Masterclass June 2018 – Trip Report

June represents the ultimate experience of the Southern Sky. The Milky Way is visible in its full glory from dusk to dawn, with long nights, albeit cold, yield to rewarding images under pristine night skies with excellent seeing. And long nights for taking superb images with iTelescope for hours on end.

The images below are contributed by everyone in the Masterclass. Many thanks for the dedication!

 

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Day 1 (Tuesday)

We start in the early afternoon and quickly get to know each other – Kit and Jamie from Redding, California, are joined by Steve from Melbourne and Anthony from Sydney. And then there is Mladen from the first Masterclass in April who is already addicted to the unique atmosphere and imaging possibilities of Siding Spring – he joins as an observer – a privilege reserved to Masterclass participants – they are always welcome to return whenever there is space.

We then head straight for the 4m telescope – allowing masterclass members to become immersed in current astronomy research. Lots of high-tech to admire.

 

Then comes the preparation for the first night – time is short as darkness comes quickly – adjust the time on the DSLR’s, check battery and memory card status, prepare the settings and head out with camera and tripod and take time to focus again and again, the most challenging part of night photography.

Kit who is Jamie’s cousin is always seen on his side, helping him with everything including a positive spirit and cold temperatures. Fortunately, it is always possible to come to the seminar room or kitchen to warm up, check the first results or eat dinner with visiting astronomers.

Anthony surprises everyone with generous gifts of mandarins from his garden or a bottle of wine for dinner, and Steve quickly works out his camera settings and produces amazing results.

Dinner is ready in the fridge for everyone and the dining room provides space to relax and exchange ideas.

At 8pm we once again head out for the 4m telescope and witness astronomers at work – this time studying satellite galaxies in our local group.

 

 

Day 2 (Wednesday)

 

The night is long and Kit and Jamie can be seen at sunrise each morning for the days to come, taking every opportunity to capture the transition from night to day in its kaleidoscope of colors.

After lunch we meet in the conference room where everyone is excited to show their first images from the previous night.

We meticulously view images and panoramas and Christian makes suggestions for improvements or software processing packages. Mladen is glad to share his expertise with the Masterclass and is generous with useful recommendations.

 

Just before sunset we head for the iTelescope observatory and watch the roof open. Plenty of time to walk through a jungle of telescopes and take a closer look at the technology behind the scenes.

 

Another early night follows with Mladen setting up his astro-tracker for long lens exposures. Seeing is excellent that night with a resolution of less than an arc second.

 

Day 3 (Thursday)

We meet at noon and head out for a 4 hour (!) tour with Amada from the ANU to see various large telescopes and talk to instrumentation experts and astronomers. It quickly becomes clear why Siding Spring is a leading observatory location in the world and why it is so attractive to visit.

Christian then explains iTelescope imaging to the Masterclass and introduces new planning software  – the DSO Browser - which makes finding objects very easy as iTelescope features are integrated. We write a script for the prawn nebula and launch it on T12.

Day 4 (Friday)

Most of the night is clear with some clouds coming in, we have been fortunate with previous clear nights and excellent results.

 

Day 5 (Saturday)

More in depth Masterclass with image processing – introduction of a new unique software package called APP (Astro pixel Processor) which makes image stacking very easy allowing the user to quickly achieve beautiful images. We test the software on the spectacular Sculptor galaxy NGC 253 taken with T30 during the Masterclass.

 

Day 6 (Sunday)

 

Snow at Siding Spring! After lunch it is time to say good-bye. Lots of new friends and a larger Masterclass user group who continue to receive updated information and tutorials.