I opened the dome at 8:30pm and then went off to do some more work. A few calls later and it was time to come back and see if I could grab comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE which had now moved further West and further in altitude over the past week, meaning it should be visible from the dome. Below is Arcturus as I performed a quick sync.
Below you can see Arcturus on The Sky X with the dome slit showing and the obstructions from the horizon also present.
Comet NEOWISE can be seen just above next doors tree.
A quick peek with the camera and I could just make out the comet.
Clearly more clouds rolled in which is typical
Looking at the cameras in the dome I could see the cloud bank of cloud (picture top right)
Fortunately the comet could be seen at the back of the cloud bank.
So I set about quickly taking some images before the comet disappeared behind the tree.
The other useful thing tonight was using the monitoring GingerGeek put together. Below are a selection of shots from the website.
The chart below shows the light cloud cover and the sky temperature is representative of the sky clarity and relates to cloud coverage too. The scale is inverted to -18℃ is a cloudless beautifully clear night sky, which tonight was not!
At least there was no rain 🙂
This image below shows the cloud bank just North West of Reading that was a problem.
This next chart is from the data produced by the AAG CloudWatcher weather station. Note the sky temperature is nowhere near the -18℃ to be clear.
And finally the all sky cam just as I packed up showing the clouds clearing
Tonight Bob will be learning how to control the observatory and using the Tak FS102 to trying imaging. Meanwhile I will be setting up my new Paramount MyT on its Berlebach tripod and with a new Sky-Watcher Esprit 120 mounted on top. The business end has my new QHY168C, yes I purchased a 2nd one, they are that good.
Whilst Bob played, I setup the travel kit on the new patio. I realised I could connect the camera through the USB on the MyT to one cable that won’t get snagged. I will however need to connect a power for the camera as that is currently trailing. There is a power connector on the back of the mount but I believe it is only rated to 1amp. There is however another power out which is rated at 7.5 amps so I will buy a Tycoon KPPX-4P 4 pin couple of connectors and makeup a cable so I can plug into that directly.
So I connected to TheSkyX with the mount and slewed to Arcturus. I could not connect the QHY camera to TheSkyX as I seem to be missing a driver. I will take a further look tomorrow to see if there is one. Instead I used the EzCap software they provide and connected the camera to that.
I focused manually as I have not motor focus to keep things simple, and soon had stars in view. I then did a manual spiral search until I found Arcturus and then synced on it. I could then slew around the sky with ease.
For polar alignment I have ordered (my friend GingerGeek has ordered) a PoleMaster mounting plate that I can use, this will make it easy to align. Tonight I just plonked the mount down without any polar alignment, thus anything more than 10 seconds produced trailing.
I tested cooling the camera, slewing and parking, although I need to see the park position 180 degrees from the current position to allow the scope rings to be in the right place for removing the OTA.
The scope and the mount and the camera make a great travel setup, each component is not too heavy to move by itself, the connection and setup is fairly straightforwards and I really do look forward to testing this out in October in Tenerife. I do need to test running from a car battery to see how long things last. I have my car battery I use for astronomy on charge and will test next time.
The connection of the camera to the flattener is a push fit and is missing the luminance filter. I will order the right adapters from Modern Astronomy so that I can fit later.
So I still have a few things to make, buy, test and do before October but good progress tonight on the travel setup front.
Meanwhile Bob has been making good progress with the Tak FS 102 in the IMT3. Imaging Arcturus and testing lengths of exposure on different objects such as M13. Some pieces of the sky Bob was imaging at 5 minutes unguided and others such as M13 only 3 minutes. I need to look at why this is given I now think the polar alignment from last night is excellent.
I reset the FoV indicator for the Tak FS102 in relation to the main 12″ scope. I need to find a way of slewing to given object for the offset scopes. I also need to be shown how you use SGPro to slew too, rather than using TheSkyX, so a slew, plate solve and then final adjustment.