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

Exoplanet HAT-P-32b (14/9/2020) – IMT3

So the evening started well, I had logged into IMT3, got the dome ready, TheSkyX/SGPro software was up and running, CMOS camera was cooled and I was already syncing on a bright star even though it was still twilight.

Dave and I had chatted the previous night and had settled on HAT-P-32b in the constellation of Andromeda. The reason was due to the target position in the sky, the time of rising and setting was before the rise of the sun so we could get a full ingress and egress and no meridian flip was required.

Then the gremlins started to play havoc with our efforts and I was having major issue with guiding to the point that I was going to give up as the issues were eating into the desired 1 hour egress monitoring time period. Dave joined the session to help resolve the issue and we managed to start imaging about 10 minutes before the start of the transit.

Dave had to go to bed due to work commitments but I was determined to get the full set of observation and run it through the HOPS analysis software. It was an uneventful night interspaced with music, movies and hot cups of tea.

Once I had transferred the data over the internet to my server, performed the analysis and sent the result to Dave it was 5:30am so I crawled into bed around 6am.

Detrended Model from HOPS software

Exoplanet WASP-93b (1-2/8/2020) – IMT3

Session time 21:00 (1/8) – 03:41 (2/8)

@ 19:00 Opened dome in order to cool the dome and scope down.

@ 21:00 GingerGeek arrives, wine is poured and we took 5 x darks, flats and bias for both the last run and tonight. The flats (red) were 3 seconds exposure to get 2/3 well depth required for this.

@ 21:44 Slewed to WASP-93b before we set about focusing on a nearby magnitude 5 star using the Red filter. Starting focus position was 58841@19.42℃.

@ 22:06 After failing to focus using the Red filter we resorted to using the Luminance filter to auto focus and achieved a excellent fit (focus position 61630, HFR 4.95 @20.83℃).

When we swapped back to the Red filter, SGPro then moved the filter offset to focuser position 60630. We slewed back to WASP-93b (GSC:3261:1703) and found a guide star just off centre of the star field with the exoplanet target.

Started to take exposures to find the brightest value of the centre pixel of the star and make sure it was 2/3 full well depth and thus 33,000 ADU (even though it is a 12-bit camera SGPro is set to 16-bit for ease of use. Eventually this was achieved at around 200 second exposure.

@ 22:51 Started imaging, 18.21℃ was measured at the focuser.

Frame and focus of starfield
Target star for Exoplanet measurements
Local conditions
200s exposure of starfield
Another plane!
Target location in Cassiopeia
Details of WASP-93b transit for tonight
Some cloud early on in the night

Mars imaging finished at 03:41

Exoplanet WASP-74b (30-31/7/2020) – IMT3

Started around 21:15, Guiding by 22:02, Capture started 22:22, Finished at 03:31.

Dave and I are part of the amateur exoplanet monitoring effort for the ESA Ariel mission. We decided that we would allocate some time to try and provide observing data towards the project whenever we could.

Part of this requires some forward planning such as looking at the upcoming transit visible and their associated time. This is due to the altitude of the object, the ingress and the egress times of the projected transit.

Prior to this we had discussed in advance which object to target for the chosen evening. All the hard work of choosing objects is done by the Exospies project website as they list the candidates they need data for via a schedule. So it’s a simple task for use to go through the list and work out what fits best for us.

Unfortunately whilst opening the dome to cool down I decided to review the schedule but I was hit with a server 500 error from the website. In a panic that I might miss the start of the event I scoured the internet for alternate exoplanet transit time websites and found the excellent Exoplanet Transit Database of the Czech Astronomical Society.

WASP-74b Exoplanet Transit Times

Later on I found https://www.exoworldsspies.com/en/scheduler/ as well which will be useful in the future, especially for looking at past events.

WASP-74b – Target star is in the centre

I had issues with focus drift all night due to the temperature fluctuations but at a recent Zoom session it was discussed that images can be out of focus with no detrimental effect on the measurements :

SGPro Image History

I was unable to auto focus successfully maybe due to the low altitude and seeing. I also discovered that temperature compensation was enabled so we probably need to remeasure the temperature compensation coefficients so the focus deltas are better between the par focal filters.

The object was at a relative low altitude, the outside temperature was warm and although the skies appeared clear our AAG CloudWatcher sensors via the Grafana dashboard told a different story. For us a truly clear sky is anything equal or lower than -18℃.

Sky Temperature – it was clear but it wasn’t !
Sky Temperature – T’was warm !

After performing a meridian flip, resumed the guiding I started to feel tired so I set my alarm for 3am and went to bed. Unfortunately there appeared to be a guiding issue at some point shortly I went to bed.

Guiding issues shortly after meridian flip

This was investigated using the phdLogViewer and shown to be a loss of guide star and didn’t recover for around 18 minutes.

The guiding issue also caused the image to shift so the target and reference stars moved. We need this in frame in order to run the frames through the provided HOPs data analysis program which hopefully won’t have a problem in reading them. That’s an exercise for this weekend and hopefully we will have enough data to yield a decent light curve that we can submit.

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 +01Β° 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™

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

Viewing Report 31st May 2020 – IMT3

18:01 – 01:09

Opened dome early to cool down at 6pm.

The first thing to do were Flats for Ha first for the previous night but also for use tonight. I completed this at 22:15

At 22:31 I performed focus run on Luminance which came in at position 59841 with HFR 4.77.

I started an image run as soon as the Pelican Nebula (IC5067) was above the neighbours house. I have set a run of 10 x 600s and 20 x 300s Ha subs guided with the new PHD2 settings to prove the 12″ now works from 1 night to another. Then we can try the Esprit on the next clear night. The guiding at first looked okay.

Good initial guiding

The resulting image looked very good too

300s Ha guided Pelican
300s Ha guided zoomed no trailing
600s Ha Pelican guided
600s guided zoomed no trailing

After about 5 frames I suddenly ran into a problem the guiding looked like this

There were large movements in the Dec and the RA would not return to centre. Soon enough SGPro stopped imaging and tried to settle the guider and then further complained about not being able to settle. So I temporarily changed the Hysterisis from 10 to 15 to see if this would get the star back. It did, well just.

The RA axis returns to the centre after quite some time. Is this possibly seeing related or is there something mechanical amiss with the setup?

I did notice the problem one more and then went off to bed left it running 01:09 leaving the possible bump in the worm to resolve itself.

bump in the worm?

Addendum – So got up this morning and the scope had continued its travel across the heavens. I looked at SGPro and it finished the sequence without any problem. I then looked at PHD2 and expanded the time to include the maximum span possible as it had been trying to guide after loosing the star (I have check boxed Enable Star Mass Detection in the hope this fixes it) and I noticed a problem, which is the recurring South then North oscillation which I now need to investigate as that is the cause of loosing an image due to the star moving. It looks for all the world to be on the worm gear. I will set about measuring the PEC tonight and see if I can see it. It may of course be from when I adjusted the work due to another problem I had and it may not be quite right. I will also ask on the forum.

Viewing Report 30th May 2020 – IMT3

5pm – 3:19am

I opened the dome at 5pm. I wanted to try tonight to sort guiding via PHD2 again on the 12″ this evening and then on Esprit120 if enough time allowed.

I changed the PHD2 Profile for 12″ from 6 calibration steps to 12. Performed calibration. Started test guiding in West at +47 Alt. Tried 300 seconds exposure x2 all good

I Slewed back to the East and to Pelican Nebula. Set the Reverse Dec Output After Meridian Flip tick box again ! It then re-calibrated for this side of the mount.

I have also changed the assume Dec orthogonal to the RA axis.

I reran the calibration a number of times until there was no longer an error at the end of the calibration. There was also trailing of stars. Some of the problem seems to have been an incorrect calibration, we need the RA and DEC rates to be very close indeed. Some of ours this evening were 1.5 arcsec difference. The good calibration we finally settled on was 0.5 arcsec difference. The other change was I went out and tightened up the grub screw holding the Lodestar guider on the prism tube that goes into the OAG body, this was loose and I could move the back end of the guider around. This was due to changing the OAG position recently and clearly not tightening the grub screw in enough.

Good calibration
Good guiding after good calibration

I then refocused on Lum and then switched to Ha. This is the image after 300s with a much better HFR of 5.21

Pelican 300s in focus with no trailed stars
Close up of stars from 300s image

When I had a bump in the seeing (assumed) the PHD2 graph looked like this

PHD2 graph bump in seeing

the resulting image of 300s I was in the middle of looked like this :

Image effected by seeing and bump in PHD2 graph

and zoomed in you can see the problem.

Trailed stars due to that seeing bump

Watching Chris Woodhouse’s excellent YouTube video on PHD2 guiding he has also set the min star size to stop it picking up a hot pixel, something we have seen this evening. He has also disabled Star Mass Detection, which stops PHD restarting if it if it thinks another star has been picked even though it may not have, both of these under the brain and guiding tab.

Settings before the change
Minimum star HFD and Star Mass Detection changes

It’s now 2:51am, the sky is brightening but the seeing has settled, the mount is behaving and I am taking 600s Ha images of the Pelican Nebula without any trailing of stars. The odd spike sees a jump up to 3 arcsecs occasionally.

600s Pelican in Ha with good guiding
Close up view of stars at 600s

The guiding graph below shows a really good small RMS below 1 which is key.

PHD good guiding below 1 RMS

So by 3:19am the sky is really getting bright and showing on the SQM as 18.6 and dropping fast. I have stopped guiding and imaging and will now head to bed. The final focus position for Ha was 59925 so I can grab flats tomorrow! I will then take a look at the Esprit120 tomorrow night.

Viewing Report 29th May 2020 – IMT3

21:05 -2:56am

Currently cooling dome since 8pm.

Dome open to cool down

Logged in at 22:43 to slew to Pelican IC 5067

Esprit 120 FHR was 1.99 for Lum and 2.54 on the Ha

Focused on Deneb , 30 seconds exposure produced HFR 2.23

Deneb – 30 seconds in Ha
Solve and Sync

Solve and sync completed on Deneb in Ha

The focus point for Ha was 6217

Now for a quick frame and focus, 30 seconds exposure

30 seconds Ha on Pelican as Frame and Focus test

That looked good, next up was to see if we can image for 5 minutes unguided and see what the resulting image looked like

300s Ha Pelican

Again the resulting image looked very good and no star trails

Clear skies with -18℃ measured by the Infrared sensor on the AAG Cloud-Watcher.

AAG Infrared sensor read -18c so zero clouds

I then tried a 10min image but got clear trailing.

Star trailing at 10 minute exposure

So I set the guiding up with PHD2, went out to the dome and created a dark library as this was not done. I then set about training the guider and then set it running, initially with a 4 second exposure. The resulting guide graph looked a bit bumpy. The ASC looked very clear this evening which was the first time in a while. You could see stars to the left hand edge of the image which is normally obscured by cloud.

ASC Clear skies

We decided to run the guiding assistant in PHD2 and see if there were any changes that needed to be made. It came up with some suggestions including redoing the calibration and changing the calibration step size from 1600 to allow more steps in the calibration, in this case I changed to 1200 to try and go from 3 steps per axis to 8, however I got to 6 steps and this seemed good enough. When I then reran the guiding assistant I no long got the error about calibration. I did have a few suggestions as seen below which I applied.

Guiding Assistant recommendations

So the changes made still have not allowed 10mins images, they are still trailed. So that I do not waste any further time this evening I captured 5 minute images instead of 10 minutes and I will relook at the guiding next week when the Moon get brigheter.

At 1:38 we gave up on guiding and switched to 12″, Autofocus on Lum, 63384 HFR 5.4. Took some 5 minute and a single 10 minute frame guided, scope trailing ?

There were three scopes on the Pelican Nebula (IC5070/IC5067) tonight as GingerGeek was imaging with the Tak FSQ85 from his back garden.

3 Different image scales from tonight

Finished to go to bed at 2:56 am, GingerGeek finished the session by taking flats, warming up the CCD and bringing the scope indoors just after 3am.

Rough stack of Ha (5nm) 10×600 seconds, -15℃ From the FSQ85
ASC and Summer Triangle

Viewing Report 26th May 2020 – IMT3

21:00 – 00:46

All Sky Camera

Opened dome at 4pm to start cooling the 12″, but actually started to play by looking at guider on the 12″ at 9pm. The guider had never really produced round stars and I suspected this was due to it not being pushed all the way in, far enough to be in the sweet spot for focus.

So I took off and adjusted with a spacer of which I had many in different thicknesses. I found the ideal one to fit that would allow the filter wheel Now round stars. Given high cloud I have set running on M5 LRGB, 60 x 60 seconds L / 30 x 60s RGB. Not guiding. Gain 139 Offset 21. Cooler -15. to rotate far enough that it did not fowl the guide camera, which until now it had. Now this was done, it was time to test.

Round guider stars

The images were much better, the stars tight and round. I also changed the rotation of the guider so that its chip was square to the rectangular whole in the light pickoff shaft.

Stretched M5

So now that was achieved I went off to image M5, but without the guider as I could not find a guide star……..typical. I chose M5 as we have some frames from a previous night in May but focus was not as good as tonight and the ADU was too high. I left the scope running 60 x Luminance and 30 x RGB and went to bed.

Images captured for M5

Addendum. The dome shut when the Sun started to rise which is fantastic and working as designed. What is not is the AAG must have hung and although I could see in Windows Task Manager it was nowhere to be seen, not in the icon tray or open as a window. Also I forgot to keep the dome log open in TSX so could not see the time stamp of closure. I will have a check list for the next night out. Also I now realise the pick off mirror obscuring the corner of the camera chip for the main camera so I need to either move where the light is picked off from or move the mirror out slightly without effecting the focus.

OAG Pick off mirror obscuring main camera in corner

I have also now started to process the image and on close inspection to the frames I can see the cloud moving across in the Red channel. Here is the results for the processed image.

M5 Cropped

Viewing Report 15th May 2020 – IMT3

21:58 – 02:02

Just setting up for an imaging run and to test imaging without temp compensation to see if the 12″ keeps focus without it. I started by myself then was joining by GingerGeek and then Bob.

Performed a SGPro autofocus run on Mag 7 star produced focus position of 71,828 @ 4.6 HFR at 14.47℃.

1st autofocus run
Resulting M98 image from 1st autofocus run

The resulting image was good with good star shapes. Although I suspected at this point the seeing was not excellent.

I let the sequence run for a bit imaging M98 through LRGB and then decided the HFR was gradually getting larger so I performed a 2nd Autofocus run which came in at position 72,215 HFR 5.7 at 13.97℃.

Again I let the sequence continue for at least 4 images and the performed another Autofocus run, note all the time this was on M98 and not slewing away to another star. This came in at focus position 72,697 @HFR 5.7 at 13.82℃.

I continued this routine again and performed another Autofocus run on M98 focus position 73,441 HFR 5.4 at 12.98℃.

I then decided, due to struggling to get a good HFR on focus runs to see if the autofocus was introducing an issue so I changed the autofocus setting from 9 data points to 11 data points to try and get fuller deeper curve. The resulting curve was better and more complete on both sides of the U shape. I then imaged further and then attempted an autofocus with the settings change for the step size from 2500 to 1500 and data points from 11 to 15. This was because I felt we always have a flatfish bottom to the autofocus which at this focal length of 2.5m shows the quality of the seeing with a narrower flat bottom being better seeing. The new autofocus came in at position 73,534 HFR 5.1 at 12.66℃. Meanwhile we kept noticing satellites going across the ASC which I now believe are potentially StarLink so very annoying.

ASC with Satellite

The new autofocus settings seem to work better. Anything less than 1500 step size would be less than the seeing, as proved tonight so I may find that 2000 is ideal, a test for another night. Also noted that Red filter was showing the worst HFR changes due to seeing and humidity was around 75%, again worthy of note to see how good the seeing is. The guiding was all over the place tonight, again another indicator of poor seeing. So all these things are not poor setup or poor software but poor seeing!

This I believe was the ISS going over captured in the ASC.

ASC and ISS

I was really pleased GingerGeek and I had spent time a week or so ago when the Moon was around working out the location of the Field of View (FoV) indicator on TSX, it makes it much easier to find a guide star, although tonight M98 had a couple strategically placed which was great.

FoV for Off Axis Guider and the OS main camera

By 2pm the cloud had started to appear, first at South Winston with Steve’s setup, then at Mil Dave’s at Tadley and finally here some 15 minutes later. The guide star was lost by PHD and SGPro in a well ordered fashion did what it is really good at and stopped imaging.

SGPro can’t continue imaging due to guide star loss πŸ™‚
PHD2 and guide star loss due to cloud

Here is where I got up to so LRGB on M98 for the night with 15 x Luminance and 12 x Red, Green and Blue was the original first image for each was there wrong exposure time, so RGB at 2mins and Luminance at 5mins. Very happy for an evening testing and gathering data at the same time.

Here is a set of image statistics charts for each filter for the HFR changing over the evening whilst I refocused. Next time I will focus once and not refocus and see what happens with the temperature drop.

Final look at the AAG weather station as the cloud sensor which is Infrared makes the dome unsafe and shuts it.

AAG Weather Station now Cloudy

Here is the final view from the ASC

ASC and cloud

and of course to finish the evening off another satellite!

Viewing Report – Cinco de Mayo 2020

Moon 96% Waning.

Our TOSA Manual needs updating now that we have replaced the HiTechAstro Deluxe Cloud Sensor with the LunΓ‘tico AAG CloudWatcher cloud detector.

New Screens to get familiar with:

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Initially I was unable to open the shutter of the dome. Thinking I’d forgotten to reset the HiTechAstro relay I soon realised I had to figure out why the AAG_Cloudwatcher software was reporting Unsafe. GingerGeek spotted that the Brightness level looked like a sawtooth and should settle after a few minutes, which it appeared to do and the dome shutter opened successfully.

Following on from my previous observing session on 1st May when clouds interrupted play just as I was completing a Guiding Assistant run in PHD2, I started tonight’s session with a quick look at Venus before it set below our horizon and then had another go at running the Guiding Assistant in PHD2 for the OS 12″ / Tak FS-102 combination, with the Tak as the guider for the Officina Stellare.

Venus in Ha (because it’s so bright).

Crop

As the Tak has an Alnitak Flip Flat attached to it I added it to the profile I’ve created for the OS12 and Tak combination so that the panel can be opened to allow light through to the camera πŸ™‚

Guiding Assistant completed successfully and values applied for RA MnMo, Dec MnMo and Dec Backlash compensation.

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Y scale = 2, Target Radius = 1.5

Sequence running for 2, 5, 7, 10, 12 and 15minutes.

2, 5,& 7 minutes exposures ok but trailing beginning to show at 10 minutes, quite evident at 12 minutes and very evident at 15 minutes.

Added 8 and 9 minutes to sequence, but both of these show signs of stars trailing.

Started a sequence of 24 x 5 minute exposures.

Aborted at frame 20 as the NGC3628 was now below the horizon.

The image has drifted and NGC 3628 has not remained fixed in the frame, so we still have issues with guiding as that is almost certainly the source of the drift.

02:22 Slew to M5, just off centre.

Slew to HIP 74975 to centre and focus.

De-selected guider.

02:57 Slewed to M5 and started a sequence of 24 x Lum and 8 x R,G,B 120s frames.

Sample Luminance frame:

04:08 SQM graph has started to droop. Was 18.2 before 4am, now down to 18

04:10 ASC image brightening quickly

04:15 SQM 17.54

04:24 Camera Warming Up

Disconnected Guider

Telescope Parked and disconnected.

Dome Parked (shutter closed) and disconnected

De-humidifier on.

Camera Power Off

04:30 I’m off to bed

Viewing Report 2nd May 2020 – IMT3

22:00 – 23:59

FoV changes for OAG

This evening GingerGeek and I simply set out to align the off axis guider of the OS on TSX. We did this buy focusing on the Moon and adjusting the off axis guider for he crater we were seeing. The resulting image is not very good which give rise to a though that the OAG should move it’s position in the imaging train to give better star renditions, the issue is I think it is as far back as it can go due to the filter wheel.

New OAG FoV settings
OS FoV settings

Viewing Report 1st May 2020 – IMT3

On opening the dome I slewed to Venus hoping to catch it before it disappeared below the horizon. I took a 1s Frame and Focus image just to confirm it was in the centre of the FoV and was puzzled by the resulting image.

At first I thought the 12″ was still covered so called Dave to check. He didn’t think the cover was in place as the last thing he’d done was to take some Flats. Dave confirmed that the cover was not in place but reported that I might be trying to view Venus through the trellis on the fence so I abandoned Venus and slewed to NGC3628 in Leo as it had just crossed the Meridian and I wanted to try and setup a profile to use my Tak FS-102 as a guide scope for Dave’s OS12″.

Previous attempts at guiding the OS with the QHY5 and MiniGuideScope combination had proved worse than imaging with the mount unguided.

Although I suspected we knew the root cause we hadn’t our research πŸ™ which soon became apparent. I found a couple of rules of thumb, the first stated that ‘image scale in arc-seconds x 400 = max exposure time is seconds when guiding with a separate guide scope’.

For the ZWO ASI1600MM (3.8um pixel size) on the OS 12″ (2500mm fl)

((3.8/2500) x 206.265) x 400 = 125s

We can do better than that unguided.

The second ‘rule of thumb’ I found stated that the ‘Guide to Main train pixel ratio should not exceed 10:1.

Unfortunately the QHY5 MiniGuideScope to OS12″ ratio is close to 17.8:1, not good.

The QHY5 + MiniGuideScope scale is (3.75/130) x 206.265 = 5.95 arc-sec / pixel.

The OS 12″ + ZWO ASI1600MM scale is (3.8/2500) x 206.265 = 0.31 arc-sec/pixel.

The Tak FS-102 with the QHY168C scale is (3.75/820) x 206.265 = 0.94 arc-sec/pixel

So if we try the OS 12″ with the Tak as the guide scope the ratio is closer to 2.8:1 which sounds like a better proposition.

to be continued …

Viewing Report 20th April 2020 – IMT3

Viewing time period – 20:15 – 23:46

TONIGHTS TARGETS

H56-1 / NGC2903-OS-Ha-300s x 12 – Done

NGC3395-OS-Ha-300s x 24 – no Ha so aborted

M94-OS-Ha-300s x 8 – Done

M85-OS-Ha-300s x 24 – no Ha so ignoring

Flats () Darks () FlatDarks ()

Camera Temp -26℃

WORKFLOW

  1. Cool down scope and dome – done
  2. Turn off Dehumidifier – done
  3. Turn off fans on scope – done
  4. Find home – done
  5. Slew to nearby star to target – done
  6. Select filter and focus – done 74,517 Ha – done
  7. Slew to target and take a test image using Frame and Focus – done
  8. Solve and Sync and then right mouse click on object and Slew Here – done
  9. Setup SGPro Sequence with details – done
  10. Make sure guider connected and calibrate – done
  11. When guiding run sequence – done

Tonight we will take a bunch of Ha images for 4 targets we have been imaging recently with Ha data being provided through the 12″. I have selected the 4 objects in order of passing across the Meridian first. We should aim to get 2hrs of Ha in each, in which case we may need to take the rest tomorrow.

Auto focus run before dark on Ha using 20s subs @ 21:00 focus position is now 74,517 at focuser temp 15.84℃

Autofocus on Ha

Autoguiding on 10s with one of the 2 stars in the FoV of the guider for OS12.

@21:17 started taking the first image. Noticed quickly the guiding in Dec went up, so stopped and recalibrated guider. Then started guiding on 8 second subs.

Guiding 8s OS12 Lodestar

So the sequence is now running and taking frames of the first target in Ha NGC2903 aka H56-1.

H56-1 / NGC2903 Ha 300s

After 12 x 300 seconds on NGC2903 I slewed to NGC3395 and took the first Ha image, but unfortunately it was very dim so not worth pursuing. Instead I have now switched to M94 which is currently on the East side of the Meridian. I will take 24 x 300 seconds Ha with no guiding. It will require a meridian flip in about 90 minutes. I will then leave Bob to complete the Ha on M94 for the rest of the night as M85 does not have any Ha within it.

Bob continued and had a little success, cloud rolled in at 23:46 so frame 9 onwards are no good so we got 8 frames in total for M94, we will continue another night. The shutter was closed as Bob did the meridian flip due to cloud.

I tried to take calibration frames the following day at 7pm when the outside temp was 15.5℃, the inside was 18.5℃ but the ASI camera on the OS12 would not get lower than -25℃. I now concur for with Bob and GingerGeek that we should lower the cooling temp to -20℃ for the remainder of the Spring and Summer returning to closer to -30℃ in the Autumn / Winter. For now I had to wait for the temperature to drop outside and thus inside to cool down the final 1℃ to take the calibration frames. By 20:22 the temp outside had dropped to 12℃ and the internal temp to 15.8℃ which was enough to cool the camera to -26℃.

Viewing Report 22nd March 2020 – Travel Scope

Viewing time period – 19:33 – 05:12

Once again unto the darkness ……….

I started setting up before dusk and the scope was ready for my on the patio once darkness had fallen. The first thing to do was use Polemaster to get the polar alignment roughly done.

Polemaster prior to alignment

@19:43 finished Polar alignment and started PHD2 drift alignement

Drift alignment for the azimuth

@20:07 finished drift aligning in Dec

@20:23 after doing the washing up I am now back to do the drift alignment of the altitude

Drift alignment altitude

@20:29 finished drift alignment in the altitude and did not need to adjust

@20:43 slewed to M35 and set the camera temp -25℃ and its running at 40%. I have set Gain to 7 and Offset to 30

I then joined the BAS Zoom call along with many others from the society. I shared my screen and explained the problem I was having that the DEC axis was still drifting. Mil Dave took me through the settings and it transpired that I had the Dec Guide Mode set to North rather than Auto. This meant it was not correcting for the error as it drifted South., I set to Auto and PHD started to correct! It now works πŸ™‚ Thanks Mil Dave!

PHD Dec Guide Mode Setting to Auto!!!!!!!!@

@21:20 I had started gathering 5min exposures of M35

Quick stack and stretch and plate solve and annotation of M35

@23:00 finished capturing M35 now waiting for M65 Trio in Leo to go across the meridian

The SkyX Trio in Leo

@23:46 started imaging Trio in Leo although there is some high level cloud

PHD Guiding now fixed πŸ™‚

MUST REMEMBER TO TAKE FLATS TOMORROW!

Viewing Report 27th/28th October 2019 – IMT3 Observatory

Viewing time period – 19:01 – 00:05

GingerGeek and I tried to sort a few things last night, namely PHD2 guiding on both sides of the mount without any recalibration, automated meridian flip within SGPro, focusing and plate solving. After nearly 2 hours we had not fixed any of these problems. So we need further research/reading to resolve.

Instead @9pm I decided to take some more images of M76 since it was due to be fairly clear all night. What I found was this was quite simple to now setup and get working as long as I did not mind performing a manual flip at 11:30pm.

There was one other issue last night which was around the dome closing, it suddenly did this around 10pm, not sure why, I think (I now in the light of day cannot be sure) the relay went off. Looking at the Keogram and then the ASC movie for last night it does coincide with a set of cloud going over so maybe that is why it closed. It will be nice to then get it to reopen when clear, another thing to fix at some point.

So as I say, setting up for the run was straightforward and I used TSX rather than SGPro to centre and platesolve M76 as normal. I then took a sample image of 60 seconds found that the focus was more or less spot on for OIII, despite earlier challenges with focus not working and all was ready to go.

On the point of focus problems, we could not get an accurate V-Curve earlier in the evening, SGPro kept coming up with different focus points after each run and eventually we put this down to the dome and scope not having had time to cool given it only being 30 minutes or so. The outside temperature was around 3℃ whilst the inside was just shy of 9℃. Later in the evening the difference was much smaller (I should remember to record this). I can get the ambient temp for the outside the next day from the FITS header but I have no record of the inside ambient temp, something else to fix.

So I went off to bed just after the meridian flip around 11:30pm and after watching a few frames come down. This morning I took flats and darks and closed the dome which was still open with the first frost of the season having set in and frost was covering the inside of the dome.

Viewing Report 22nd/23rd October 2019 – IMT3 Observatory

Viewing time period – 21:38 – 01:50

Quick set of images this evening to take some more data of M76. I can image for 3 hours before a meridian flip. I need to get the automated flip working and thus the plate solving that seems to be having issues. For now I will open the dome and just set it running on OIII through the 12″.

After entering with TSX connected to the ASI camera I started guiding and for setup reasons I have included the guide star here.

Guide Star

@00:45 I managed to do the manual meridian flip and then headed off to be after collecting another 2 hours of OIII data. I left the scope running for the rest of the night knowing that the dome would shut if the sky clouded up.

Last image taken

So I am now up at 7am and indeed the dome closed when the clouds rolled in. I have no real notification of when that occurred so I have now set the HitecWeather station software to log on the triggering of the relay to a file so I can see the time it closed.

This will allow me to compare to the Keogram from the ASC and double check the dome is closing at the appropriate time.

Fortunately SGPro is connected to the weather station as a safety monitor and stops imaging if the dome closes. I can see the clouds started to roll in around 1:30am for a few minutes then just before 2pm there were more and by 2:43am after they covered the sky. The good thing is it looks like, although I cannot be sure, the dome would have closed at around 1:50am which is the time of the last image taken assuming the date stamp is the completion of the image.

Safety enabled

I have now taken flats and darks and parked the scope and it is ready for it’s next outing, I also remembered to turn the dehumidifier back on this time. Both the dehumidifier and the flat panel need connecting to an Arduino to automate turning on and off.

View from cameras when in position to flat panel on 12″

Viewing Report 19th/20th October 2019 – IMT3 Observatory

Viewing time period – 17:31 – 01:48

After nearly a month of not imaging from IMT due to a holiday in Tenerife, a week in New York with work and then Manchester and London along with a run of poor weather it was clear on a Saturday night! Another evening commissioning the observatory was needed, so tonight we will again further refine the polar alignment since the last major modification and distribution of weight where we changed the adjustment plate for Bob’s Tank FS 102 OTA. Again we plan to drift align with PHD.

First thing is to find a star near the celestial equator near the Meridian so that it would display the most movement and thus magnify the error of miss polar alignment. I should be able to find HP 95501 @8pm.

Star to drift align for Azimuth

Next I performed an autofocus using the Luminance filter. HIP 95501 is the star to choose for drift aligning the first part, a 1 second image within Frame and Focus in SGPro showed it just off centre which was fine.

Star to guide on

Next I moved the star to place in the Lodestar FoV. Now I can measure the azimuth polar error, ALWAYS ignoring the RA line. Looking at the Dec line I could see I was out by 2.43′ and 39px. I adjusted the thruster knobs on the MEII to move the star to the outset edge of the purple circle showing the error, in this case the right thrust in and left thrust out. I then drifted again and make sure the purple circle gets smaller and the DEC line a much shallower angle.

After first adjustment 0.53′ and 34px out

I adjusted again and got the azimuth error down to a respectable 0.08′ 5px error.

Azimuth error 0.08′ 5px

The graph on PHD2 should started to look fairly flat, and so I then attempted to fix the polar error for altitude. I selected a star in the West and near the celestial equator such as Rasalgethi in Hercules.

Rasalgethi used for Altitude adjustment

I watched the DEC line only and ignored the RA, the DEC line this time reflecting the error in altitude. Then I adjusted the mount using the altitude adjustment spanner moving the star again to the outside of the purple circle and then retested, finally getting the error down to a suitably small number after only 1 turn of 0.12′ 5px error.

Altitude adjusted to 0.12′ 5px error

Unfortunately at the extreme West I could only expose unguided for 1min on the 12″ at 2.5m focal length, the stars otherwise looked trailed.

Trailed stars at extreme due West

I then went to near the meridian and a 4 min exposure produced nice sound stars.

4 minute exposure near Meridian

I then went on to do an automated TPoint run, but the problem seemed to be that a large number of samples could not be solved. The resulting TPoint model of 118 samples of which only 90 were usable, was worse than the 60 point model I had before. I will therefore redo the TPoint model the next time it is clear.

TPoint model not as great at 60 points I did before

The whole 118 model took approximately 1.5 hours to complete which is so much better than a manual model.

Completed model 118 points

The good thing is the TPoint model told me the polar alignment is excellent!

Polar Alignment is excellent πŸ™‚

It is now @23:30 so I went on to start imaging. First I needed to perform a focus run on Luminance which I did.

Good focus on luminance

I then slewed to M76 to start my image run, a 30s exposure showed stars in focus and little dumbbell prominent in OIII.

Focused stars and M76 centred

This time round I decided to set the Gain to 139 and the Offset accordingly to 21. I also decided on a 10min exposure rather than 20mins front the last set.

M76 1 x 10min Gain 139 Offset 21

Viewing Report 23rd/24th August 2019 – IMT3 Observatory

Viewing time period – 22:34 – 0

Looking at Vega ready for setting up guide scope

GingerGeek round tonight to align his guide scope, focus it and make sure guiding works. The first thing we had to do though was unplug my camera and then plug his into the Mount Hub Pro due the fuse problem from the last session when it melted through the fuse holder, that will be fixed later this weekend.

Next we slewed to Vega as seen above and took a quick image to see how far out the Esprit 120 is compared to where the OS12″ is pointing so that we can adjust it later.

Espri 120 missalignment from OS12″

So it would seem focusing was a bit more of a challenge than we thought. The first thing is we bought an adapter for the guide scope (aka the finder that came with the Esprit 120) but it did not provide enough back focus for the camera. We had a look round the adapters in the dome and found a nose extension for the Lodestar, however it was not a c-mount end to it so we landed up duck taping it on tonight until GingerGeek can bring round his adapter.

The next challenge was not seeing any stars in the lodestar, after what seemed like a long while we came to the conclusion that the picture we were looking at on the screen in PHD2 was not the camera we thought, it was instead the one from the OS12″ which at this point was not pointing through the slit.

Wrong Lodestar selected

After looking through the settings on PHD2 we found a new setting we had not seen before, which seemed to be because we have multiple ASCOM cameras connected.

Selecting the right camera

The symbol is a double arrow and when clicked a drop down list of 4 Starlight Xpress cameras appeared, so we chose the 4th one which was one of the two Lodestars and that worked.

I then adjusted the guide scope in its two ring holders and aligned close to Vega which we had slewed to. Now the guide scope was spot on and the main scope ever so slightly off. This will be solved when we either shim the scope to align with the OS12″ or when we add/change the way in which it is connected to the losmandy mounting plate.

By 12:40am we had the focus sorted for the guide scope and we moved back in doors to connect back to the 2 cameras for this evening, lodestar and main imaging camera and then the Lakeside focuser to start an autofocus run on the main camera.

Finally starting auto focus

At 1:20am we were still trying to focus as we had not setup the autofocus routing for the Esprit 120 before, the OS12″ is now fine but this was a new challenge. GingerGeek spend an appreciable amount of time changing the step size and other settings in SGPro to effect the focus routine. Finally autofocus did a great job and we landed up at a focus point of 6225 for the Luminance filter. However there was an amount of backlash and this caused the focus point to not be the same in a one direction. GingerGeek needs to find out where he wrote down the figure we measured for backlash so we can add in.

Good auto focus achieved but with slight error
In focus Luminance Image

Next we slewed to the star near the Elephant Trunk, SAO 33570 and changed the filter to Ha. GingerGeek then started an auto focus run for this filter. As it was now late we were missing setting simple things such as the exposure time increase from 1s to 15s needed to actually register any stars to focus on.

Once focused (ish) as we are tired now, we started a short test image run of 10mins subs for the Ha. GingerGeek showed me the Big Status window which is a much nicer interface to your image progress.

Big Status window

We then had a problem with guiding, there were inconsistent rates between the RA and DEC axis. This caused trailing of stars so we stopped the guiding, however the next image although still out of focus showed promise especially given we were not guiding.

10min unguided Ha Esprit 120 (out of focus)

So 3:24am and time for bed.