Got to use a big telescope - Tree of Souls - An Avatar Community Forum
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Old 07-02-2011, 09:33 AM
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Karyu
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Default Got to use a big telescope

Yep, I did. I got 10 minutes on the TSU observatory, Title - Tarleton State University because the weather was horrible and the "real astronomers" didn't even bother opening the dome due to an American football stadium putting off horrible amounts of light pollution and an even cover of altocirrus clouds.

The main goals I wished to acomplish were to take 1-sec UV, IR, Visible, Blue, Red filters of the Alpha Centauri system, and 50-sec UV, IR, Visible, Blue, Red filters of M 51, better known as the Whirlpool Galaxy. Unfortunately, Alpha Centauri was below the viewable horizon, so no searching for Pandora.

However, I did get a somewhat-cloudy look at M-51.

The raw camera data was very dim and had an average min-max range of 60 out of 255:

(Unfiltered grayscale sensor used as example)

It turns out that GIMP loads .fits images just fine. So I fired up gimp and got to work compositing all the wavelengths together and tweaking, tweaking, and tweaking some more. The end results, after about 4 hours of work were really, really good considering the conditions plus the telescope needing realignment:

(Image released under public domain)
I also have the original .fits files and the .xcf if anyone wants them.

And for comparison, the Hubble mosaic image of the same galaxy:



The Hubble is much, much more sensitive, (0-6 magnitude is the range of the human eye, TSU is +20, Hubble is +30) and doesn't have to deal with late-night football games overexposing its images or clouds, as well as having a CCD of twice the resolution (4096x4096 instead of 2048x2048) and a much, much narrower FOV.

That said, this is one of the coolest things I've ever done, and imho, I got some pretty d**n good results.

Last edited by Sight Unseen; 07-02-2011 at 10:08 AM.
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Old 07-02-2011, 11:12 AM
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This is awesome! Wish I could do something like that.
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Old 07-02-2011, 09:39 PM
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Txantsan!!

That is amazing... shame about Alpha Centauri though... AFAIK, it is only visible from the southern hemisphere
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Old 07-03-2011, 08:29 AM
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Awesome!
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Old 07-03-2011, 08:42 AM
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Way cool.

You lucky swine.

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Old 07-04-2011, 07:14 AM
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That's awesome, I'd jump at the chance to do something like that
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Old 07-04-2011, 05:05 PM
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Random fact: I know a few people that go/went to Tarleton.

That's awesome though, I'd love a chance to look at a few nebulae and such.
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Old 07-04-2011, 09:56 PM
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Very cool ma tsmukan. That was quite a rare opportunity you had. Wish I could do that here. *ponders* I wonder if Yerkes lets people do this?
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Old 07-05-2011, 12:28 AM
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That is one fantastic exposure considering the poor conditions you were under What size telescope were you using? And was it fully computerised or was there an opportunity to use the telescope with the naked eye?

I can't wait for the day I use an observatory-class telescope
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Old 07-07-2011, 08:43 AM
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You could just read the linked spec sheet... It's a .8 meter refracting telescope. There is no way to use it with the naked eye, the exposures are taken by a 2048x2048 grayscale CCD camera chilled to -40C to eliminate heat noise. Control of movement is also robotic, and use of the telescope is usually done over microwave link to the main campus about 20mi away, but the group I was in (CSRobotics) actually went to the telescope itself to learn about the control software, and to do that they needed some operator input, which I volunteered myself for.

Also, I really need to redo that image, the color is really, really shifted toward blue, I may have gotten the 450nm and 800nm image files mixed up.

Also, another reason for the horrible noise is that this is a 1:1 pixel map of the CCD's pixels, most of the really pretty images are taken in mosaic fashion, which you can layer images like shingles on a roof to make the noise magically disappear and also get really huge, detailed images. This is done with really sophisticated software and takes months just to capture all the images, and another week to piece them together. I just hurriedly went through the filter wheel and took exposures with as many filters as possible before my time was up, dumped it all to my flash drive, and later stayed up all night working with it in GIMP.

Last edited by Sight Unseen; 07-07-2011 at 08:54 AM.
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Old 07-07-2011, 10:12 PM
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That's quite impressive

The most interesting thing I ever used was an electron microscope (a TEM, can't remember the resolution but it was small (small resolution == better, for the non-technical)) which is the opposite in scale , sadly didn't get to take an image from it but it was interesting, had a look at the mitochondria from a cell.
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