Monthly Archives: November 2014

Pier Top Panorama

I have the new pier-top adaptor fixed up and ready to mount, so today I remounted the top plate.

Since the new mount hasn’t arrived yet, I thought I would take this opportunity to carefully take a panoramic photo from the telescope’s perspective, with the goal of installing a custom panorama into TheSkyX, to help plan and preview observing against a realistic simulation of what my very cluttered horizon looks like.

_DSD8221So, I temporarily mounted a tripod column on the pier top plate, with a ball head on top of that.  This places a camera at the same height where the telescope would normally sit, and the “pan-rotation” direction of the ball-head allowed me to take a bunch of carefully-aimed pictures.

I took a series of pictures (trying different focal lengths with a wide-angle zoom lens), being careful that they overlapped by about 30%. Here’s a sample (but many more were needed to get 360-degree coverage):

Then I used Lightroom and Photoshop to merge them into 360-degree panoramas. Since I took several different sets of input photos with different focal lengths, and with some with the camera oriented horizontally and others with the camera oriented vertically, I ended up with several panoramas of different quality (different kinds of distortion etc).

Taking the least-distorted, I adjusted it to be exactly 360-degrees, trimmed it to the size required by TheSkyX (which requires that both dimensions be multiples of 512), and set the sky area to transparent. The result looks like this:

EWHO-Pan-Port-24-05-transparencyI was able to load this panorama into TheSkyX so it shows up as the horizon on the star chart. This is a great feature of TheSkyX – I get the calculated sky chart overlaid on my actual horizon, so I can accurately see what is visible above the hedge, between the trees, etc.



Waiting for mount, re-doing pier top

The observatory is temporarily off the air while the mount is being updated.  While waiting for gear to arrive, I’ve taken the opportunity to do a long-overdue tidy-up.

  • Removed all the optical and electronic gear from the mount and pier;
  • Took the mounting plate off the top of the pier, brought it indoors, cleaned it, removed old tape residue, drilled for a new pier-to-mount adapter plate, and repainted it after steel-wooling it clean and smooth.
  • Cleaned years worth of junk out of the observatory, especially all the old packing material and other bits of junk that have accumulated in corners.
  • Vacuumed years of dead bugs out of corners (creepy).

According to the original schedule, I should have the mount in a couple of weeks, so that should be in time to re-attach, re-calibrate, and get some good use out of it while the dark season remains.

And… WordPress done

That was easy. Conversion to WordPress was straight forward – the hardest part was choosing between all the available themes. Converting the actual Drupal pages was semi-manual, but not difficult; and I was pleased to find directly-supported the idea of back-dating the posts so they still represent the correct time line. I still plan to explore developing a custom template for image pages — more for the learning experience than because it’s something I really need. But it’s nice to put the constant battle to understand the rich, complex, and poorly documented mysteries of Drupal. Now I can get on with the actual job, which is the refurbishment of the observatory itself (which will reach a major accomplishment in a couple of weeks, as soon as a piece of equipment returns.)

Converting EWHO to WordPress

I’ve just spent another frustrating weekend fighting with Drupal.  Version 6 was no longer compatible with upgrades made at my ISP, so I upgraded to version 7, only to find that the handling of images has been completely revamped, and all of my image galleries and work-in-progress images are broken.  There are lots of online posts giving snippets of PHP code people are using to build their own image recovery systems, but I don’t need this. Maintaining the core of my website was not supposed to be my passtime.

My needs are pretty simple, and I know WordPress is simple, well-supported, and adequate to my needs.  So, I’m starting a conversion project.  With luck, I hope to be able to convert the earlier Drupal posts and pages with their dates intact, so the wordpress version will still read like the journal the Drupal site was.  Standby…

Converting to Drupal 7

I’ve been away from the observatory and this web site for almost a year for various reasons. On return, I found the web site messed up badly – changes at the ISP (PHP upgrades) were incompatible with the now-obsolete version of Drupal running the site. So, as part of getting the observatory back on the air, I’ve upgraded this site to Drupal version 7. That broke a lot of things, so gradually rebuilding.