Bahtinov Mask Created By 3D Printing

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Bahtinov Mask created by 3D printing. (Thanks Benny Fab Laboratory at Benny Library)

 

       Bahtinov Mask 3D printing video (Thanks to the Benny Fab Lab at Benny Library)
The Bahtinov Mask is one of the best tools for focusing your camera-telescope setup for imaging. Although not very expensive to buy, it can be made by hand using cardboard or a ridged thin plastic using a template or pattern…Home Made Bahtinov Focusing Mask & Templates, a good article on Deep-Sky Watch.com . Another method would be to create the mask by 3D printing, not as daunting of a process as you might think…
3D printers can be used free of charge in various educational institutions and libraries, accompanied by expert guidance. The size of the object printable is limited by the particular 3D printer used and the material used to print the object. Programs such as Openscad, Tinkercad and Blender are free software, downloadable online. A template for the model will be required in order to 3D print your object. The learning curve is a little steep but the internet and especially U-Tube provides many tutorials. For those of you who rather not start from scratch creating the model, there are free models online for many diverse types of objects including the Bahtinov Mask. Free models can be found using the STL Finder.
To 3D print the Bahtinov Mask as shown in the images above, I used Opencad a free software and a ready-made tweakable template or model called Bahtinov mask generator (modded) which I found on Thingiverse.com .This model generator allowed for the size of the mask to be adjusted according to the measurements of my own telescope. The resultant SCAD file can be exported as a STL file (in the Openscad software) which is then in a file format usable by most 3D printers, in this case the Ultimaker 3. The material used to print the mask was PLA (Poly Lactic Acid), an organic biodegradable thermoplastic made from cornstarch and sugarcane.
The hobby of amateur astronomy leads us down many related paths of further learning…the process of 3D printing is just another. Good luck with the creations for your telescope…to excuse a pun…the sky is the limit!

 

 

 

 

 

The Push For Human Habitation In Space

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Image Courtesy of Nasa.gov

Since man’s first step’s on the Moon in 1969 and to present day, with such discoveries as those attributed to Voyager, Hubble and Cassini, the stage has been set for more rapid and ground breaking advances in the technology of space travel. The contributing factors which will spur on this change are both positive and negative in nature…facilitating and also pushing the human intellect to perform.

 

The current population on Earth in 2017 is 7.6 billion. The species extinction rate is between 200 to 2,000 a year which also has a chain reaction affect on the environment. The search for new antibiotics cannot keep up with new resistant microbial strains.  Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing 100 times faster than at the end of the last ice age. Resultant climate changes, storms, heat waves, flooding, famine and epidemics have not been mitigated by humanitarian efforts or international governmental aid. Ironically, despite our technological know how, we lack the will to perform good housekeeping on the very soil upon which we were conceived and nurtured. The Earth has been plundered with indifference and we have provided only token resolve towards vital and necessary change.

The concern for the quality of future life on Earth, afflicted with these problems is one but not the only driving force which will spur on human space exploration at a faster pace. Since the last 15 years Nasa has singly led the way in this endeavour restricted by governmental funding. However within the last few decades, rich entrepreneur enterprises such as SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin not to mention at least 200 related smaller start-ups have come into existence. Space craft technology is the new silicon valley of our time. The lure of space tourism will attract more and more people eventually bringing down the fare of space travel.  At this stage, space vehicle technology will soar as more money will be available and not limited as in the past by governmental control.

Since the Industrial Revolution, we have polluted our world and since then with really no significant abatement. Based on history, it may in fact be a lot easier to effect co-operation in the field of space travel between businesses, spurred on by the lucrative rewards of monetary gain rather than between nations on a larger scale, trying to co-operate on regulating pollution emissions, the rewards of which may not be as immediately luring and tangible. Thus the orchestrated push for human habitation in space may well be our last hope for our survival unless drastic and immediate change regarding the environment is agreed upon by all nations…a prayer we all have in common.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Life is Like Water, Then it is Abundant in The Universe

 

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Image Courtesy of Nasa at https://www.nasa.gov

The only truth of which we can be certain with regard to life in the universe is that Earth is surely abundant with it. Life can adapt and thrive in many harsh environments from hot geysers to the sun deprived locations deep within our oceans. Common to the existence of life at least as we know it, is a requirement which is that of water…the life-blood of the universe…the vehicle by which organic molecules combine, through which life forms move and nutrients are absorbed.

Beyond Earth, the closest world to us, The Moon, has water and it is thought, a lot of it. The water on the surface is enclosed in volcanic glass beads formed billions of years ago when magma erupted from the Moon’s interior.  Was some of it brought by comets or asteroid bombardment …possibly but this is only one source. The water in this encapsulated form can be found throughout the lunar surface. The quantity of water on the lunar surface in this captured volcanic form is estimated to be about 1 quart per cubic meter. The water bearing volcanic beads imply that this water originated from deep within the the interior of the Moon. Water in the form of ice has been found by Nasa radar by an Indian Moon probe. It found evidence of 600 million metric tons of actual water ice spread out on the bottom of the craters at the north lunar pole. Trace amounts of water molecules have also been found above the moon’s surface as well. Nasa found using Nasa Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter data that the coldest places near the moon’s south pole are the brightest places which might indicate surface frost. All of this data goes a long way in implying that the moon may have had an atmosphere of its own at one time.

In our solar system there are several worlds that are thought to contain water as ice or water vapour such as Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Mercury shows signs of iced over craters and as discovered by Nasa’s Curiosity Mars Rover, an ancient martian riverbed indicates that once water flowed on it surface.

Europa, Calisto and Ganymede, Jupiter’s moons, show strong evidence of liquid water below their surface as well as essential chemicals to sustain life. In fact Ganymede is thought to have a salt water ocean. Saturn’s moon Europa and Enceladus have not only liquid water but the other factors thought essential for life to exist…essential chemical elements and energy sources.

With the study of exoplanets, the Kepler data confirm the planets about the size of our earth could be entirely covered in water. The Tess mission upcoming will search such exoplanets and the James Webb Space telescope will examine their atmospheres.

Regarding our Moon the question arises…what amount of water could be lurking below its surface and in what form…the answer is a lot and in the form of liquid water quite possibly as in the case of Enceladus for instance, where active geysers spraying water ice particles and water vapor from below its surface give testament to water a plentiful beyond our Earth.

No wonder why Nasa has planned sometime in 2020 to revisit our nearest neighbour. The lunar south pole will be of special interest because the south pole is unique in that sunlight does not reach the botton of the craters which act as permanent cold traps that could reveal a fossil record of the early solar system. Nasa’s Lunar Ice Drill will bore the south pole for analysis during this lunar revisit.

Acquiring the technology to harvest water on the moon and elsewhere will be a crucial step to accomplishing the future goals of Nasa. Its task will be to lay the framework of a moon orbiting space station that will later be serviceable in future interplanetary exploration. As Early as 2033 scientists invision a manned space flight to Mars as a direct result of Nasa’s Orion Program to come.

 
Further Reading: Brown University
Researchers create first global map of water in Moon’s soil
Sept 13,2017 

 

 

 

 

How To Do Astrophotography | An Overview Of The Methods In Astrophotography

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Essentially imaging can be divided into two broad categories called short and long exposure astrophotography. Short exposure astrophotography does not require tracking of the object and can be done with a camera on a tripod or with a camera and telescope. In its simplest form a smartphone can be held up to the eyepiece on a telescope and an image instantly obtained. TShort exposure astrophotography is limited to about 30 to 60 seconds before star trails occur in the image.
Short exposure astrophotography is limited by the focal length of the imaging system used. The higher the magnification and focal length the less exposure time is available before star trails occur. In contrast, long exposure astrophotography requires more involved methods. A stable tracking mount is required to follow the object and to keep the system from experiencing unrelated movement during imaging. Some kind of guiding method is also required, either manual or auto-guiding to reposition the object in the field of view. These requirements become more stringent when the imaging is done at increasingly higher magnifications and longer exposure times.
The  imaging system, method and post imaging processing software chosen is dependent on both the object to be imaged as well as the degree of image detail required. The bright planets such as Jupiter and Saturn are generally imaged with “lucky imaging” using a video method. Magnification to increase the size of the object in the field of view can be achieved by the attachment of extenders or barlows to the imaging system. Further the imaging exposure time would be dependent on whether the system was setup for short or long exposure as previously described. Generally, the resultant video file ( avi, ser ) would then be run through image processing software which would choose the best still images and then stack them creating one significantly more detailed image in the file formats of jpeg, tiff or fit.
The Moon lends itself to the above imaging method described for Jupiter, Saturn. In this case because the moon is so much closer, the video produces satisfying detail without the need of further processing. However, stacking of the resultant video would offer comparatively still more detail. Because the moon is a very bright object, second only to the Sun, single shot imaging is also possible. Also a series of single shot images can be stacked to achieve the same results.
Deep Sky Objects (DSO) such a nebulas, galaxies and star clusters are better imaged in most cases using long exposure astrophotography. These objects are relatively faint compared to the planets and require a longer overall exposure time. Imaging of DSO can be done using the short exposure method even with a camera and tripod on some of the more brighter objects such as the Andromeda Galaxy or The Orion Nebula and star clusters. This method may involve creating a series of images which are stacked for greater detail however the detail obtained cannot be compared in most instances with that of the long exposure method.
In recent years, Video Astronomy or EAA has emerged and may be considered a blessing for the “impatient” amateur astronomy who would rather do away with all the hours of post processing. Essentially within a matter of a few minutes beautiful images of the night sky appear on your computer screen, as if by magic. The principal is based on real or near real-time stacking. The series of images taken continuously can be adjusted “on the fly” for such characteristics as exposure, gain, sharpness, contrast, white balance and color. A snapshot can be taken of the resultant image or the series of images can be saved to be  processed and stacked later by another program. EAA lends itself to DSO imaging and achieves that which is similar to what ‘lucky imaging” does for the planets. EAA rapidly acquires detailed images due to cameras with extremely high light sensitivity but increased noise reduction. Further the cameras and the supplied software have auto-guiding capabilities to send tracking messages to the mount… a separate auto-guider is not required! Essentially, EAA has provided the ability to achieve highly detailed images using short exposure time astrophotography, eliminating the stringent requirements imposed by the long exposure method.
Although EAA has ease of use, the method has not yet achieved the same quality of imaging as yet derived from the traditional method of long exposure astrophotography. This would entail future improvements such as increased camera pixelage, framerate, sensitivity, noise reduction, cooling systems. EAA has the ability at present to render detailed images the equivalent to that detail which can be observed through a telescope of 3 times the aperture.