December 26, 2010

Progress... Sort Of

Wow, so we suck at this blogging thing lately, ValHallen and I. And I use "lately" loosely. So time for an update on "The Beast". I'll add pictures tomorrow.

We tried to clean the badly-tarnished silver on the primary mirror, but soap flakes don't do much to turn tarnished silver back into regular silver - who knew? Somewhere my fellow blogger has pictures of this epic fail, but safe to say it became clear a strip and recoat was in order. I called ValHallen, he put me onto Andrew at Astronz in Auckland, who put me onto a girl in Napier, who put me in touch with a guy in Palmy who could help me out. So Valhallen dropped the mirror off in Palmerston North, and a week later it came back, looking MUCH improved, and much more aluminiumy.

I'd included the secondary too as that was in a similar state. That did not come back (cue "Last Post"), having been inspected and declared a waste of space. Literally - it was too big, and too square. Should be elliptical, and smaller. So back to Andrew at Astronz, and a new secondary quickly arrived, much prettier and more suitable looking.

So I was all set to finally start trying to put it all together this morning. Christmas out of the way, on holiday, got all the bits, weather looking good, let's go! Said excitement lasted about as long as it took me to hold the mounting bracket near the new secondary. The bracket was just the right size... for the previous, oversized, square mirror. It also has 4 support bolt holes, should have three to ensure an undeformed mirror when adjusting.

Bugger. So now I need to find someone to cut it down, 4mm steel being b%^&dy tough and beyond my meager tool kit.

They say adversity builds character. I'm gonna be a heck of a guy when this is over.

September 9, 2010

Astro Safari!

Ok, finally got a chance to review my shots from our Leigh night safari last week. This is my best shot so far... ok, probably my best shot full stop. Over 80 shots, 3 hours, 1 good one. Ain't that the way sometimes? A great night anyway, gorgeous stars, amazing view with Auckland on the horizon to the south, and Whangarei to the north.

Hires on Flicker

September 5, 2010

Follow me! Find Me!

Check me out on Tumblr - this is reasonably new, and is one of the places I am using to build an online portfolio of astro (and otherwise) shots.

Also, try the Facebook page - Just Look Up

September 3, 2010

The Stars, Kiwiana and gfkBill strikes a pose

What an awesome night last night.  Leigh/Pakiri was DARK! Not to mention Auckland on the horizon, and all-round awesome views!  1200mm team was out in force .. IE Bill and I went a-shooting.  And without further ado, here's what we got :)

In the first one, Bill strikes a pose as the Milky Way revolves behind him, and in the second the LMC hovers over Rangitoto and the rest of the landscape.


Then there's the Southern Cross over the Punga trees - I mean what could be more Kiwi?!? And finally, my fav shot of the night, I love the combination of the man made and the Milky Way.  There were of course some more, which you will see as soon as I do some more post on them.  Speaking of Post .. 3200ISO shots are very nice, but getting the noise out of them isn't.

HUGE thanks to gfkBill for the night.  Check his Flickr stream for his pics as they come up!

September 2, 2010

Milky Way

Milky Way
Originally uploaded by Astronomr
First (very quick) result fom last night's epic trip with Bill to the hills about Leigh/Pakiri ... mostly shot on 3200ISO, so a lot of noisy post to work through :D

September 1, 2010

Another fantastic night

Looking great out there!  Sky is clear, been a clear day ... I'm going to be looking for more Milky Way images toinght, and possibly some Venus/Mars shots until Jupiter comes up :D

August 31, 2010

The light of 100 Billion Stars twinkling off broken glass ...

Now my heart-rate has calmed somewhat I can tell the story

Toinght was a perfect night - still, quiet, a fair time before the moon rose and washed everything out so off to the darkest part of Snells I could think of I go.

Venus was just setting ...

and the Milky Way was out in force ...

with an occasional meteor ...

and I dropped the camera.

Smash, tinkly noises and the sound of my heart stopping.  I rushed back to the car, thinking "oh crap" and sped home to get torch and Jeremy.  We found the remains of something .. and upon getting home discovered it was my UV filter ...

I lucked out

Lens and camera seem fine as rain - Canon build em tough!

August 30, 2010

More Martins Bay

Martins Bay
Originally uploaded by Astronomr
This is one of six shots posted - not counting the 1200mm milky way exclusive.

Martins Bay

Martins Bay
Originally uploaded by Astronomr
This is one of six shots posted - not counting the 1200mm exclusive under this post :D

That cloud is small and Magellanic!

The plan? The plan is victory!

Just come back from the moonrise on Martins Bay .. and yes, the plan was victory!  usual focus issues, star trail issues and almost losing my glasses, not to mention the tide chasing me up the beach ... but DAMN it was worth it ....

Here's a taster, more to come!

Check out Antares!

w00t!  Watch this space!

August 29, 2010

Time to organise

As well as packing to move to a new house in a week - a house with a balcony and a good night sky view to the north and east - I am trying to also get my digital and photographic affairs in order.

So there's some changes afoot.  First one is the renaming of the Flickr account from chickinthepark1 to Astronomr .. which is a little more apropos, links will remain the same.

Then there's the investation of a Tumblr account - - where I will be posting more photography related things, starting with all the shots in the Flickr account that have passed 50 views. You got to start somewhere.

 I also mooched over to Deviant Art, but after reading just what they can do with your photos and artwork, I mooched straight back out again.  I'm not a huge fan of copyright, but also not a huge fan of giving stuff away without permission - if you want to use something of mine, ask for it, it's usually fine :)

So things are progressing :)  Just hope gfkBill texts me with a time to go round and start cleaning The Beast!

Stars in the Mist

Stars in the Mist
Originally uploaded by Astronomr
Misty, Misty and slightly trailing stars (grrrrr)

August 28, 2010

Snells Beach in the Mist

Some stars too!

August 25, 2010

Bright Lights, Small Town

Valhallen isn't the only astro-photography nut around here, although that's scarcely a coincidence. Until the Beast is up and on it's 3 feet, I'll have to content myself with long exposure fun with the 300D we rescued. Hmm, bit of a theme here, fixing up broken and neglected optics! Speaking of which, have a 350D on the way which will be a major mission to fix, but I digress.

Last night featured a gorgeous moon halo, and a very bright Venus, so without further rambling, some pics...

A little noisy, but i like them. Now to figure out how to insert pictures; just getting the links in right was a mission :)

August 24, 2010

Walking the trails ...

While I have been kinda obsessed with astro-photography of late, only through the camera until I can afford a t-mount of course :)  I have till been sniffing around the Flickr groups and the net in general re: Startrails.  In doing so, I found this:

Looks pretty simple, so will try it and let you know how it goes eh?

Been thinking I might do a kit post soon, not done one of them for a while :D

August 23, 2010

Landing at Scotts

Further in the quest to shoot awesome star shots ... and good looking photos in general

Return to Scotts

Return to Scotts
Originally uploaded by chickinthepark1
I got to go sleep now, but here's a single-shot preview of some of the quality I got tonight. I will be doing HDRs as well, when I get some time.

I has a tired, but I also has one HELL of a happy!

August 22, 2010


Just waiting for my batteries to charge!!  Then off to Scott's landing again - on a CLEAR night :)  Lets just see what we can achieve shall we?

No scope with me, but got the camera, so excited!

The epic begins

Well the epic cleaning begins anyways.  Myself and gfkBill road tripped it down to Auckland yesterday so he could take possesion of ... The Beast.

Yes, 12 inches of mirror, 1.7 meters of scope.  And we didn't even have to sacrifice a single goat!  There was some bitter mutterings about curtains from the Bill, but otherwise, was all just lucre.  Which stunned Mini-Bill into comparative silence!

So here begins the restoration of The Beast.

The Beast in situ with gfkBill admiring.

The beast in the car, with gfkBill's butt.

This will give you some idea of the work that needs to be
done - that mirror is going to take some cleaning!

So, the saga begins .. we will be following the cleaning and restoration as closely as we can :)

August 19, 2010

Liquid Metal Sea

Liquid Metal Sea
Originally uploaded by chickinthepark1
Quick moon shot from an hour spent in the rain at Scotts landing ... It's my first nighttime HDR!!

August 13, 2010

For photographers, and a welcome

Welcome to the blog Bill!  Thanks for the awesome first post, although we will never speak of astrology again thank you!!!

In other news, Bill put me onto an awesome website today for calculating how long an exposure you can use before you start to get star trails .. this is awesome for photographers to know, so I decided to post some of the more common southerb stars here, with their declinations, for my not-so-astronomical friends who look at me funny when I say "declination."  Declination is of course how far a star is from the celestial equator :)

So go here:

and here are the stars!!!

Southern Cross
Acrux -63.1575
Gacrux -57.1717

Anilam (middle star of the belt) -1.1958
Betelgeuse 7.4083

Aldebaran 16.5303
Canopus -52.7019
Sirius -16.7286
Formalhault -29.5656
Archenar -57.1831
Antares -26.4547
Vega 38.7936

these are all pulled from Stellarium, which you can get from

And lastly, how to find the south pole:

The reason I'm working around to this is of course my latest few shots, which feature quite rich and not-too-streaky star fields.  This prompted some questions from fellow photo-bunnies, and well here it is :)  Weather looks like poo for the next week or so, which is a pity as there is a beautiful clustering of the moon and several planets tonight ... damn you clouds!

Increasing the Scope

First Post! w00t!

Just kidding - gfkBill has joined 1200mm! I'm about to pickup my new (ok, used... ok, homemade) scope and will be documenting the restoration here, as Jason has kindly invited me into his astrologi... oops, astronomical voyage. So 1200mm will soon be a misnomer - the new scope is a 1700mm, with 12" main mirror. Hoo boy!

The main mirror is currently very dirty and bit fungusy I suspect. So first mission (once we pick the beast up and post some pics) will be to find some distilled water and soap flakes to begin the mirror clean.

1200mm - now with more mm!

August 12, 2010

Celestial Cows II

Celestial Cows II
Originally uploaded by chickinthepark1
Just a quick (30s) shot this evening

Did you know that Cows snore?

August 11, 2010

Vanilla Skies

I been shooting! See?

July 11, 2010


Got some shots!!!  Some nice ones!  It was cold (0.6 degrees coldest), the sky was beautiful and the seeing was also awesome!  Bill came over, Rusty and Pip  were here, Jeremy took pics and Eddie came over .. was a good good night!! As well as good shots, had a great time!

So shots live over here:,,

This is my new fave :D

I would also like to take a second to say thanks to Canon and CHDK.  I got some nice DNGs from my system tonight :D  And thanks to all you guys for coming over and going wow!

Also, completed Bahitov Mask today and it works like a charm!  Instant and EASY focus :D - V important, plus I made it myself too!

July 10, 2010

Whether the weather ...

All signs point well.  With that nonsensical sentence, I declare that I be observing tonight.  The forecast is for clear skies, last night was awesome - although my attempts at Antares were not :(

Going to go make a spectrograph today, or at least screw around in the garage with a prism :D

So, I am hoping for results from tonight, crossing fingers and everything.  Watch this space and I will see what i can get.  Oh yeah, star party at my house tonight :D

July 9, 2010


About to go out and try to get some long exposures of Scorpio.  Results as they come to hand :D

July 6, 2010

Big Big Moon

Originally uploaded by chickinthepark1
Getting closer and closer

July 3, 2010

More Moon News, 6mm at a time

That's 0.26 degrees of arc to you lot!

I found more moon, so I am re-montaging .. watch this space :D

July 1, 2010

6mm moon

Ok, lots of montaging going on over here .. will be better when I get the WHOLE of the moon I guess .. stupid clouds.

But anyways ... here's the latest WIP at Flickr ...

For those of you who are interested ... each tile is 1956x1623 pixels and there are 92 of them so far, full image is 17500px on a side (at this point).   The file is 1.19 Gb with each tile around 1-2 Mb.  The tiles are all RGB at this stage and the only post that's been done is cropping as I have a bit of crap on my CCD :(  So there's still chromatic aberration in there.

However. I don't have ALL of the moon, as this is my first try, so I will probably get back out there tonight and get some more - weather permitting of course. (sorry hon).

This still not the finished item .. call it a WIP or proof of concept.  I love my 6mm :D

Mmmmm 6mm Moon

watch this space for huge moon montage to come (is 12000 x 17500 pixels so far) <-- no, not a typo.

You can see WIP here:

June 30, 2010



One planetary evening

So far .. Saturn, Venus, Mars and a passing airliner :)

Coming up - Jupiter, Uranus, Luna and will have a go at Neptune, although that may be too close to the Moon tonight :)

Also, resolved the double in Acrux (one of my FAVORITE stars) :D

6mm for the win!  I can resolve a planetary disk for Venus and Mars .. for the first time!!! Well Mars for the first time FOR SURE anyways.


June 27, 2010


Almost missed it!  That will teach me to go thinking if was Northern Hemisphere only .. so rushed out to grab shots of it (thanks Pip and Rust) and found my IXUS was dirty and scratched and yeah - not happy .. got some, but they suck.

Today is clean camera day and wait for 6mm to turn up :D

June 17, 2010

Southern Stars


Starting to get there!

Crux 1600ISO 36s f5.6

Pointers 1600ISO 68s f5.6

June 5, 2010

Long Exposure ...

ok, before the clouds closed right in tonight :(  I had some small success! :)

Here's the best results .. after some Photoshopping of course.

I started here:

Which was me, forgetting I had left the camera set to 3200 ISO! One of those happy mistakes!  Look at all them stars!!  Everything is yellow due to the sodium streetlamps of course - next time I do this, it's backyard for me!  206 seconds (3:26) at f/4.0, ISO 3200.  Then I moved onto this:

Which actually caught a bit of the milky way there! (top left cnr)  This one is 219s (3:39) at f/4.0 and ISO 400.  So then of course battery went flat, so went inside for charging, came back out and just as it was clouding over, got these:

123s (2:03) at f4/5, ISO 400

163s (2:43) at f4/5, ISO 400

So I have so far stabilised the mount, and got a minute of metronome clicking (60bpm) for my mp3 player, so I have a stable mount and WAY more accurate timing .. however I do end up outside for hours, in the cold, listening to clicks :)

According to the met service, we are facing rain until thursday next week :(  But I live in hope!

All in all a good night!  :)

June 4, 2010

Today's things ...

BREAKING: Another Jupiter impact? | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine

Mars Rover surpasses Viking -1 record

and this is very interesting, and inspiring ...

June 3, 2010

Clear Skies tonight

Have recharged the camera battery 2x so far, and have trusty Ixus on car doing timelapse of milky way as we speak.  Lenses keep fogging up - I think it's lack of dew shield on camera.

But so clear, so beautiful.  Milky way is very visible, Coal Sack stands out well, now if I could only get everything working right .. grrrrrrrr

Will post anything good I get.

AAaaaaaand it's a bust on the long exposures :(  Lenses fog up fast and my mount is just too wobbly - re-engineer tomorrow methinks, for stability, especially around the screw mounting.  Never give up :)

Timelapse is still going, so won't know how that looks for a little while .. hope it's good.

Here's the best of the shots.

82 seconds at f 4.0, 75mm lens. When I am using the 75mm (18mm fogged up FAST) I have to turn the mounting 17 degrees every 3.5 seconds, so yeah .. I'm not too unhappy with this one, some wobbling and trailing ...

Ok, timelapse came out pretty naff ... I have to learn that the tiny CCD in the IXUS is not going to do the biz for high-iso stuffs ... *sigh* oh well, bed, then more ideas tomorrow ...

Man Conquers Space

Just found this. Oh. Wow. I looked all over for a way to contact the director to offer my meager services for free, but can't find a link there :( So get over there!

Love the trailer too ...

June 2, 2010

Goodness from Bad Astronomy

Is Betelgeuse about to blow? | Bad Astronomy | Discover Magazine

Testing new "Blog This" extension :) That and it's a cool story, and my mancrush is still going strong :D

aaaaand ....

This is just beautiful ...

Proof of Concept

First tracked shots are in .. not very good, BUT they prove that this is so totally possible with the barn door ...

Focus is an issue, as well as wobbly tripod and lens fogging up, but ...

Here's a patch of sky along the Milky Way, "down" from Crux ...

and here's the same shot on Flickr

This is 240 seconds (4 minutes) at fStop 3.5 :D

I'm quite happy with this, it's a first go, but hey .. now it's time to get better and refine.  Shot on home made barn door rig, for about $25 all up, plus what I could find in the garage.

Speaking of which, does anyone out there have an old tripod head they don't want anymore?  I need one to be able to take pics of different parts of the sky, and I has no job right now :(  All replies welcome :)

May 26, 2010

Things I have found out since Saturday

Hadar is a double star!  Cool huh?  I was looking at it, thinking, that must be Rigil Kent, but NO! Beta Cen is also a double!  Also I found out that Acrux is a double double! Alpha1 is actually 2 stars VERY close together .. I didn't observe this, but the internet is awesome :D

May 24, 2010


is going to be a success .. first tests shaped up well, till the camera fogged up :(

Will try again once the moon is a little lower

But positive :D

May 23, 2010

Scotch Mount

Has been constructed .. there was much swearing, and some blood.  Now all I need is a clear night .. oh wait, 3-day storm, oh great ...

Pics as they come to hand.

Oh what a night!

In the end .. it's now 0341 and clouds have closed in ... I got to see Venus, Saturn, teh Moon, Mars, Jupiter and I'm 95% sure I saw Uranus ... for the first time, at least there was a very small greenish disc about where the planet should have been, so I am calling that a win.  That little puppy is approx 3.074 billion km away (20.55 AU + change).

Small green dot, 3 billion kilometers, yeah. Shit. That's amazing.

5 planets, 7 satellites and I resolved Rigil Kent (α Centauri) as a double and Acrux (α Crux) as a bright blob and another one (triple system, it's complicated :) Also a bunch of startrails and I made about half my scotch mount and an edit to the IXUS mount that I hope will enable me to shoot through the 25mm or Bill's sexy little 15mm.

I am happy, tired but happy. A good night!

dSLRtrails .. the first go

Here's the first results from using the SLR for some startrails, on bulb setting, with new remote ...

Started off at 12 minutes ...

Then bit the bullet and went to 97 minutes .. during which, my flatmate came home in her car ... so this one is quite heavily treated in PS to pull out the details ...

May 22, 2010

The plan for tonight

Ok, so I am planning something.  It will hinge on whether I get the scotch mount done by tonight of course (drill charging now) but, here goes.

1730-1830 Venus Setting in the NW    Awesome Crescent, using 9mm + Barlow
1800-1900 Mars in NNW ~ 35°
2100-0100 Moon - half full
2100-0100 Saturn follows Moon down the sky  Oh so beautiful, will be looking again soon
2350 Neptune Rises
0200 Jupiter Rises in East
0220 Uranus Rises in East
0513 Mercury Rises

12 hours of solar system goodness :)

Lets see if I can do it :D

Ninib, Kronos, the Protector and Sower of the Seed.

Oh yum yum .. and they're the big pictures too!

And since we're talking about one of my favorite NASA missions (Cassini/Huygens), here's this and this and this.
It seems Saturn makes everyone poetic, hardly surprising, it is magnificent.

In other news, I picked up some more gear recently - yesterday was at Mitre10 Mega in Albany, getting the ingredients for a scotch mount, there will be a photo journal of that.  I want to just say a big thanks to Mitre10 Mega tho, you guys were awesome!

Also got a remote for the 20D today, which means I can do Bulb long exposure stuff, on the scotch mount and off it (SLR StarTrails anyone?)

May 21, 2010

Two Worlds, One Sun

Two Worlds, One Sun - damn this is cool ...

Ooooo! And so's this:

May 19, 2010

Nothing tangible from last night

Which will make Bill happier as it's not quite as spooky really.  I am embroiled in an art test for a job atm, so not much to show really .. I did runa test on my IXUS capability for timelapse last night, and the camera ran out of room on SD card before it ran out of batteries :) Took 3 hours and 45 mins (approx) to fill us the card with JPGs :)

Some news coming up of a trip in the works, to My Cook and Tekapo kater in the year - so some gazing will be done there, if it all comes together :)

More as things happen ...

Meanwhile, here's this:

and this:

May 18, 2010

Star Size Comparison HD

May 17, 2010

Oh. Wow.

I set up for a timelapse of the moon and Venus tonight, 1 shot every 15s ... movie coming .. however ... look what I got :)

Yup, that's lightning over Snells :)

Then pulled out the SLR for some long exposure ... :)

Addendum:  here's the final timelapse, sorry about the black frames at the end - my bad, but as vimeo lmiits you to 1 HD/month, not much I can do :)

May 16, 2010

Last on March 11?

Oh Shit
I have been bad!  The telescope hasn't even been out  been looking for work is my only excuse I'm afraid.

Anyways, here's some shots I snapped tonight.  Enjoy!

March 11, 2010

Just for the comparison ....

Here's another shot of the moon, this time taken with the 20D using Bill's long lens (300mm Zoom) it's for comparison to the other moon shots I posted this morning.

So that makes it 1/4 the focal length of the telescope .. even though that is kinda generous, because I use the IXUS 3x optical for the scope, and don't have the knowledge of optics to work out what that does to the focal length.

This hiatus has really shown me that I need some things to take this hobby further ... Scotch Mount for a start, then motor, then the rest ... there's even a very nice new point and shoot out from Canon that looks like to be perfect for the afocal stuff.

So the equation goes like this.  I love the stars. I want to take pics of them and all manner of other celestial things. For this I need Gear. For Gear I need Money. For Money I need a Job.  For Job I need a Showreel.  For Showreel I need time.


A month of missed links ...

A Mosaic of CassiopeiaHuygens on TitanWinds of Change, Iceberg Collision and Eye to Eye on Flying.

The Crab, Blast Off, Brand New World, Coming Home and A Window to the World.

There is of course more, but y'all know where NASA is right?

Oh wow.

I have been away - sorry guys.  I got very wrapped up in the mundanities of living, trying to find a job, running around in circles doing my showreel, things like that.

But as of this morning, here's 2 new shots for you - in the best 1200mm tradition of SSDD (Same Shot Different Day) ....

Both of these shot this morning - moon in the blue sky, and got these JUST before the storm closed in :)

February 19, 2010

Fiat Lux!

First, the renovations then the unveiling

Is there anyone reading this that doesn't want that view?

February 14, 2010

Shuttle Silhouette

But hark! What approaches, o'er this layered and misty setting?
Tis a shadow, an arrival, relief.

February 12, 2010

Wall-E? Is that you?

Familiar vistas in an unfamiliar place
Oh to see a sunset on Mars

NASA Goodies and more

Lots of launches of late, not that I'm complaining or anything! Then there's the Spacewalking, which I am also not complaining about! But of course there's the pretties further away and also debris and then some frost. Then there's collisions and clusters and geeklove.

Damn! It's a great big universe, and it's very very pretty.

On the smaller side, at home. There's a Mars session planned for the weekend, clouds permitting with Bill and Pip, hoping for clear skies tomorrow. If all goes well I want to take my scope, both cameras (little one for timelapses) and various tripods and inverters and laptops.

If it comes off, you will all know about it :)

February 8, 2010

Stars Over Snells Beach

Went out to test the 20D tonight, was an awesomely clear night but I had power problems with the camera, which kinda sucked. The laptop worked fine, but I only got 25 shots in before the camera died. So this is the best of those.

30second exposure, Apeture f/3.5, ISO 400