Deep-Sky Observing Marathon

The Philippine Astronomical Society will be hosting a Deep-Sky Observing Marathon on March 9-10, 2013, at Big Handy’s Grounds in Tanay, Rizal. Interested participants may kindly confirm their attendance with PAS Observation Chairperson Von Delelis (Contact: 09228320401). The Philippine Astronomical Society holds an annual stargazing session to take advantage of cloudless summer nights during months of March and April each year.

PAS
Last year’s stargazing session hosted by the Philippine Astronomical Society. Photo Credit: Margie Parinas

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© Anthony Urbano (Manila, Philippines)

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Philippine Messier Marathon 2013

The Philippine Messier Marathon Open is an annual star party conducted under the dark clear skies of Caliraya, Laguna, where astronomy-enthusiasts in the country gather to observe and meet fellow enthusiasts. The highlight of the event is the messier marathon — astro-enthusiasts attempt to observe and identify all the 110 m-objects in just one night. This year, the first wave of the event (there will be a series of stargazing events) will be on March 9, 2013, at Eco Saddle Resort in Caliraya, Laguna. Interested parties are encouraged to confirm their attendance in the Philippine Messier Marathon 2013‘s event page.

mm2013poster
For inquiries, contact Peter Tubalinal, the Philippine Messier Marathon 2013 Chair/Organizer at 09479785001. Photo Credit: Peter Tubalinal

This event hosted by the Astronomical League of the Philippines is by far the largest star party and astro-gathering in the Philippines.

Related link: Philippine Messier Marathon 2012

For featured photos, click here.
For tutorials on how to get started with astrophotography, click here.
For DIY astronomy projects useful for astrophotography, click here.
To subscribe to this site, click here.

© Anthony Urbano (Manila, Philippines)

DIY Autoguider: Home-Built Autoguider Project

About a year ago (November 2011), I started constructing a home-built autoguider, a setup astrophotographers use in imaging galaxies, nebula, and many other deep-space stuff. The setup is no different from what is used by observatories world wide, except that this one was built entirely from scratch. Feel free to browse the details of the project here.

A home-built autoguider setup showing the key components: (1) imaging telescope, (2) imaging camera, (3) guidescope, (4) guide camera, (5) tracking mount, and (6) a computer.

DIY Autoguider (Part 4: Autoguiding and Polar Alignment)

This part of the DIY guide focuses on the actual guiding operation and the drift-alignment method for precise polar alignment. We begin by first assembling the telescope along with the guidescope. We also attach the imaging and the guiding cameras and connect all the necessary cables leading to and from the computer.

Screenshot during actual guiding operation

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DIY Autoguider (Part 3: Wiring Diagrams)

Now that we have already devised a simple contraption that allows a computer to convert guiding commands into light pulses, our next task is to devise a way for a telescope mount to “read” these pulses and translate it into actual east-west movement. This part of the DIY guide will describe the wiring diagrams that will enable any computer to talk to any type of telescope mount (i.e., with or without an autoguider port).

Wiring diagram of a DIY autoguider

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DIY Autoguider (Part 2: Setting-up the Guiding Software)

Guiding commands from the computer are sent through a port called ‘LPT1‘, or the parallel port (or sometimes called printer port). It is a kind of interface that allows a simple way for a computer to communicate with other devices.  We will try to convert these ‘commands‘ into a form that can be easily interpreted by your telescope mount. The simplest way to do that is to convert the commands into light pulses using Light-Emitting Diodes (or LEDs). These light pulses in turn will be used to drive what is called a ‘light activated switch‘ that we will connect directly to the autoguider port or hand controller. In this DIY guide, we will focus first on how a computer (with the use of the guiding software called GuideMaster) can generate light pulses, by connecting LEDs to the computer’s parallel port.

The parallel port is mounted on a socket called DB25F(F stands for ‘female socket’) or DB25M(M stands for ‘male socket’). It has 25 pins (1 to 13 top row, 14 to 25 bottom row). For this project, we are only interested in pins 4, 5, and 25 (other pins will be utilized however in future upgrades). Shown below is a photo of my laptop’s parallel port.

A female parallel port (DB25F). Note the location of pins 4,5, and 25 (see arrows).

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DIY Autoguider (Part 1: Introduction)

Very long exposures requiring precise tracking needed for imaging deep-sky objects may now be achieved through an advanced imaging technique called autoguiding. This article provides a brief introduction and how one could construct a do-it-yourself guider that delivers equally satisfying results for a fraction of the cost of ultra expensive commercially available counterpart.

Guided Imaging

Guided imaging simply involves active monitoring of the telescope’s tracking accuracy by observing a reference object (any bright star) and making the necessary adjustments to nudge the telescope to the east or to the west so that the reference object remains stationary for the whole duration of an exposure. The simplest example is a setup involving an imaging telescope with (equipped with a finderscope) on a tracking mount. After the object to be imaged has been properly framed and focused, the imager adjusts the finderscope and centers its cross hair to the brightest star in its field. This bright star now serves as the reference object called the guide star and the finderscope now performs the task of a guidescope. The idea is that, for as long as the guidescope’s crosshair is centered on the guidestar, the imager knows that the telescope is tracking properly. To achieve better sensitivity to drift, more powerful dedicated guidescopes may be used.

Image 1. My first autoguider setup (2010): guidescope (left) mounted side by side with 6-inch imaging scope (right).

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DSO-hunting under light-polluted sky

As part of the UP Astronomical Society’s 2012 Members’ Lecture Series, we hunted some DSO’s on April 20, 2012, at the PAGASA Astronomical Observatory in UP Diliman, Quezon City.

DSO Lecture UP Astrosoc
DSO-hunting with UP Astrosoc

We have successfully viewed the following objects in a severely light-polluted sky using only a 4-inch telescope!

M4 globular cluster, M6 (Butterfly Cluster) open cluster, M7 (Ptolemy’s Cluster) open cluster, M8 Lagoon Nebula (diffuse nebula), M20 Trifid Nebula (diffuse nebula), M21 open cluster, M13 (Hercules Cluster) globular cluster, M92 globular cluster, M57 (Ring Nebula) planetary nebula, M27 (Dumbell Nebula) planetary nebula, Albireo double star, Mizar double star, Cor Caroli double star, Coathanger asterism, and the Milky Way!

For previous observations, click here.
For featured photos, click here.
For tutorials on how to get started with astrophotography, click here.
For DIY astronomy projects useful for astrophotography, click here.
To subscribe to this site, click here.© Anthony Urbano (Manila, Philippines)

Supernova SN 2012aw April 8, 2012

Image of the supernova SN 2012aw (currently at magnitude 13.3) discovered by an Italian astronomer Paolo Fagotti last March 17, 2012 in M95 galaxy in the constellation Leo. The spiral arms of the galaxy to which the supernova belongs to is barely visible in this photo. Sky-Watcher 100 ED 4 in f/9 refractor, Kenko NES mount, Canon 450D DSLR, 5 x 90 sec exp, IS0 1600. April 8, 2012, Camarines Norte, Philippines. Photo Credit: Anthony Urbano. For more images of supernova, click here.