Monday, February 23, 2009

Double Star Rigel

Since my $1,200 Nikon won't work right on stars I tuned up my other astrostuff tonight to see if I could split a few double stars with my $79 Philips Toucam Pro webcam and my 8" Celestron telescope.

Our own Sun being a notable exception, most stars are double stars, or even double doubles. The bright star Rigel lives about 770 light years from your bedroom and you probably know it as the right foot of the hunter Orion.

Rigel is the sixth brightest star in the sky, is a noted double and its B companion is clearly evident in this nice image taken from my deck tonight. About 400 1/50th-sec movie images were stacked in freeware RegiStax.

We are looking at the way the star appeared at about the time of the signing of the Magna Carta. Splitting this duo is the equivalent of being able to read the title of this page from three football fields away.


Monday, February 16, 2009

The Planet Venus

At first glance this picture of Venus, taken in Pinehurst, doesn't look like anything to get excited about...except that this is about as good as Earth-based photos ever get because of the planet's heavy cloud cover. And this picture was not taken with my telescope but with my Nikon Coolpix at full optical zoom (about 270 mm).

When Venus is nearest to the Earth it always appears as a crescent, as shown. When it is fully illuminated it is always much farther away and appears much smaller.

This was four separate images, stacked and combined in the freeware program RegiStax.

-- Dalton Hammond

Sunday, February 08, 2009

COMING SOON: The new Giant of the South logo

Saturday, February 07, 2009