Thursday, April 28, 2011

Weekend Observing Challenge: A Gathering of Galaxies - Hickson 44

Written by Tammy Plotner

If you turn your eyes towards Leo, you just might discover a group of galaxies which reside close to our own Milky Way - Hickson Compact Group 44. At only 60 million light years away, this diverse and interesting collection has quite a story to tell!

Some three decades ago, Canadian astronomer, Paul Hickson set about the task of completing a list of 100 galaxies clusters. But, they couldn't be just any set of galaxies - they had to be isolated, compact and within a limited magnitude range. His purpose was to study them for unusual redshifts among their members - and to improve our knowledge of galactic evolution. From his work came the theory that perhaps all well-known galaxies once emerged from such clusters and this hypothesis also contributed mightily to our understanding of dark matter as well. What Hickson left us with is a legacy of beautiful objects that challenge not only the telescope - but the mind as well.

In this photo done by Warren Keller, you will see from 11 o'clock: NGC 3193; 3190 and 3187 at center, and 3185 at 6 o'clock. A closer look reveals two tiny galaxies PGC (Principal Galaxies Catalog) 2806871 near 8 o'clock and PGC 86788 near 5 o'clock. As you can see, this group is an interesting collection of galaxy types - from barred spiral to elliptical in structure... close enough to share material as they gravitationally interact.

While some of you may recognize the three principle players in this galactic act as the "Leo Trio", take a closer look at barred spiral NGC 3190. It was first discovered by Sir William Herschel in 1784 and was home to two supernova events in 2002. Lurking at its heart is an active galactic nucleus (AGN), home to a super-massive black hole. While the discovery of the rare Type Ia supernova was unusual enough, adding a second similar supernova event occurring simultaneously made this galactic action even more rare. Two young x-ray emitting events, set against a record breaking amount of obscuring dust!

Perhaps the interaction with nearby NGC 3187 is the root cause? It is, after all, evolving. Studies indicate an evolutionary sequence for Hickson compact groups in which the amount of diffuse light increases with the dynamical evolution of the group. "Compact groups are associations of a few galaxies in which the environment plays an important role in galaxy evolution." says J. A. L. Aguerri (et al). "The low group velocity dispersion favors tidal interactions and mergers, which may bring stars from galaxies to the diffuse intragroup light. Numerical simulations of galaxy clusters in hierarchical cosmologies show that the amount of the diffuse light increases with the dynamical evolution of the cluster."

While this group of galaxies is evolving and interacting together across vast distances, you can collect them all in the same eyepiece view about halfway between Gamma and Zeta Leonis (RA: 10h18m00.4s Dec: +21°48'44"). They are by no means easy, the faintest of which is magnitude 13, but it can be accomplished with a minimum of a 150mm telescope under dark, clear skies. Remember, the beauty is in the challenge... and the discovery!

Be sure to check out Warren Keller's Image Processing for Astrophotography (IP4AP) software!

Planets Party In The Morning April 28-May 1

Written by Adrian West

Set your alarm clocks for an early treat about a half an hour before sunrise on Thursday April 28 through Sunday, May 1, 2011, as there will be a planetary delight in store! Go out and with either a pair of binoculars, a small telescope, or just use your naked eyes and find an unobscured view of the Eastern horizon to see a conjunction (objects near each other in the sky) of the planets Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury, below and to the left of the thin crescent moon.

Bright Venus will be easy to spot first, then Mercury followed by Jupiter. The real challenge is to find Mars which will be very close to Jupiter. See the above diagram for help on where each object is located.

If you are unlucky on the first morning, try again the following day for a chance to see this rare planetary occurrence.

While observing this close to the Sun take care and never look at the sun directly with your eyes and never through an optical instrument, as this will permanently damage your eyesight or blind you!

Only special purpose made solar telescopes and filters are safe for viewing the sun.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Lingering Lyrids...

Written by Tammy Plotner

Although I forgot to remind you just before the date of the Lyrid meteor shower peak, there's no reason to believe the show is over just yet! If you're an early riser, this just might be your chance to catch a lingering Lyrid...

Every year the Earth encounters the dusty remnants of the tail of Comet Thatcher (C/1861 G1). It doesn't occur on a very specific date, but we do know it happens in late April. While the peak time is dawn on April 23, it's not uncommon to see between 5-20 meteors per hour through the 26th.

Why such a widely varied date and diversified fall rate? The answer is... thanks to Jupiter's massive gravity, we never know exactly when we might encounter a "clump" of comet debris. The majority of the time, the spawn of Comet Thatcher is no bigger than a grain of sand, traveling through our atmosphere at 49 km/s (110,000 mph). Incredibly enough, these fast moving particles can light up as brightly as 2rd magnitude - easily seen from moderately light polluted skies. Some have even been known to appear as fireballs and leave smoke-like trails that linger in the sky for several minutes!

For the past 2600 years, mankind has been observing the Lyrids - and you can, too. Since their radiant is near the bright star, Vega, you're best time to observe is in the hours just before dawn. For many observers, the constellation of Lyra will be high to the east around 4:30 a.m. local time and nearly overhead just before dawn. Even southern hemisphere observers with an unobstructed northern horizon can enjoy the show, too. While there will be some Moon to contend with, placing it behind an obstruction like the corner of a building or a tree will help reduce the glare.

Clouded out or decided to sleep until it was light? Don't forget your lessons on how to "listen" with your radio! According to NASA, "This year many amateur radio operators tuned into the Lyrids using a technique called radio forward scattering. When fast-moving meteoroids strike Earth's atmosphere they heat and ionize the air in their path. The luminous ionized trails are not only visually striking -- they also reflect radio waves. During a major meteor shower, radio signals from TV stations, RADAR facilities, and AM/FM transmitters are constantly bouncing off short lived meteor trails. For those who know how to listen, it's easy to hear the echoes." Don't remember how to listen? Then take the radio meteor listening tutorial courtesy of the North American Meteor Network.

Will you catch a lingering Lyrid? You never know until you try...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

ASA Reducers and Correctors

Submitted by Tammy Plotner

While visiting NEAF 2011, another company to check out for new innovations and new products is Astro Systeme Austria. Let's wander by the ASA booth and see what's new!

ASA Astrosysteme has just completed tests and has released its newest electric focuser for heavy payloads and image trains over 6kg payload (tested up to 20kg). The OK3-Z comes with an internal gear rack which greatly improves stability and repeatability of focus positions (crucial for remote operations). The focuser works in conjunction with ASA’s new and improved electrical controller ensuring finer motor steps and smother acceleration (the controller can be ordered separately or can be integrated within ASA's Direct Drive Mounts). The new ASA OK3-Z and enlarged focuser tube counter plate will be standard with all ASA astrographs 16 inch and above. The OK3-Z is shipped with a stand-alone ASCOM Focuser Driver and can also be controlled from within ASA's telescope control software Autoslew. In both cases the focuser can be accessed by third party software applications such as FocusMax and MaximDL via the ASCOM platform. (Image depicts OK3 model.)

Next up is the ASA Schmidt Cassegrain Reducer 0.77X. A Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope will show substantial image errors (most prominent being coma and image field curvature errors). ASA Astrosysteme is now offering a new SC Reducer Corrector, which was developed by Dipl. Phys. Philipp Keller and is built by ASA.

The corrector not only reduces the outer axial image errors but is also able to correct chromatical aberration errors which are introduced by the Schmidt plate. The results are pinpoint stars not only to the side but also into the image middle. The reducer will correct the focal length down by a factor of 0,77x. It is perfectly suitable for perfect image performance onto APS-C format sized CCD chips.

Last in prodigious line up of new products is the ASA 2” Coma Corrector – X1.175 which works with all popular camera systems.

You can place your own special orders for the ASA OK3-Z Electric Focuser, ASA Schmidt Cassegrain Reducer 0.77X and the ASA 2" Coma Corrector - X1.175 at OPT today!

SolaREDi Odyssey 60mm H-alpha Dedicated Solar Telescope

Submitted by Tammy Plotner

If you've ever attended a NEAF function, you know one of the highlights of the visit is solar observing. This year there's even more added excitement as DayStar Filters presents their new SolaREDi Odyssey 60mm. As a multi-functional, ready to use dedicated hydrogen alpha solar telescope, it's designed with serious imagers in mind.

SolaREDi Odyssey 60mm H-alpha is an entry level imager's telescope boasting both a modest price tag and out-of-the-box application. But alpha offers room to grow with 60mm clear aperture and full 35mm blocking filter elements and an included robust 2" focusing platform for a wide variety of solar imaging choices.


Clear Aperture: 60mm
Focal Length: 1375mm
Limiting Resolution: 2.8 Arcseconds

Operating Temperature: 20-90° F
Power supply: DC 12V, maximum 120mA, 2.1x5.5mm
AC Adapter included: 120-240VAC
Power consumption: 1.5 watts

Wavelength Shift range: 1Å
100% safe and fully blocked directly through the OTA

Reaches focus using the following:
1.25" eyepiece, 2" eyepiece, ToUCam, Lumenera, SBIG, SLR, DSLR*, afocal, CCTV Video, 2X - 5X Barlow lenses with any combination included above.


Complete Hydrogen alpha Solar Telescope
2" dual speed Crayford style Focuser
Solar Finder
Dovetail / 1/4-20 threaded mounting foot.
12VDC Power supply with Inernational wall adapter plug
6 foot (1 meter) power extension cord
5 Year Warranty

Performance engineered for flexibility, the SolaREDi has been rigorously tested for ease of operation, function, reliability and adaptability with various cameras.

With Dedicated Electronic Tuning... "It's like having a little Quantum Hidden Inside!"

DayStar ION H-Alpha Solar Filters

Submitted by Tammy Plotner

There's more exciting news from DayStar Filters! It's time to introduce the ION...

ION Features:

Hydrogen Alpha Solar Filter for rear mounting
on existing telescopes.

Available in 0.8Å, 0.7Å, 0.6Å, 0.5Å, 0.4Å, 0.3Å

Telescope compatibility: Refractor, SCT, Maksutov (if sufficient focus travel).

Single-turn knob with ‘center position detent’ for wing shift adjustment of +/- 0.5 Å in 0.1 Å steps.

Status LED indicates when filter is on band or settling to temperature.

Always on band, ovenized filter housing with dual thermoelectric coolers, capable of heating or cooling to maintain etalon temperature regardless of ambient temperature.

Dual MagLev (Magnetic Levitation) fans for increased cooling capacity have no visually detectable vibration.

Accepts standard Quantum plates, providing mounting to T-thread, SCT thread, or 2" drawtube, for use with eyepieces or cameras.

Compatible with standard DayStar ERFs or UV/IR cut filters (usage is mandatory).

The DayStar ION was created to replace the T-Scanner and according to DayStar employees, “ It is so much easier to use than the T-Scanner and is the most user friendly filter we have made to date!”

We're ready....

And if you're ready to place an order for the new DayStar ION H-Alpha Filter, you can! Here's the links:

DayStar Filters ION 0.8Å H-Alpha Solar Filter

DayStar Filters ION 0.7Å H-Alpha Solar Filter

DayStar Filters ION 0.6Å H-Alpha Solar Filter

DayStar Filters ION 0.5Å H-Alpha Solar Filter

DayStar Filters ION 0.4Å H-Alpha Solar Filter

DayStar Filters ION 0.3Å H-Alpha Solar Filter

JMI RBX 8” Reverse Binocular Telescope

Submitted by Tammy Plotner

What's new at JMI this year? Try some world-class, mind blowing reverse binoculars!

The JMI RBX 8” Reverse Binocular telescope allows you to look down into the eyepieces, either sitting or standing, to see what is in the sky behind you, instead of straining to look up as is the case with normal binoculars. They are built with two aligned 8” Newtonian optical tubes on an alt-az mount creating a very compact and comfortable viewing experience.

Binocular telescopes show their superiority in two major areas;

1) enhanced visual clarity due to improved contrast and resolution and
2) complete elimination of eye fatigue.

The Reverse Binocular telescope includes an altitude-azimuth mount. Altitude-azimuth is sometimes abbreviated as alt-azimuth or just alt-az. An alt-az mount moves in altitude (up and down) on a horizontal axis and in azimuth (left and right) on a vertical axis like a gun turret on a tank. And what a tank!!

Now that's a real “shooting star”.... ;)

Order your JMI Reverse Binoculars from OPT today!

Celestron CGEM DX Mount

Submitted by Tammy Plotner

Ever innovative, the Celestron team continues to produce new products... the only problem is which one to choose! This year's hottest item is a rock steady platform for astrophotography – the CGEM DX Mount!

Capable of carrying Celestron’s high-end 11" and 14" optical tubes, this CGE PRO style, 2.75" leg tripod holds even the 14" optics securely while dampening vibration, which is ideal for both imaging and visual observing. Capable of holding 50 lbs of payload and slewing at 5° per second, you will be able to instantly point to any of the 40,000 celestial objects in the database.

Ergonomic Design - CGEM DX was designed to be ergonomically friendly with large Altitude and Azimuth adjustment knobs for quick and easy polar alignment adjustment. The internal RA and DEC motor wiring provides a clean look and an easy and trouble free set up.

Innovation - The CGEM DX series has a new innovative Polar alignment procedure called All-Star™. All-Star allows users to choose any bright star- that's right ANY bright star, while the software calculates and assists with polar alignment. Another great feature of the CGEM DX sure to please astroimagers, is the Permanent Periodic Error Correction (PEC) which will allow users to train out the worm gears periodic errors, while the mount retains the PEC recordings.

Performance - For objects near the Meridian (imaginary line passing from North to South), the CGEM DX will track well past the Meridian for uninterrupted imaging through the most ideal part of the sky. The CGEM DX mount has a robust database with over 40,000 objects, 100 user defined programmable objects and enhanced information on over 200 objects.

Power Management - Redesigned electronics deliver constant regulated power to the motors making them capable of driving the telescope even when not perfectly balanced. This allows the CGEM DX to have the payload capacity of that of much larger mounts without sacrificing smooth tracking motion and pointing accuracy across the entire sky.

Rock steady? From the tips of its stocky orange feet to the top of its solid head, this mount and tripod combination is rock on! Order your CGEM DX Equatorial Mount & Tripod at OPT today!

IP4AP - Soup2Nuts....

Submitted by Tammy Plotner

No visit to NEAF would be complete without visiting with Warren Keller! What's new this year? Let's ask...

“In production is our new 2-part series S/N = Soup2Nuts. Completed tutorials of Part-1 will be posted to the site in a rolling release Early subscribers will receive special pricing prior to completion of the series."  For the first time, Warren will walk you through Pre-processing, in both MaxIm DL 5, and the yet unreleased (3/31/11) Astroart 5! "We'll also catch you up to the workspace of Photoshop CS4 and 5, filling in the gap between the latest versions and where the prior series left off in CS2." When Part 1 is completed, a DVD will be available from OPT!

Part-2 of S2N will cover Object-Specific Postprocessing with included high-res files from Warren's observatory at New Mexico Skies. We'll also see Advanced Techniques such as Ha+LRGB, and Mosaics.

Get those cameras rollin'!

Sun Day, April 17th - Get Out And Enjoy!

Written by Tammy Plotner

In keeping with global astronomy month, it's time to get out and enjoy another favorite astronomical target - the Sun! It's a star that can be seen from both hemispheres and a great way to involve your friends, neighbors and family in the pleasure of observing. What's more... there's activity going on right now, too!

If you're lucky enough to have an h-alpha filtered telescope, it's a great time to set up your equipment and catch a host of solar prominences, flares and plague activity. Just check out this image below taken by John Chumack and done with a Lunt Solar Systems 60mm/50F H-Alpha dedicated solar telescope and B1200 blocking filter.

These images were taken recently, and to make the current solar action even easier to see, John colorized the next in blue!

Don't have h-alpha? No problem. The white light view is awesome! On the west limb is exiting sunspot 1186 and hot on its heels is the more compact and darker 1190. At center stage is prominent 1191 and to its northeast is 1193.

If you don't have either an h-alpha solar scope, or a proper white light solar filter, you can still observe the Sun with simple equipment! Got binoculars or a small refractor telescope? Then you've got the basis for a great projection set up! Safely cover one side of your binoculars or telescope’s finderscope and aim towards the Sun by aligning the shadow. Project the light onto a surface such as a paper plate or piece of cardboard and adjust the focus until you see a clear circle of light and focus the sunspots. The projection method is used by several famous solar telescopes, including Mt. Wilson Solar Observatory! Always remember... never look into the optics while aimed at the Sun and that your optics will get hot during use.

No telescope or binoculars? Then let's keep trying... this time the pinhole camera method! Get two pieces of cardboard – one will need to be white or have white paper attached to it for the screen. Cut a small square in the other piece of cardboard, and tape aluminum foil over the square. Now make a pinhole in the middle of the foil. This is your “projector”. With the Sun behind you, hold the pinhole projector as far away from the screen as you can and see if you can catch some dark patches on your projected circle that indicate sunspots!

If you're looking for a solar filter for your telescope - or your own dedicated solar telescope, be sure to visit OPT's Solar Observing Products pages. For a lot of other great projects and ideas on how you can celebrate Sun Day, be sure to visit Astronomers Without Borders Sun Day pages. Now, get on out there and enjoy Sun Day!

H-Alpha images are courtesy of John Chumack of Galactic Images, the white light solar images is courtesy of SDO/HMI and many thanks to Astrononomers Without Borders for the Sun Day logo!

Friday, April 15, 2011

NEAF Blogorama: FLI

The guys from FLI were at NEAIC, and their newest, coolest product is the CenterLine color filter wheel. We grabbed a shot of this top-of-the-line filter wheel with a Proline camera one one side (shown below) and an Atlas auto-focuser on the other side (no, not the red thing...that's Greg Terrance's laptop). With the camera attached to the very center of the CenterLine, the weight is beautifully distributed.

I was surprised by how big the CenterLine is, but when I looked at the interior, I could see why an imager would love the flexibility the double filter wheel provides. The two wheels can hold a total of ten 50mm square filters. Run LRGB in one wheel and UVBRI in another, or load a light pollution filter on one side and overlap it with other filters.

Here's another cool feature: The filter windows are masked on both sides to reduce internal reflections; a problem that is common with square filters.

While the filter wheel we saw is a prototype, the mechanical features look as they will in final production models. It is the electronics that are still in development.

Here is a bit more information on this new filter wheel...we should start seeing thee on our shelves this summer.

The FLI CenterLine color filter wheel features a centrally located aperture that presents a symmetrical mass distribution and eliminates the offset weight problems associated with virtually every other color filter wheel on the market. It is also ideal for prime focus installations where a zero or symmetric shading of the primary mirror is critical. The CL1-10 CFW presents an easier load to handle vs. a normal color filter wheel and it will not change a telescope’s balance as it tracks across the sky. The FLI CenterLine also allows for combining filters which is not possible with traditional style filter wheels. The FLI CenterLine model CL1-10 holds up to ten 50mm x 50mm square filters in two independently operated wheels. It is powered by two internally mounted stepper motors and two TruMotion synchronous belts. The internal wheels are supported by radial ball bearings that provide a smooth, quiet and repeatable operation.

• Number of Filter Wheels: 2
• Filter Positions: Eight + Two Open Positions
• Filter Size: 50 mm square
• Filter Thickness: 3mm - 5 mm
• Body Thickness: 1.1"
• Camera Coupling Pocket: Zero-tilt Adapter
• Filter Cup: 2" Square
• Telescope Coupling: Zero-tilt Adapter
• Internal Wheel Material: Aluminum
• Interface: USB
• Power: 12v
• Weight: ~ 4.5 lbs

New QSI 600 Series Cameras

Submitted by Tammy Plotner

One of the highlights of visiting NEAF is checking out all the latest innovations in CCD imaging... and Quantum Scientific Imaging is no exception. Let's wander by and see what we can find!

The QSI 600 Series builds on the foundation of the popular QSI 500 Series. Dual read rates of up to 8 MHz with high-speed USB 2.0 and full 16-bit output allow 600 Series cameras to produce high quality images with high frame rates, extremely wide dynamic range, excellent linearity and exceptionally low noise. Cooling on the 600 Series is achieved with a custom 2-stage TEC supporting regulated cooling to greater than 45C, or greater than 50C with the option Liquid Heat Exchanger.

The QSI 600 Series has seven different models employing a comprehensive range of monochrome and single-shot color scientific grade CCDs up to 8.3mp. A variety of options and accessories are available to meet your specific medical, astronomical or industrial imaging objectives.

The superb imaging performance of 600 Series cameras is wrapped in an attractive, compact design with outstanding power efficiency and investment protecting upgradeability. The refined engineering and impressive fit, finish and attention to detail will surpass your highest expectations!

Why wait? If you can't be at NEAF, you can pre-order your own Quantum Scientific Imaging 600 Series CCD Camera from OPT!

Astrotrac- Leading the Future of Portable EQ Mounts!

By R.D. Stephens

Known for their unique and economical designs, AstroTrac has been at the forefront of ultra portable and high-precision mount construction since 2007 when Richard Taylor, designer and founder, presented the original AstroTrac at Astrofest in London.   Their goal has always been to push the boundaries of economical and compact mount design.  Ensuring that the travelling astronomer can have a mount they can trust and easily bring along, whether it’s to the far reaches of their backyard or halfway around the world.

For those of you not familiar with the now world-famous AstroTrac, it’s latest iteration dubbed the TT320X AG features RA auto-guiding and an optional pier. Into which the entire mount packs- it’s about the same size as a large poster or mailing tube which is AWESOME!  It is truly your best choice for a lightweight and uber-portable imaging companion.  The AstroTrac product has always featured beautiful design as well, merging perfect form with gorgeous function. 

And this year, AstroTrac unveils…

A full size German Equatorial Mount!

Plenty of EQ mounts on the market you say? Maybe.  But none feature Richard’s signature attention to detail, visually striking design and, as always, ultra-high portability without hindering precise function.

At first glance the new mount is a beauty; sleek yet restrained with extra attention put into every detail, from the motor covers and knobs to the slim-line counterweights.   Consideration was given to every ounce of weight, cutting out as much as possible while maintaining the mount’s strengthThe EQ mount, just like it’s baby brother the TT320X AG, is a cinch to tote around.

Swiss made worm gears, uniquely configured extra large ball bearings and 12v DC motors ensure a very high load to weight ratio while offering enough torque to make sure that your telescope and camera have a steady ride.    And what about those cool features?  How about a built in guiding camera and Wi-Fi compatibility?  Yes, you read that right; you can control the AstroTrac EQ with your iPad, iPhone, or netbook! 

The mount pictured here is a prototype and while changes will be subtle, there will be changes made.  Final specs and mount production is due in June or July of this year.  

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rigel Focusing Technology

By Tammy Plotner
Greetings, Earthlings!  Something new has arrived from Rigel and it's about to change your focus – your telescope's focus, that is!  Check out the USB-nSTEP and discover how you can computerize your stepper focus motor!

Rigel System's USB-nSTEP connects your unipolar stepper motor to your PC or MAC, for easy remote operation of your focuser.  Fully ASCOM compliant so it will work with popular focus control programs. Can be operated for temperature compensation with the optional temperature sensor (below). Full step and half step control from computer and display of step count. USB and 12V battery power cables included. Software and ASCOM drivers for Windows xp/vista/7 and soon for MAC. Approximately 1.5 inches wide by 4 inches long by 0.5 inches thick.  Just remember, the Focuser and Stepper motor not included. Compatible with Rigel Systems, Feathertouch, Robofocus & Moonlite stepper motors (please identify your stepper motor when purchasing).

Why use nSTEP?   A motorized focuser won’t shake the telescope while your focusing, and the motor can make very small rotations of the focus knob more reliably than you can by hand even with a speed reducer, but not just any DC motor and any DC focus motor controller.

Most other DC motor controllers control the motor speed by with a potentiometer you have to turn to reduce the voltage to the motor, which also reduces the torque, often to the point where the motor will not start turning the focuser knob.  So you have to use both hands, one to operate the button, one to adjust the potentiometer to high speed to get the motor started, then reduce it back down so it doesn’t turn too fast.  And of course the motor continues to coast after you've lifted your thumb off of the button, so by the time you've reacted to what you see in the eyepiece, it's too late.  nFOCUS provides pulse-width-modulation speed control.  Which means the length of the pulse of current to the motor can be adjusted shorter or longer, to produce from a 1° to 3° rotation of the focuser knob per step.  And it’s always a high-torque 12 volt pulse that provides plenty of oomph to reliably start the focuser shaft turning.  Step by step, degree by degree. And at the end of each pulse, nFOCUS electronically brakes the motor to a quick stop. nFOCUS also lets you select the length of the pauses between pulses.  With nFOCUS the focuser steps then pauses while you check the discrete changes in the focus before nFOCUS steps to the next focus position.  The pauses also give you time to lift your thumb off of the button so you don’t miss perfect focus!

And what about the Celestron CPC and HD focusers? The Rigel nFOCUS stepper motor and controller is the upgrade for you!

Motorize your Celestron focuser with our high torque 12V DC motor driven by our nFOCUS motor controller for the ultimate in accurate focusing. nFOCUS is the affordable way to get high precision fine focusing without vibration for visual and astro-imaging! Easier to use, more accurate, and a lot less money than the premium dual speed manual knob upgrades. Easily switch from motorized to manual focusing by loosening red thumb screws. Can be easily switched to our stepper motor.  Don't forget... the focuser isn't included – it's on your telescope!

The nFOCUS controller fits in the palm of your hand and provides two directions at two speeds with only two buttons using advanced logic control and 12V regulated output!

Low speed is adjustable pulse width modulated (PWM) drive, providing full voltage torque for reliable low speed operation.  Press the second button down while holding the first button down and nFOCUS digital logic control switches to high speed drive, to get you to focus quickly. nFOCUS avoids the problems with the focus motor controllers which adjust voltage to adjust speed, and thereby don't have the umph to turn the motor over at low speed. The nFOCUS whacks the motor with a full 12 volt, short duration pulse to overcome “stiction” at low speed operation, providing plenty of umph! It is amazing to see nFOCUS work, to see the focus change step by step till it's just right. No more coasting past then back past then past again. Uses 3 AA batteries (supplied) for long life. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Global Lunar Week - April 10 to 16, 2011

Written by Tammy Plotner

Last year hundreds of thousands of people participated in one way or another with the International Year of Astronomy. Now we're a year later and there's no reason to let the excitement die! Astronomers Without Borders are celebrating the entire month of April as Global Astronomy Month and one of the focus points is just three days from arrival... Global Lunar Week!

" A week-long series of programs, from April 10 through 16, will be dedicated to the Moon during Global Astronomy Month to help people rediscover our closest companion in space." says AWB. "Lunar Week takes place while the Moon is well-placed for observation in the evening sky. As the Moon's phases and positions change during its orbit around the Earth, there will be Moon-themed star parties to observe the Moon by telescope and naked eye, educational programs, online observing events, competitions and a celebration of the Moon in different cultures."

Astronomers Without Borders has a theme - One People * One Sky. For all of those that read astronomy blogs or particpate in international astronomy websites, we realize quickly how astonomy can bring together friends from different countries, different cultures and different time zones. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all observe together?

The dream can come true...

Sander Klieverik from AstronomyLive is working with telescopes around the world to celebrate Global Lunar Week and bring the view right to you.

“The week will start with an amazing broadcast from the historic Chamberlin observatory of the Denver university (with the help of Prof. R. Stencel). It will start April 9th between 7-10pm local time (Denver), which is 01-04 GMT April 10th.” says Sander. “Our goal is to get as many telescopes pointed towards the Moon as possible. I hope that there will be a continuous view of the Moon somewhere from the globe the whole week.”

How can you participate? It’s easy! Just tune into the AstronomyLive Website and follow the instructions. “During the Lunar Week, AstronomyLive will host at least two broadcasts, currently scheduled 15th and 16th of April.” instructs Klieverik. “The first broadcast will take you on a journey across the 85% illuminated lunar surface, on the hunt for the most beautiful craters during this phase, the ´Crater hunt´. The craters at the terminator will receive special attention, the dark side of the moon that changes during the Moon phase. Please know that you will see a LIVE view of the Moon and not some Moon photo. The same accounts for the “Apollo Hop”.

Come one, come all… Lunatics are welcome!

Lunar Week Graphic courtesy of Astronomers Without Borders.