September Astronomical Events + Exciting News

Hello to all! Schools back in sesion for me here so I hope I will still have the time to be blogging often.  I’ve gotten really lazy and haven’t been updating it like I want to be.  In any case, September is shaping up to be a great month for me.

Observing wise, this is a great time of year.  You can still catch the summer stuff early on in the evening and get a taste of the exciting fall and winter objects to come.  Andromeda is up pretty high by 10PM, and it is a great view on those dark nights.

Pegasus, or the Great Square contains a host of galaxies, namely NGC 7331 and Stephans Quintet, a wonderful, but compact grouping of 5 galaxies.  I could not see these from my Red Zone backyard in the 12.5″.  On a recent trip to my grandpas house, I got to spend a while on Pegasus and was surprised that they were not that apparent at first, even with the 16″ Newtonian.  They are just west of the bright galaxy NGC 7331, which it self is accompanied by a few fainter galaxies.  These were easy in the 16″ but in the 12.5″ at home, only 7331 was visible.  As far as galaxies go, it’s bright enough to be a Messier, but he did not come across it.  The bright planetary NGC 7662, aka, The Blue Snowball is readily visible in the RV-6 from the backyard.  It’s nickname is accurate, looks like a blue snowball afloat a field of stars. Larger aperture will show internal structure and a central star.

In the Andromeda/Triangulum area, there is a lot of memorable objects to be seen.  Of course, the main attraction is M31, with it’s 2 companions M32 and M110.  110 is the smaller brighter companion, with an almost stellar appearance in small scopes.  M32 is larger and fainter, but it can be spied in a 6″ scope from here.  The large aperture really brings this grouping to life.  The inner dust lane of M31 is glimpsed in the 12.5″ on a dark night here, and the galaxy’s milky light extends out far more than it appears.  More can be seen by placing the galaxy outside the field completely and slowly letting it drift into the field.  This tecnique also works great on the Orion Nebula. A favorite of mine in Andromeda is NGC 891, an edge on spiral galaxy.  The surface brightness is rather low and pretty faint from here, but in Arizona skies with grandpa’s 16″ it is large and bright, with a prominent dark dust lane going down the middle.  While in the area, check out NGC 752, a large scattered open cluster near M33.  I really like this cluster, and it’s rather overlooked in my opinnion.  Seen best with low power and wide fields, it is a real treat from dark skies.  The other great galaxy in this region is M33, the Triangulum Galaxy.  This is one of the hardest Messiers due to it’s very large size and low surface brightness. From Arizona, it can be seen naked eye, with spiral arms and clusters and nebulae superimposed upon them in the 16″.  But until recently, I have been unsucessful in locating it from my backyard, until recently.  Once I had the correct stars in the FOV, I waited patiently and after a few minutes was able to make out a soft glow of the galaxy.  This was in the 12.5″ with the ES30mm, giving 63.x and a 1.3* FOV.  Not a visually memorable view, but I was glad to have finally spotted it.

Comet Jacques (c/2014 e2) has gotten pretty bright in Cassipeia right now, hovering around mag 7.  I had it recently in the 12.5″ and it was pretty cool.  There nucleas was very apparent, with the coma extending out very far.  The tail escaped me that night, but it can only get better.  Finder chart here.

In other news, the article on Evered Kreimer will be in the September issue of the quarterly magazine Reflector by the Astronomical League.  I’m hoping for it to come any day now,  the anticipation is building! I submitted the article to them back in July and I’m eager to see it in print.  This is my first article ever in a magazine, and while it is short, it still is a start.  Hopefully more to come for the future!

I’m starting an astronomy club at my high schoold, San Dimas High.  Signups are the week of September 15, and so far there is quite a bit of interest. I am the founder and president of the club, something I can’t say I’ve had experience in before.  Club meetings will be twice month. I’m planning on fundraisers for the club to take a field trip up to Mount Wilson or Griffith Observatory.  The signup week I am bringing the big 12.5″ on campus to get people interested enough to sign up.  It’ll be quite a job, but I have a feeling it’ll bring in a lot more people.

That’s all for now, I plan to make a photo post about my astronomy club coming soon here, as well as the article for the magazine.  Should be really exciting!

 

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Aluminized Telescope Mirror, and Rough Assembly

My mirror arrived back from the aluminizing service, 30 dollars was a steal! Mirror looks great.  I have also roughly assembled the telescope, though I haven’t got it quite working yet.  The mount needs some work, as well as the position of the mirror cell in the tube.

Telescope Mirror

 

Rough telescope assembly

 

down the tube with secondary

 

painted tube

painted tube

The white pain job makes for a nice, clean completed telescope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a

Fully Polished Mirror, and the Support

After 4 months of work, my telescope primary mirror is finished.  I started this project on the 18th of August and finished on December 31st, with a few hours to spare before the new year.  I thought that would be a goal, because I’m going to submit my work (a report basically) to win the National Young Astronomer Award, from the Astronomical League.

The winners (first, second, and third prize)  get an all expense paid trip to the ALCON (Astronomical League Convention) and of course the prize.  First place wins a five inch refractor telescope- a pretty good prize, see the details of this scope here.

Anyway, the telescope mirror is finished and that’s a huge part of the telescope.  For the reflective optical coating I chose Destiny.  My mirror will run a mere 30 dollars- after checking other companys, they averaged about 50 dollars for a mirror of this size.  I also bought a secondary mirror and spider for a small sum.  1/10th wave optics, 1 inch size, 15 bucks is pretty hard to beat.

Upon finishing my mirror, I counted up all the time working on my mirror, from start to finish.  Total time of the glass in motion was over 25 hours!  It may seem like not that long, but it feels longer because of the precision I had to maintain during the process.  Total polishing time clocked in at 6.7 hours- a little longer than expected.  But it’s rouge, one of the slowest polishing compounds you can buy.  And it was worth it considering that it is said to give a finer polish than Cerium Oxide, which is also three times the polish.  Oxide polishes faster, but the increased price was not worth it to me.

Finished Mirror

For me, one of the most important parts of the telescope making project is putting your initials and the date you finished it on the back of the mirror.  It was just as exciting as I thought it would be.  It may seem insignificant, but I liked doing it.

IMG_3203

Also completed was the mirror support, or cell.  It consists of two circular pieces of wood, one the size of the mirror and one the size of the telescope tube.  The mirror sits on the upper piece, and is secured with “L” shaped clamps.  In between the pieces are 3 long screws, and attached are 3 springs.  Next comes the wooden piece for the tube.  Under that, the the ends of the screws are exposed, and wing-nuts are then threaded on.  By twisting on of the wing-nuts, it compresses the spring and moves the mirror on top slightly downward on that side of the mount.

IMG_3210 IMG_3209

mirror in the support

Pretty good huh? I bought an aluminum tube at the hardware store for 7 dollars.  It is five inches round, so the bottom piece of the support matches that.  Obviously, the “L” clips will need to be painted black and other stuff to eliminate reflections.  There’s not that much left to do on the scope really.  I had the bottom base for the Dobsonian mount finished- with a CD as the bearing material, which works really good by the way.

I'm building a mount similar to this.

I’m building a mount similar to this.

Well to wrap things up, I finished a big important part of my telescope and I’m glad I took my time with it.  Pretty soon I’ll be gazing upon galaxies and nebulae.  I think the biggest help will be the aperture.  If you’ve heard great things from Orion’s Skyscanner, my scope has the same aperture.  It also has a much longer focal length (f-12) and should, if collimated correctly, provide sharper images.

Telescope Polishing- Update

Almost polished mirror

Almost polished mirror

As you can see, the mirror is polishing pretty good but it is taking a long time to do, they weren’t lying when they said rouge is really slow, not to mention incredibly messy.  The large grey mass is on the back of the mirror- I got careless during the 3rd grade of abrasive and accidently set the mirror down face up. See post (here). All of the scratches you see are on the backside of the mirror.  Also, after repeated “cold pressing” sessions, the mirror refuses to polish from the center to the edge.  I have heard of this before, and it usually causes a turned edge.

polished

As you can see above, the area in the middle is not polished yet.  This is often hard to distinguish from the ground surface on the back, but at the right angle, I can see it.  I was lucky enough to capture it in the picture.

Unfortunately, the lap in the previous post was ruined by dropping it, I am reckless sometimes.  Then I made a new lap, and let it sit too long after pouring it and it hardened before I could put in the curve.  The next lap polished a lot and then, for some reason, the lap started to crack around the edges.  It eventually came off so now I have to make another lap.  The books don’t lie, polishing with rouge and pitch are not easy.

Rouge

Up close with Rouge and the polishing process.

Polishing operation, as always covered with Rouge

Polishing operation, as always covered with Rouge

Making the Pitch Lap, and Polishing

I’m waist deep in the polishing process of the telescope making project, for me this is the final stage.  As I stated at the beginning of this project, I would omit the Foucault test as well as figuring of the telescope glass.

In truth, I had to make 2 pitch laps.  The first one was okay, but now very good.  The “channels” that were cut were far too shallow, and the lap came out lopsided.  Besides, I got a little anxious to finish this mirror and polished before fine grinding was done.  So I had to scrape off the lap with a knife and return to fine grinding.  How did I know? Well, the surface was more frosted than it should have been for starters.  Also, I found that there was a scratch that went unnoticed.

So another hour and a half of grinding is what it took to correct these few problems.  The new pitch lap is much better and it’s polishing!  Below is the setup of the area for the pitch lap making:

Lap making setup

Now, before I get into the whole process, because it is an involved one, let me state that this only one way of making a pitch lap.  There are probably hundreds of ways (no I’m not kidding) to make a successful pitch/wax lap.

All of the books I read on this stage were advising the beginner not to make a lap of pitch, but I didn’t listen, because of extensive research and tips of the actual process.  You may wonder why I said “wax” in the preceding paragraph.  That’s because a lot of people have made wax laps over the years, mainly of beeswax.  I’m not sure if you can purchase beeswax sheets anymore, but maybe some are still around.  The beeswax lap serves as an economic alternative to the traditional pitch and is easier to make (not anymore unfortunately).

On to my lap making process!

The first thing to do is to open up the pitch package, put it in an old pan, and heat it very slowly.  Because I am trying to be as economic as possible, I decided to purchase a synthetic lap, Acculap Pitch.  I bought the intermediate grade as it is best for laps of this sort, which can be purchased here.

While the pitch is heating, the surrounding area should be covered well in newspaper (see above photo).  Also, I got a large bowl and put hot water in it, then the two glass disks.  This is probabilistic one of the tensest parts of making the lap, for if even a single drop of cool water gets on a glass disk, it will crack it and it’s over.  Luckily, that did not happen.

Be sure to watch the pitch lap closely, and I meant it when I said to heat it slowly, because I became a little impatient and heated it too fast, and it started to bubble, which hardens the pitch.  Fortunately, the addition of turpentine can bring it back to it’s normal hardness.  But be careful if you do this to not get any in the flame, because of the explosive properties of turpentine.

The reddish hue is due to the Rouge from the previous lap.

The reddish hue is due to the Rouge from the previous lap.

While all of this is going on, I took a small bowl of water and filled it with warm water and a soap solution of dishwashing detergent, this will be lubricant to keep the mirror and lap from sticking while pressing is in progress.  Also, when the pitch is poured, a cardboard damn will need to be made to retain the pitch on top of the tool.  This was made out of a cereal box, and the glossy, printed side was facing in as its able to retain the moisture of the pitch.

When all of this is finished, the pitch should be very liquidy, though still thick as pitch is.  Then I removed the tool from the water bath, dried it very thoroughly to promote good adhesion of pitch and slowly poured the pitch onto the tool.  I decided to have this lap much thinner than the previous lap, because if I have to scrape it off again, it will be much easier to accomplish.

Freshly poured pitch

Freshly poured pitch

Now I let it sit for 5 or six minutes, for the pitch to harden enough to peel off the cardboard dam.  This is my favorite part.  There’s just something about the lap that really looks sharp, or as sharp as a slab of pitch on glass can look.  I did not get a photograph of it, but it still remains in my mind.  Now one of the most critical parts- pressing.

Now the soapy water comes into play.  I poured a liberal amount of the stuff onto the warm lap, then slowly set down the mirror.  Now I move the mirror slowly around a half an inch to 1 inch in different directions, also rotating the mirror.  I thought I made good contact and it feels smooth when I polish, but the edge is polishing before the center, which means the dreaded turned edge.  This can be fixed, but I need to cold press, which is a process where a rouge lubricant is put between the mirror and lap and a weight is put on top of the tool to sit for 30 minutes or more.  The only problem is that the lap dries rather quickly and I don’t want to get them stuck together.

Getting back to the lap making, I slid the mirror off after I though good contact was made, and let it cool off for a couple of minutes, and then proceeded to cut the channels.  In Amateur Telescope Making, they recommend using a razor blade to cut these large channels.  They even have pictures of  someone cutting a perfect, flawless lap from a razor blade.  This is however, not the case.  What follows is jagged, uneven impressions, and almost every time chipping off large pieces out of the face of the lap.  Me and my Dad learned this making the previous lap, which by the way, my Dad is a huge aid to me during this process.

So just to see, we tried a couple of lines, and it came just as described.  So my Dad came up with a genius way to make good channels, a small handheld grinder.  This served perfect for making neat, and good looking channels.  What was most amazing to me during cutting these channels is the effect of the ground up pitch.  I grinds it into this very fine fuzz, the closest thing being cotton candy.

A finished pitch lap

A finished pitch lap

It is not the best lap I’ve ever seen, but it does it’s job like it should.  For polishing, I decided to use Red Optical Rouge.  I would prefer to use the faster polishing Cerium Oxide, but it’s more than triple the price for the stuff and like I said, this is a budget project.  I have heard that Rouge gives a better polish that Cerium Oxide though.

The main difference between grinding and polishing is that in polishing, you have to be very careful when you have the lap on the stand.  It should be dust free, and the work is so delicate that dust will scratch the polished surface.  You wouldn’t think there would be any chance to get dust between the disks, but there are actually many.  For example, you expose the lap when you go to renew the charge of rouge.  So to stop this, I put a piece of plastic or a sheet of paper over the exposed lap to keep dust to a minimum.

One thing about using Rouge is that is is abominably messy.  The stuff gets everywhere! And it’s all over your hands most of the time, so when you go to wash your hands with a bar of soap, the bar will be covered with rouge.  It gets on clothes, doors, doorknobs, towels, even in your hair!

My new goal is to be finished with the entire project by the end of the year, which is not a whole lot of time.  I probably won’t get the mirror aluminized, but everything else (I’m hoping) will be finished.

Fine Grinding Finished

Surface after 5 micron

The 4 inch mirror after White Aluminum Oxide 5 micron.  Notice how it reflects light.  The surface is smooth, gray, and satiny smooth.  I can read regular print through it.  There are absolutely no scratches/pits.  The surface is flawless.  Pitch pouring and pressing process coming soon