Subject: a long story Sent: Monday, October 29, 2001 10:42:15 From: email@example.com (marko kolm) First of all I'd like to thank you for your efforts in creating this incredibly informative website. I can imagine what it takes to keep up this constant amount of actuality and reliability. My name is Marko Kolm, I am an amateur astronomer from Vienna/Austria. School was long ago, so let me apologize in advance for my English. I would like to share some of my experiences with you and maybe some other people reading this, maybe it can be of some help or at least interest. I have always been interested in astronomy, but it took me until 1996 to get my first telescope (at the age of 30). Until then, besides being a social worker during daytime (wich I still am), I was a fanatic musician/guitarplayer, having produced several CDs with my band in our own self-built soundstudio. Unfortunately I suffer from Multiple Sclerosis and by that time, already having troubles walking, my left hand got affected too, so I was no longer able to play the guitar. In deep desperation, having lost such an important part of my life, me and my girlfriend Grazyna (my biggest support during the last ten years next to my parents) were planning a holiday in Cabarete (Dom. Rep.) in the winter of '97, to get some new perspective. I remembered my old interest and, knowing that Grazyna was interested too, we decided to take a closer look at the nightsky there. So I went to a camera-store in the neighborhood, having all these beautiful optical gadgets on display. The store (www.astrostudio.at ,in German), is owned by Gerald Rhemann, who, as I learned later, is one of the best astrophotographers worldwide, having his wonderful pictures regularly published in magazines like Astronomy, Sky and Telescope and of course the magazines in German like the great Sterne und Weltraum. He also is a wonderful person who really supports his customers by advising them far beyond what you would normally expect, to get the right instruments and knowledge, and even displays and sells used instruments in his store if you want to get something new. With all his commitment and incredible energy, I think he is the greatest promoter of amateur astronomy in my home-country. Wanting something lightweight and portable, so that I could move it around myself without help, I bought an ETX 90 RA, some eyepieces (Vixen LV10mm and 6mm) and color filters. The sky in Dom. Rep. was so dark with so many stars visible that we (beginners) got completely lost, but the views of the Moon, Saturn, the Pleiades and the Great Orion Nebula were so wonderful that they will stay forever in our memory. We could watch the Moon using the 6mm and it looked like a photograph taken by Apollo, the air was absolutely steady, we've never experienced anything like this again. Now I was hooked. I immediately bought a pair of Fujinon 16x70 binoculars, which are great for scanning the Milky Way (using a tripod of course), read every book and magazine I could get my hands on and learned the sky using planispheres, maps, the naked eye, binoculars and the ETX. I also took my first astrophotos using only my old Canon A1 camera, a tripod, cable release and fast Kodak P1600 slide film. This method is surprisingly simple and rewarding, just open the shutter for 30 to 60 seconds depending on the lens you use (I used 50mm and 24mm). I've picked up this technique from Jerry Shad, whose great photographs can often be seen in magazines. My pictures of comet Hale-Bopp were done this way, the first (HaleBopp1.JPEG) is also the first astrophoto I've ever done! I still use this technique quite often, unfortunately there are not many supermodels like Hale-Bopp crossing the celestial catwalk. But from time to time there are nice planetary alignments to be recorded, and it can be fun to shoot constellations too. Due to the large field of view provided by normal camera-lenses it becomes important to really compose the pictures to get good results, for example by using a nice foreground (HaleBopp1.JPEG, HaleBopp2.JPEG, Orion.JPEG, W.JPEG). My first pictures were transferred to a Kodak Photo-CD, now I use a film-scanner (CanoScan 2700F). We then spent our summer-holidays of 1997 in Italy near Venice and were lucky to witness something great: Jupiter had lost its moons! On a rare occasion its four big moons where either behind the planet or hidden by its shadow. During three hours or so we could see them reappear. Using the ETX equipped with the 10mm eyepiece, we saw little bumps growing out of the planet turning into little dots of light as the distance between moon and planet got larger, or see a little light near Jupiter getting turned on gradually like someone turning on a giant dimmer. What a wonderful experience! Besides watching meteors I saw actual movement in the sky for the first time. And what a giant heavenly "Mobile" (remember these baby-toys?) it must have been! On September 16, 1997, we watched a total eclipse of the Moon from Vienna. I took my first prime-focus photographs with the ETX, having my Canon A1 mounted to the telescope and using again the P1600 film. I can't remember the exposure-time, I did a series of different times and kept the best pictures (Eclipse.JPEG). In 1998 I wanted to step things up so I bought a Celestron Ultima 2000 8'' Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope and a StarlightXpress MX5 12bit CCD-Camera. The telescope was a bit heavy for me to move it around, but it had sensational optics, the best I ever owned. So me and Grazyna used it a lot for visual observations. The CCD-Camera was another story. It was very tiring for me to carry around and set up all the stuff needed (big and heavy telescope with mount, camera, notebook, powersupply,...), and it was almost impossible for me to achieve sharp focus. When I finally did, the telescope slipped, I had to find the object again, recenter, refocus, slip again, search, center,..., I think I've made my point. I got so frustrated that I finally gave up. But one evening I looked out of my window and saw a beautiful Moon rather low in the sky and thought, "OK, I want a picture, let's try something desperate." So I quickly set up the little ETX on the windowsill, mounted the CCD-Camera to its back, the 26mm Ploessl to the eyepiece-holder, used the flip-mirror to alternate between camera and visual, centered, focused approximately, took a picture - and, surprise, it worked perfectly! I hurried to get some more pictures, but the Moon quickly disappeared behind a building (MX5-1.GIF, MX5-2.GIF, MX5-3.GIF). In 1999 we did some more visual observing with the C8, some CCD's of the moon with the ETX and saw a wonderful total eclipse of the Sun in August (sorry no pictures, just watching in awe). In 2000 I felt that the C8 had become too heavy for me (I was not too well at that time), so I decided to sell it together with the ETX. I wanted something with bigger aperture than the ETX, but still easy to carry around, and having Goto-electronics, too. So I bought a Nexstar 5. What a big mistake! The electronics and Goto-accuracy were good, but when I was using a heavy eyepiece like my new Pentax XL 14mm, the thing slipped and lost its target. The optics were even worse. I had got an instrument of the first series, where the secondary mirror was loose. But even when Mr. Rhemann fixed this problem, the views were not nearly as sharp and contrasty as with the ETX. Don't get me wrong, the Nexstar is a good scope. It just did not fulfill my silly, unrealistic expectations. I had to realize in a painful way that it is not possible to get everything with only one instrument. So I quickly sold it. I then bought the new ETX 90 EC because of its transportability, and a Meade 10'' Starfinder Dobson for the Deep Sky. This combination works out fine. With some modifications (installing carrying handles, a vent, a Telrad, and a new focuser) the Dobson is great. The optics are very good and the big aperture is really worth the effort. Galaxies, Nebulae and Star Clusters really come to life in such a telescope! I also enjoy searching for objects myself very much, the Dobson is great for that. It is sometimes surprising what objects you stumble over just by chance! And if there are no helping hands available I can use the ETX, witch works great too. The optics are great as usual, having done no modifications yet the OTA sometimes slips a bit, but I can live with that. Recently I got an Olympus Camedia 3040 Digital Camera. I immediately tried to hold it against the Pentax eyepiece coupled to the ETX when looking at the Sun (through a Baader Astrosolar Filter in a self-made filterholder) and the Moon. Look at the results! (Sun.JPEG, Moon1.JPEG, Moon2.JPEG, Moon 3.JPEG) I just clicked and let the camera do the work! It's so quick and pleasing that I immediately ordered the ScopeTronix Digi-T-system and eyepiece, hoping to do some shots of Jupiter, Saturn and maybe some bright Deep-Sky-Objects like the Orion Nebula in the near future. I'll let you know of the results. One last thing: Mr. Rhemann and me "invented" a very useful alternative altaz-tripod for the ETX (or other small altaz-scopes). It consists of a small photo-tripod with a metal plate mounted on top to carry the scope. We used a plate produced by the company "Manfrotto", which is a photo-accessory I think normally used for carrying spotlights or something like that. This plate can be attached to the tripod-head in seconds. I then drilled a hole into the plate and secured the ETX using one long (caution, not too long!!!) tripod-screw. This construction is stable enough for visual observations and even photography with the Digital Camera (I never use the polar-mode, for short exposures altaz suffices). Most important for me, it is lightweight and very quick to set up. You can see it at www.astrostudio.at/tischstativ.htm I have to stop now, I have already stolen enough of your time. I cannot express how happy I am having found this hobby. It is so wonderful to look up to the sky and forget the daily routine, just being overwhelmed by the immensity and weirdness of the cosmos. I am lucky that I don't need help in my everyday life. I can walk without help, drive my car and do my work, nevertheless everything has to happen in a kind of "Slow Motion". My life is a constant struggle against the restrictions of my own physiology, but having these wonderful people around me and a great interest to fulfill me, everything becomes easier and rewarding too. Thank you for your time reading this, I just hope that my long story has not been too boring for you. Please feel free to use it in any way you want. I would appreciate very much if you could post it on your website. I 'd really like to get some response from the amateur astronomers community, I am sure there are some people with similar experiences and problems. Best Regards and Greetings from Marko and of course Best Wishes from Grazyna too firstname.lastname@example.org
Canon A1, Kodak P1600 Slide-Film, fixed Tripod, 24mm Lens
Canon A1, Kodak P1600 Slide-Film, fixed Tripod, 50mm Lens
Alignment of Mars, Antares, Venus and Moon; Canon A1, Kodak P1600 Slide-Film, fixed Tripod, 24mm Lens
ETX 90 RA, Canon A1, Kodak P1600 Slide-Film; Exposure time unknown
ETX 90 RA, StarlightXpress MX5 12bit CCD-Camera; Exposure time unknown; Contrast Strech and Unsharp Mask using PixM5-Software
ETX 90 EC, Baader Astrosolar Filter, Pentax XL 14mm Eyepiece, handheld Olympus Camedia 3040 Digitalcamera in Automatic Mode; Contrast increased and Unsharp Mask using Adobe Photoshop; on the lower left side you can even see solar flares!
ETX 90 EC, Pentax XL 14mm Eyepiece, handheld Olympus Camedia 3040 Digitalcamera in Automatic Mode; Stupid framing! If I had turned the camera around by 90 Degrees I would have been able to capture the entire Moon within one picture alone. Now I have to glue the two together using Photoshop.
same as above, plus Meade 2x Barlow-Lens, Unsharp Mask using Adobe Photoshop
Go back to the User Observations page.
Go back to my ETX Home Page.