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April 16, 2024

The total solar eclipse has come and gone, so now what? I was puttering in the back yard today, the last chance to do that for a few days with a winter storm bearing down on us tomorrow. (Spring in Montana.) Generally I am not handy around the house, so as usual my puttering consisted of experimenting with different optical things.

I haven't quite given up on my Coronado Personal Solar Telescope, with which I have taken exactly zero (0) decent images in the past 20 years. I've been fiddling with the various telescope attachments I've accumulated over the years, and have settled on a configuration for one last try at getting photos. I have ordered a kit which includes a T-mount ring for my M100 camera, and a 1.25" telescope adapter which screws into the T-mount. To that I will attach a barlow cannibalized from a Scopetronix MaxView, a device that is supposed to (but does not) facilitate attaching a DSLR to a telescope. The assembly will slide into the eyepiece holder, and either it will come to focus or it won't. By this time next week I will either have an image posted here, or I will be selling a used Coronado PST on eBay.

I looked through the PST today, and all I could really see was that the sun existed. I fiddled with the tuning dial but couldn't see sunspots or prominences. Internet research revealed that the PST suffers from corrosion (rust) in the filters that gradually reduces contrast. Since my PST is 20 years old, it may be a lost cause and that eBay posting may be "For Parts." While I had the telescope tripod out today, I set up the Televue 85 and got a few sun shots (filtered of course) with the M100, a setup which I did not use at all for the recent total eclipse. I did use the Televue with the 6D camera during the annular eclipse last year. Both today and last year, I used the cameras with prime focus, i.e. no eyepiece.

The advantage of the APS-chip M100 over the full-frame 6D is the apparent larger size of the sun. The sun was 1,504 pixels across in the M100 images but only 926 pixels across in the 6D images. If you square those numbers, that means the images from the M100 have 2.6 times as many pixels. The telescope is shining the same circle of light on both chips, but with the M100's physically-smaller chip, the light is shining on pixels that are packed more tightly. It's a tossup whether that means any additional detail is captured. Below is an image of the sun today which shows a lot more small sunspots than were evident during the eclipse eight days ago.

(BTW, I've been doing research on solar photography and of course the techniques I use are all wrong. Everyone seems to take video with a small astronomy camera, split it into dozens or hundreds of frames, and stack the frames to reduce noise and enhance detail. I take one image at a time and run it through Photoshop Elements the same as I do with wildlife images. In looking at the various forums, I haven't seen any better images using the type of filters I use. I don't know if it is worthwhile to spend $400 for one of those small astronomy cameras, or to use the M100 to shoot video.)

Lots of small sunspots.

And while I was fiddling in the back yard with tripods and optical equipment, I set up the motion trigger with the 5D camera and 70-200mm zoom lens (at 70mm) pointed at the bluebird box. I already have thousands of trailcam images from the past month to sort through, but this is officially the first DSLR bluebird shot of 2024. I've also included one of those thousands of trailcam shots. Even though the 5D image is heavily cropped and the trailcam image is not cropped at all, the difference in image quality is astounding. Why oh why can't someone make a trailcam that takes decent images? I've gotten at least 20 images of bluebirds in the past few days that would be fantastic if they didn't look like they were taken through a rusty screen door. Trailcam manufacturers should be sued by the Justice Department for their deceptive advertising. A supposed 32mp image is produced by an image sensor of 5mp at most. Reconyx uses 3mp sensors and is the only manufacturer I'm aware of that does not lie about their image resolution.

But I can't quit them and have ordered a new Gardepro, a brand I have not used before, to replace this crippled old Browning.

First DSLR bluebird.

Lots of trailcam bluebirds.

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