Zodiac Light Astrophotography


Pluto Youtube Video

NASA Pluto Landing Movie

NASA has made a YouTube video of the New Horizons approach to Pluto.  The video starts with Pluto as a small beige dot in the distance and ends when the probe approaches the icy surface. Very interesting.  Click the  link to view.

Asteroid 2017 AG13 Near Miss to Earth

We didn't know what didn't hit us.  Evidence is mounting that it's no longer a question of  "if" a city on Earth will get hit.  Instead it's a question of "when"

On the weekend, according to the Catalina Sky Survey, a giant rock (as tall as a 10-storey building) has flashed past the Earth at a speed of 17 kilometres per second.  Impact energy would have been 700 Kilotons (Nagasaki was just 20 kilotons).  Closest distance at fly by was equivalent to half the distance to the moon.  Further info here

The number of known near misses is increasing as the sophistication of the monitoring gear improves.  In the past we just wouldn't have known.

To see what a smaller asteroid is capable of just see what happened near Chelyabinsk Russia in 2013 click here.
Saturn will be in opposition 15th June 2017

Saturn will be in Opposition June 15th 2017

Saturn will be closest to Earth around June 15th this year.  Apparent diameter (including rings) will be approximately 41" arcseconds.  Culmination will occur around midnight so, on a clear winter's night this should make for some good views.

Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station

Read about the history of this important Canberra site here.

The book "Tracking Apollo to the Moon" is perhaps the most detailed (and readable) account of the Apollo and early Gemini missions.  It is written by local Canberra author Hamish Lindsay who worked at the tracking station for many years.
Malin Awards - M7 in a Sea of Stars 2016 CWAS Malin Awards

July 2016:  I'm very pleased  that my image of "M7 in a Sea of Stars" has been awarded an Honourable Mention by Dr Malin in judging for the 2016 Malin Awards - the premier Australian competition for astrophotography.

To view the image click here.
ZWO ASI 1600 MC Cooled Color One-Shot (OSC) Camera New Camera -  ZWO ASI 1600 MC Color Cooled One-Shot (OSC) Camera

July 2016:  I'm still working on integrating this camera into my kit.  It's too early to say whether it's a keeper.  I've had quite a few problems so far with drivers and finding suitable capture software, etc.  It's been a month now and all I've got to show so far is a few un-Debayered test FITS files. (Now resolved and working okay - yep it's a keeper).
GSO RC8   New Scope - GSO RC-8

April 2016: I'
ve bought an 8" Ritchey Chretien scope.  It's a second-hand device but in good working order. At $AU 700 (half retail) it's a budget buy but it's made by Guang Sheng Optical (GSO)  who have a reputation for producing good value for money scopes.  This telescope is a keeper I think because its already produced a couple of fine images for me.  The focal length of 1600mm is double what I'm used to with the Schmidt Newtonian (which is 812mm).  The much longer focal length is a bigger challenge for autoguiding.  I've encountered the problem of differential flexure in the guidescope, so now I've had to get Off-Axis guiding working.  But, so far, so good.  It's given me the sharpest image I've ever produced.  See here.

Scope in the observatory

Astronomical Observatory Building

My Very Own Self-built Observatory

July 2015:  A long time in planning.  This was for me a massive undertaking requiring a lot of thought and much effort.

Along the way I had to learn a lot about building design, construction technique and power tools.

 It's taken over a year for me to build it - but it's now yielding good results..

My observatory is a post and beam construction with stud cavity walls and joist noggin floors.  It has a fixed tin roof above a warm room and a roll-off gable roof which rolls back over the lower roof on the observing room. 

The room floors differ from each other in height by a 300mm step.  At the moment the inside remains open however the intention is to have a glass wall and sliding glass door through the middle of the shed thus separating the lower floor (warm room) from the upper floor (telescope platform).  The warm room will protect electrical equipment and provide some respite from those minus seven degree (-7C) winter nights.

The roofing over the lower deck is galvanised steel sheets with sarking on the underside to prevent drips from condensation.

The roll-off roof that covers the upper deck is transparent polycarbonate sheets resistant to impact from 20mm  hail and which are UV-opaque.  The sheets have 50% solar heat rejection (I think the physics of this is amazing).

The pier is a 5-inch diameter steel pipe of 5 mm thickness.  The pier is welded to a footplate that's fastened to eight 12mm steel bolts that are set in 500kg of concrete a metre into the hard clay subsoil.

See the Observatory Page for more details

   Old Camera
Doh ! 

Canon 350D Driver Problems with Windows 7

Your Canon 350D (Digital Rebel XT) camera can be set to its "PC Connection" mode when you want to use a PC to control the camera. Refer to your Canon 350D camera's user manual for details of how to select this setting in your camera.  You connect the PC to your camera using the USB cable that shipped with your camera.  Certain Windows programs communicate with the camera, and let you use the mouse and keyboard, to set the camera aperture, ISO, exposure-time, and to let you take photos.  PC software which uses the "PC Connection" mode includes CameraWindow and MaxDSLR, to name just two that I use.

Unfortunately, with Windows 7 Home I cannot use CameraWindow, MaxDSLR and other remote control software that rely on the "PC CONNECTION" mode of a Canon 350D.  This is because Canon have not released a WIA software driver that fully supports the 350D's "PC CONNECTION" mode in Windows 7. The problem does not go away when you run your camera control software (e.g. CameraWindow) in Windows 7 using "Compatibility Mode for Windows XP". That doesn't help.

There is a sliver of hope for you. I've tried the following and it worked for me - a bit. 

Please note that in Windows 7 terminology "XP Mode" is definitely not the same thing as "Compatibility Mode for Windows XP".

If you upgrade
Windows 7 Home to Windows 7 Pro, or to Windows 7 Ultimate (you will be granted access to a feature called "XP MODE").  With it you can run all your old software including the Canon 350D WIA driver in an "XP MODE" virtual PC. 

Windows 7 lets you run a VIRTUAL MACHINE inside a window on your Windows desktop which for all intents and purposes behaves like a virtual PC which is running actual Windows XP.  This is known as "XP Mode".  With the more expensive versions of Windows 7 you are granted a free Windows XP Service Pack 3 license that is included with the Microsoft XP Mode software.  Setting up the virtual PC is a little fiddly. It requires you to download "XP Mode" and "Virtual PC" from Microsoft (free for Windows 7 Pro and also Windows 7 Ultimate windows licenses).  The whole procedure may prove frustrating for folks who don't like fiddling with their bytes in bits. Nevertheless, if you don't mind paying for the upgrade (and the HEADACHE of setting it all up) you can get started with Wikipedia and by Googling "XP MODE" or searching Microsoft's website.  I persevered with it all, and eventually (after a couple of days effort) it worked. For 95% of the time.  Most of the time it worked okay, but every now and then it stopped working. 

If you don't mind, every now and then, unplugging the USB cable, switching the camera off and on, and "re-attaching" the device to the virtual machine then XP Mode may be just the thing for you. There was no rule that I could see which governed when it would STOP WORKING for me, so I will not rely on this for my important imaging sessions. If you know how to fix it please email me.

There is a Canon 350D driver that was designed for Vista (and it worked kind of on Windows 7).  It was only useful (in both Windows 7 Home and Vista) if I set the Canon 350D's internal communications setting to "PRINT/PTP". This camera mode lets you use software on your computer to remotely view, download and delete files directly on the 350D camera.   Using this driver with the camera in its "PC Connection" mode for a Canon 350D doesn't work for me, so it cannot let me do remote shooting or adjust the ISO, exposure, etc..

So, if I want to keep using remote camera control for Canon 350D via my usual software in the usual way, I'll have to stay on Windows XP until I'm ready to upgrade everything (new camera, new PC, Windows 7 and camera and other astro software).***

*** Do not rely solely on the above information without verifying the truth of it for yourself. I may be completely wrong about everything. Research it yourself using other reliable sources before you go buying or trying anything.

M8 Lagoon July 2010:  This is my first Hydrogen Alpha image.  It's also my first photo taken with a cooled Charge-Coupled Device (CCD) astro camera.  The camera is an SBIG ST2000XM (1600x1200 pixel monochromatic) which has  kindly been lent to me by Brian Clements who lives nearby.  The high signal-to-noise ratio of a seriously cooled, and seriously serious CCD is awesome.  Check out the "What's New" web page periodically to see all of my latest images.
SBIG ST2000XM Camera July 2010:  I've been very fortunate that Brian Clements has generously lent me his Santa Barbara Instruments Group (SBIG) ST2000XM CCD camera, replete with filterwheel, LRGB and H-alpha filters set.  So, it looks like Digital SLR imaging will go on hold, while I make the most of this opportunity, and while I get down to work learning how this beauty works.   An SBIG is big!  How on Earth do I fit it securely to the Schmidt Newtonian's focuser? 
Published In the ABC News 27th June 2010

This picture of the partial lunar eclipse made it onto the ABC news website.  It is a composite image consisting of two separate images: one exposure short, the other long.

ABC News Online


June 2010:  A Nice Image With The New Telescope - M20 The Trifid Nebula

The rebuilt SN-8 telescope is working very well. 

See these images of the Trifid Nebula (Messier Object M20) taken with the new rig scope and the H-alpha modified camera.

  January 2010  New Schmidt Newtonian. 

  I've bought a new 8" Schmidt Newtonian.  I moved its mirror and the corrector plate to the old Optical Tube Assembly (OTA).  This is because the old OTA has the GSO low-height Crayford focuser installed which is much, much better than Meade's standard focuser.  It was a bit tricky and I had to shim the focuser to get it perpindicular, but the result is very good.  So after all this time I'm back to where I was - and with a better DSLR camera now.

   First light for the new rig was 21Jan2010 and I am very pleased with the result.  See an image of Eta Carina here.  This is one of my sharpest images.  The new rig can fit an off-axis guider which I used for the latest image.

September 2009  New Camera

  I bought a second-hand Infra-red modified Canon 350D.  Works a treat.

August 2009   Telescope is broken

  The Schmidt Newtonian's corrector plate was smashed when the scope fell to the ground during an imaging session.

TelescopeCrash01Aug09Web400.jpg (41010 bytes) The cause was traced to the base of the LXD-75 mount bar being unsuitable for the new EQ-6's mount head.  The ring mount bar that comes with Meade's Schmidt Newtonian telescope is designed for the  Meade LXD-75 mount head.  The bar is not a good fit for the EQ-6 mount head. 

The LXD-75 mount has a single retaining bolt centrally located, and it fits into a single slanted groove on the side of the mount bar.  The EQ-6 on the other hand has two retaining bolts, that are located on either side of centre.  These do not line up with the single slanted goove in the side of the LXD-75 mount bar.  Also, the recess on the underside of the LXD-75 mount bar is not long enough to fit the bigger mount head of the EQ-6, so it has to ride on top.  

Long story short: while at the end of a long imaging run when the scope was near maximum western rotation (in RA) the two bolts stripped some metal from the mount bar and the bar, with its telescope and rings attached, fell to the ground. 

Cameras, MPCC, and other equipment were miraculously undamaged but unfortunately the corrector plate on the telescope was smashed.

July 2009  Malin Awards  - Two Awards !

  I am very pleased that two of my pictures received honourable mentions at this year's Malin Awards.

  MalinAward2009MilkyWayThumb.jpg (69686 bytes)    MalinAward2009LunarEclipseThumb.jpg (24883 bytes)


November 2008  Camera Equipment

New hardware has been acquired.  This equipment is modestly priced but it will add significantly to current imaging capability:

                 a) DMK 21AU04.AS planetary imaging camera; and

                 b) Canon EF 200mm f2.8 L USM II lens for the Canon 350D camera;

          DMK21AU04as.jpg (4091 bytes)          Canon-EF-50mm-f-1.8-II-Lens.jpg (18023 bytes)

I can't wait to test drive them, but Murphy's Law rulez: cloudy weather is rolling on in...

October 2008

I bought a GSO 2" (M-MLP) low-profile focuser for the Schmidt-Newt for $109 from Andrews Communications.  Originally I wanted a high-end ($500) JMI, but I decided to go with the low-cost option. I was worried about this, and even more worried about cutting and drilling the tube. I am now very, very pleased I did it.  The GSO focuser is a quality piece of kit. It's sturdy, simple, well crafted, and was easy to install. Compared to the shocking rack and pinion focuser that came standard from Meade in my Schmidt Newtonian telescope the new focuser from GSO is absolutely fantastic to use for imaging on a budget.




Back to Home


All images and content of this website are copyright (c)2005-2016 Bill Christie.  All rights reserved.

Legal Notice and Terms of Use