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.

Single 5 min Sub

Viewing Report 17th July 2021 – IMT3b

19:00 – 02:40

GingerGeek, Alan and Bob came over. GingerGeek brought over his 4″ dob and set it up on the patio slab tower. Alan Lorrain then went about aligning it on the Moon.

Alan finds the Moon with Bob watching
Target acquired
Moon through Dob

So with the Moon successfully acquired and whilst GingerGeek started looking at other targets through the scope, I opened the dome and slewed the 12″ to the Moon too.

Moon through 12″

Alan, Bob and GingerGeek found a small bright mountain inside the terminator. We decided to try and find it through the 12″. When we did find it we then tried to work out what it was.

Mountain inside the terminator
It looks like the island of La Palma!

It transpired to be Mons Piton, named after the top of mount Teide on the island of Tenerife. We would need to view it the news night to see it in full daylight.

Sky Safari

Next up was a quick look at the Ring Nebula M57.

M57

We then wanted to seed if we could make out the central white dwarf.

M57 Red

However through the Red and Blue filters and the Luminance filter we could not see it. Finally through the Green filter it stood out very well.

M57 Green

Whilst slewing around with the 12″ in the dome, I had also setup the travel scope with the Mak 180 on top. I wanted to grab some data on Jupiter in particular and Saturn just as it was nearby,.

Jupiter being imaged with Mak 180
Saturn through Mak 180

I took a whole bunch of data for the next hour or so which I will process at a later time.

Viewing Report 3rd June 2021 – IMT3b

22:38 – 01:18

Slight clear spell and no work tomorrow 🙂 so I am opening dome to see if my scope is now repeatable, so can I open, get object in FoV and then image whilst guiding.

Of course as soon as I opened up the dome it became cloudy. Fortunately not for long, so I waited it out then noticed next to the Home position a galaxy, so I went to image that, NGC 4437, which is a pencil thin galaxy in Virgo.

NGC 4437

Unfortunately there was no decent guide star, even with the rotator I could not find one. So instead I took a bunch of 90s images, just short enough not to trail. I actually took 20 x 90s Lum and then 10 x 60s RGB all at Gain 10 Offset 10 and -25℃.

I then turned my attention back to M14, slewed and set the imaging running. Unfortunately I was only 1 frame in when I had to stop at 1:18am as the clouds had returned, so this time I packed up for the night.

M14

Learning tonight was don’t forget to focus and take some darks for the off axis guider.

Next Session :

  1. Guider darks
  2. Write a checklist for imaging

Viewing Report 4th June 2021 – IMT3b

23:12 – 01:39

Targets for this evening :

M14

Imaging Run Checklist

Connect Scope – Complete

focus on Red 19179 @23:41 – Complete

Back on M14 tonight to see if I can finally get a complete or even partial data set. M26 is the next object after.

Cloud!

Next Session :

  1. Guider darks
  2. Write a checklist for imaging

Viewing Report 1st June 2021 – IMT3b

20:37 – 03:15

Setting up

I will start by completing the TPoint run tonight before moving on to calibrate the guider and make sure I can get and image. So by 10:30pm it was just on the border of being dark enough to take and plate solve the first image and continue the TPoint session.

So by 11:30pm I had finished the 212 TPoint model.

212 TPoints

The next thing was to do a Supermodel on the data. This reduced the error pointing from 500 & 23.7 arcsecs to 100 & 19.

Model

Now connected camera to SGP and running autofocus on a mag 6 star, new focus position for Luminance is 18,312 at 00:13

New focus position

I then setup OpenPHD2 to guide and here I hit a problem. The guider did not move the mount. I have not got a guider cable attached as I do not want to do Pulse Guiding. Instead I always do Direct Guiding. So I looked at the settings in PHD2 and the mount was not set. So I went and searched my blog and I need to select the ASCOM Telescope Driver for TheySky. However it is not in the dropdown list.

ASCOM Telescope Driver for TheSky

Finally after a lot of head scratching I remember GingerGeek removed ASCOM and upgraded when I moved house. He had inadvertently removed the said driver and forgot to reinstall. I went to the ASCOM webpage, found the driver which took me to the Bisque website and downloaded. I then installed, restarted TheSkyX using PHD2 after I had restarted PHD2, I selected the said driver in the Mount dropdown and connected. This then moves the mount when I calibrate and subsequently guide. Fortunately I found all these answers on my blog posts from last year when I had setup the guiding originally.

Finally guiding

Now all of this is working it is rapidly approaching the time when the sky brightens, so it is already after 1am. I slewed to M14 using TSX, performed a Closed Loop Slew with the camera connected to TSX initially. Once I confirmed the object was in the centre of the FoV, I then disconnected the camera from TSX and reconnected to SGP.

M14

Guiding started, all started to work well. A couple of snags, focus position was wrong in the filter setup so I need to change. Tries to autofocus on start of sequence so I need to change that. I then decided to grab 1, 2 and 5 min subs of LRGB to determine the best exposure. However half way through and some localised cloud rolled in and stopped the session.

Clouds

The good thing its the closed loop slew is working well in TSX.

So with the local cloud still causing issues to the South, I slewed North East to another Messier target on my list, M29. Once again I setup 1,2 and 5 min exposures across LRGB to see which would be best. All the imaging tonight for Globular Clusters and Open Clusters was done at Gain 10 Offset 10.

M29 test 2mins Red

I manage to get frames and then I was afflicted by the same cloud. So instead I packed up and called it a night.

Viewing Report 12th February 2021 – Travel Setup

18:45 – 00:32

Holiday time! Well at least a week off work. It’s been a cold and cloudy Winter so far. So a night where I can get out the travel telescope and setup in the vegetable patch, the construction site of IMT3b is a good thing. The challenge I have is my ribs still hurt somewhat from being broken after an unfortunate accident 4 weeks ago. So I will go careful.

Earlier in the day I had Luke help me setup the equipment in the garden. First the binos to have a good look round.

Altair Astro 100mm Binoculars and APM Mount

Then we setup the Skywatcher Esprit 120 ED on the Paramount MyT.

Travel scope with QHY168C camera

Lastly we setup a “warm room” temporary in nature and fairly cold I would later find out 🥶 in the greenhouse.

Lovely new table with my cool astronomy chair and MacBook Pro

So the night came and after Pizza with my wife I set off out to the garden to start imaging.

Imaging M42 Orion Nebula

I connected the Polestar camera first to see what my alignment was like after placing the tripod down in a fashion I though condusive to being polar aligned.

This is where polaris landed up which is not bad.

I then set about measuring the difference in Polaris to determine how much I would need to move the scope to align it.

White cross is where it needs to be

I then fiddled with the altitude and azimuth knobs to align the scope.

Perfect alignment

Next I slewed to the first object for the evening which was M45, the Pleiades, the Seven Sisters. I started EZCap and look at the focus which was not far off from the last time I was out a few weeks and it is good enough.

EZCap focus control

I then took an image of M45 to make sure it was in the field of view. I also setup the Planner in EZCap to with the sequence for capturing the data. I set the camera to Gain 7 and Offset 20 with a temperature of -30℃.

EZCap Planner

I set PHD running and that was when I hit a problem. To cut a long story short, I had forgotten to plug in the ST4 guider cable into the ZWOASI290 camera and then into the Versa plate of the Paramount MyT. Without this there is no successful calibration within PHD. It took me 1 hour to work out I needed a cable and a further 45mins to find it since the move of house. Your IQ really does drop when it is dark and cold!

Guiding started, but gusts of wind!

Eventually the calibration completed once the cable was fitted and I could start to see the gusts of wind in the data. I set a sequence running for M45 and was impressed with the results. I took 10 x 90s and 10 x 180s.

M45

I then switched targets and headed over to M42 and M43 along with the Running Man nebula, also known as SH2-279 and NGC 1977. I took 30 x 60s, 30 x 30s and 10 x 180s.

M42

Next and what would be last on my list tonight was M35 along with NGC 2158. I took 10 x 90s and 10 x 60s starting around 23:45.

M35

Now the clouds at a high level started to roll in. So I decided to take some Flats and then take the darks tomorrow morning.

Flats

So I packed up and had one last look up at the night sky.

M45

Viewing Report 18th September 2020 – IMT3

21:59 : 00:11

Decided to have a quick look out before moving house, given it was supposed to be cloudy and there is a bit of a clear spell. I have decided to just take a look at a few objects. First up is the Cheeseburger Nebula NGC 7026.

NGC7026 Cheeseburger Nebula 10mins Luminance
NGC7026 Cheeseburger Nebula cropped

Next up is IC63 which is a ghost nebula that Tim imaged the other night, I want to see what it looks like in my 12″ vs his 10″. The first thing I noticed was in the guider window that the reflection of the bright star Gamma Cas caused an interesting image.

Guiding reflection
Gamma Cas
IC 63 Ghost Nebula 10min Ha

Next I am going to go after M110.

M110 5 minutes Luminance

I have now slewed to M32 just below.

M32 5 minutes Luminance

The last object of tonight and then off to bed so I can be up to help Bob concrete IMT4 tomorrow is NGC 508.

NGC 508 10 minutes Luminance

Viewing report 12th September 2020

21:03 – 05:39

Bob, Dave and GingerGeek playing with the Tak 102 this evening and just image for 2 minutes on various targets.

Slewed to the Double Cluster first.

Focus position was 564 from the last time we used it a long time, it is now 578.

Took a 2 minute exposure

Double Cluster

Slewed to M75 the Little Dumbell. Needed to take a 5 min exposure to see

M76 Little Dumbell

Slewed to M34 Open Cluster.

M34 Open Cluster

Slewed to NGC 1023 a barred spiral galaxy. Took 5mins exposure at 22:12.

NGC 1023 Galaxy

GingerGeek went off to bed whilst Dave and Bob continued.

Slewed to NGC 1260 a lenticular galaxy in Perseus.

NGC 1260 Galaxy

Slewed to NGC 1545 an open cluster but it was behind the house.

Slewed to IC 1848 the Soul nebula.

IC 1848 Soul Nebula

Slewed to Heart nebula.

IC 1805 Heart Nebula

Slewed to IC 1831 an HII cloud.

IC 1831 Nebula

Slewed to IC 1795 nebula.

IC 1795 Nebula

We found at this point that some of the images were trailing at 2 minutes in the East so we started to use guiding.

Slewed to NGC 1245 open cluster. [not imaged]

Slewed to NGC 1220 open cluster. [not imaged]

Slewed to NGC 1528 open cluster at 23:37

NGC 1528

Dave went off to bed whilst Bob continued.

Slewed to IC 1795 Nebula.

IC 1795 Nebula

Slewed to IC 1831 Nebula.

IC 1831 Nebula

Bob then slewed back to a number of the objects as they had trailed including, IC 1805 Heart Nebula, IC1848 Soul Nebula, IC 1260, NGC 1023 barred spiral, M34, M76, Double Cluster

Mars at 1:47am

Mars

Slewed to M31

M31 / M32 and M110

Slewed to M52

M52 Open Cluster and Bubble Nebula

Slewed to NGC 457

NGC 457 Open Cluster

Slewed to IC 1590

IC 1590 Nebula

Slewed to NGC 7789

NGC 7789 Open Cluster

Slewed to NGC 129

NGC 129 Open Cluster

Slewed to NGC 225

NGC 225

Slewed to IC59

IC 59 Nebula

Slewed to IC83 [no image]

Bob completed imaging at 05:39am

Viewing Report 25th July 2020 – IMT3

21:47 – 00:23

ASC

GingerGeek and I were out imaging tonight. The sky unexpectedly cleared and we thought given the impending move of IMT3 to another site that we would try to gather some more data on M57, specifically LRGB and some additional Ha on the 12″.

We ran Autofocus on Luminance which gave 60,671 at 20.64℃ and HFR 6.5. We then started to image and after a few frames the temperature started to drop. In the main this is because we opened the dome last minute rather than a minimum of 2 hours before we used it so the dome was warm and now cooling down the optical train shifts.

M57 quick frame and focus

We refocused to 62,712 on luminance at 19.10 with an of HFR 5.15. We then ran the image acquisition and below is a screenshot of the guiding, which looked like it was going to cause an issue but it was ok. If it had then it would have been the local fog rather than anything on the mount. At midnight we performed a Meridian flip nice and early which afforded us to leave the observatory running and go to bed. Notice the graph below, the yellow line drops as we performed the meridian flip, this is due to the dome now shielding against next doors light !!!!!!!

Guiding ok, notice the drop in the graph

The neighbours light continue to be a pain as can be seen here, I really cannot wait to move the observatory to it’s new dark site.

LIGHT!!!!!

Finally managed to capture LRGB and Ha, below the RGB and Ha frames can be seen in PI. Note the central star is not visible in the Ha frame,

RGB and Ha raw frames

Finally I stacked 1 of each colour without calibration to see what it would look like.

RGB quick single stack no calibration

So we left the observatory imaging, I had a quick peek outside around 12:30am and there was water running off the dome and the outside windows of the orangery! The Observatory ran until the dome shut at 3:58am (it woke me up) when the light levels started to rise.

Viewing Report 17th July 2020 – IMT3

22:05 – 02:00

Crop of M57 in Ha 600s 12″

Tonight I thought I would take some more images of M57 through the 12″ in OIII and then Ha. I first got the OIII filter focused at position 62,500 with a temperature of 22.42℃, I took 10 more images at 600 seconds.

Guiding was good even though there was high level cloud, seeing was good

Ha was then started at 00:44 after meridian flip. I spent some time looking at comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE through 100mm binoculars with Helen, Ezri and her boyfriend Luke. Then we took some photos with the 50mm lens on the 6D.

Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE

I went to bed at 2am and left it running. In the morning I noticed I had 10 good images then the image moved due to guiding problems due to cloud.

Full frame 600s Ha M57

Viewing Report 11th July 2020 – IMT3

21:00 – 01:55

GingerGeek and I decided to go after M57 the planetary nebula in Lyra. I had seen a lovely photo on Flickr with the outer Ha/OIII halo showing which resembled a splat of paint, taken with 9 x 1200 seconds Ha, 3 x 1200 seconds OIII and 9 x 600 seconds luminance. So we decided to go try. It would also add to my ongoing collection of Messier objects.

M57 in OIII

The resulting image of M57 was rather small as can be seen above. We initially set an autofocus run on Ha which came in at 67,213. We then focused on OIII at 67,178. After a few frames we noticed that the focus point had shifted ever-so, thus we refocused at 23:33 for OIII and to a position of 63,610.

The OIII focus exposure length was 20 seconds on a magnitude 4 star which completed very nicely. By the time we had gathered OIII for 9 x 600 seconds the clouds rolled in. We took Flats. GingerGeek ran the whole session remotely whilst I directed 🙂

Viewing Report 13th June 2020 – IMT3

23:31 – 04:02

So I opened the dome late this evening as it was not due to be clear. However an opening in the cloud meant I could test guiding again on the 12″, especially whilst it was light in the late Spring weeks.

The first job was as always to focus which brought me to a reading of 61944 at 19.83℃.

Focus run

Another small job was to sort the guider FoV out. I went ahead and used M92 to align the guider.

Aligning guider FoV using M92

The final FoV settings are here for completness.

FoV for guider

Set AS1600 to Gain and Offset 10 due to cluster being very bright and I needed to set a standard of 60 seconds minimum exposure. Gain 139 and Offset 21 gas saturated unless I selected 15 seconds, Gain 75 and Offset 12 saturated at 30 seconds so hence 10 and 10 which came in about 58k ADU.

I then performed a slew to a nearby star so I could centre the scope, there platsolve completed successfully and I updated TSX and the FoV for the 12″ with the new angle.

Platesolve

The first image of 60 seconds came down and was out of focus, I then realised changing the profile SGPro forgot the autofocus setting, so I had to stop the run, delete the images and set the original focus point then rerun.

M92 out of focus
M92 in focus

Next I ran a few images but then to my horror I had the same guiding issue, where the star moves being dragged up and down in a periodic way. I slewed elsewhere and tried again and the problem did not occur. I was near M92 and just East of the Meridian and quite high up. Not sure why that is a problem.

Near the Meridian

I could not resolve, I waited a while then performed a meridian flip and low and behold the problem went away, again not sure why. I still have this terrible noise coming from the RA motor/gear area. I decided to bite the bullet and take off various caps on the scope listening and looking inside. I decided it was not after all, the through the mount cabling but coming from the RA gear itself, so I looked for the MEII guide for removing the worm block and then followed the instructions to take off the RA cover.

RA gearing and belt noise

This gave me instant feedback on what the issue was, the belts driving the axis were making a noise. On looking through forums on Bisque.com I found a few people with similar issues and needing to grease the belts, they were told Lubriplate was a good grease. This is an American grease so I will find a similar here and then apply, I will ask Bob first for his suggestion.

So the night wore on and the LRGB frames of M92 I thought I would take whilst testing guiding progressed. At one point the imaging stopped due to cloud. I just caught the dome before it closed to change the safety sensor due to cloud. When it cleared it never really cleared, with the sky temperature reading about -14℃.

Not very clear

Nearing the end of the imaging session, I had caught about 15 frames of each of the filters.

Good guiding and imaging

The guider was behaving mostly with he odd funny jolt. By 3:30 am the sky was lightening very quickly.

3:30am and bright

By this time I had stopped guiding and imaging. I closed the dome, slewed the scope to the flat panel and proceeded to take a set of LRGB flats for Gain 10 Offset 0 and also Gain 139 and Offset 21 as request from the previous nights imaging.

Viewing Report 12th June 2020 – IMT3

22:09 – 02:02

ASC

It was unexpectedly clear this evening so I opened the dome late, so no cooling down.

Focus 60,279 Lum filter at 19.93℃

Autofocus run

Slewed to Arp 286 as I had seen on Flickr and wanted to see what it looked like in 12″. I noted I needed a new set of Darks for the Lodestar off axis guider after we had changed the driver recently, so I set about taking those with PHD2.

autoguider darks

The problem I then saw was no guide star in the FoV! I really need a rotator!!!!!

So I will image without the guider. The first image jumped as I realised the auto-guider was still on and trying to track nothing sending the mount this way and that. So I disabled and set about running 3 x LRGB for 300 seconds a piece

The first image was Luminance and looked ok, although bright due to high level cloud and no astronomical darkness this time of year. I also noted the mark on the filter caused by the LensPen! I won’t use that again. However I do expect that to come out with the flat so not too bothered. Also I could go clean it I just don’t want more dust on the filter so will leave until I have a reason to take the camera off again.

Arp 285 Luminance 300 seconds

For reference here is the luminance flat.

Luminance Flat showing Lenspen mark

Next up was Red filter for 300 seconds

Arp 286 Red 300 seconds

Then Green filter

Arp 286 Green 300 seconds

Then finally Blue filter.

Arp 286 Blue 300 seconds

So I left it to run for 3 x 300 seconds each filter. Meanwhile Mil Dave came online and opened his dome and we decided to go for a joint target to see how they compare. Given Arp 286 was below Dave’s hedge I mentioned the Coddington Nebula IC2574 which is actually a galaxy, being the object in my latest image from the travel rig with the Esprit120 and the comet passing. It has some interesting star clusters in it. We agreed on luminance and 300 seconds. Here is Dave’s result ….

Coddington Nebula by Mil Dave

Meanwhile the humidity kept rising

IMT3 environment gauges

At just gone midnight I finished the short run on Arp 286 and slewed to Coddington to catch up with Mil Dave. First I did a quick refocus as the temperature had dropped about 2℃ since I started.

refocus but note the point at 62,056

The refocus put me near but not near enough so I changed to 62,056 for a better HFR which worked. Then I went on to do Coddington and here is my result.

Coddington behind the tree from 12″

I had problems with unguided exposure, then had a problem finding a guide star, then the object was behind a tree!

So next I slewed to Mil Dave’s choice of object, here is Mil Dave’s image

Arp 214

I managed to find a guide star straight away and grabbed this

Arp 214

Notice my screen stretch is different hence the bright background. It is just a quick screen grab off the NUC. My turn to pick now, so went for several objects but all behind offending hedges at Mil Dave’s house. So I sent Dave off to choose one. He came back shortly with Arp 278. So off we set. Here is mine.

Arp 278

and of course Mil Daves….but no, he forgot to save it 🙁

So my object next, I selected one nearby to save the rather long dome rotation I just did, and the resulting loud noise when it jammed! I need to look at that. Meanwhile Mil Dave trundled his round manually. So I choose NGC 7331, also known as C30 and Herschel H53-1, so also on my list for the Herschel 400. This is what I got.

NGC 7331 12″

Meanwhile the cloud from the South East started to creep in and my daughter, who just came in even at this hour of 1:36 said it was foggy outside.

ASC Cloud coming

Dave’s grabbed the NGC 7331 below.

NGC 7331 Mil Dave

I was about to suggest a Sharpless object when the clouds rolled in enough for me to shut the dome. It was reading -4.8℃ sky temperature and the limit was less than 30 for overcast, so I manual overrode.

ASC Clouds

Just before it shut this is the image I got of SH2-126 which is impossible to see since it probably needs the Ha filter rather than luminance.

SH2-126 300s 12″ Luminance

Well a good night all round, given we thought it was going to be cloudy it was nice to come out and play with Mil Dave and go hunting faint fuzzies, so a goodnight from me and a goodnight from him ?

Viewing Report 2nd June 2020 – IMT3

20:28 – 00:30

After a day of checking the mount and spending some 3 hours resetting the RA and DEC cam stop and spring plungers I have come out to see if I have resolved the image or made it worse. I can still hear the squeaking of the cables in the Through the mount position as the worm turns so I do need to remove 1 or 2 of them to free it up. However I no longer hear the knocking, tapping and grinding of the Dec axis. I am also going to capture some PEC data for Tom on the Software Bisque forum to look at. GingerGeek with his usual smoking jacket turned up to assist from a distance.

Whilst trying to find a star we came across a galaxy, NGC 5646 H126-1, which looked very interesting for the 12″, so we will come back and image that at a later date. We are in a rush for the clouds as it is to cloud over by 11:30pm. What we need to do is disable PEC, disable TPoint and Protrack and the guider relays then point at a star and guide without applying any corrections as per page 147 of the MEII manual for 15 minutes.

I went out to the dome and set with the help of GingerGeek the camera on the back of the 12″ to as close to 0 degrees as possible, in our case 0.81 degrees after plate solving.

We slewed to a start neat declination 0 and close to the Meridian on the East side of the mount called Tycho 326:747 and at 22:37 started to look at the auto-guider settings. The star was at DEC +01° 34′ 10.909″ and RA 14h 45m 20.1920. The auto-guider log in question for tonight was “Autoguider.018.log”. The star looked good in the main ZWO ASI1600mm camera which we would use to guide and collect the data. We did notice as per the image below over 15 minutes the star drifting East, so the polar alignment is out. More importantly we got the 15 minutes of data in the log as the clouds started to roll in, as can be seen in the star brightness below.

Autoguiding in TSX

The resulting log file was read into the Sky’s PEC and the raw data shown below one we clicked ‘Fit’ on the data which scales it to this chart. The peak to peak was 0.7 arcsecs. We applied this to the mount –

Raw PEC data from log
Fitted and applied PEC data

Next whilst GingerGeek went off to get his beauty sleep…..he really needs it 🙂 I set about slewing to a bright star in the vicinity and calibrating the guider, since I had rotated the camera. The calibration was successful even though the RA looked slights odd as a fit. The different in the RA and Dec rate was potentially due to position on the sky and the error in the RA plotting data. I will go back and do another calibration next time it is clear.

Calibration in PHD2

I then slewed to M92, could not find a guide star very suitable so moved around a bit and then started to guide and see what the graph looked like. What surprised me was the the amplitude of the guiding was only 0.36 arcsecs which is really low and no guiding issues as I saw before. It looks like the adjustments to the spring plungers and cam stops may have been the cause and fix.

Guiding graph at +74 deg altitude and near M92

I performed a quick focus run whilst pausing the guiding and got 61836 and HFR 4.4 which is vert good for this scope.

Auto focus

Meanwhile the clouds from the North had started to drift in which was going to stop play 🙁

All Sky Camera

I managed to get a single frame and focus on M92 of 20s before the clouds stopped the guiding. So I shut up the dome, sent the logs to Software Bisque, or the chap on the forum who was kind enough to help and went off to bed.

M92 20s sub