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Posts Made By: Enrico Africa

August 22, 2006 06:47 AM Forum: Home Observatories

Where to/how to start?

Posted By Enrico Africa

Hello all,

I'm a newcomer to this part of town... I wasn't really in a frame of mindset that I would be building an observatory soon.

But last night, with a crystal clear night where I couldn't do any imaging because I needed to get up early this morning sad , my wife goes "If the biggest obstacle is having to set up and tear down every time, would it make sense to build a backyard observatory?" smile grin smile grin grin smile grin smile

The biggest obstacle right now is that we live in a neighborhood with a homeowners' association (HOA) :C . Fortunately, the HOA rules were recently amended to allow external buildings IF 1) the building matches our home, and 2) if it is attached (or I hope looks attached) to the main structure.

I've already sent an inquiry to Astroshed about possibilities, but I thought I'd also drop in here and say "hey" and gather ideas. I'm all ears to anyone living in a neighborhood like I ours *and* has managed to build an observatory.

There's a part of me that wonders if it's even worth it with our light pollution, then again narrow-band filters help a lot. And that's another story....


September 11, 2006 12:33 PM Forum: Home Observatories

HOA Blues.... :(

Posted By Enrico Africa

You might remember a post from me a couple weeks ago about me studying building an observatory. Well, I just called our HOA, and they claim that "no outside buildings are allowed". Sigh. sad

I need to dig up that mailing that I got where the amendment was stated allowing for outside buildings. Maybe I didn't word my question correctly?

The lady did say that one way to make sure would be to go ahead and submit an application stating exactly what I'm planning on building. FWIW, I held off on stating what I'm building - I simply said "a shed".

Thanks for reading....

September 19, 2006 11:02 AM Forum: Home Observatories

Sunroom or covered patio observatory?

Posted By Enrico Africa

OK, so our HOA might frown on an external building.

But they might allow a covered/screened patio. They do allow a sunroom-style covered patio - a nearby neighbor has one!

My wife and I were brainstorming ideas last night, and hit on a possibility: covering our patio and including the observatory in it!

Here's a rough sketch (not to scale!) of one idea.

Assuming our HOA will approve either idea, my biggest concern about such a configuration will be thermals from the roof of the patio. Between a screened and a covered patio, which is the better thermally speaking? Assuming we don't heat or cool the patio, that should be a lesser concern, is that correct?

Any other input into whether this is the best idea since sliced bread, or "worst-idea-what-were-we-smoking"?


September 28, 2006 06:57 AM Forum: CCD Imaging and Processing/Deep Sky

Footfall II: The Panic of the Fithp (DWB-111, the

Posted By Enrico Africa

My apologies for the movie-esque title.

Footfall was a novel written in the 1980's by renowned sci-fi writers Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. It depicted their interpretation of an alien invasion of Earth (summary here, but be warned of the spoilers!

In the prologue of the book, the aliens' presence was detected as early as the Voyager probes' flybys of Saturn. The authors cleverly inserted the notion that the exhaust from the invading mothership's fusion engines perturbed Saturn's rings, causing the braids seen by the Voyager probes.

Projecting this premise out to an interstellar level, I present a widefield view of DWB-111 and its surroundings in mapped narrowband colors. As most of you know, DWB-111, popularly known as the Propeller Nebula, lies in the region of Cygnus and is part of the larger complex of nebulosity in that area.

What intrigues me about the region is that in this widefield I see not one, not two, but three similarly shaped nebulae: the most distinct is the Propeller Nebula itself. But in this orientation, ascending from the center and going up and to the right, I see two similarly-shaped nebulae. Do you see them? Do you see more than the three I spotted?

I was originally going to title this "X-III", since the shapes look kinda like "X's", but the Propeller looked least like an "X". Besides, I could not shake the concept in Footfall.

Just as the braids of Saturn's rings were imagined by the sci-fi authors as perturbations by an advanced civilization, I wonder at the size of ship or type of propulsion that can perturb light-year-sized clouds of dust and gas to form the shapes we see in this region. I can imagine the panic this would inspire among the Fithp (the invading species in Footfall) as they fear the return of their predecessors, who have now advanced to a Type III civilization. The actual cause (most likely natural) is probably no less wondrous to imagine.

I actually shot this back in July, and consider this image a work-in-progress. It's a total of ten hours of data (3 hours H-alpha, 2 hours SII, 2 hours OIII, all with 30-minute subs), and I have an extra hour of SII and OIII that I still need to add in. I also now realize that this object probably needs doubule, if not triple, the exposure time in SII and OIII to smoothen out the data. But that's the beauty of CCD imaging; I can keep adding data over time.

I don't know when I'll be able to get around to doing what I want to do with this image, so here is what I have so far. I was surprised to find no images of this region shot in narrow-band (until recently, that is). Thus my excitement at sharing this, a region shot relatively rarely in narrow-band tricolor.

Technical details:
Camera: SBIG STL-6303
Filters: Astrodon H-alpha, SII, OIII 6nm
Optics: Takahashi FSQ-106
Guidescope: Borg 76ED
Mount: Takahashi EM200
Software: MaximDL (acquisition, calibration and preprocessing), Photoshop CS, Wodaski Debloomer

Comments and suggestions appreciated!

800x600 size:

80% size:

Thanks for looking,

October 11, 2006 06:59 PM Forum: CCD Imaging and Processing/Deep Sky

Moon and Pleiades?

Posted By Enrico Africa

Hello all,

A friend reminded me Monday night that the Moon was occulting the Pleiades, and if I could, could I try capturing the event?

"Try" being the keyword, I set out to try with my ST-8 and H-alpha filter. I expected the Moon to bloom quite heartily with 2-second exposures, which was what I kept my exposure times at in hopes of bringing out the stars.

After some stretching of the image, some specks did indeed appear. I'm not 100% convinced that I really captured stars around the Moon, but in case I did, here is a composite image.

Telescope: Takahashi FSQ-106
Camera: SBIG ST-8XE
Filter: Custom Scientific 4.5nm H-alpha filter

The stars are 2-second exposures and were brought out with DDP in Maxim. The Moon is a 0.01 (or whatever the ST-8's minimum exposure time is) through the same filter, shot seconds apart from the stars exposure. I got a little fanciful and expanded the stars (if that's what they are) a little bit to emphasize them further.

What's helping convince me that they really are stars is their profile (they don't have the sharp edges of hot pixels) and they look somewhat like the Pleiades stars around the Moon when I shot this. If I did indeed capture the stars, Electra is the brightest star to the right of the Moon in this image.


October 28, 2006 10:16 AM Forum: CCD Imaging and Processing/Deep Sky

Heart Nebula in Narrow-Band tri-color

Posted By Enrico Africa

Hello all,

Here is my rendition of IC 1805 (The Heart Nebula) in Cassiopeia. This was shot using my narrow-band filters over several nights last August and September. Details below:

Camera: SBIG STL-6303
Filters: Astrodon Narrow-band filters
Optics: Takahashi FSQ-106 @ f/5
Mount: Takahashi EM-200 Temma-2

H-alpha: 9 x 30 minutes binned 1x1 (4.5 hours)
SII: 8 x 30 minutes binned 1x1 (4 hours)
OIII: 10 x 30 minutes binned 1x1 (5 hours)
13.5 hours total exposure

MaximDL used for image acquisition and pre-processing. Photoshop PS was used for final processing.

Full size image at:

Comments and suggestions welcome.

November 25, 2006 07:57 PM Forum: CCD Imaging and Processing/Deep Sky

More works-in-progress: M31

Posted By Enrico Africa

We had an unheard-of five clear nights in a row in our area. As luck would have it, I had scheduled a vacation over this week months ago. I was planning on going to Chiefland, FL for their star party down there, but the forecast down there was not as promising as it was up here. So I ended up staying put. Fortunately, the Chiefland registration must have thrown the weather gods for a loop, giving me these clear nights over a new moon! 8)

Here's the first target I shot over the past week, M31. 42 luminance exposures at 3 minutes each, with an STL-6303 camera on a Takahashi FSQ-106, Takahashi EM200 mount. I have 6 hours of RGB data still to process.


November 26, 2006 04:15 PM Forum: CCD Imaging and Processing/Deep Sky


Posted By Enrico Africa

Hello again,

I got around to adding the color data to my M31 luminance as depicted in the "works in progress" thread. So here's my "probably close to but not quite final" version (it'll probably get subjected to more tweaks some day).

Takahashi FSQ-106
Takahashi EM200 Temma Mount
SBIG STL-6303 camera
Astrodon filters

L: 26 * 3 minutes
R: 24 * 5 minutes
G: 24 * 5 minutes
B: 24 * 5 minutes

All shots binned 1x1

Captured and pre-processed in Maxim DL. Post-processed in Photoshop CS.


January 5, 2007 10:55 AM Forum: Digital SLR AstroPhotography

Taking the plunge - what accessories?

Posted By Enrico Africa

Hi all,

I just took the plunge and ordered a Canon Digital Rebel XTi. This will be used as a supplement to my CCD camera, so astrophotography with this camera will probably be limited to the brighter DSO's and solar system objects for now.

I've just ordered the basic camera/lens kit. What accessories would you recommend for astrophotography with this? I see at the very least a camera control cable (unless the USB cable that comes with the camera also doubles as a computer control cable) and some type of remote "cable release", and also an AC adapter when I use the camera close to an AC power supply (which is almost always the case).

Also, would any T-ring work with this camera? Existing optics available for use include a Borg 76ED, an Astro-Tech 66ED and a Takahashi FSQ-106.

Thanks for any response, and I hope to be able to share a few pics from this camera in the future.


January 28, 2007 05:52 PM Forum: CCD Imaging and Processing/Deep Sky

IC405/IC410, The Rosette Nebula, and the Californi

Posted By Enrico Africa

Hello all,

I finally got around to processing more of my images taken from my Thanksgiving week imaging blitz last November.

First up is my first presentable (at least to me!) Ha/RGB, IC405 (The Flaming Star Nebula) and IC410 (the one with the Tadpoles):

H-alpha: 8 x 30 minutes binned 1x1
R: 21 x 5 minutes binned 1x1
G: 21 x 5 minutes binned 1x1
B: 21 x 5 minutes binned 1x1

I seem to have misplaced the color around the fainter nebulosity(???); I know there's some emission nebulae in between IC405 and IC410. Looks like I'll need to take deeper RGB subs for this in the future.

The H-alpha data alone looked pretty good, so here it is:

Next is my H-alpha data for the Rosette Nebula:

H-alpha: 8 x 30 minutes binned 1x1

I've captured color data for this, but I have not gotten around to processing it yet. I just spent the last week processing the IC405 color, so hopefully the Rosette will have a presentable color representation as well.

Finally, here's the California Nebula in H-alpha. This was actually shot in late October, I just have not gotten around to processing and sharing this until now:

Equipment used for all images:

Takahashi FSQ-106
Takahashi EM200 mount
SBIG STL-6303 camera
Astrodon H-alpha/R/G/B filters

MaximDL used to capture and pre-process the images. Photoshop CS used for final processing.

Comments and suggestions welcome. Otherwise, enjoy!