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About Solar Worlds

Amateur astronomers view solar worldsOver the past decade amateur astronomy has gained access to the Universe to an extend that had traditionally been reserved to professional astronomers. Affordable high quality telescopes, CCD cameras and various other tools allow amateurs to obtain breath-taking views of our solar system, stars and nebulae within our galaxy and beyond. This site provides a glimpse of our solar system and other solar worlds as seen by an amateur astronomer from London, United Kingdom.

Solar Worlds (the website) was launched in March 2005. All images displayed have been acquired using the equipment described below.

Your comments and suggestions are very welcome - please email marc@solarworlds.co.uk.
Marc Pinter-Krainer

 

Location
To date, all images have been obtained from (very light polluted!) North London, United Kingdom:  51 degrees North, 0 degrees West.

Telescope

Celestron C11 mounted on an Astro-Physics AP1200GTO mount

The current setup comprises of the 11-inch Celestron C11 Optical Assembly Tube (OTA) which features a focal length of 2,800mm and Starbright XLT Coatings.

The mount is the heavy-duty Astro-Physics AP 1200 GTO which I received after a couple of years on the waiting list. Other than high tracking accuracy this beautifully engineered mount offers a capacity to carry instruments of up to 140 lb (63kg) weight.

The pier is made by Advanced Telescope Systems (ATS), and I tend to set everything up on the roof terrace a couple of hours ahead of a session - to allow sufficient time for cooling.

The gorgeous red scope riding on top is the 80mm Zenithstar refractor made by William Optics:

William Optics Zenithstar 80 Fluorite Doublet

William Optics Zenithstar 80 Fluorite Doublet (10th anniversary edition)
This 80mm aperture refractor has a focal length of 555mm and has been co-designed with American leading optical designer Thomas Back.



Meade LX200 GPSSome of the work presented here was carried out with my previous scope, a Meade LX200 GPS Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope with 8" aperture and Ultra High Transmission Coating (UHTC).

Schmidt-Cassegrain diagram

In the Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope design light enters from the right, passes through a thin lens with 2-sided aspheric correction ("correction plate"), proceeds to a spherical primary mirror, and then to a convex secondary mirror. The convex secondary mirror multiplies the effective focal length of the primary mirror and results in a focus in the focal plane, with light passing through a central perforation in the primary mirror.

Cameras
Philips Toucam Pro IIPhilips Toucam Pro II (webcam)
Perhaps surprising to the novice amateur astronomer, the best planetary and lunar images can be obtained using a standard webcam. Atmospheric effects make it difficult to obtain a clear, good quality snapshot in a single frame. By recording a video clip with hundreds of frames it is possible to capture a number of high quality frames for which the seeing conditions were temporarily favourable. Stacking software such as Registax is used to identify and stack good frames to yield a higher signal to noise ratio.

Sony DSC-V1 digital still camera

Sony DSC-V1 (digital still camera)
For some objects the relatively high resolution (5 mega pixels) of the Sony DSC-V1 digital camera can be advantageous. Single moon shots tend to come out quite well, and even deep sky objects such as star clusters can be captured with an exposure time of up to 30 seconds.

Canon 350D DSLR camera

Canon EOS 350D (DSLR)
Some of the images here were obtained using a Canon EOS 350D camera which is a high resolution (8 mega pixels) successor to the 300D "Digital Rebel" which has been highly popular with hobby astro-photographers.

 

Canon 5D DSLR camera

Canon EOS 5D (DSLR)
The most recent acquisition has been the Canon EOS 5D digital SLR camera which features a full-size CCD chip and a high 12.8 mega pixel resolution. Most of my digital photography was also taken with this fantastic camera.


 

SBIG ST-7ME CCD cameraSBIG ST-7ME (cooled CCD camera)
This specialist CCD camera is used for capturing images of faint deep sky objects such as galaxies, nebulae and star clusters. It is highly sensitive with a peak quantum efficiency (the ratio of light photons converted into measurable electrons) of > 80%. The chip temperature is cooled to -40 degrees below ambient to minimise noise. A secondary CCD chip is used for guiding during image acquisition, allowing for long exposure times.

 

(c) 2008 Solar Worlds - All rights reserved. Last updated 01 March 2008. Tell a friend