A telescope, indoors

I have bought a telescope. No, not for me, but for Zuleikha who shows some real interest for space, the stars, and astronomy in general. The product we’ve got for her is called the Sky-Watcher Heritage 76, which is a 3″ f/4 Newton reflector on a small one-arm Dobsonian mount. Looks like this, with her camera beside it:


Here you see the scope in its parking position, with the (inside) main mirror on the upper end, the finder scope at its side, two eyepieces which come with it, and Zuleikha’s (my old) Olympus E-PL1 camera with its kit lens.

Why did I put the camera in the picture? Well because I couldn’t resist to get some additional pieces to adapt it to the scope 😉 And sure, I had to try that right away as well.

So, for comparison – here is a photo of the kitchen door on the far end, with the Olympus E-PL1 and its 14-42mm kit lens at the long end (42mm):


And here is the same shot but through the scope:


And no, this isn’t 300mm. A small Newtonian scope which isn’t optimized for taking pictures but for live viewing instead cannot get a camera in focus – the camera would have to dive into the scope’s shaft too much to make this possible. So your only chance is to use a Barlow lens, which I did (with 2x magnification). So this is real 600mm which would compare to 1200mm on a film (or “full frame”) camera because of the 2x crop factor of the Micro Four Thirds sensor.

We’ve got some books and a rotating star map for her as well, and tomorrow morning Zuleikha wants to see the moon with it (if the weather allows).

Thanks for reading.

An excursion to our MĂźllberg

When I told Zuleikha that today at 20:35 we’d have a full moon rising, she wanted to see it with her Nikon 8×25 binoculars. So we drove to a nearby site to which officials gave the nice name “Oberwaldberg” (I suppose because you can see over the forrests, as you will see in one of the photos I took). But it’s in fact our garbage hill, so for me it is (and stays) our “MĂźllberg”.

It was quite nice. Zuleikha couldn’t believe how big the moon was when coming around a corner there, and I shot it with my 25mm (50mm-equivalent) lens like all other photos of today:


When I reached the top, both Mitchie and Zuleikha were laying on their backs already, gazing at the stars. I told them that if we come back in about two weeks and the weather would be as nice as today, they’d see lots more, so this is what she wants to do. She was quite amazed that she could actually see the stars moving without any tools, just laying there and looking up (of course we are moving on our rotating earth, but that’s another story, and Zuleikha knows that already).

I also looked around a bit, and took a photo in the direction of Frankfurt:


And after going downhill again and talking about red torchlights (which wouldn’t affect our night view that much as white ones), we sat down on some rocks under some trees. I saw the big dipper, so I knew that to its right there was Polaris (and a bit further, Cassiopeia). So I pointed up 50 degrees to my right and said: “Polaris”.

Zuleikha asked how I could know this, so I explained, and I wanted to show her that this one wouldn’t move across our skies like the others do. So with the “Live Composite Mode” of my camera, and 15 exposures of 60 seconds each, I showed her:


She asked if they would have astronomy lessons in school, and I said yes, probably in physics. And now she cannot wait for that as well.

While walking back to our car, the moon was pretty bright already, so Mitchie and Zuleikha began to sing “Moon Shadow”.

So, a nice evening (and she loved to have been up until after 10pm).

Thanks for reading.

Playing around with DSS

During my last cigarette break I took out my E-PL5 camera with Mitchie’s 20mm Lumix lens attached to it. Since it has an equivalent focal length of 40mm I took 9 images of the night sky at 10 seconds each, so I would still have round stars on each image, albeit in slightly different positions. Then I took one dark frame and one with the shortest possible time of 1/4000th of a second. I stacked them in DeepSkyStacker 3.3.2 on Windows, and later reduced the size of that stack to 4000×3000 pixels, and overlayed it over the first in GIMP (on Linux again) to see the differences. This is how it looks:


Well it seems that DSS does a terrific job with the alignment of those stars – they’re almost perfectly round, not worse than on a single photo. If I had masked out the foreground and used that from a single photo, and then if I had taken many more photos it would have been even better.

Interesting stuff, this. A 90 second total exposure with stars which are still round. Without any tracking.

Thanks for reading.

Recent activities

We went for a short walk again last Sunday, tho the area we decided upon wasn’t that good for walking – not enough shadow, too many bicyclists, things like that. Anyway, here’s a photo from our walk:


And while the cat was gone for almost 24 hours, she also returned short after that.

Then it started to rain again, and the plants and trees really needed it. Mitchie had brought the latest c’t special about photography, which is quite good and interesting this time. So I read a lot and tried darktable, which can do a lot more than both my Olympus Viewer 3 (on Windows) and RawTherapee (on Linux) combined. It has a bit of a learning curve tho, so it’s too early for judgements. Here’s a first result of just playing around with it for a few minutes:


What’s also really interesting in that c’t special magazine is an article about using telescopes, so I read a lot about that as well. Even Stephen Hawking has one now, years after he wrote his brief history of time. A report about his telescope, by the proud Chinese makers, is here if you’re interested.

And in case you’re interested is star photography, you can come up to speed and learn most of what you’d have to know if you look at three episodes from Forrest Tanaka, on youtube:

Part 1 (about which scope you’d like to have),
Part 2 (about the mount, which is even more important), and
Part 3 (about how to help your telescope with tracking those stars)

This is all explained so that you can even understand it, so it’s really recommended stuff for star gazers (and probably for people who are waiting for Patrick Stewart to turn up, and to talk about having the first contact soon). 😉 Oh, and by the way: Forrest Tanaka has a nice Flickr stream as well. He seems to be good in everything he does, not only when lecturing about how to choose and use telescopes.

He’s at least certainly better than me. I just took a photo of Arcturus, using my 40-150mm lens at the longest setting. The photo and the explanation in Stellarium look like this:



Anyway, Arcturus is a red giant, about 36 light years away, and roughly 25 times the diameter of our sun (and much brighter than it as well). And it’s even older than our complete solar system. Interesting to read, at least for trekkies like me.

Update, from 3:23am: another, darker picture of a star:


And its description in Stellarium:


Thanks for reading.

Of men and mice (or: the statues of Gross-Gerau)

Today we went to Groß-Gerau, the small capital of our district. While walking around town, I took some photos of the statues which they put up there:


Statues in Gross-Gerau








There’s at least one missing here, of a guy lighting a lantern. It wasn’t easy to take his portrait or a photo of the whole statue because of the constant traffic around that corner of the street.

I’ve decided that I like these. A lot. Why? Because these aren’t the usual statues of your local celebrities, but some of hard working people, a woman who could be going to the market place together with her daughter, or even people who are just experiencing a bit of bad luck (the boy). Ça c’est la vie, n’est-ce pas? And these were people friendly enough to even give a small piece of cheese to a mouse (or three), instead of fighting them. Those were the times…

It’s good to know that some of the people who rule us seem to have a sense of humor as well. Makes one almost proud and thankful to live right here.

Thanks for reading.

Two images from yesterday, and five from a short walk today

We’ve had some rain lately, finally. In fact it was raining since we went to Cologne and back over the weekend. So yesterday I didn’t take too many photos, only one inside and one outside:


Jerry and a dying flower



Today, I sent Zuleikha and Mitchie to an indoor/outdoor swimming pool in Kelsterbach, which is just behind the airport from our side of it. They went swimming at around noon, and I should pick them up some three hours later. So I let the car at the pool’s parking lot and went a bit through Kelsterbach. Here are some photos I took during that walk:


River Main at Kelsterbach. Panorama made of 4 stitched images.


River Main at Kelsterbach


Church in Kelsterbach




Cut off

It was a nice walk, though again at the wrong time of day for photography. Anyway, I enjoyed it.

Thanks for viewing.

Faster internet

We’ve got a faster internet line together with some hardware upgrades from our cable provider on Saturday. Here’s the new router which now connects us to the outside world with 120MBit/s down and 6MBit/s upstream:


AVM Fritz!Box 6490 Cable

Lots of devices to send back as well, which I still have to do.

And yesterday I visited my brother whom I built my old quad core CPU, mainboard, RAM, and a 1TB hard drive into his PC. And while calibrating his screen afterwards, we watched “Kingsman”, which was fun as well.

Thanks for reading.

Vildheks – Ildprøven, from Lene Kaaberbøl

Wildhexe – Die Feuerprobe, von Lene Kaaberbøl (Image © Carl Hanser Verlag)
Got this one for Zuleikha on Monday, and we’ve ordered the next two of the series today.

I’ve read this first book myself, and it’s a huge success in Denmark – I’m pretty sure that it will be a hit here as well. Don’t know whether it’s also translated into English already, but the German translation by Friederike Buchinger is very good. Available from Carl Hanser Verlag in Munich.

My short summary: if you happen to have a daughter of about 10-12, and if she loves animals and “the wild world”, let her read it. I bet she’ll ask for more soon.

One photo from today



Thanks for viewing.

P.S.: Here’s another one, also from today:


Tuna the cat – grumpy? Or suspicious?

Our cat isn’t in much during these days. She’s obviously enjoying the summer and the warm (or hot) weather we have at the moment. Doesn’t eat much as well, but still comes in for a round of undisturbed and safe and sound sleep. Short after I took this photo, Mitchie & Zuleikha came back with MĂśwenpick Panna Cotta / Raspberry ice cream, and even Tuna liked to lick some of that…

Location scouting

Today I brought Zuleikha & Mitchie to the local pool, and they gave me some time until I should pick them up again. Wrong time of day for photo-taking, so I went to the MĂśnchbruch area for a little location scouting, as they say. Means I should come back during the blue or golden hours to take better pictures. Here are some I took today:


Hungry birds




Kein Durchgang

All taken with the Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm/1.4 lens on the Olympus OM-D E-M10 camera, at apertures between f/2 and f/4.

Speaking about those “normal” lenses (25mm on (Micro) Four Thirds gives an angle of view like 35mm on APS-C or 50mm on film or so-called “full frame” cameras):

Kirk Tuck lately wrote about his 50mm/1.8G nikkor lens, and Ming Thein also about 50s in general. We old film photographers who grew up using these – they were the “kit” lenses during film days – still consider a focal length of about the sensor diagonal as the single most important lenses. On some days when I go out I carry nothing but my 25mm, and days when I take a zoom are really rare.

Restrictions like these aren’t easy, but they will teach you a lot.

Thanks for reading.