First light on the Canon 20D

I finally managed to get set up enough in the observatory that I was able to take a few images with the Canon 20D. I hooked it up with the Scopetronix 40 mm eyepiece and was able to image the moon. However, I wasn’t able to focus well enough — probably due to my aging vision — and without a remote (or a ‘scope-side computer) I had to fire off the camera manually. There was considerable motion blur added to the slight focus problem. I also tried a shot of Jupiter – same focus and motion problems – and at least managed to capture all four Galilean satellites (with Europa just about to enter Jupiter’s shadow – I just wish I had been able to focus!).

I’ll try later with a computer set up beside the scope and see if that helps me focus.

Activity Flurries

I just spent a couple of hours recovering some of the old Charon’s Ferry content dating back to 2002 when my intermittent blogging started. The book reviews I used to post are still on the old iblog setup, but I suppose I will eventually get back to them also. After that I may even get back to posting new reviews. Meanwhile, I had intended to get out to the observatory and take a look at the bright light in the sky which is washing out the rest of the heavens, but the recoveries sidetracked me.

I’m beginning to think I’m avoiding the cold. Why else has every observing opportunity for the last few days been screwed up? So this time the recoveries held me back. What’ll it be next time?

Work is getting in the way of observing!

Normally I enjoy my job, but there are times…. This weekend has been one of those times. I have been setting up to use my new camera with the scope, but up until this weekend the weather gods haven’t cooperated. Finally, a weekend with decent weather arrives, and I lay out my attack plan – sleep in the afternoon, image from midnight on (waiting for the searchlights from the cineplex to the south to go out, or at least stop pointing my way). My head barely touched the pillow when the phone rang, and one of the operators (whose dedication astounds me — seems as though he’s always on-line) called to let me know one of my programs had died, and asked if I could trouble-shoot. That pretty much killed my observing session. I feel as though I’m being watched, and as soon as I make preparations to observe, some creature schedules a problem or sends in the clouds. I’m not paranoid. Really. I’m not paranoid…I think.

Taxes. Ugh!

I have a peculiar attitude to taxes. I try to pay the damn things and then forget ’em. That includes income taxes. In Canada, as long as you don’t owe the government money, you don’t have to file. I always wind up overpaying, so I don’t file. It’s easier for my state of mind, though not, unfortunately, for my wife’s. She takes the not-unreasonable position that if the government owes us, we should go after it, and if we owe the government, we better give it to them before they give something nasty to us. I just can’t drum up the enthusiasm.

However, in their wisdom the revenooers have decided that there is something sinister about the way I haven’t been filing, and they’ve demanded I file for 2003. As a result I spent a perfectly good clear evening which could have been spent imaging gathering info for the tax returns instead. As expected, they owe me money.

What bothers me about this is that the government has all this data in the first place. They know how much money I made – my employer is required to tell them. They know how much money I save in pension funds – again, the funds are required to tell them. They know how much I spend on my children’s education – the schools and universities are required to tell them. With all this — and more! — that the government requires third parties to tell them about transactions between me and those third parties there is very little leeway for me to hide anything, and the government will make the same calculations I make when they check my returns. At the very least, couldn’t they make that calculation before they start dunning me for a return? Then, recognising that I don’t owe money, they could leave me alone.

Oh, wait. They’re from the government. They’re here to help me.

An experiment

This blog is being created using WordPress, an open source product using PHP and MySQL. One of the interesting features of WordPress is that it uses a plug-in architecture so that it can be extended. I’ve enabled a couple of plug-ins, and one I thought I’d try — just to see how it works — is called “Microshop.”

Microshop enables a small business to set up a shop on the Internet using PayPal for credit card processing. The shop I’ve set up — Telescope Accessories — has only one product, a white light solar filter for a William Optics FLT-110 ‘scope, and I have to build a couple in order to have inventory. However, the link to the store is working at the right of this page — look for Telescope Accessories — and if I marked the product as being in-stock, you’d be able to buy one (the price covers my costs, but that’s about it, and I’ll include GST for Canadian purchasers). I don’t know how shipping would work out yet, but that can also be a feature of the plug-in – though I expect I will have to make changes to allow calculation of shipping from Canada.

Microshop is a very neat little enhancement, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to sell on-line, at least on a hobby basis. For a full-time business I would have my doubts, but the proof of the pudding would be in the eating.

(T)Wiki notes on digital astro-imaging

Following a discussion on the digital-astro list on yahoo about darks and flats, I thought it would be a good idea to start up a twiki site dedicated to astro-imaging with digital cameras. There are a lot of astro-imaging sites around, but I don’t know of any built around the same concept as the Wikipedia. I’m prepared to host it as long as others are prepared to contribute — I don’t think I could handle writing much of the content, though I’d probably make use of it — and since the NYAA twiki site I was trying to build was shut down (the executive thought the site should be closed to non-members, and I have philosophical and technological objections to that) I have space available.

I’m assuming bandwidth wouldn’t be a problem as I don’t anticipate a major load, and if worse came to worst I could probably put in Google ads to help pay for it if added bandwidth turned out to be needed. I’m waiting for feedback from the digital-astro group, and I’ll move forward if the consensus is that this is a reasonable idea which doesn’t duplicate other locations.

A better header?

My daughters think the header for this site is pretty cheesy. I’m not going to argue (they have me outnumbered!), so anyone who has a better idea should let me know. Comments are moderated, but as long as you sign the comment I’ll let it through (I’m blocking comment spam though).

Going (more) digital

Today was very painful. I bundled up my trusty — but old — Nikon F801 and Nikkor lenses, and trekked off to camera stores to see what sort of trade-in I could get for them. It’s a wrench to give up Nikon glass, but I don’t trust the Nikon digitals for astrophotography. Some folks have managed to do good work with them, but “Christian Buil”: has worked with the RAW image and finds it not to be truly RAW, but slightly manipulated first. He has a workaround, but it’s a misfeature which argues against purchase. So, as of today, the only Nikon in my kit is a “Nikon 5700″: Even that is irritating — I found that a RAW 5700 image of M42 had dark rings around the stars. Basically I have given up on Nikon for astro-imaging, and have sold off almost all of my Nikon glass ($50 takes the last piece, an 85-250 mm F4.5-f5.6 zoom lens dating from the mid-sixties ), to be replaced by (ugh!) an IS 18-85 zoom for a “Canon 20D”: body. My astronomy cookie jar is now empty (and now dwells in some sort of negative hyperspace). It looks as though my “Starfest”: swap table hunt will be a little shorter this year.

Weather Gods

I suppose if I were to sit down and track things carefully the reality would be different, but certainly my perception is that the last few months have seen more cloudy weekends than usual: the few clear nights seem to have been clustered into the working week. If I believed in weather gods I’d probably want to check over my behaviour for the past while to see if I had done something to offend them. Today is a case in point. It’s relatively clear, relatively mild — at least the temperature is above freezing — and I’m sitting in the office (it’s lunchtime, since you ask). The 5-day prediction for the weekend is for another mild day, but with rain.

Still, even rain is helpful. If there’s enough of it I’ll be able to slog through the remaining drifts and reopen the observatory. I still haven’t finished the solar filter, so I have something do do for the weekend even if it is cool and damp. That, and complain about the weather.

Punishing myself

It’s a sickness. Here it is, 2.15 in the morning, and I’m adjusting the appearance of the log. It’s not even the appearance I’m going to stay with, so why am I playing with background templates and colours? It’s a sickness.