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About Sargs

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    Astronomy (surprise!)
    Computer games
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    United Kingdom
  1. Being a technical decision based on objective criteria, that's an easy choice. You pick the red one. Red ones go faster.
  2. Most definitely agree, though it's a bit of a special case: the quieter I am, the higher the probability that the police will buzz me in their helicopter, setting the dog off on a five minute barking session at four in the morning. I am the best neighbour.
  3. I had the same problem with an insanely tight latitude adjustment, even after upgrading the bolts. I upgraded to the Vimech EQ6Wedge, and it's a huge improvement over the original design and worth the money if you do astrophotography. I managed to remove the black end-caps by running a hair dryer on them for a few minutes. This heating softened the glue and possibly the caps themselves, making them less likely to split when I levered them off using a thin bladed butter-knife. Both were only very slightly marked on the edges to the point that you'd only see it if you were looking for it, and the casting itself was unmarked. Just take it easy to avoid splitting the caps and make sure the caps and the casting itself are nice and warm, as all that aluminium will happily conduct the heat away! Unscrew the latitude pointer before you start (it's quite sharp from memory, so be careful). You'll probably lose any calibration on that scale unless you're careful, but they're not exactly precise to start with. Good luck!
  4. One idea would be to look on eBay for companies that take old IT kit from businesses that are upgrading or going out of business, and recondition them before selling them on. This can be a good way to get hold of something like an older Lenovo ThinkPad. I got an old T420 that I used for a year or so. They're designed to be dragged all over the place by office workers and business travellers so they're a little tougher than the average consumer laptop and the battery life is generally excellent (though that may not be the case for a second-hand unit, replacement batteries are relatively cheap). Only downsides I found were that the screen's colour reproduction, while usable, is not exactly ideal for image processing and there was no built-in USB 3. When I had the pennies, I pepped it up with some extra memory and (this *really* made a difference and improved battery life as well) a solid state drive. I'd still use it now but I wound up getting a couple of cameras that really needed USB3. I used a plug-in USB3 expansion card for a bit, but it's not as fast as built-in USB3. Edit: Just noticed Waldemar said much the same thing. Whoops!
  5. One thing you could also try is to take an astronomical picture with your gear set up as you plan to use it and the camera set at 1x1 binning. Take the image and platesolve it at nova.astrometry.net. The results contain the pixel scale in the "calibration" section in the right-hand column. This was handy for me as I have an adjustable flattener designed for a range of scopes and the amount of "reduction" it performs varies according to the spacing, which in turn varies according to the scope.
  6. Why AP over Visual? I'd been an on-again-off-again visual astronomer since my teens. Mostly off-again, to be honest. About five years ago, I treated myself to a Nexstar 6SE and had a play with it for a few months. At some point, I read about using webcams with scopes and had a go imaging the moon and Jupiter. I took the photos and showed them to friends and relatives and I really liked the interest they generated. I'd previously not talked much about astronomy to people who weren't already interested, since just being told someone spent the night staring at the moon isn't very exciting, but being shown the pictures by the person who took them seems to really grab people. So yes, I might have taken up astrophotography to make up for being a giant nerd with no social skills. Great plan, but it sort of works. I'm a computer programmer in my day job for one of the lesser forces of evil (a bank, but not one you bailed out) and I have a mailing list of about thirty colleagues who I regularly send my latest pictures to. There's a couple of people there who do have a significant interest in astronomy- did astrophysics at Uni, or have their own scope, but most of them are interested because they're pictures taken by "that guy they work with" and it gives a connection. I've long since upgraded from the Nexstar to an Apo refractor for widefield and a 9.25-inch SCT for planetary and smaller objects. I have a mono CCD camera and a NEQ6 to carry the load. Astrophotography has a few advantages for me over visual- firstly, the number of things I can take pictures of from my city garden is bigger than the number of things I can see visually. Secondly, it's heavily computer-based, which lets me scratch my computer-itch without having to do anything actually related to work. The processing also gives me something astronomical to do on cloudy nights- image one night, spend the cloudy thirteen nights of the fortnight processing! As to whether I had any interest in photography before doing astrophotography- yes and no. I never took pictures myself, but I grew up in a family whose business was photography (my grandfather was a press photographer who started the family business of photographic printing and processing, my mother worked for the business and was a wedding and portrait photographer as well). I'd no interest in photography and wanted to do computers instead, which I did. I wound up writing software for Nokia back when they were a thing. When the first camera phones came out, I was dragged in to writing the software that drove them, since I knew what a hyperfocal distance was without googling it and could explain roughly how a Bayer matrix worked. Ironically, I helped kill off the family business by giving pretty much everyone a half-decent camera in their pocket that they'd have with them all the time and that didn't need any film processing or prints printing. Wedding photographers used to curse that whenever they set up a shot, everyone's uncles and aunts would be stood behind them taking pics on their phones and killing any hope the photographer had of selling copies of their prints. Oops...
  7. Don't let them get too friendly though, or you might hear the pitter-patter of tiny catadioptrics.
  8. I was born at the very end of the Apollo program and grew up in that sort of post-moon era when space was still very much a major part of pop culture with Space:1999, Blake's 7, Dr Who and so on. One of my uncles was a keen amateur astronomer and had helped set up the local astronomical society while another had done his Masters in Physics with Manchester University at Jodrell bank. I grew up very keen on space and sort of dipped in and out of active astronomy as a kid, but in the eighties I got distracted by the latest big thing- CB Radio, wait, no- home computers. Eventually, after a roundabout route through the videogames industry, college, Y2K testing and ten years working for a former Finnish wellie and toilet roll company that had branched out into mobile phones, I found myself looking for a hobby that didn't involve computers in any way and came back to astronomy. First purchase? Computer-controlled telescope, a NexStar 6SE. That was fun for a while but I was starting to lose interest until two things happened: My amateur astronomer uncle bought a SkyWatcher 200 and an EQ-5 mount off eBay, and I bought a cheap webcam to stick on my scope to get pictures of the moon. My uncle's scope and mount really impressed me for the price and got me thinking about bigger things, while the webcam let me get pics of the moon and Jupiter, which I showed at work and everyone was amazed by. Being able to show other people what I've seen through the telescope lit a fire under me. I've now got a NEQ6-pro mount and after a few hardware changes, a 98mm apo refractor and a C9.25 to hang off it (not at the same time, obv) along with a couple of decent cameras. And now, for pics! First deep-sky astrophoto I ever took (in 2013) was of the Ring Nebula. Unguided with awful polar alignment, I was limited to 15-second exposures. Last summer, I had another go...
  9. I did much the same but I used plate solving to get the initial alignment. When it works, it's the best thing ever. When it works...
  10. Thanks on confirming I was probably looking at Vesta! I was reasonably sure that it should be in frame from what CdC was telling me, but I've been wrong before.
  11. Had a bash at some minor planet spotting on Friday night/Saturday morning. Pointed the scope at a fairly nondescript bit of space between Gemini and Cancer and started taking pictures. The star in the middle of the field is (I believe!) asteroid 4 Vesta at a distance of some 227 million kilometres. I took five frames over a period of twenty-five minutes before the clouds came over to see what I was doing, but even over this short a period, you can see some elongation of Vesta as it drifts relative to the fixed background stars. Interesting way to spend some time since the weather wasn't ideal with partial, intermittent cloud. Since I was looking for motion between frames, I didn't mind if I lost half my subs to the weather gods! Telescope was a William Optics FLT-98 with AFR-IV focal reducer Camera was a ZWO ASI1600MC-cooled. No flats or darks, as I was just mucking about really. Would have liked to get a couple of hours, but if the weather had been good enough for that, I'd probably have gone nebula-hunting. It was interesting to deliberately go hunting for a specific asteroid; normally, I just find them after the fact, messing up my pics of something else!
  12. More or less true- We never encrypt your password as we don't know it and never, ever store it. We only store the interesting stain it leaves behind when you put it in a bag full of jam and hit it really, really hard with a hammer. Then when you log in, we put your input in another bag of the same jam, hit it with the hammer again and compare stains. In both cases, we never see your password, only its mangled, jam-smeared remains. We call this process salting and hashing because we don't think hackers will realise we're really using jam and smashing. https://www.owasp.org/index.php/Password_Storage_Cheat_Sheet Now, that's what super-reputable security sorts with a sideline in jam making do. Other, less reputable people do dumb stuff like store everyone's password along with their sensitive personal info in a big box marked "SECRET" and then lose the box on the bus. Then all those passwords and all that personal info gets leaked on the internet and someone whacks it into a spreadsheet and we laugh at all the n00bs that use "password" as their password. https://blog.keepersecurity.com/2017/01/13/most-common-passwords-of-2016-research-study/
  13. In my day job, I work in cybersecurity. I've devoted the last few years of my life in to making safe, secure systems based around high-end cryptography and sophisticated anti-hacking techniques. Systems secure enough that I'm willing to trust them not just with your money, but with my overdraft too. What winds me up? That in 2016, the most common password in use is *still* 123456.
  14. Do you have a Barlow? If so, try setting your focuser to a position where it is in focus for the DSLR, then take off the DSLR, fit the Barlow and add an eyepiece. With some luck, you may be close enough to focus to get a sharp image in the eyepiece (possibly with a bit of judicious sliding the eyepiece out of the Barlow a bit without touching the focuser). If that works and you can see diffraction spikes that you wouldn't normally see without the barlow, then it's the focuser drawtube. You can do the same trick with simple spacing tubes, but you'd need quite long ones. Sky-Watcher Newtonians that are for visual and imaging come with fairly short drawtubes and really big extensions that you have to add when using eyepieces- or at least my 200P did. One way to test it with the camera is to add a cardboard aperture mask over the corrector plate. Cut a circle in it that stops down your scope's aperture by an inch or so- just enough to leave the drawtube edge in shadow. Only problem is you need to be fairly precise otherwise your aperture mask will cause its own diffraction problems. If it is the drawtube, one non-hacksaw option would be to get a dedicated low-profile focuser, but chances are you'd need to do some drilling if the previous focuser's screw-holes didn't match. I grew up with Newtonians, so personally I think that's a really nice picture. Focus is great and the only time I've managed to come close to that level of nebulousity out of the Pleiades was when my scope fogged over last Friday!
  15. When imaging, how far in is your focuser? Wondering if maybe it's possible the focuser is racked in so much that the inner edge of the drawtube is clipping the light path. Someone with more experience that me might be able to tell us what that would actually look like!
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