TRO Blog

Clouds, clouds go away…

Experiencing our second week long gray out! We had about 10 minutes of watery sunshine this morning but the clouds have rolled in again in force! Good time to work on images and data I guess, but it is hard to get motivated with such gloomy weather!

When I bought Temple 28 (11″ Customized Celestron CPC) a year ago it came with a Lenovo ThinkCenter Desktop computer. Dual core and completely loaded with all the software to run everything. Compared to some of the computers I have used to run similar rigs this thing is a Ferrari! Still I was having problems controlling the computer by Teamviewer and it would crash a lot. So during our last gray period I actually looked to see how much memory the thing had. 2 Gbs with a 64 bit operating system! No wonder I was having issues! A 64 bit Windows system needs at least 3 but better 4 Gbs of memory to run smoothly. If you were only running text type of software 2 Gbs would be adequate but not when you are auto running lots of images. So I looked up the memory for the computer and ordered 2 more Gbs on Ebay. Wrong type! Looked in my scrap box and found 1 Gb of compatible memory.

Wow, what a difference even 3 Gbs make! No problems using TeamViewer, no issues with all the programs you have to run to control the scope. I have 1 more gb coming that should make the computer much more user friendly. Though you can use up to 8 Gbs in this system 4 seems to be the best trade off between speed and cost.

I am looking forward to more sunshine! With sunshine comes dark nights! So Clear skies everyone!

Paul Temple

Amateurs vs Professionals

If you read a lot of astronomy forums there seems to be an attitude of “there’s no science left for amateurs to do in astronomy.” This is usually followed by “well, let the surveys do it!” These comments are sometimes valid, sometimes they are not. It would seem to me, however, that we are entering the golden age of amateur science in astronomy!

At present astrophotography is driving technology changes in astronomy. User friendly scope systems abound and terrific cameras that professionals could only dream about a few years ago can be ordered off of the internet. For those of us that perused the Sears Catalogs drooling over a 90 mm refractor, the availability, size, price and quality are almost unbelievable! Who would have thought that you could buy an 8″ telescope that can be used out of the box to do imaging, for less than & 1,300! That you could buy a cheap imager to do planetary imaging for $75, that will give you pictures to rival the best planetary images taken in the 1960’s with much larger telescopes.

I recently purchased EC Slipher’s book on his Mars work at Lowell Observatory. When it was released in the early 1960’s it was the definitive work of it’s time. This work was the culmination of years of pains taking imaging with the finest telescopes of the day.  Now, however, I have a friend that takes much better images of Mars with a 3.5 inch Questar and video camera! Dr. Slipher would be astounded at the quality of imaging coming out of the amateur community with modest equipment! I often wonder what Lowell, Slipher or Herschel would think of today’s amateurs and equipment?

So back to the original idea. Is there anything left for an amateur to do? The answer is an unadulterated “yes!” The Association of Variable Star Observers has a data base of variables called the VSX. In this database are 325,019 stars. More are being added all the time. Many of these stars have been added in the last 20 years and are a product of survey work. If you peruse this database you will find that only a few of these stars have ever been issued an AUID number (identifying number for the AAVSO database) so there are no observations outside of the original survey. Some of the surveys are quite extensive and little new observation is needed and others are in need of confirmation of data. You could stay busy with just this database alone  for the rest of your life!

There is also visual observations of stars. Both of my CCD’s just flat out can’t get good magnitude measurements on stars that are brighter than about 9th magnitude. For brighter stars eyes are still good measurement instruments. Plus, there are legacies of observations that go back 100+ years and it would be a shame not to continue that legacy. There are also area’s like cataclysmic variables, nova’s, supernova’s and white dwarfs that are good targets for amateur contributions to science.

Something I am contemplating doing is to point my telescope at a place in the night sky and repeatedly image it every clear night for a year or two. It would be a poor man’s Kepler mission. In this type of study you could discover a new planet, nova, variable or nothing at all! It is possible to do this kind of thing because you own the equipment! Professionals seldom have the luxury of using a scope for such a long period of time on such a long shot effort.

Today is the best day of astronomy! We live in a time of unprecedented opportunities and technology. Enjoy it!

Paul Temple



TRO 2015

There are some changes in store for TRO in 2015! The first issue is getting a real roof plus siding on the telescope shelter. Since we were gone over Christmas to my son’s wedding in Oklahoma I had to move the telescope indoors since you can’t currently lock the shelter! That is a pain and takes 3 stout men to do it! The plan is to put corrugated metal panels on the roof and then use plywood for the sides. The canvas has worked fairly well but does not provide the level of security needed for an extensive telescope setup.

The second issue is better polar alignment and wire routing. Polar alignment on a fixed wedge scope is quite a challenge! You physically have to move the tripod legs up and down or side to side. It is hard to get the right level of precision! A small rubber hammer is useful for moving the scope! This is a time consuming job but is well worth it in the long run.

There are a lot of wires! Heaters, focusing, power supplies etc. I just need to take more time and rethink how the wires should go. My last run kept losing alignment. Turns out the cold made the wires stiff and it was causing the scope to slip! So some time and energy need to go into how to route them better.

After getting the shelter secured I plan to set up the Meade LX 200 for spectroscopy. This is to do low resolution spectroscopy. Several years ago I purchased a Star analyzer 100 at the SAS/AAVSO meeting (2009) in CA. Though I got fairly familiar with this setup on several scopes it was never used to it’s potential. With a dedicated 8″ I think the potential resolution can be easily reached and the scope become productive.

Overall I think 2015 should be a very interesting and productive year!

Finished with outside


Here is what the shelter looks like. Not very secure!

TRO is up and running!

Bad weather has kept TRO closed and the Temple 28 telescope inactive for several weeks. While transferring data this morning from the last 3 nights of use (which are spread over a month) Temple 28 has taken over 1,500, three megapixel images! Most of this data is of several stars on the AAVSO VSX database that had no observations, (outside of the initial discovery) at all. In fact I have requested 4 new AUID’s over the time period represented by these 3 nights observations. Awash in a sea of data!

Stay Tuned for more discoveries and news from TRO!


Paul Temple