I’ve been having a problem over the past few months of the focus in my scope drifting unacceptably out of focus when imaging targets around the sky. Even when staying on same target for extended periods of time there was a noticeable shift. In some extreme cases the collimation also appears to be way off. This seemed to be a rather severe case of mirror shifting that larger SCT’s suffer from. The solution to which is to securely fix the primary mirror within the cell, usually by threading bolts into the mirror from the back of the scope. This seemed to fit the symptoms I was seeing, though some people did mention that I shouldn’t bee seeing this sever an effect with a relatively small scope. So yesterday I decided to disassemble the scope and see what the back of the primary was like and if it would be possible to secure it. It didn’t take me long to discover a more likely cause. More »

One of the people at our table at the COSMOS star party this brought up the topic of long distance radio communications and the use of geostationary satellites to facilitate such communication. The idea of trying to image some of these satellites then came up and we discussed the possibility.

So last night I decided to give it a go. More »


My main interest st the moment is in minor planet astrometry, particularly of brighter Near Earth Asteroids. In order to get precise astrometry of these objects it helps if they are not moving in a single frame. Slow NEO’s can have rates of several arcseconds per minute so being able to take short exposures and stacking them is often required to get precise enough astrometry. It is possible to compute the minimum exposure needed for an asteroid by ensuring it’s movement does not exceed the FWHM of stars in your image, e.g. if an NEO is travelling at 4”/minute and you have a FWHM of 4” then an image one minute in duration will not show trailing. However it is also necessary to understand what the minimum exposure you can take with your setup is to minimise noise and maximise the signal to noise ratio. And it was necessary to understand the camera characteristics in order to make that determination. More »

m82sn Supernova in M82 from Earlier in the week, now designated SN 2014J. Quite a bright supernova. It’s bright because it’s practically next door – 12 million light years. This is a Type Ia supernvoa caused by a white dwarf in a binary system gaining enough mass to trigger new nuclear fusion and cause the supernova explosion.

On Christmas Eve the Catalina sky survey spotted an object that had not been seen before. Shortly after McDonald observatory in Texas confirmed the object and further observations were needed to help nail down it’s orbit.

We had clear skies on Christmas night so I checked the Minor Planet Center NEO page to see if there were any possible targets and sure enough the object, provisionally called UY31A3B, was within the range of my equipment. More »

More of a note-to-self than a blog post… How to go about confirming NEO’s listed on the NEOCP. More »

I’ve recently tried taking some long exposure images just to see how the observatory handles the light pollution. To make life easier I’m using an Astronomik CLS-CCD filter with the DSLR. The one I currently have is for a t-ring, though since these images have worked out well I think I’ll get the clip in version to experiment with regular lenses. More »

Astrometrica is a great piece of software to analyse images to search for and record the positions of objects. However getting it to work with a DSLR image can be a bit tricky. Here’s how I do it: More »

Before I built the observatory I used to only use the laptop when I was going to try imaging. Now the laptop is almost always used unless I really am only doing visual astronomy and don’t want to bother with planetarium software, in which case the laptop and camera are a distraction to trying to glimpse the universe through Dublin’s light pollution. Here’s how I have things set up. This may not be ideal for you.

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Some friends after seeing a strangely cut bit of cardboard in the observatory suggested I write a blog post about it. Those of you who do astrophotography won’t need an introduction to the Bahtinov Mask, but this post might be of interest to the rest.

Getting focus right in astrophotography isn’t easy. Autofocus doesn’t work like it does for normal lenses. And judging it manually is error pone, you can estimate when a star looks like a point, but there is a large margin of error in that estimate, a bright star may look like a sharp point but the fainter stars may still will be blurry. This is especially true in poor seeing where star image blobs can look the same over a large focus range. More »