Viewing Report 12th July 2019 – IMT3 Observatory

Viewing time period – 20:32 – 22:56

After several reboots by GingerGeek who is looking after the observatory I am now logged in. I currently have the dome open and the 12″ centred on Deneb that can be clearly see whilst the Sun is still above the horizon and thus not dark yet.

The rebooting is due to hanging of the NUC. We have had various problems, the external ASI120MC with ASICAP/SharpCap and Firecap seem to cause an issue, we have a problem rebooting and the NUC just powering off and today trying to login through Windows and it was just hung. So lots of niggles.

Tonight I hope to test a single Ha guided exposure on the Elephant Trunk nebula in Cepheus to the North East as it rises and will look to image from 11pm for a few frames before closing the dome for the night. I have already noticed that Deneb is drifting in my FoV so something is still amiss with the polar alignment event though I thought I had it cracked. I will make a note to go back and check it. Currently Deneb is +42 Alt and 66 deg in Azimuth. I think the key will be looking at where I pick the star for polar alignment and making sure I have truly tightened.

So now it is nearly 10pm the sky is getting darker. The strangest thing happened, the dome closed. I only noticed as the image was blank. I checked and the Hitec Weather Station had tripped and closed the Dome. I toggled the Relay and then I could open the dome. Interestingly if you try to open the dome from TheSkyX it tries then stops and resets to closed. For the moment given the clear skies and forecast I have disconnected the Hitec Weather Station software but will reconnect later. Something else to debug.

HiTech Weather Station Software

It’s now 22:21 and dark enough to focus, I spent some time getting the auto focus routine working in SGPro. Interestingly I had to set the step size to 1000 given the 100k steps my FLI focuser is capable of. I also increased the data points to 10 and this gave me enough movement and data to get a good V curve.

I managed to get down to an HFR of on average 6 tonight at focus point 71290. It took me 3 runs to get the right figures. I then made the changes under the 12″ profile within Profile Manager and saved them for future use.

Auto Focus Run

Next I moved on to PHD2 and guiding. Once I got an image I then found I only had hot pixels and no stars. I also had a funny cone of light and something large out of focus and the edge of the tube. I then remembered GingerGeek had fitted a new guard ring to the guider camera and inadvertently moved the position due to a loose screw elsewhere on the fitting. Thus I need to go and focus that the next night out as because I am not there tonight I cannot do this. This also means I am stuck for testing a guided exposure.

Very out of focus Autoguider

So instead I tried a few different exposures with the Ha filter unguided even though I knew I had the problem with polar alignment. I took exposures at 120 seconds and 180 seconds by which time I had trailing, given as I said I had polar aligned and could image for 10 minute exposures in a different part of the sky I need to redo the aspect. Note I did not perform a second autofocus on the Ha filter. I will at some point calibrate the offsets of the filters once I have the auto guider working.

120s Ha Elephant Trunk area still not dark

So at least a useful night to try and get a few things working, a few things to add to the ToDo list but all in all a good evening.