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NC Astronomers Meets
At the Madelyn Helling Library
Community Room
980 Helling Way
Nevada City, CA 95959

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  Oct 5th
  1st Wednesday
  7pm - 9pm

Astrophotography
How to Get Started
by Tony Finnerty

Today's amateur astrophotographers are producing images as beautiful as those made by professional astronomers on multi-million dollar research telescopes 25 years ago. The digital revolution reduced the cost to what many can afford, ranging from $0 using already-owned telescopes and cameras, to tens of thousands of dollars for specialized astrographs, telescope mounts and cooled astrocameras.

Some amateur astronomers get started by holding a smartphone camera to the eyepiece to capture the memory of some impressive object they have seen. Some started as nightscape photographers with a conventional camera and lens on a tripod, which might even have drawn them into acquiring their first telescope.

Others are drawn into the challenge of imaging deep sky objects to bring up details that cannot be seen in visual observing, substituting long exposure times for huge telescopes. What can be captured in long exposures from one's back yard, even through light-polluted skies is astonishing.

Technique is as important as equipment, for both data acquisition and image processing. Long-exposure astrophotography may be most difficult. Stars must be tracked to pinpoint accuracy while moving across the night sky. Cameras must record an extreme range of brightness, from stars and planets at the bright end, to dim nebulosity that requires hours of exposure time. Sophisticated image processing pulls very dim objects out of the electronic noise of image sensors run at the extremes of their capabilities.

Several setups for astrophotography will be demonstrated, ranging from a conventional camera on a tripod to a semi-automated system for narrow band imaging of dim nebulae, with an opportunity to inspect them closely during the refreshment break.

 
  Nov 2nd
  1st Wednesday
  7pm - 9pm

Making a World Class Refractor
by Vic Maris
Founder of Stellarvue, maker of world class refractors

Vic found his interest in astronomy in the mid-1960s, reading Golden Book of Astronomy and using a 60 mm refractor given to him by his father. It was a typical entry level scope with a wobbly base and less-than stellar optics. So at the age of 14 he polished his first 6 inch mirror, followed in a couple years by a 5 inch, f/15 refractor.

A career with the California State Park system intervened, including as Supervising Ranger at Empire Mine State Historic Park. Vic's passion for astronomy continued with park events, public outreach and teaching. While Chief Ranger for Sonoma County State Parks he assisted local astronomy clubs so they could build and operate the Robert Fergusson Observatory at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.

In 1997 Vic "retired" by founding Stellarvue in his garage - now a highly regarded maker of refracting telescopes in their facility in Auburn. The goal of Stellarvue has been to make quality telescopes that are so easy to use that they virtually disappear between the eye and the sky. His love for introducing people to the wonders of the natural world and the universe continues through Stellarvue's astronomy outings, educational programs, and the annual Dark Sky Star Party at Likely, California, which always includes nature walks, with occasional spottings of Bigfoot.

Vic will talk about what it takes to make a world class refractor, from the perspective of a professional telescope maker who started making his personal scopes like many of us.

 
  Dec 7th
  1st Wednesday
  7pm - 9pm

Perfecting Telescope
Pointing Accuracy
by Lonnie Robinson

Lonnie Robinson is an active member of Nevada County Astronomers, joining with other members who make telescope mirrors, including testing mirrors and optical tube assemblies (OTAs) to assure optical quality. He lives in Sacramento where he also serves as Vice President of Sacramento Valley Astronomical Society.

  • Motions of Alt-Az and equatorial mounts
  • Easily polar alignment of mounts
  • Simplified drift alignment
  • Choosing guide stars
  • Hardware for accurate pointing, including setting circles
  • Software for accurate pointing and tracking of night sky objects

Lonnie's talk will be informative for amateur astronomers from beginners to experts.

 

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