A Guide to Astromicroscopy

Part IV: Comments and Conclusions
 Part V: Our Universe

by Samuel D.  Bissette

Copyright 1994

Part IV: Comments and Conclusions

The three previous parts have covered the basics of this observing method. What follows are additional thoughts that might clarify the subject and fill in areas that might not have been explained sufficiently.

Comments and Conclusions

Astrophotography is a difficult and exacting form of photography, but the kind of photography necessary for this method of observing is the simplest of all the types. Called piggybacking, it consists of simply mounting an ordinary 35mm SLR (single lens reflex) camera onto the barrel of a tracking telescope and taking a time-exposure with the camera pointed to a section of the night sky. Fuzzy bulbous stars can be eliminated by using a minus violet filter for color film to eliminate the ultraviolet light, which focuses at a slightly different length than visual light that causes this distortion. To darken the sky and to remove light pollution, one must use a LPR (light pollution reduction) filter known as a broad band type, which is also considered a nebula filter. These are screwed together and a lens shade is added to prevent stray light. The remainder is simple time-exposure photography; opening the shutter, locking it, timing the shot, and closing the shutter. Common sense is required as well - that is, allowing no dew on the lens, protection from vibration, fine tuning and checking the tracking of the telescope, watching out for passing aircraft, and so forth. All this should result in a fine shot if the instructions in the May 22, 1992 paper are followed. A proper exposure would have a blue-black background with a reddish tinge caused by the LPR filter.

Simply projecting a 50mm field slide on a screen and then examining the image with the help of Uranometria Sky Atlas or another sky atlas sufficiently annotated is a wonderful lesson in wide-sky observing.  Using your celestial coordinates for a starting place to coordinate your slide with the Sky Atlas, begin to search for Messier objects, nebulae, double stars, unusual light shapes, etc.  Study the entire sky area on the slide and begin to relate distances, directions, brightness of objects, colors, and so forth.  You'll soon find that you have developed a familiarity with this section of the sky.  A good next step is to put the slide on the microscope, and let the fun begin by observing and photographing objects that even a fine telescope might not show.

Astrophotomicrography is a long. word that I gave to the process of photographing astroslides with a microscope. A simplified pronunciation is: "as'-tro-fo'-to-mi-krog'-gra-fy". If the procedure in the May 22, 1992 paper is followed exactly, picture after picture should turn out to be good photos. This would be especially true if your camera and the one I use are the same. But, if the same principles were used with common sense and care, another camera could perform as well. It should be noted that the microscope replaces the lens of the camera and the focusing is done by the microscope focus wheel, Experimentation will be necessary to get the knack of doing this.

As for film, Ektachrome 400 is suggested. Other films were tried but found to be lacking in the areas of grain or color balance; especially those that had a tendency toward red.

I quote the following from Item 4, in the Final Report dated Feb. 17 1994: "There is a window of photographic opportunity in the ability to capture a very sharp image on color slide film when you use ASA 400 push-processed to ASA 800, at F2, for eight minutes, with a 50mm lens, on a tracking telescope, with no guiding necessary."  It is important to understand that the system works only because of this window of photographic opportunity.  Variances affect the clarity of picture, proper exposure, correct color and density, and so forth.  (The technical reasons for this are very complicated and beyond the scope of information given in this part).  However, I feel it is important for future experimentation to be made in taking magnified star-field images and then observing under the microscope; as well as other innovative procedures.

A comment about double star systems. Double star systems that can be seen by astromicroscopy are those that are showing separation without magnification as seen on the 50mm field slides. Systems that require telescopic magnification to separate will not be seen. Galaxies can be seen, in various degrees of brightness, and can be identified by location, relation to nearby stellar objects and comparable brightness with other galaxies. Astromicroscopy has its advantages and limitations which will be learned as one gains experience with the observing method.

The material in the Astromicroscopy Research Report is limited to the Northern Hemisphere because that is my observing area of the night sky.  Arrangements have been made with an amateur astronomer in Australia to photograph the Southern Hemisphere using the procedures outlined in this guide, and I hope this will be done in the near future which would make possible a microscopic examination similar to the one in Part III.

I have three personal comments. I express my grateful appreciation to the Cape Fear Astronomical Society for publishing this guide and its interest in my work on astromicroscopy. Secondly, I have tried to make the guide as accurate as possible; but, with any method or procedure that is new, inconsistencies and errors can occur and conclusions can be drawn that might be changed later. On this point, I ask the understanding of the reader. Lastly, I thank the family of Charles Frederick Green, Jr. for their generosity in making the Memorial Grant that made possible the printing and distribution of this guide.

A final observation follows:

In looking at the seventy-seven slide pictures in Part III, remember that none of these images ever went through the optics of a telescope, but you are seeing in most of them as much or more astronomical information than you would see with an excellent telescope, and this data is in color, sharp and revealing- Just imagine trying to take a 500X photo of a very faint double star with any telescope available to an amateur: yet this is a routine picture with astromicroscopy!

 Part V: Our Universe

Earth is a globe of matter about eight thousand miles in diameter. Together with its eight companion planets, it orbits a middle-aged ordinary yellow star ninety-three million miles away know to us as the sun. The sun is one of countless stars of all ages and colors that make up the gigantic spiral structure called the Milky Way Galaxy. The galaxy is estimated to be from 70,000 to 110,000 light-years wide. The Earth is in one of the spiral arms of the Milky Way Galaxy and is located about two-thirds of the radius from the nuclear center of the galaxy.  Our galaxy is one of many that compose a local group of galaxies, and one of innumerable millions located in a giant space we call the universe or cosmos.

The countless bits and formations of matter of all kinds throughout the universe are called by many names: nebulae, stars, space dust, asteroids, comets, and so forth. Many phenomena are being seen in space; many laws of light, time, and motion are being learned; and many theories about our universe are being adopted, revised and discarded.  As we gain new knowledge, it is speculated that the universe stems from a gigantic explosion that occurred about fifteen to twenty billion years ago.  Since that time the universe has been in motion, expanding in all directions, and it has been changing and evolving up to now and will continue to do so.

Earth is a small seat in the giant theater of space from which it, as an insignificant spectator, can ponder and enjoy the performance of the universe. From this position, it interprets what it sees and creates its own concept of the cosmos. Therefore, that concept can properly be called The Universe According to Earth.

A number of methods are used by astronomers to observe the universe such as optical and radio astronomy, infrared photography, astrophotography, and others. The principal tools for the amateur astronomer are binoculars, telescope and camera. Astromicroscopy is simply another tool or method for astronomical observing that extends the ability of the amateur astronomer to see and interpret our universe.

Adapted from the catalogue of The Universe According to Earth, a sixty painting educational exhibition presenting a panorama of the universe completed in 1989 by Samuel D. Bissette.

About the Author

Samuel D. Bissette was born in Wilson, North Carolina, in 1921.  He completed a fifty year career in banking in 1989, with an additional career as an artist that began in 1971. His dormant interest in astronomy and space science became active in 1985 when he began an intensive period of study, travel, and astronomical observing. His strongest interest in astronomy is astrophotography. which he has practiced steadily over the past nine years.

He used his newly acquired astronomical knowledge with his artistic experience to complete in 1989 a sixty-painting educational exhibition titled The Universe According to Earth.  This was donated to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in 1993 where it was exhibited for a year and is slated for permanent exhibition upon the completion of a new science building at the University in 1996. In June 1994, it was lent to Discovery  Place in Charlotte,  North Carolina, for exhibition.

During his art career, Bissette has completed several major projects for business and institutional sources at local, state, and national levels. In addition, several theme exhibitions were done which include North Carolina Circa 1900 and Images from the Micro-world.

Bissette has been listed in Who's Who in American Art (Bowker), Who's Who in America (Marquis), and will be profiled in Who's Who in the World (Marquis) beginning with the 1995-96 edition

Cape Fear Astronomical Society.

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