Imaging test (8th June 2024)

So given it was a non-work night and predicted to be clear Dave invited me over to test the gear/setup prior to the BASEG Tenerife 2024 trip.

Given we are fast approaching the summer solstice, the nights are getting shorter and lighter. The Annual Darkness chart for IMT3 shows that we currently have no astronomical darkness and the nautical darkness lasts only for some 3.5hrs (left image) and now compare that the darkness graph for Mount Teide in Tenerife (right image) and although we lose some dark hours around the Summer Solstice it’s not as much as is lost being located at 52Β°N.

Setup – added BlueAstro stick station to measure pressure as Pegasus have not exposed the pressure measurement from the NYX101 mount to the ASCOM layer … why not ? Added weight bag to NYX-101 and GL.inet travel router to top of the scope as MS Windows keeps messing up the Wi-Fi hotspot on the Mele Quieter3C if it does not detect a internet connection ….. how stupid is that. Now I have a permanent hotspot thanks to the instructions given by Cuiv the Lazy Geek on his YouTube channel.

When attempting to polar align when using the QHY PoleMaster I noticed that the sky brightness below 15 mag2/sec (measured by a Unihedron SQM) produced a white screen due to over exposure – the minimal exposure in the now aged the QHY PoleMaster software (> 4yrs since last release) was 50ms which is too long even though I could eyeball Polaris in the early evening sky.

NINA 3.0 start up had not detected the QHY native driver and after I shutdown and restarted the app it then was able to detect the QHY 268C camera. However, it disconnected when it could not cool to -10℃ which I’ve never encountered before. I did eventually managed to get it cool and stay connected.

During guiding calibration OpenPHD2 would constantly complain about losing the star. Again the star was clearly visible on the PHD display and after downgrading from 2.6.13dev4 to dev3 and then I suddenly realised the value the error was referring to. I changed the minimal star HFD down to 1.0 from 1.5, also recreated the dark library to remove the possibility of the guider attempting to guide on a hot pixel.

Once guiding, the guide graphs were reporting 0.08 – 0.19 arcsec total polar alignment error. Hopefully I will learn to improve that and maybe repeat the polar alignment procedure or use PHD drift align to refine it.

I also forgot to change filter at the start of the evening from the Antila Quad Band filter to the Baader UV/IR filter. I noticed a halo from the bright star Arcturus in the constellation Bootes which I was testing autofocus on but I decided to continue regardless as I was only testing.

The goal for the night was to grab a base image of T Coronae Borealis (“The Blaze Star”) before it goes nova – it’s a reoccurring nova with a 80 year cycle. The star is currently hovering around 10.2 magnitude and it is predicted based on previous eruptions to reach around magnitude 2. As I ultimately wanted to perform some photometry on the star using the UV/IR cut filter I did want to blow out the cores of any bright star so I opted to use the ExtendedFullWell2CMS mode at gain 0, offset 30 with 60 second exposures. During the sequence I forgot to watch HFR/Star count graph and it rose above 5 which meant I have to refocus to (HFR ~2.0) and so due to my oversight due to chatting I will have to dump a lot of the early subs.

At the end of nautical darkness I stopped the sequence and used the NINA flat wizard (dynamic exposure) with the old PegasusAstro 120 flat panel at 100% brightness to create 25 flats and flat darks for a target of 33% ADU. After packing up and the with the pre-dawn temperature hitting 4℃ just before 4am I was looking forward to getting to bed.

At the next clear non-working evening I will attempt to grab some subs again but this time using the correct filter. Thank you to Dave and family for hosting me once more.

NB – NINA 3.1 was formally released the following day (09/06/2024) !

Viewing Report 8th June 2024

22:00 – 02:46

A clear night again. With 3 weeks to go to another Tenerife holiday and only 3 hours of nautical darkness in the UK, I decided to galaxy hop tonight. First up NGC 3953 in Ursa Major.

Next up NGC 4088 also in Ursa Major.

So it’s still lightish and therefore the background is still up around 2400 ADU. However still managing to image. Here is NGC 3631 in Ursa Major.

Now onto NGC 3631 again staying in Ursa Major.

I did have more problems with noise on the guide camera this evening so I need to take a look at the power supply line for it. Meanwhile I loose the odd 5min sub as it jumps 5-7 pixels. NGC 3726 follows in Ura Major.

Now I’ve moved to NGC 3675.

Going to stay in Ursa Major of the time being.

So here is NGC 4051

Last one for Ursa Major as it is now 1am and setting

Now I’m in Canes Venatici. Here is NGC 4151

Wow and then there was NGC 4244 which looks like a great thin galaxy worthy of further imaging.

And then I found this lovely irregular galaxy NGC 4214 which is very similar looking to the irregular interacting galaxy NGC 4449 the other night.

Then I tried another spiral galaxy NGC 4395 which was really faint and the background is getting very bright now as I approach 2am.

So after an unsuccessful attempt at Aperture photometry on T Coronae Borealis aka “The Blaze Star” I have now closed the dome and am heading off to be as the light continues to increase on these short nights,

Viewing Report 1st June 2024

22:00 – 03:39

Testing the travel rig tonight for the upcoming holiday to Tenerife. Also have the dome open and running to test again the ONAG. I have GingerGeek over this evening to help out. We recalled the travel rig to make sure it had shorter cables to avoid snagging. Then setup next to the observatory. The ASIAIR was setup very quickly and before long we were imaging M51 as a test. All worked well first time.

Meanwhile we had opened the dome and decided to slew to a few objects. First we tried NGC 4656 which is the hockey stick galaxies.

Next up was a very small galaxy NGC 4290 with another galaxy in the field of view.

Finally just before the clouds rolled in we captured NGC 4274.

I then went on to take a set of LRGB images for NGC 4449 that I took a quick peek at yesterday. I noted my focus position today was 17,129 for RGB and 15,515 for L so 1,614 difference

F-Y FD-Y D-Y

Viewing Report 31st May 2024

23:30 – 01:00

Out this evening to try the ONAG from InnovationsForesight on the 12″. Once I selected the right camera as I am using 2 x ASI 1600MM at the moment, one for the guider and one for the main camera, then all worked well, The Device ID seems to keep switching from zero to one and then back at random intervals. The best way to tell which is which is to select the Blank filter and tag an image and if you can still see stars then that is your guider.

Well I took a handful of objects guiding on each one and it just works, the ONAG that is. I took 300s images of M3, NGC 5390, NGC 5033, NGC 4449 and NGC 4559. Each time I took a guide image, selected a star and said autoguide, each time it worked.

I think my focus was a bit off as I had not autofocused, but it proves it is simple to use and repeatable.

Viewing Report 2nd September 2023

21:32 – 00:58

Using the 12″ in the dome this evening to see if I can quickly grab some frames for M15 the Globular cluster in Pegasus.

I’m capturing 60s exposures due to not wanting to oversaturate the stars. I will attempt to get 30 x 60s for LRGB.

Focus position for Luminance 17,131 and RGB 19,505

I captured all frames with the Moon around 88% waining. Some frames were marred by the noise problem on the camera. I have put a ticket into ZWO to see if we can resolve.

M15 processing

Viewing Report 19th August 2023

20:14 – 23:22

Gingergeek came over this evening with his travel rig to setup and test again before our trip. My travel setup is packed away so instead I will image with the 12″ this evening, the first time since May!

Guiding setup was an issue. I did not need to re-calibrate, however TSX kept guiding on a hot pixel. I realised after a long while this was because there were no bright guide stars in the FOV so used the rotator to find one then everything just worked.

Then had a bug with taking a set of images where the run kept using the blank filter. I added another row in TSX and deleted the original which solved the problem. Cloud came in just after 11pm to shut the dome up.

M15 5 min exposure

Viewing Report 24th& 25th June 2023

23:00 – 02:00

4 Epsilon Lyra Double Double star – 31mm I can see the double but not split the 2 stars; 13mm Ethos allowed me to split the doubles and the 10mm whilst slightly dimmer afforded me a slightly wider split

Cat’s Eye Planetary Nebula – 31mm very small not quite pinpoint of light visible nicely without a filter, OIII filter makes it slightly more apparent and Nebustar filter it looks marginally better; 13mm Ethos provided brighter nebula, again the filters provided a better view with the Nebustar being brightest; 10mm is the best view of them all with a definite oval shape East or West, right to left but now OIII produced the brightest and clearest view although it is pushing the seeing tonight

Turtle Planetary Nebula – Not seen

Rasalgethi Alpha Hercules Double Star – 10mm too much for tonight, could not get good focus but could easily split; 13mm Ethos the best view with brighter primary in yellow, very striking and smaller secondary blue; 31mm Nagler just splittable but both components look yellow.

Albireo Double Star – Bright large yellow primary and smaller but still bright blue star in the 13mm Ethos

M13 Hercules Globular Cluster – lovely in the 31mm Nagler; 13mm Ethos much brighter view and obviously larger with resolving more core stars; 10mm darker background so contrast better and even brighter core and stars more obvious with direct vision, including nice pair at 10pm on the cluster

M57 Ring Nebula – planned but not attempted

61 Cygni Double Star – planned but not attempted

NGC 6891 Open Cluster in Lyra – not seen in 31mm Nagler

NGC 6702 & NGC 6703 Galaxy pair – planned but not attempted

M56 Globular Cluster – 10mm dim resolvable , 13mm slightly brighter resolvable averted vision

NGC 6765 Planetary Nebula – planned not attempted

A really good night overall, the eyepieces lent to me from Bob are excellent and make the viewing more pleasurable being able to switch with my wider field of view ones.

Viewing Report 13th June 2023

23:00 – xx:xx

So the 22″ Dob is still out of action with the encoder cable needing repairing from a recent issue with snagging. I’ve ordered some RJ9 connectors to replace the one on the RA axis that is broken. So instead I thought I would open the dome and given the perfectly clear weather with no chance of rain, I would image Arp xxx with the 12″ that Bob Trevan had recently imaged with his 17″ and leave the scope running.

Due to the brightness of the sky when I started it was impossible to find a guide star, thus I have decided to perform almost lucky imaging of 1min exposures. Again given the background brightness this time of year, if I were to try lucky imaging of this faint object of say 1/10th of a second, it would not appear.

So I have set the scope running with 240 images to take in luminance and will come back in the morning and check the results.

Viewing Report 10th June 2023

22:34 – 01:00

Tonight was a visual night. GingerGeek and I used the 22″ Obsession Dobsonian to view some of the wonders of the late Spring sky.

We started with Venus with the aid of a Moon filter. Whilst Venus is bright and not too overwhelming in the eyepiece, the contrast afforded by the addition of this particular filter aids the clarity of the image as Venus sits on the bright backlight of the night sky this time of year. Venus is in a gibbous phase and you could clearly see a concave arch to the edge of Venus that was missing. The seeing was very steady and we were able to push to 179x with the 13mm Nagler.

Next up was Mars. Whilst it took a while for it to appear in the astronomically twilight sky, I swept the area North East of Venus and landed the target after a few moments. Mars was so very small compared with Venus, obviously red as seen without a filter in this case and slightly shifting in colours due to the seeing. By the time we had finished looking, Mars had appeared in the night sky.

Now the sky was getting darker we wanted to start on the deep sky objects. It became apparent very quickly there was a problem with my alignment. This was a problem I faced the last time out and the trouble is with he RA encoder. The RJ11 cable has been pulled and needs recrimping. So for tonight it was about star hoping only πŸ™‚

We then went on to look at globulars M3, M92, planetary nebulae M57 the Ring nebula and M97 the Owl nebula. We tried to get M101 but the sky brightness would not allow it. We also looked at Mizar and Alcor that I could see from 11:30pm as a double, and we looked at Polaris and it’s double star companion SAO 305 through the scope.

The planetary nebulae were seen through an OIII filter and Tele Vue Nebustar filter. I thought the view was slightly clearer through the Nebustar filter, maybe due to the slightly wider bandwidth which includes H-Beta. The Ring nebula was very crisp and I thought I could discern the central star which is 12th magnitude. Our friend Bob was kind enough to lend me a set of eyepieces he recently acquired. The Tele Vue 10mm Radian eyepiece gives 230x through which we could see the central white dwarf.

Whilst looking at the globular clusters we pushed the magnification to 288x with the 8mm Tele Vue Radian. Both this eyepiece and the 10mm gave fantastic views with the globulars sparking with pinpricks of lights from the 1,000s of Suns!

M101 SuperNova (27th-28th May)

DSW invited me over to the IMT3 observatory for an imaging weekend to image M101 and the recent supernova2023ixf discovery. DSW was using the 12inch RDK and I decided to put the FSQ85 on the Pegasus NYX-101 to test out the setup ready for our Tenerife trip to Mount Teide.

I ran the QHY268C at high gain mode, gain 56, offset 30 and -20℃. I finally managed to cure the noise banding I was experiencing on the QHY268C but using a fully shielded high quality USB3 short length cable that I run from direct to a Pegasus UPBv2 that sits on top of the scope.

Although it’s mid summer and the Moon was bright and approaching full the phase, the sky conditions on the first night appeared to be okay at first sight. Before processing I decided to check on data quality via the blink module in PixInsight it was obvious that they were a lot of unusable subs due to high cloud and using them would have ruined the quality of any resulting stacked image.

Running the data stack of raw images through the PixInsight Subframe Selector to analyse the PSF SNR versus noise it clearly shows that I could only use 7 frames (35 minutes) didn’t drop below 0.08 from night one whilst all the data from night two should go straight into the bin along with most of night one πŸ™

Pixinsight SubFrameSelector

Given I don’t have enough data to do the end result justice due to my poor PixInsight skills I decided to invert the images – I really should subscribe to Adam Block Studios (Shout out !)

Inverted image of M101, supernova 2023ixf and surrounding area

Running the AnnotateImage Script labels the various galaxies in the image which I enjoy looking up to see which type they are, magnitude and how far away they are.

Annotated FoV for area around M101, supernova is not labelled

Zooming in to M101 to see the Supernova better, it is located to the right of NGC5461 and indicated by the two arrows.

M101 with SN2023ixf indicated by the arrows

Light Curve

The AAVSO have a light curve plotted from measurements submitted by amateurs, just enter “SN 2023ixf” and submit here. It was still around 11th magnitude on 18th June but there does appear to be a slight decline in the brightness curve.

Viewing Report 27th May 2023

22:14 – 03:00

Takahashi FSQ85, QHY268C and Pegasus NYX-101

GingerGeek came round again tonight for another full night of imaging.

Focus position at 19,506 for Luminance at 22:30 hours.

Started with M100 a galaxy in Coma Berenices. LRGB at 300s sub frames as I have not imaged this galaxy before. However I found this was too close to the Moon so I will revise another night. So I moved onto M10 for RGB, as I have luminance data from Spring 2020 I took 4-6 of RGB as M10 was then too low as it passed the Meridian.

Unfortunately due to the Moon and on reflection looking at the luminance data from April none of the data is of significant quality to be able to use, so I will have to reshoot.

Viewing Report 26th May 2023 (M101)

22:47 – 03:15

M101 for me this evening to try and get there RGB data in one night. GingerGeek has come round to test out his travel setup, he has a Takahashi FSQ85, QHY268C and the Pegasus NYX-101 harmonic mount.

Focused at 20,105 on Luminance so RGB will be 21,105

1 x 300s Red

Taking 2 minute exposures for each colour at -25℃. I then realised 5 minutes is so much better. So at 1:30am I then started exposing at 5 minutes with the plan to combine both data sets. The SkyX worked brilliantly as can be seen below, looking after the guiding and image capture.

The main challenge I had early on was the the dome shutting unexpectedly. I will attempt to find out why over the next few months. The camera noise continues to be an issue but less so tonight so I think it may be USB related, again I will troubleshoot and check there cable lengths.

GingerGeek had a productive night troubleshooting a multitude of problems on his untested travel kit and was pleased with the results including taking his first image of a supernova in M101.

Viewing Report 20th May 2023

22:27 – 03:12

Imaging from IMT3b this evening using the 12″ CDK. Decided to test and see what my image scale would look like compared to Bob’s 17″ CDK. Bob had recently taken an image of Hickson 68 and in particular NGC 5353, a spiral galaxy in Canes Ventatici.

So I’m out and all is clear and calm, temperature is around 12℃ after a pleasantly warm day of 21℃. I am now shooting 1 minutes exposures as did Bob and I will take 70 of these. Of course to be comparable I would need at least 4 times the amount give the light grasp from Bob’s 17″.

By 1.13am I had finished 70 x 60s exposures for NGC 5353 including flats and darks. Then I slewed to M101 to start collecting RGB frames, however I needed to get the camera rotated back to the right position. Firstly PixInsight’s plate solving script had gone from my install since the recent update so I need to fix that. So instead I used image link in TSX. Using the following process I managed to correct my FoV frame and then sync the rotator to the current view. I then opened the M101 image from the 21st April and used that as a reference to then rotate the rotator to align.

  1. Take a photo and Image Link it
  2. Rotate the FoV Indicator to match the position angle and synch it
  3. Unlink the image
  4. Open the original M101 photo
  5. Rotate the FoV Indicator to match the linked photo and tell the rotator to rotate

Finally got the imaging run on M101 started at 3am for RGB taking 2min subs. I remembered to move the focus position out by 1,000. So I went from luminance at 19,329 to Red 20,329

Need more flats and darks for M101 later tonight.

Viewing Report 21st April 2023

21:48 – 05:47

Out imaging M101 in Luminance again to gather more data before I move onto RGB. I already have some Ha which to be honest is probably not all that useful due to poor signal.

5 mins exposure of M101 uncalibrated

So admittedly the biggest challenge tonight was not having sorted automating a meridian flip, falling asleep and waking up after 1 hour to find I had 50 mins of star trails as the mount had come to a perfectly safe rest and stopped tracking. A quick manual flip and I was back in action

Not tracking at the meridian

Another problem I had, especially on the West side of the meridian was a jump every now and then in the autoguider causing the resulting image to have a jump in it. I eventually suspected the star brightness of the guid star being the issue so I increased the exposure from 7s to 12s. This resulted in an increase in the Relative Star Brightness as shown on the Autoguider Graph increasing from 40 to over 100. It also seems to have resolved the issue.

Relative Star Brightness increased with increased exposure 7s to 12s

The last problem I had tonight was the camera was set to GAIN 139 OFFSET 10 rather than OFFSET 21. This seems to reset in TSX every time I reconnect the camera. So from now on I will make it part of my startup process to set the OFFSET correctly. The impact is slightly dimmer pixels as it is not adding the additional 11 to each one and thus the times for Flats I have need to be increased.

In total tonight I managed to grab around 4 hours 15 mins of good data once I removed problematic frames so 51 x 300s subs. I also took calibration frames, darks, flats and flat darks.

Viewing report 8th & 9th March 2023 Tenerife Los Gigantes Villa

Between 9pm and 12:30am both nights

View from the Villa facing South West

A week with the family in Tenerife afforded me the opportunity to test out for the 2nd time this year the Skywatcher 100 Esprit on the AM5 harmonic mount with the ASIAIR in control and the ASI2600MC with a new Antlia Triband RGB Ultra filter.

Travel Rig

Over the period of the week I picked 2 nights when I wanted to observe. Because of the clement environment of Tenerife and the Canaries and unlike the UK, you can decide when to go out and image as almost all nights are clear, the weather warm, around 22 deg Celsius and the bed not that far away from the pool. Given when we were on holiday which was decided around other activities, the Moon phase was Full.

Night time flood lit pitches

The one problem with renting a villa is when the owners will not pinpoint where on a map it is. There is normally a reason. In this case it was because of the proximity of the local sports buildings. A swimming pool to the front of the villa including a floodlit pitch and 2 more flood lit pitches to the left and right of the villa at the rear.

Impact of flood lighting

So yes it was bright, very bright, as can be seen on the villa party wall.

Full Moon and Floodlights

So given all that light pollution I was then pleasantly surprised how well the final image came out of the singular target I chose. NGC 2244, the Rosette Nebula.

NGC 2244 Rosette Nebula – 6 hours

I exposed for some 75 x 300s over the 2 nights. All the images were on the West side of the Meridian to make it easier without a flip.

Crop of cluster

I found stacking 75 images instead of just the first night of 30+ images gave a much smoother background and nebula, much less noise and easier to work with the data.

Wider crop including dust

So not a bad photo for Full Moon and 3 flood lit pitches. I look forward to testing out the kit at the top of the mountain later in the year under New Moon dark skies.

Viewing report & Filter Comparison 8th March 10pm 2023

I wanted to compare 2 filters this evening as I have recently purchased the new Antlia Triband RGB Ultra filter. The original filter I had for the one shot colour was the ZWO Duo-Band filter.

M42/M43 Filter Comparison

As can be seen above the difference without a filter is quite dramatic (Top – No Filter, Middle – Antlia Triband RGB Ultra, Bottom – ZWO Duo-Band). There is more broadband light captured. The red nebula is less apparent and the background sky is much brighter.

Running Man Nebula Filter Comparison

The above image from the running man nebula, NGC 1977 demonstrates that without a filter a reflection nebula comes through best (Left – No Filter, Middle – Antlia Triband RGB Ultra, Right – ZWO Duo-Band). The ZWO filter gives a more green image over that of the Antila, which in itself reduces the reflection nebula but does start to pick up some of the red emission nebula within the Running Man.

Inverted background sky and stars

The inverted background above gives a sense of the reduction in star luminance that is allowed through without a filter.

This image shows the background with the details of the readout from each of the pixel across the colour channels. Here you get a sense of the green seen in the ZWO filter is less the extra green coming through, moreover the lack of blue being allowed through. Without a filter the background sky is swamped with all colour channels.

With no filter the full effect can be seen above, much brighter background, nebula less colourful and less detailed.

With the Antlia filter above, the final single image I personally find is much more pleasing.

Finally with the ZWO filter you can see quite clearly the green effect.

So in summary I would say the ZWO filter is better than no filter except when imaging reflection nebula, however the best filter is the Antlia filter when paired with my one shot colour ZWO ASI2600MC camera.

Below is a random drawing of a scientist with a Tak laser beam.