Viewing Report 1st June 2022

22:40 – 00:31

Visual this evening on the 22″ Dob. The 120 Esprit is still off the MEII so the IMT3b observatory is out of action for a few weeks whilst it is not balanced. The MyT and 120 Esprit are now packed away for the Tenerife trip which is really exciting, first time in over 2 years!

Bob came round this evening and we explored the rather bright sky given the time of year with the dob. So what what did we see?

Observing Notes

M5 seen 23:21 31mm and 13mm better than M3

M3 resolved easily 23:17 31mm and  13mm more compact than M5

M51 massive filled fov in 13mm much smaller in 31mm

M92 seen both eyepieces and very bright

M57 13mm only very large AV central star, very big ring

Viewing Report 25th April 2022

22:01 – 04:23

M96 galaxy in LRGB on the 12″. Focus position 20691. Started at 22:29. Set up for 4 hours before it disappears behind the trees on the West side of the Meridian. Looking to take 24 x Lum and 8 x RGB all at 300s. Left the dome running and off to bed.

M96 Luminance 300s

The next morning I reviewed the status of the dome and imaging run and it ran al night without a glitch which was great. However the focus drifted quite considerably so I will need to throw away some of the data. What I need to do is cool down the observatory and the mirror before hand which last night I did not due to the last minute decision to image. Also getting the temperature compensation working on the focuser would help, so maybe time to revisit.

I will do another run on M96 on the next clear night.

Viewing Report 27th March 2022

19:28 – 04:35

M36 with Esprit 120 from the dome until 23:45. I took 60 x 60s and 60 x 120s to try and reduce star satuaration.

M36 60s exposure

To guide on the 12″ tonight I realised the camera was not in focus, so I connected the focuser and moved from pos 14000 to pos 21000 which allowed me to get a much higher than 25-30 star signal to noise ratio SNR than before when it was sub 10 and this guided perfectly with perfect star profiles too.

I then went to bed, awoke early at 1am and set the Esprit imaging M59 and took 36 x 300s before heading back to bed. The imaging stopped at 4:35am. Later in the morning when I awoke I took Flats as I had darks from the other night.

M59 300s exposure

Viewing Report 23rd March 2022

19:14 – 21:43

Another clear night, so many in a row and a lovely warm spring day of 18℃ I’m out again 🙂

I’m grabbing some more M61 luminance tonight before I move onto RGB. Some teething problems made me start much later than desired, including a cable coming out the back of the mount for the power to the QHY168C, not sure why. So I did not get going until around 8:30pm.

I managed to grab 21 luminance frames at 300s until around 11:30pm when the the guider lost it’s stars. This is a setting problem as it was clear all night. I knew before I went to bed that there was an issue as I had seen the guider stop guiding. I will take a look at it and calibrate the guider using guider assistant after BAS tomorrow night.

Viewing Report 21st March 2022

19:00 – 21:17

A quick imaging run this evening, again for NGC 1999, this time LRGB, 5 frames of each at 300s then it was too low and my bed time on a school night 😉

Before shutting down I made sure the Tak 102 profile for the dome was correct for the 120 Esprit as it is fixed on the same side of the 12″. I then slewed and it centred fine and the dome was in the right position. I tweaked the focus too in preparation for the Messier Marathon with Basingstoke Astronomical Society this Friday.

Viewing Report 20th March 2022

20:00 – 21:52

After a glorious sunny Sunday where I spent a lot of the day building the new decking for the Summerhouse for my wife, I planned on a short, sharp observing session until 9:30pm (turned out to be nearer to 10pm) starting after dinner at 7pm. In preparation for this I setup the 22″ dob on the observing patio and opened the dome for the 12″ to start to cool down whilst I ate with the family. My daughter and her boyfriend’s famous pasta dish was for dinner tonight which was great 😋

22″ Obsession ready to go

With dinner finished I headed to the sofa and set the 12″ running on NGC 1999 in Luminance so I could then go out and observer with the 22″. It took a while to do the usual, sync and centre on a star, get the focus right and set the imaging run up. But after 45 mins I was then able to wrap up warm and head outside.

I have read an article in Sky and Telescope of visually observing NGC 1999. With that information I opened my newly acquired Interstellarum Deep Sky Atlas to look at the area where NGC 1999 resided. I then referred to the Deep Sky Guide to look at the photos and drawings of the objects in the vicinity including this reflection nebula.

Deep Sky Atlas

There was a potential to observe two Herbig-Haro (HH) objects but I was afraid the sky would be a little to bright given the Moon rising at 9pm, in order for me to see them. I placed the 31mm Nagler in the 22″ and then dialled in NGC 1999 into the handset and pushed the scope until the numbers for Azimuth and Altitude were as close to zero as possible and looked through the lens. Surprisingly I could see a small fuzzy object with a star embedded to one side just off centre in the eyepiece. I reviewed the star chart on my phone using Sky Safari 4 and confirmed this indeed was NGC 1999. I guess it was just off centre due to my alignment and next time out I will use the 13mm Nagler to centre and align the scope during the initial setup.

31mm Nagler

On looking at the reflection nebula I could tell there was something to one side of it due to the offset nature of the nebula to the star. I changed to the 13mm Nagler and set the Paracorr accordingly back to H from the A setting for the 31mm Nagler. I then recentred using the Argo Navis computer and too a peak through the eyepiece. I could now see a distinct whole in the nebula, but clearly not as good as the Hubble image I had looked at, however it was there. I ten went looking for the two HH objects but I must say I could not confirm them at all. There were two star like objects near by but again looking at my Sky Safari star chart I was not convinced. I would leave this for another night when the Moon was goner and I had cooled the mirror with the fan, that is still not connected to power yet.

For a laugh I then pushed to the Horse Head but could not see it, not surprised given you need a Ha filter. I will buy one.

I then had a quick look at M42 again which is a wonderful sight in the scope. Orion was now getting low with NGC 1999 and M42 at +18 degrees at about 9pm. I then started to pack away the scope to head in doors and look at the 12″ and see how it was doing.

NGC 1999

I reviewed the set of images for NGC 1999 on the 12″ and now due to the altitude I switched and set the scope running on M61 for Luminance and RGB as it is on my list for my Messier wall chart.

At 10pm I left the dome capturing M61 LRGB frames and hit the sack.

M61

Viewing Report 19th March 2022

20:00 – 23:00

So after a successful day at The Practical Astronomy show it was time to head on out to play with my new toys. In this case a new 31mm Nagler Type 5 2″ eyepiece that I purchased from Owen Brazzel.

31mm Nagler

The other aim tonight was to setup the Argo Navis computer to allow me to find objects in the night sky on the 22″. Owen had said to me at the show that this is a must else I would find it difficult to star hop from one object to another without it, which was proved out the last time Bob and I ventured out.

Argo Navis

So I went to the Workshop where the Dob is stored and took it out onto the observing space and started to put it together. It only takes about 15-20 mins and then I set about collimating quickly with the laser collimator.

Laser colimator

Once done I fitted the Paracorr optical corrector followed by the 2″ eyepiece. I then set about putting the cables in for the Argo Navis computer and clipping it onto the side of the 22″.

It took me over an hour to finally setup the computer, in the main I did not RTFM and finally succumbed like all good blokes to reading the manual. It was them extremely straight forward. I had a good look through the menus to familiarise myself, but really the only thing to do was to identify 2 stars. The process for this must be followed for it to work correctly.

So I selected Mode Align Star option form the menu clicking the Enter key, then selected a star using the Dial, in this case BETELGEUSE came up. Now DO NOT PRESS ENTER!! Put the star in the centre of the eyepiece and then press the Enter button. Then WARP= +0.00 (1) should appear briefly meaning 1 star is aligned. Now using the Dial select another star (in this case SIRIUS) and repeat. Once you select ENTER then you see WARP= +0.00 (A) which means aligned. Now you are good to go and use the catalogue to tour the night sky.

I then selected some objects including M42, which looked lovely but low, the double double which really allowed the eyepiece quality to show off its abilities. I went round few other objects and Luke came out too, In fact to be fair he helped me get the computer working and then we shared the views in the scope. It was a good evening. We then between us took the scope apart and put it back in it’s home.

Obsession in use with the light on for the photo of course 🙂

Viewing Report 5th January 2022

17:00 – 02:15

went out and put ZWO ASI120MC on the back of the ST80 guide scope. Refitted the Lodestar to the off axis guider. I then setup the FoV indicator on TSX and also got the guider to focus.

Took a bunch of M78 frames LRGB to start with. Then tried a 600s Ha but that showed very little.

Then joined by Bob joined and he reminded me to image JWST.

Then around 12:30am I started imaging M78 again on the other side of the meridian. I must sort out imaging with a frame so that it is easier to get the object inside the FoV and lined up as it took me quite some time this evening. Plate solving was also not working again within SGP so I need to look at that on the next night out.

The Night Sky Observer Guide Series

When I started attending the Practical Astronomy Show held at Kettering I picked up my first copy of “The Night Sky Observers Guide Volume 4 – The Glories Of The Milky Way to -54°” written by George Robert Kepple and published by Willmann-Bell inc. These were sold at the Kettering show by the very helpful and knowledgeable staff of The Webb Deep-Sky Society for around £20.

Then in December 2019 ‘The Global Human Malware’ happened and the world went nuts, the Astronomy shows were cancelled year on year and I forgot to complete acquiring the rest of the series. Then suddenly in late 2020 it was announced that the publishers Willmann-Bell had closed and their entire portfolio went out of print.

Unfortunately I did not see the announcement until late Jan 2021, however I managed to obtain a copy of “Volume 2 – Spring & Summer” (ISBN 0-943396-60-3 (V2)) from Zoltan at 356 Astronomy but he told me he was out of stock for the rest of the series.

I contacted the Webb Deep-Sky Society to see if they had any available copies in stock. The president of the society Owen Brazell very promptly replied but informed me that they had sold their remaining stock just days before. He was extremely helpful in trying to help me source any remaining stock but eventually to no avail ! I recommend any avid astronomer should consider subscribing to the Webb Deep-Sky Society here …… I just did 🙂

Example of Webb Deep Sky Society Digital Issue

Fast forward to 16th August 2021 and it was announced that the American Astronomical Society would acquire the inventory and related assets of Willmann-Bell. Luckily by January 2022 I noticed that FLO (First Light Optics) in the UK had managed to obtain a few copies and I promptly ordered a copy of “Volume 1 – Autumn & Winter” (ISBN 0-943396-58-1 (V1)) for £35.

Well, it arrived this morning and I apologised to my regular postman for having to carry it around by hand all morning.

As with the other volumes the information, maps, diagrams and descriptions are very useful for planning imaging or observing sessions.

The King of the Northern Winter Constellations – Orion
The fantastic Perseus Galaxy Cluster

I now have only Volume 4 “The Southern Skies” left to purchase but as that would only be a reference for objects I can’t see from the UK it would go mostly underused unless I start using my remote telescope account or travel around or below the equator.

I would like to thank Owen Brazell for all his time and for the ongoing activities of the Webb Deep Sky Society and hopefully we will see them at the next Practical Astronomy Show in March 2022 …. fingers crossed !

Viewing Report 4th January 2022

17:53 – 02:34

Clear night! So I’m going to setup and let the dome run all night if it stays clear which is the forecast as I have work tomorrow.

All Sky Camera

I have run the guiding assistant on PHD2 so that I can hopefully better track objects. The drift in frames from the last time out whilst using the ST80 as a guide scope was less than ideal. I have now put al the new settings suggested into the PHD setup and have swung round to do a focus run on a star near to M32.

PHD2 new settings

After successfully running autofocus in SGP at 23,560 on Luminance I have now slewed to M32 to gather more data that is desperately needed to resolve the outer spiral arms of the companion giant galaxy M31.

SGP Focus Run
M32

So it is now just gone 9pm and whilst the guiding is managing to stop trailing of stars, the image is moving between frames, enough to loose the object over the course of 4-8 hours. This is clearly not good enough and it does look like the focal length of the ST80 is simply not long enough.

To get around the problem this evening I have turned guiding off, as the exposures are short (3 minutes) the trailing of stars is not an issue. At midnight I took flats for M32. I then centred on M78 for the rest of the night. Before starting I performed another focus run as the focus point had changed over the night with the temperature drop.

Auto Focus

I choose the same exposure settings and Gain 139 and Offset 21 settings as for M32. -25C was the temperature but this time I rotated the camera by 90 degrees to also fit in NGC 27309.

M78 & NGC 27309 and a satellite trail

So I left the scope running and it completed at around 2:30am with 40 frames taken across 4 filters giving me 30 minutes per channel. This will be enough to get started and if clear tonight I will setup for another run at M78 and hopefully improve the guiding.

Update. On reviewing the files this morning it looks like I forgot to select the filter in SGPro which means all my M32 and M78 images from this evening are in fact luminance only! Which is ok for M32 but for M78 I need some colour. Below is the weather data for last night.

Viewing Report 2nd January 2022

19:26 – 01:30

I started with M76 Ha as I need some frame for this object. I already have many hours in OIII. However after starting to image I realised the guiding, which is currently being tested through Dave Boddington’s ST80 was not pointing through the slit correctly as M76 was near the zenith. This means I have suffered from trailing as the guider was trying to guide on long stars due to diffraction.

M76 – 1 x 600s Ha

I swapped to a different object, this time M32 as I have not imaged this directly before, just as a happenstance of imaging M31. I have chosen 180s exposures using Gain 139 Offset 21 to keep the saturation of the core down. At 300s the core was blown out.

M32 – 1 x 300s Lum

M31 can be seen to the left and lower left of the small galaxy. M31 covers a large part of this image! So how well was my guiding doing?

Guiding with the ST80 guider

The guiding looked fine. 0.52 arcsecs total error which I am happy with. I stayed up until just before midnight and then left the observatory running. In the morning I noticed the dome shut around 1:30pm due to the images after that looking like flats.

I also noticed this morning that the images were drifting so the guiding is not quite right as the image drifts. I will next time out run the guiding assistant and see if that helps.

Update the image scrubbed up fairly well but I lost a lot of frames to drift and trailed stars and then the dome closing. Resulting image around 3 hours 12 minutes exposure of which 48 mins was Luminance but there was cloud affecting many frames.

M32 – 3 hours

Below is a copy of the nights weather data.

Cloud cover

Temperature

Processed Image (M45)

So visiting Dave one evening as we have not met for a while whilst I was updating software Dave processed the QHY268C data we took of M45.

M45 – PixInsight Processed Image

So I’m disappointed that although the image is a good first start I forgot to change the change setting on the gain which in SGPro is in the event settings and not in the top level sequence display 🙁

Dave ran the image through the annotate function of PixInsight. The galaxy PGC13696 near the bottom of the image is actually 232 million light years away.

M45 – PixInsight Annotated Image

Viewing Report 10/11th December 2021

Unusually it was a clear Friday evening. I did plan to be ready to go as soon at the pole star was visible but my imaging PC insisted on updates and the local hard disk was running at 10MB/s (replacement SSD on the way).

By the time I was ready, mount setup, polar aligned and balanced it was already late. I decided not to use the latest SGPro or NINA beta but just use the existing SGPro version. I was delayed starting as I was having issues with SGPro hanging when it couldn’t talk to the SQM (ASCOM Conditions Observing Hub) on a previous COM port, I need to report this back to the devs as a bug.

At this point Peg-Leg Dave joined me on a video call and we discussed imaging M45 in different modes on the QHY268C OSC. So we moved the scope to Alp Ari and proceeded to plate solve in SGPro, sync’d the scope Cartes Du Ciel and calibrated OpenPHD2.

Using the SGPro framing and mosaic wizard to decide on the framing for the target sequence I wanted as much of the reflection nebula as possible rather than being dead center.

M45 – SGPro Framing Wizard (FSQ85/QHY268C)

I’ve used the multi-star guiding in OpenPHD2 since it was first released in an earlier beta and I know Dave is looking forward to using it when he moves from using an OAG on his 12-inch RC to a 90mm guide scope to make it easier to get more guide stars or even one star.

Multi-Star Guiding in OpenPHD2

Whilst trying some mode/exposure tests the guiding started acting up in RA, so parking the mount and disengaging the clutches I redid the balance of the scope. It was only marginally off but it was enough to cause issues for the CEM60 …. it is not forgiving !

We decided to increase the Gain/Offset to 15/75 and use the Extended Full-Well mode (#2) of the QHY268C, testing the star brightness levels of various exposure times we opted for 180 seconds as that was under the maximum brightness level.

As I currently have no IP camera outside I like to see the mount position using GSPoint3D as I like to view where it is especially during meridian flips. NINA has this built-in now in the recent version 2.0 betas. As SGPro lacks this functionality I can use the view via this is standalone version that connects to the ASCOM mount.

Mount/Telescope virtual view
M45 – Pre Meridian Flip

SGPro paused the guiding just prior to the meridian flip. Following the automated flip, the guider and the imaging sequence automatically restarted after a plate solve and auto centering were performed.

Inverted shot of M45 (180s) – Post Meridian Flip

It gradually got cloudier just after midnight and the quality of the subs declined so I decided to stop acquiring data even though we really wanted over 4 hours of exposure.

I proceeded to take calibration frames. Using a target ADU of ~23,000 the SGPro flat wizard on the Pegasus FlatMaster (100%) gave an exposure time of 9.68s for the Optolong L-Pro filter, 25 flat-frames were taken followed by 25 dark-flat frames of the same exposure time and finally 25 dark frames of 180 seconds.

It was at this point that I realised that the FITs header showed a gain level of 0 and not 15, the offset was correct but I can’t be sure if the EFW mode was used as it’s not in the FITs headers. Only when using the native driver in NINA can you set the mode within the sequence, in SGPro the mode is set in the external ASCOM driver when the camera is not active in SGPro even though though it’s in the ASCOM API as the Camera.ReadoutModes property.

Also for some reason the default setting in the QHY driver is to NOT disable the overscan area which means I have black borders on my images which will make processing the data in Pixinsight a challenge !

I actually got to bed after 3am even though I had planned to stay up until the dawn. Next morning I noticed that my counter-weight had slipped and rotated on the bar. This may have also caused some of the issues with the guiding so I need to set-up earlier and check things more thoroughly in future to avoid these mistakes.

So although it’s not the data we planned it will be worth processing over a wine. The evening was a really a useful experiment and hopefully lessons will be learned …. if I remember the next time.

Viewing Report 23rd August 2021 – IMT3b

21:00 – 02:38

|A beautiful night to observe

With a near on full Moon, the choices for deep sky were limited so I set about looking for Sharpless emission nebula. First on my list was SH2 136 in Cepheus. I slewed, aligned, selected the Ha filter, rotated the camera to find a guide star, tried to run autofocus which failed (I set the focus point to 18500 for Ha manually) and then imaged a few subs at 600s, which is when I realised the problem.

FoV from TSX for SH2 136

Nothing but stars….. I googled around and it transpires that some fo the Sharpless catalogue is emission and the rest is reflection! Now I know this useful fact I will double check each image I go after.

SH2 136 Emission nebula in Cepheus 300s Luminance

Before I moved on I took a single 300s luminance frame just to see if I could see anything at all. The answer was not a lot, so I moved on. This time I choose an emission nebula, much larger than my FoV but still it should be a pleasing object, SH2 132, an emission nebula also in Cepheus.

SH2 132 Emission nebula in Cepheus 600s Ha

I set about imaging 14 x 600s in Ha and then went to bed at 23:48 leaving the system running for another 2 hours before hitting the meridian, as I have not setup the scope to flip yet.

At 02:38 I woke and shut the dome.

Viewing Report 16th August 2021 – IMT3b

22:21 – 01:11

Semi clear means time to go out

It’s been a while again due to work and the weather. A quick look around the sky this evening and make sure I still know how too use the telescope. So after getting focus

Focus achieved at 17,000 (18,000 here was incorrect)

I slewed to Saturn as it was up and as expected it was very small.

Small Saturn

I then slewed to the Pacman nebula, NGC 284 also known as Sharpless SH2-128. I switched to narrow band and the Ha filter. I plate solved, centred

Solved

and then proceeded to take 300s shots.

NGC 284

The camera was called to -15℃, the outside temp was 16.2℃. The focus position was at 18,000. The camera itself was set to Gain 139 and Offset 10, the rotator at 345.560°.

TSX

I took 75 x 300s images until I closed the dome, by which time it was very light. I went to bed in-between the start and end of the imaging run, but then realised the dome safety does not work due to the cable from the ASC being severed due to a Stanley blade incident with weed matting.

The good thing is GingerGeek and I managed to focus the ASC during the day on some trees in the forest across the valley and we managed to get it in focus.

Focused ASC

I will process the data last some point and see what it looks like.

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