Viewing Report 25th April 2022

22:01 – 04:23

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

M96 Luminance 300s

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

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

Exoplanet TOI-1789b (15/4/2022)

19:35 – 00:40

Tonight is a synchronous group observing campaign with Exoclock. We are going after an exoplanet around star Tycho 1962:0303 / HD 82139. I note that HD 82139 does not come up in TSX but the Tycho star in the right format does. I tried to install the 6GB USNO B database but it fails with an error that the files are not all in the directory. I will try to sort this out later.

Start of transit was 22:28 BST Mid transit 23:37 BST , End of Transit is 00:47 BST, 1 hour after transit is 01:47 BST

https://www.exoclock.space/database/planets/TOI-1789b/

I had an initial problem after starting the imaging run, the focuser went back to 14000 again which meant I was out of focus. I only noticed later and then restarted, fortunately before the start of the transit.

Reviewing the files the following evening I noted the dome closed around 00:40 so 7 mins before the end of Transit. I have no idea why the dome closed…….

Transit submitted

Viewing Report 27th March 2022

19:28 – 04:35

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

M36 60s exposure

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

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

M59 300s exposure

Viewing Report 26th March 2022

19:47 – 03:00

Opened the dome and setup the 22″ Obsessions telescope for visual.

I have gone with a recommendation of Mark Radice this evening andI will both image and perform visual on M46 including the planetary nebula Herschel H39-4 that resides within it.

So with the 120 Esprit inside the dome imaging away on M46, now that it is to the East of the Meridian, I connected the Argo Navis to the 22″ and set about aligning the scope. After a few minutes and with the alignment complete, I pushed to M46.

M46 Observing Notes

31mm Nagler 75x Mag. M46 Open Cluster fills the view. Apparent instantly is the planetary nebula Herschel H39-4 towards the 5 o’clock position. A small ring can be seen with direct vision and with averted vision the contrast increases. I am not using any filter yet.I can resolve many stars. With the 13mm Ethos 180 x Mag H39-4 becomes much larger and you can resolve easily the star within the centre of the ring. Now only several handfuls of stars can be resolved.

M42 Observing Notes

31mm Nagler 75 x Mag. M42 steller nursary and hydrogen nebula is very bright with the wings sweeping outward. The trapezium is clearly seen. With averted vision much more gas is forthcoming around the area within the FoV. Moving to the 13 Ethos 180 x Mag the trapezium is resolved pleasantly into a much wider set of 4 stars. The hydrogen gas now takes on structure and lingering on this one can make out dark features within it give the nebula a 3 dimensional feel. Now you experience a warm glow within the eyepiece that seems to draw your eye towards the gas in which the trapezium stars sit.

At this point I cam back into there Warmroom to write up my notes and review the images being taken in the observatory. I have now taken 21 x 300s of M46. Now switching to M48.

I then joined the BAS Zoom call to speak with Derek, Nigel, Bob and Mil Dave. We discussed M44 taken by Bob and suggested if I could see the UGC 4526 galaxy. So I went out to take a look.

M44 and UGC 4526 from Bob

M44 Observing Notes

Looking at M44 with Nagler 31mm at 75x Mag…..

I landed up finishing M48 at 23:47. I took 30 x 300s but then checked through the last few when the dome closed and I actually got 26, I might have lost the guide or the dome slewed incorrectly or shut, not sure which.

Addendum – It turned out to be loosing the guide star and because the camera wears not in focus, so connecting the focuser and moving from 14000 to 21000 position fixed it. The star profile was much better and SNR was 25-30 instead of 10.

Viewing Report 23rd March 2022

19:14 – 21:43

Another clear night, so many in a row and a lovely warm spring day of 18โ„ƒ I’m out again ๐Ÿ™‚

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

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

Viewing Report 21st March 2022

19:00 – 21:17

A quick imaging run this evening, again for NGC 1999, this time LRGB, 5 frames of each at 300s then it was too low and my bed time on a school night ๐Ÿ˜‰

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

Viewing Report 20th March 2022

20:00 – 21:52

After a glorious sunny Sunday where I spent a lot of the day building the new decking for the Summerhouse for my wife, I planned on a short, sharp observing session until 9:30pm (turned out to be nearer to 10pm) starting after dinner at 7pm. In preparation for this I setup the 22″ dob on the observing patio and opened the dome for the 12″ to start to cool down whilst I ate with the family. My daughter and her boyfriend’s famous pasta dish was for dinner tonight which was great ๐Ÿ˜‹

22″ Obsession ready to go

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

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

Deep Sky Atlas

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

31mm Nagler

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

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

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

NGC 1999

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

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

M61

Exoplanet HAT-P-66b (25/2/2022) โ€“ IMT3ย + Visual with 22″ Dob!

21:24 – 03:00

So for the first time in a while the observatory is back up and running and it’s Friday and it’s clear! So Bob came over and we set about imaging an exoplanet and getting the 22″ Obsession dob out of the warmroom where it had been sitting since November, and moving it down to the observing plateau by the IMT3b observatory.

A few nights back, during the week I had managed to get the 12″ in the dome balanced with my original 2004, 5″ Skywatcher 130 reflector as a guide scope and the Skywatcher Esprit 120 ED on the other side. The 5″ now guides, however the QHY camera on the 120 is not currently connecting so I need to investigate. Also the MEII hand controller is sending erroneous signals to the mount so I needed to disconnect as it kept saying ‘joysticking’ and moving the mount. Unfortunately the 5″ was pointing at the dowel so I used off-axis guiding instead.

Blue 5″ scope pointing at the dome

I selected an exoplanet on the Exoclock website, and set about imaging. Unfortunately due to my profile on exoclock being set to UTC +1 and me not noticing I started 45 mins into the transit! I will now use this as a test run and process the data and submit.

Exoplanet schedule

So first up was moving the 22″ down to the plateau so it could cool down. I had planned on taking it back up to the Warmroom, however it is so heavy I have decided to keep it in the workshop. I will make sure I connect the electric up for the workshop this weekend thus allowing for the new dehumidifier to be switched on and operational.

22″ UC Obsession telescope

Whilst the 22″ cooled down, we went back indoors and setup the 12″ in the observatory to image the transit. The focus point was 25,000 and I made sure I selected the Red filter. I slewed and aligned on the exoplanets host star and then settled on a 5min exposure due to the low brightness. I started imaging at 9:24pm, the transit start was 8:45pm ๐Ÿ™

HAT-P-66 b

Whilst imaging continued we went outside and set about setting up the 22″. Things I learnt from this first public outing were;

  1. Remember to put the shroud on
  2. Remember to pub the secondary shield on
  3. Remember to collimate the secondary first
  4. Remember to fit the Telrad dew heater
  5. Remember to find a 40mm eyepiece
  6. Remember to download and print the Parracor chart
  7. Remember to set the Parracor to the correct setting
  8. Remember to buy a 12v battery powered hair dryer
  9. Remember to buy a secondary dew heater

We collimated the scope and then went on to look at M42 which with the 24mm Panoptic looked great. We then slewed to M45 the Pleiades but of course the open cluster is too wide for the for I was using. Then we tried find M81 and M82 but I found this difficult due to the lack of bright stars in the area. So instead we went to the Trio in Leo.

M65 and M66 looked fairly bright and you could make out the dark dust lane in M65. NGC 3628 was visible with direct vision, however with adverted vision it was much easier. It appeared very long and thin.

We had to use s hairdryer on the secondary a lot. The Telrad also dewed up as did the eyepiece. The primary mirror was fine, although with direct headtorch light looked like it was dewed, but upon inspection this was not the case.

At midnight it was time to pack up before I had to do a meridian flip. Bob helped my dismantle the 22″ dob and then place inside the workshop. I could not move it into the room without dismantling which was a shame. It is far too tall.

Once done, Bob headed off home for a well deserved rest and to warm up due to it being 0โ„ƒ. I headed indoors and performed the meridian flip at 0:23am.

I then left the observatory running until 2:30am whilst I wrote this blog, had a glass of wine and ate an easter egg ๐Ÿ™‚ I also went back out to the workshop to tidy up the telescope eyepieces etc that I had not put away.

At 3pm I went on to take luminance for M85 that I needed to complement the RGB data I had processed. I let this running and went to bed.

M85 Lum 300s

I took flats and dark flats in the morning, although I had to increase the exposure to get the required level for the flats. This is strange as they should be the same. I am now concerned the camera my be playing up and causing an issue. I will investigate.

Viewing Report 5th January 2022

17:00 – 02:15

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

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

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

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

Detecting pressure waves from the Tonga Eruption (2022/01/15)

On January 15th 2022 at 15:10 AEDT (04:10 GMT) theย Hunga Tonga Hunga Haโ€™apai underwater volcano near Tonga erupted. Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haโ€™apai is 1.8 kilometres tall and 20 kilometres wide, but most of it is underwater, with the top 100 metres visible above sea level. The pressure wave generated by the explosion blasted through the atmosphere atย more than 1000 kilometres per hour.

Dave mentioned to me that the people had registered a pressure increase on their monitoring devices due to the pressure wave and checking the internet the Met Office has issued a nice graph on Twitter.

On the observatory Grafana dashboard I could indeed see two pressure waves at the correct time. We only record the pressure every 60 seconds because for astronomy that’s all we need so we do not have the resolution of others but the height of the two events are in the correct range compared to the graph above.

Double pressure wave

The first pressure wave arrived (19:13-19:24) we was 2hPa increase as we have lost some resolution due to sampling period and the Met Office is ~2.5 hPa. We could change the sampling to be lower (15 or 30 secs) as storage is not an issue and then we would have caught a nice defined peak. The second pressure wave (2022/1/16 01:55-2:14) and we measured ~1hPa drop and again was lower than the Met Office due to our sampling period.

Our auxiliary pressure monitoring install was down during this period as the box appeared to have been restarted/rebooted and the ASCOM Alpaca instance was not running which was unfortunate ๐Ÿ™

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

Viewing Report 10th December 2021 โ€“ IMT3

04:00 – 06:53

Comet C/2021 A1 Leonard. The last day to get this lovely little comet. Dave Boddington had captured a wonderful image yesterday through his 6″ and 4″ refractors. I was was never going to be able to do that with my 5″ refractor due to my broken foot and not being able to move it from the Warm room to the verge on the other side of the lane at the front of my property.

Space boot ๐Ÿ™‚

So instead I settled for the good old Canon 6D on a tripod. I had slowly gone up and retrieved the kit the day before in the light and now at 4am set off out the front, crutches in hand, camera on tripod strapped round my neck, in the dark at 1โ„ƒ.

After getting comfortable standing on the verge, I extended the tripod legs balancing on 1 foot and set the camera on Arcturus to focus at 100mm. I had chosen the 100-300mm lens for maximum flexibility. After achieving focus by hand and by using the zoom function on the camera screen, I placed the camera roughly in the direction of where the comet should appear just below Corona Borealis in the faint constellation of Serpens. This is the shot I got.

Comet C2021 A1 Leonard

I then changed focal length going to 300mm on the zoom lens, switched back to Arcturus to focus and then, after a few attempts, actually some 20 minutes, I managed to get the comet back on the chip. Result!

Comet C2021 A1 Leonard – 300mm

I packed up the tripod, hung it round my neck and headed slowly and gingerly across the lane and back up the drive to the house. When I had removed my one shoe, cleaned my boot and my crutches I looked at the camera lens and was not surprised to see a lens full of dew ๐Ÿ™„

Dew on the lens

I then set about opening the dome of the observatory as the comet would have now cleared the tree line. However it would not open ๐Ÿ˜ณ On closer inspection, meaning I went back out in the cold and up the garden, I found the shutter would not operate. Some time spent investigating led me to believe the battery in the shutter box was dead ๐Ÿฅบ so I removed and took back to the house for further investigation later today. That meant no comet photo through the 12″, however I was pleased with my results given the challenge.

Battery box for shutter

Viewing Report 2nd November 2021 โ€“ IMT3

20:00 – 21:30

IC5067 Pelican in OIII and SII, rotated to new angle to allow guide star on West side of the mount. 10 x each channel at 600s and Gain 139 Offset 21, left running and dome shut later in the morning.

Rotation angle 218 from SGPro plate solve, 171.750 from TSX

Flats done the following day 3rd Nov.

Flats darks and darks still to be done

Viewing Report 8th October 2021 โ€“ IMT3

22:30 – 03:57

Tonight I am at Kelling Heath star party with Shane and Mark Radice. After a fantastic board game with Mark, Shane and Shane’s wife we then headed back to camp and I started to look through there binoculars using the NSOG (????) book as my guide. Whilst I realised I could have got away with bringing the Milkway edition, instead I brought along the Autumn/Winter version.

I had packed my 100mm Altair Astro binos so it was going to a visual night with some rudimentary drawing. I looked around and set my gaze on Pegasus and turned to the pages in the guide to set me off.

First on the list was M15. It appeared relatively close to

m15 – seen

peg 1 – seen

3 peg – seen

53 peg major seen not companion 

ngc 7217 – not seen

ngc 7331 – seen with averted vision

ngc 7332 – not seen

ngc 7814 – not seen

M39 seen

M42 seen

veil eastern seen

North American seen

tried UHC filter baader from Mark in 1 eyepiece in binos abs made nebula stand out

bed at 3:52am due to fog and 9deg c

looked at M81 and M82 through Keithโ€™s 18โ€

could not see horse head 

M42 WOW!! and M43 both through 13m Ethos 100 deg and then 21m Ethos