlet about the project, which worked out well. Here is a link to the .pdf: Horowitz-poster-SubtleTech_01

And that wrapped up my month in Winnipeg. If I haven’t mentioned it enough, I am so thankful to the folks at Video Pool, Assentworks, and the Canada Council. I am managing to make technical, material, and conceptual progress with the Modelling Views project, and feel confident now that I will have a very productive year, with big production taking place next summer in preparation for the first exhibition.

 

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Week Two, VP Residency

This week has been wonderfully productive and engaging. I spent a good deal of time slowly working through plotting the constellation boundaries and zodiacal stars/lines in Illustrator. This document will be the basis of all the contextual imagery that I use for the models, and once I sorted out just how to plot the map projection the rest has been typically repetitive. With Geremy’s assistance we gathered all the RA and DEC data for the boundaries and stars, converted those all to decimal degrees (this is a handy website) so that in my 360cm document I could simply punch in the numbers, and then…punched in the numbers. Below is a quick screen capture of all the data plotted.

my ecliptic, screen grab, from Illustrator

my ecliptic, screen grab, from Illustrator

I really love how this looks, though prefer the stars without the lines. The H.A. Rey drawings do indeed look more like what the constellations are thought to depict – but they are too representational. I have ideas for a range of outputs using a combination of lines and stars and boundaries. I like how abstract the imagery becomes when presented in isolation or in part: that one may not recognize these as zodiacal constellations, or that one might. I have a fear that the project might make me the crazy space lady in the art world, or that, as sometimes happens, people will confuse astronomy with astrology. Let me say now, then to any new-age types: I do not care about the ‘coming’ or the ‘return’ of Saturn.

I am sure that I will use the laser cutters as Assentworks to out put to wood, or aluminum, or plastic, or plexi – I did one test the other day and I am completely smitten by the output, though I can’t get a great image. Here is one anyway, and a LINK to video of laser cutting on aluminum scraps. I must mention here that the people at Assentworks are awesome. Jason is incredibly friendly and helpful,  Andrew gave me many tips on file prep and also helped me cut some plexi (I really need to learn how to use basic shop tools), Greg was willing to let Saturn take over the Solid Works workshop,  Randy just sat down and made the files for me while I watched and provided specs, and Erika has been available to guide and assist: thank you!

laser cut ecliptic test on plexiglass

laser cut ecliptic test on plexiglass

What has been most exciting this week has been the 3d modelling. On Thursday I took a workshop in Solid Works at Assentworks, and one of the CAD files we sketched up was Saturn, of course. Randy, a regular there, had also offered to help me out for an hour, and he created some files in another CAD program. Then, Erika and I fumbled a bit with Solid Works before deciding to just try to out put the file that Randy helped prepare already. We were able to simply scale the 3″ model to output at that size, at 1.5″, and a .75″ (planet diameter), in addition to applying some colour and attempting an image ‘wrap.

This Zcorp machine is fantastic. One can do full colour 3d scans of existing objects and the machine will output it – in full colour plaster. Here are some samples that are sitting around Assentworks:

01_IMG_8273

And here is a video of us starting the vacuum to remove extra powder from the chamber. I felt like a bit of an archaeologist digging out the planets – we were able to print six files in the one chamber. The total setup took longer than it could have, simply because I had no clue what I was doing. We had some challenges replacing a print head and some colour cartridges, and there was a moment when I thought I might have spent a thousand dollars on powder but did not (the machine prepares the bed with a base of powder, then lays down the models and more powder as support, and that gets recycled in the machine). Here are a bunch of pictures of the process, and another video of the fine powder removal process.:

digging out first 3d planet tests.

digging out first 3d planet tests (photo: Erika Lincoln).

 

big grey planet.

big grey planet (photo: Erika Lincoln).

 

small white planet.

small white planet (photo: Erika Lincoln).

 

de-powder chamber.

de-powder chamber (photo: Erika Lincoln).

 

all de-powdered.

all de-powdered.

There are a few ways to finish the surface of the plaster models, including wax dipping and using some weird proprietary solvent, both of which seal and bring out the colours. I tried both, and think that the solvent would be better for the image wrapped piece (I used the wax on that one). We didn’t have any amazing amount of control over the colour/image wrapping process (you can see that only part of the planet got the image, and that the atmosphere is not in the correct equatorial orientation), but all in all, for about 4 hours of help prepping 3-d files, probably 4 hours trying to send to print, an hour digging out and cleaning, then waiting for the wax to heat up: all in all a fantastic first set of tests! Below, some slightly better images of the models, with some quarters for scale.

11_-small-3d-saturns 12_image-wrap-3dsaturn 13-largegrey-3dsaturns

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is no way I could produce such models by hand, I just do not have the skill. But that such a machine is so easily accessible and not too difficult to use – too bad there is no Assentworks in every city in Canada. As with code and electronics, I’m not sure I have the time or energy or capacity to learn how to use CAD applications, but Erika has offered her experience with Rhino for hire, and I can get that for mac and pc and slowly try to learn along.

Geremy will arrive in town on Saturday for the final stretch and I have to work out if we will spend that time preparing files for and doing some laser cutting, or, Erika’s time permitting, trying to gain some better skill with mechanical connections and what not.

Upcoming public events:
I will be on the radio show Eat Your Arts & Vegetables CKUW 95.9 FM Winnipeg, along with Erika Lincoln, talking about our respective art projects with co-hosts Aleem Khan and Derek Brueckner this coming Thursday, 5:30pm local time.

And I will be giving an artist lecture on Wednesday, May 28th, 7pm, in the 3rd floor studio of Video Pool.

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