I have made several blog updates for February in the hopes that it makes the overall experience a better one for everyone who becomes a member of our growing community. I know that the blog has quieted down over the last few weeks, and I apologize for that. I’ve actually been quite busy with it lately, however, almost all of the changes have been the kinds of updates you aren’t supposed to see.
Blog Updates For February
Firstly, I’ve done some minor performance tuning behind the scenes to help some of the pages load a little faster. Also, I’ve spent some time tweaking the format of some of my earlier posts to make them easier on the eyes. This weekend there was some schedule maintenance done by my hosting company that improved the performance of my website. The details of the update weren’t immediately clear. I do know that there were several hours on February 15th, 2015 that the blog was either very slow or totally unavailable. This has been fixed now, and things seem to be running smoother.
Continuous Website Expansion
In the effort to always move forward, some of the largest blog updates for February included the creation of a few new pages dedicated to my DSLR Astrophotography. I don’t have a whole lot here yet, as I’ve always been very particular about what images I show to the public. If I’m not 100% happy with the results, I usually don’t share them unless I need help with something – or if I know that it’s the best I’m going to be able to do, like when I was imaging Comet Lovejoy.
The galleries have been broken down into two categories for now. The two galleries cover photography of deep sky objects as well as solar system bodies. I chose to classify my photos this way because I think that I will eventually move to CCD photography using narrow band filters, and it would be beneficial and useful to keep the images in their own galleries. This way, the curious reader would be able to compare and contrast images taken with DSLR and CCD.
Expanding My Social Media Presence
Social media is not directly tied to my blog, but I rely heavily on it when I’m not able to write blog updates daily. One of the newest pushes that I’ve been wanting to do for a while is to have the images I create available to a wider audience. For this reason, I’ve made a dedicated Pinterest board for East of Jupiter. There are links to the newly launched East of Jupiter Pinterest board in each new photo gallery page.
I don’t have a whole lot there yet, but I’m hoping that this will change over time. Pinterest can add a whole new level of dialogue between me and all of you. I have a board that I hope to have open to the community called my “Astrophotography Target List”. I intend to make this a crowd sourced board. I can’t find a way to open it up to the general public, which is probably a good idea since I don’t want anyone repinning just anything to it. However, if you email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) a request for access to the board, I’ll happily accommodate so that you can add pins to it. These pins will be like song requests. What I mean by that is they will be the inspiration for future research and photographic endeavors. I will then post my images to the East of Jupiter galleries and Pinterest boards.
I’ve become very active on Twitter lately. My Facebook and Google pages are also seeing a surge in traffic. In fact, this past week, my Facebook page passed 50 likes, and my Google+ page surpassed 200,000 views! I’m working hard on tying them all together and I hope that some day they will direct new people here to the blog, which will further enrich the community here. It’s small, and as of this writing, I have fewer than 3 dozen subscribers. I expect that to slowly but steadily grow over the next year. With new subscribers comes more opportunity for discussion to take place between you, me and each other.
My Latest Jupiter Imaging Session
In early February, I was fortunate enough to have steady enough skies shortly after Jupiter’s opposition that I was able to record several short movie files and do some planetary imaging for the first time since April of 2014 (Mars opposition). A fun project that I’ve always wanted to try was to make an animation of Jupiter’s rotation over the course of several hours. I completed the movie a week ago showing one hour of Jupiter rotating, and captured the Europa transit and Io floating away from Jupiter as well. You can really see the system change quite a lot in such a short amount of time! So much, in fact that I’m very anxious to try again, but this time extend my recording session to about 4 hours. Eventually, I’d like to do as high as six hours so I can capture more than half of a Jovian day.
I expect that these little projects will prompt a lengthy and very informative post on how to image Jupiter, and cover basic post processing. In fact, I hope to have a blog post in February that outlines this particular session, and parlay that into a series of posts that cover more detail about planetary imaging.
Broken Telescope Updates
As for the telescope that I ‘G’ tested last month, I finally got it fixed about two weeks ago. StellarVue was able to ship me a replacement focuser. The one damaged in the fall was a total loss, and the cost of repair exceeded the price of the replacement part. I’m still waiting on the upgraded saddle plate, which is on back order from the manufacturer. If you recall, it was the saddle plate that is too short, and prevents me from using a safety screw. I have to tie a wire around the front of my mount and through the space between the telescope and OTA ring to prevent future accidents.
It was only on Valentines day that I was able to take it back out and test it at a star party hosted by my local astronomical society. It performed pretty well and I enjoyed the new focuser very much. I did make some attempts to do astrophotography that night as a demonstration to the crowd. Saturday at the star party, I did not have a good alignment and light pollution was terrible as always. My sub exposures were limited to about 45 seconds. That was good enough to have people look through some nearby telescopes to see the Orion Nebula naked eye, and then see how much more nebulosity is in the images.
With the coming new moon and waxing crescent phases, I’m really excited to use the telescope for some decent lunar photography. My past attempts have been horrendous because I was using achromatic optics. The color fringe was so severe that I could never get a good lock on the focus. I fully expect that to be resolved with my new refractor. Finally, some killer lunar photography should be well within my grasp!