I’ve been building and using telescopes for more than three decades and I’ll share with you a secret: collimating a Newtonian reflector is easy. So why does it seem so difficult when you’re just starting out? Probably because you’ve done your homework by Googling the subject and have read and re-read everything you’ve found. And now, you’re lost in a forest of information — some of it contradictory, some of it densely technical. Truly, sometimes less is more.
Continue reading “A Beginner’s Guide to Collimation”
This image of the Scorpius Milky Way was captured from Costa Rica with a DSLR camera and the simple hinge tracker mount described here.
If you have a DSLR camera and are interested in astronomy, you’ve probably considered dipping a toe into the astrophotography waters. But a camera is only part of the equation — for exposures longer than a few seconds, a tracking mount is usually necessary. Unfortunately, most suitable mounts are relatively bulky, or expensive, or both. But not the hinge tracker. It costs less than $10 to build, takes less than an evening to assemble, and requires no batteries. And best of all, you can put one together even if you’ve never built anything more complicated than Ikea furniture.
Continue reading “Build a Hinge Tracker for Astrophotography”
Attention to detail is what separates a regular Newtonian reflector from one optimized for high-contrast performance. This 6-inch f/9 uses every trick in the ATM’s book to deliver superb planetary and deep-sky views.
This was the first telescope I made using my own optics. Like most telescope makers, I got started the easy way, by building Dobsonians with mirrors ground by others. But one day I got bit with the mirror-making bug. I blame my friend Lance Olkovick, our local club’s mirror-making ace. But why a long-focus 6-inch? At the time I was a hardcore Jupiter junkie and was convinced that a long-focus Newtonian would deliver excellent views of my favourite subject. I also wanted to prove a point.
Continue reading “The Big Red One: My Optimized 6-inch f/9 Reflector”
I invite everyone to check out my web site, FilmAdvance.com.
In addition to astronomy, photography is a big passion of mine. So, I started FilmAdvance.com as an outlet for my photographic explorations. There will inevitably by some astronomy related content posted there, but mostly it’s about seeing the universe through the lens of a camera, instead of the eyepiece of a telescope. Look in on it from time to time to see what I’ve been up to with my cameras and darkroom. Enjoy!
Magnificent Comet Hale-Bopp on April 3, 1997. It is unquestionably one of the finest comets of the past two decades, but is it the best one of all?
Few celestial objects excite the imaginations of stargazers and the general public like a good comet. The recent apparition of Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) prompted me to reflect on the all the comets I’ve been fortunate enough to see in the past 20 years. There have been some stunners, some surprises, and a few that could have been great, but fell short. Here’s my (highly subjective) pick of the five most interesting and spectacular comets from the past two decades.
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Open cluster NGC7789 is located in western Cassiopeia.
Rather than simply chase down the obvious Messier objects (as fine as so many of them are), sometimes it’s nice to stretch out a bit and try for some less famous targets. One of my autumn favourites is open cluster NGC7789, located in Cassiopeia.
Continue reading “Seeking NGC7789”
The bright crater Aristarchus is positioned near the terminator in this photo of a gibbous Moon.
Aristarchus is one of the most interesting craters on the lunar surface. It’s an eye-catchingly bright 40-kilometre-wide impact crater situated on the Aristarchus Plateau — the surrounding diamond shaped area.
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The Scutum Star Cloud and M11 are prime, dark-sky attractions.
Summer new Moons are what deep-sky observers live for. Overhead, the glowing band of the Milky Way stretches from horizon to horizon. There’s so much to see that it can be tough to choose! One area that I find particularly eye-catching is the Scutum Star Cloud.
Continue reading “M11: Scutum’s Milky-Way Treasure”
Planetary nebula M27 is only a short hop away from Sagitta.
Nestled within the rich swath of Milky Way that lies between Aquila and Cygnus is my favourite planetary nebula: M27.
Continue reading “Follow the Arrow to M27”