James Paulson's roll off roof observatory at the Sunridge Observatory site, taken in the summer of 1986, housing a 10 inch f/5 Cave Astrola Newtonian reflector telescope

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Equipment War

It is really easy to get involved in buying a lot of equipment in this hobby. I know first hand having spent a lot of money over the years on things in the learning process.

But honestly, there is nothing greater than using minimal equipment to pursue this hobby in many ways. The simpler you can keep your setup, the more it will be used.

Astrophotography is a different animal. It demands a lot of equipment and patience in setting it all up for an evening of imaging. Lots of things to go wrong. Some wonder why we do it. The answer is simple, it is what we enjoy about his hobby.

I like to play with cameras and electronics. Capturing images is an art in itself. You plan your shots carefully and there is a process of events that takes place to actually get a result. Unlike visual work, it can be very tedious from acquisition to focus to capture to tear down, it is all about the process.

A pure visual observer struggles to understand why we want to do this. Those of us who do this can't understand why more visual observers are unwilling to take the next step in the hobby and begin to save their memories forever.

And the battle rages on to this day.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Computer for Astronomy

I finally reached the point of having to buy a better computer. I usually don't spend money on computers much because things change so rapidly and I can get by with older machines for quite a while. But getting into imaging and working with images placed some demands on my needs.

I purchased the Dell Inspiron N5030 from Walmart. This is a very basic laptop with a 320 gig hard drive and 3 gigs of RAM and comes equipped with Windows 7 Home Edition (64 bit).

I have loaded this laptop pretty much for astro usage. I have Deep Sky Stacker which is used for stacking images, as well as Canon Utilities (for the camera driver for my DSLR), BackyardEOS for image acquisition from the DSLR, and PHD Guiding to perform my autoguiding functions.

Additionally I have added some other things. I have installed Stellarium which is a very nice planetarium program, Adobe Photoshop CS5 for processing images, Autostar Envisiage for use with my DSI, and AutoStar Suite for mount control and positioning. Since this laptop came without a serial port, I also added a Keyspan USB to RS-232 to it as well.

I approach computers as nothing but a tool. It should serve some useful function, and in this case it has a purpose. And I really felt the need to move to Windows 7 as most new things will come equipped to use it, and it is a modern operating system with some shelf life to it. After all, we have extracted almost 10 years out of Windows XP at this stage and soon it will be going away. It was simply time to move on and modernize and look at it as an investment into the usefulness of my gear.