Observing with Street Lights

Observing with Street Lights
Dark sky sites not always necessary to see the Milky Way (This image was taken ouside of a B&B in Julian, CA)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Homebuilt crosshairs for astronomy with DSLR Liveview; Weather delays Polaris measurements; Planetary Protection Officer?; Quantum weirdness and shut up and calculate; Another GR textbook; DC power cable adaptation (kludge) for Ioptron mount

Greetings from Palmia Observatory

Well, we have been anxious to get back outside and make some position observations of Polaris.  These observations are going to have to be a little more precise than the previous ones.  In order to get a little more precise in adjusting the camera pointing angles after identifying where Polaris is with respect to the north celestial pole, let's use the homebuilt crosshairs, so we can better identify the camera frame center and make adjustments from that center.

The homebuilt crosshairs were first used and described in the August 23, 2016 post but they are shown below in a photo attached to the DSLR Liveview screen.  They have been used many times on previous occasions in order to mark star positions during the scope alignment process.  The crosshairs are made from just ink on thin flexible plastic glued on a balsa wood frame, which just slides on the Liveview screen and the snug fit holds it in place all evening.  A good thing about the thin plastic film, which was not recognized as a design requirement initially, is that the touch sensitive Liveview screen still can be operated with the crosshairs in place.  Wow, we lucked out on that deal!  It turns out that the DSLR has a built in option to illuminate a cross hatch pattern on the screen, but the pattern is not visible during nighttime observing.  It is possible though to wave your red light in front of the lens and this is enough to make the built in pattern visible at night.  Anyway, my approach is just to rely on the homebuilt crosshairs which is much simpler than trying to illuminate the built in lines.

One more learning lesson occurred during the trial run with camera and telephoto lens on the tripod and that is that the whole assembly is not balanced on the tripod ball head and it any change in elevation is hard to make without grabbing the whole long lens and tilting from that direction.  I often would just loosen up the tilt lockscrew a little bit and the whole camera/lens assembly would just tilt  very quickly before I could maintain the original position.  We need to find another little adapter plate so that the lens/camera system can be mechanically balanced on the tripod so that just a slight force is needed to move it up or lower in elevation.  That is my next homework internet search lesson.

Homebuilt reticle for DSLR Liveview  screen makes for easy astronomical star alignment (Source: Palmia Observatory)
Homebuilt crosshairs for DSLR Liveview screen makes for easy astronomical star alignment (Source: Palmia Observatory)

So, we are all ready to go and we are just waiting on the weather to cooperate.  So far, a couple of nights now, the clouds had a few open spaces and I could sometimes just barely see and identify Polaris when the hole in the cloud cover would close .  Now we have had even some thunder and lightning.  Yesterday, this IPhone photo shows some promise of clouds dissipating, but no, the cloud cover came back in a vengeance.  So, beautiful sunsets are possible, but seeing Polaris is just not going to happen.  It looks like we will have to wait for the weekend when the forecast improves.

It looks beautiful, but will it clear up for astronomy?  Nope, still waiting next day and next! (Source: Palmia Observatory)
It looks beautiful, but will it clear up for astronomy?  Nope, still waiting next day and next! (Source: Palmia Observatory)

So, what to do in the meantime?  I know we can check the mail and talk a little bit about some astrophysics issues and some new equipment that our friends at Amazon just delivered.

First, in case you are frustrated by not being able to get out and do some observing and are considering getting a day job (again) then check out this new job opening at NASA for a Planetary Protection Officer.  Yes, it seems the planetary system needs protection so go ahead and sign up for the job and protect us all from whatever it is that is threatening us.  Check out the NASA job description and details at:

Next, I sometimes get asked by folks what I think about the weird spooky action at a distance sort of thing associated with quantum mechanics.  Telescope Packed up in the Garage, Frank, asked about what to make of this mystery and oftentimes, Wants to Build a Cubesat, Dr. Don, will lure me in to wondering about the mystery.  Well, I do think about it but most of my effort now, as a physicist wannabe, goes into just learning the formalism of quantum mechanics and learning how to do the calculations.  An example of this just came up in this www.coursera.org course on Quantum Optics.

Check out the slide below where Alain Aspect discusses the weirdness of wave-particle duality and the often quoted admonition of "Just shut up and calculate" instead of worrying about the weirdness.  Alain, who himself dealt with this issue back in the 1980's, when he decided to test some of the weirdness during his experimental verification of John Bell's theorem.  Alain found there was an experimental way to check up on the weirdness and found the courage to propose and conduct the first of many experiments.  In the current lecture, he says something about this and how, yes, we need to learn how to do the calculations, but if you can come up with some experimental way of getting closer to understanding the why and the weirdness of quantum mechanics, then go ahead, use your courage, and do the experiment.  I guess for myself, in my own small way, I agree that first of all I need to continue trying to understand the formalism of quantum mechanical calculations and predictions, which has been verified in thousands of observations and has lead to many new discoveries, but at the same time not to lose track of the value of questioning the why of the weirdness.  Once you can do the calculations its easy to just say to yourself, about something that is described in the popular writing as weird, "well how else could it be; that's what the equations say should happen."

Alain Aspect's Quantum Optics class discussed wave-particle duality (Source: www.coursera.org)
Alain Aspect's Quantum Optics class discussed wave-particle duality (Source: www.coursera.org)

If you want to follow up for on the philosophy of quantum mechanics, then I can suggest the following book by Michael Redhead.  I got this book 3-4 years ago and haven't done much reading of it, but after considering some of the questions, I found that the author does a good job of reviewing the formalism of quantum mechanics and then discusses the issues of nonlocality and realism that has worried physicists and philosophers for almost a hundred years now.

Great book by Michael Redhead covers quantum mechanics formalism and questions of nonlocality and realism
Great book that covers quantum mechanics formalism and questions of nonlocality and realism

Another inside discussion that took place while we wait for the nighttime weather to improve for observing was noticing a book that OCA Retired Semiconductor Physicist, John, was reading on general relativity.  Well, as a physicist wannabe, this immediately got my attention  and after perusing the book, which seemed to be simple enough in some of the tough areas of general relativity that I was still struggling with, I decided to let my friends at Amazon provide me with my own copy.  So, if you find yourself struggling with some of your general relativity textbooks, you might want to give this text by, Marvin Blecher, a try.  In some ways it is simpler, even though I still am struggling with some sections in it, but I am hopeful.

Great technical book for those trying to learn general relativity
Great technical book for those trying to learn general relativity

Finally last post I described how the right angle power plug, that I had purchased to mate with the Revolution Imager lightweight lithium ion battery, was not low profile enough and the Ioptron mount bound up on the plug and I was not able to complete any alignment at that time.  Now, after some internet searching, described in the previous post, I just received an adaptor power cord which enables everything to all be connected. So the battery barrel connect is connected to a cable with a cigarette lighter type socket on the other end.  Then the original Ioptron mount cable with the low profile right angle connector cable with its cigarette lighter plug connector can fit together.  The original Ioptron cable worked fine if you just wanted to plug into the old heavy lead acid battery, but the new lightweight battery did not come with that option.   It is kind of a kludge but it works fine during the initial power up test checkout.

Finally got a kludge to connect DC power cables (Source: Palmia Observatory)

Ok, hoping for good clear weather.
Until next time,

Resident Astronomer George

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