Fun at AstroDay

In the ten years I have lived on island I have never missed an AstroDay. This year was no change to that streak, I volunteered to do the last shift on the Keck Observatory table, 2-4pm. Show up at lunchtime, enjoy the activities myself for a while, say hi to everyone I know there, then do my shift on the table… Good plan.

Thermal image of a young guest at AstroDay
Thermal image of a young guest at AstroDay
We were using a thermal camera for our primary activity. Instead of borrowing the fancy, and very expensive, FLIR camera from the summit, our outreach group has bought one of the little iPad thermal cameras from Seek Thermal.

I was pleasantly surprised with this little thermal camera, it does a nice job costing only a few hundred dollars. Using the iPad linked to a large display using AirPlay the setup worked quite well in practice. I could handle the camera with no wires to tether me to one place.

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Diving Gallery

One More RadioShack Closes

Our local Waimea RadioShack shop is closing.

RadioShack Pile
A pile of RadioShack components purchased at the local closing sale.
Our local RadioShack has survived several rounds of store closures as the chain has moved in and out of bankruptcy court. Time has finally run out for the store and it is liquidating the stock and will close by the end of the month.

I have commented on my view on RadioShack before. As an electronic hobbyist I have mixed feelings about RadioShack. In my younger years it was a decent place to buy electronic components. Some of the early computers I learned on were RadioShack products like the TRS-80 and Tandy 1000. I even worked as a RadioShack sales clerk one summer during high school.

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PPT in the News… Again

It was a last minute request. OK, not actually the last minute, but two days is not much lead time to plan a public outreach event.

Fortunately there was not much to arrange, a single solar telescope and the standard table setup we keep packed and ready to go, all we had to do was show up. Drive up to the Pōhakuloa Training Area to join in their Earth Day events. There would be several hundred students from local schools, tables and displays from other organizations, a good outreach opportunity.

Pōhakuloa Solar Telescope
A solar telescope set up at Pōhakuloa Training Area for Earth Day.
In ten years of driving past the front gates of PTA, I had never been inside. Why not, just an easy drive from Waikoloa, and I have a telescope that will do the job perfectly.

It seems odd that a military base would celebrate Earth Day. What do attack helicopters, live munitions, and troops have to do with the environment? The answer should not be that surprising… Military bases are often large effective nature reserves.

Large areas of land, much of which sits unused and undisturbed, are closed to public access. An active range needs huge safety and buffer zones around the firing ranges. Of the 133,000 acres that makes up PTA, only a small percentage is directly impacted by the training activities. The rest is home to a endemic and endangered species, closed to any activity that can disturb the land.

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Neewer NWA01 Powered Panoramic Tripod Head

Giving motion to timelapse photography adds a dynamic element that is visually interesting. There are a few ways of doing this. Adding some motion in production with keyframes and panning, or using some sort of device to physically move the camera slowly during the time lapse sequence.

Pano Head and GoPro
The Neewer panoramic head and the GoPro Hero 4
Up to now I have generally added this sort of motion in post-processing or production, moving and zooming through a frame that was shot with static camera. If the frame is oversized, often the case with time-lapse shot on a multi megapixel camera, there is plenty of resolution for motion inside the otherwise static frame.

Note: This article was edited after I figured out where the manual was wrong, see below.

Still, the effect of actually moving the camera during the sequence is often more versatile and can produce a more dramatic effect. Not wanting to lug a large rail slider system around I have opted for a slightly easier solution, a powered panoramic head. This allows a panning a time-lapse sequence to give that extra degree of motion in the resulting video while keeping the gear portable.

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Out in the Dark with HPA

Where do you go to show a bunch of students from Hawaii Preparatory Academy the stars? Located in Waimea the school has a very nice campus, that is usually under heavy clouds every afternoon and evening. After looking around we settled on Mauna Kea Recreation Area in the saddle between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. At 6,700ft elevation the site can offer very good skies for stargazing. This area in the saddle at Pōhakuloa is often cloud free, a curious hole in the clouds between the mauna that tower on either side.

HPA Students and the 20" Obsession telescope
Students and chaperones from HPA enjoy dark skies with the 20″ obsession telescope
The recreation area has recently been undergoing a 10 million dollar renovation. While the renovated cabins are not open yet, the new bathrooms and playground have proven immensely popular to travellers crossing the saddle from Hilo to Kona.

With the opportunity for a reasonably dark sky I brought the 20″ obsession. Tony and Maureen brought 12″ dobs. Tony’s friend Steve brough the 8″ he had just bought from Tony, a first night out with a new ‘scope. Cliff brought his 6″ imaging system set up to show objects on the screen. We had a lot of glass available, good telescopes, and surprisingly good skies.

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