Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Fun With Astronomy: The Galileoscope/SkyVoyager iphone App Edition

So my latest bad excuse for staying up until ungodly hours of the evening is:

Scanning the skies with a Galileoscope and an iphone, and more specifically the iphone app SkyVoyager.

The combination of low-tech in the Galileoscope (manual focus, one moving part) mixed with ridiculously hi-tech (accurately shows the sky from any location on Earth, at any time up to 100 years in the past or future, and can identify and detail everything in the sky in same the direction that you're pointing your iphone) makes for a pretty direct learning experience in terms of astronomy. I've started to catalog what constellations are at what certain angles from my limited view at my apartment (pretty much anything between south and northwest), which allows me to begin to understand the rotation of our galaxay as opposed to just our solar system.

I've played around with a taking a few pictures after my buddy Fin let me borrow his Olympus DSLR- here's one that I took without actually attaching the camera to the scope, instead using a second tripod behind it to line up the shot. Not very efficient nor practical, but hey-I just started cut me some slack. Jeeeez..

A shot of Jupiter which was also taken using the double-tripod contraption, which in retrospect, is substantially more difficult than you might imagine. Notice the moons, which come through a lot more clearly through the scope by itself.

And if you want to truly see how amazing this telescope is for $20 (Twenty Dollars!!!) here is a shot from Flickr Contributor "Zoeff", a member of the Flickr Galileoscope pool. You can find other amazing shots taken from this very scope over there as well.

Moon trough the Galileoscope

Moon trough the Galileoscope by Zoeff.
This is taken trough the Galileoscope at prime focus with a CCD chip. This shows the great quality of the doublet lens that comes with this 15$ telescope kit!

I used K3CCTools for capturing and stacked 50 frames or so with RegiStax.

The CCD chip is a particular type of webcamera that is extremely efficient in taking astronomy pictures via video, and then stacking each video frame through available software in to a single picture. Not only is the resolution amazing but it is also clearly a lot less of a pain in the ass than using two tripods. Apparently these webcams are difficult to find but aside from the cost of my iphone and service, the app and scope have only set me back $35.00. I can see how astronomy viewing habits could get expensive very quickly, which at the moment for me is not an option. I'm ok for now as I stare at stars like Tarazed, that are a mere 146 light years away, but this star gazing stuff is very addictive, and I foresee an inevitable ascension from novice to amateur status in my future.

And the answer is yes of course the SkyVoyager also can point out asteroids, in case you were wondering. I just have to learn to live with less sleep, that's all.

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