I have not been up the mountain in two weeks. This is getting to be a problem, there is a long list of stuff I need to get done.
An ear infection has made life a little troublesome.Beside the usual discomfort involved in an ear infection I had no hearing in my left ear. Pretty much none. I have had difficulty hearing conversations, can not tell where sounds are coming from, the normal sounds of life replaced with a constant ringing and white noise background. After several days of this I was getting to be more than a little concerned. Permanent hearing loss is not a comfortable idea.
The loss of hearing in one ear is interesting and highly annoying. I discovered that I answer the phone with my left ear. The better to keep my right hand available for a keyboard or dialing. Then I wonder why no one is answering. Even worse… Music sounds horrible. That stereo thing? Not much point. Even worse with headphones.
If you did not make a point to come to the last Keck lecture you missed a fun night.Our regular free lecture featured one of Keck’s own this month. Greg Doppmann gave a very informative talk on using one of the Keck spectrographs, NIRSPEC, to examine the inner planet forming disks around young stars. In the near infrared it is possible to determine the presence of water and organic compounds in the material that rocky world may form from.
Greg did a very nice job of explaining spectroscopy. this is never easy, the details can get pretty technical. Making sense of spectra while talking to a general audience is a neat accomplishment. This is even worse when you are talking about the spectra of water in the near infrared where there are thousands of emission lines. Good graphics and a step by step explanation worked, animations of dancing water molecules, and dancing Greg not withstanding.After the lecture everyone was able to enjoy great views of the Moon and Jupiter through telescopes set up by our astronomy club. We got lucky, the notoriously fickle Waimea weather gave us a break. At the start of the lecture is was raining, not hard, just the usual Waimea mist. As Greg’s lecture wound down I ducked outside to be greeted by a bright Moon and no clouds. Somewhat stunned I hurried back inside to give the thumbs up to the crew, who scrambled to setup the ‘scopes before the Q&A session ended.
When the crowd poured out we were ready. A lot of folks stayed to view, and five ‘scopes were in operation to meet them. I have to give thanks to Tony, Chris, Rickey, Cliff, Bernt, and Purcynth, who manned the scopes and answered the flood of questions. As we were breaking down the clouds were rolling back in, very good timing indeed.
The lecture was recorded and should show up on the Keck website soon. I’ll try to post a link to it when it does appear. In the meantime, if you have not already done so, get your email on the Keck Nation list so you know about these events before they happen.
Focus is one of the most frustrating problems when shooting in the dark. The number of astrophotos ruined by poor focus is legion. Worse, the problem is often not found until afterwards, when hours of effort have been wasted. Very slight errors in focus can spoil an otherwise great photo.
Taking photos in the dark creates a situation where the normal solutions do not work… Autofocus simply will not operate without enough light. Taking the lens off and attaching the camera to a telescope results in a completely manual focus. Simply focusing through the viewfinder is not accurate enough.The simplest method of focusing in the dark is to use the live view feature of the camera. By placing a bright star or distant streetlight in the view and magnifying you can achieve a reasonably good focus much of the time. This is not perfect, even the magnified image is a little mushy near ideal focus, making perfect focus difficult to judge. If you find yourself in an after-dark situation, without any special equipment along, this is the method to use.
Do remember to switch off the autofocus feature of your lens. Once you get focus set correctly you do not want to lose it the moment you touch the shutter button. Not that I have ever done that… Never? Well, perhaps maybe.