Viewing Report 22nd July 2020 – IMT3

21:28 – 23:24

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.

Quick peek of the comet but clouds

Clearly more clouds rolled in which is typical

More clouds!

Looking at the cameras in the dome I could see the cloud bank of cloud (picture top right)

Cloud bank approaching

Fortunately the comet could be seen at the back of the cloud bank.

45 second exposure of Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE

So I set about quickly taking some images before the comet disappeared behind the tree.

90 second exposure of Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE

The other useful thing tonight was using the monitoring GingerGeek put together. Below are a selection of shots from the website.

IMT3 Conditions

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!

IMT Conditions Summary – Fisherprice style 🙂

At least there was no rain 🙂

IMT3 Rain Radar

This image below shows the cloud bank just North West of Reading that was a problem.

IMT3 Cloud Cover

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.

IMT3 AAG Cloudwatcher weather station

And finally the all sky cam just as I packed up showing the clouds clearing

IMT3 All Sky Camera

Viewing Report 29th/30th June 2019 – IMT3 Observatory & Travel Scope

Viewing time period – 22:01 – 03:18

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.

Travel setup and IMT3 dome

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.

Connectors on the MyT mount

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.

Imaging through IMT3

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.

Viewing Report 26th/27th May 2019 – IMT3 Observatory

Viewing time period – 23:46 – 02:54

Well after another long day continuing the commissioning of the observatory it was time to test out Bob’s Tak and see if we could get focus. The first challenge was a bunch of devices were not recognised including the Lakeside focusers. It transpired this was due to me performing cable management by the UPS and accidentally pulling the mount power cable out of the UPS, thus no power to anything on top.

Once I got everything running again I reinstalled the Lakeside v1.1 drivers ( not the v2 drivers as they are for the USB version of the focuser), this meant the focuser was then available and connecting on COM 9. Oh and of course both the hand controllers for the Lakeside where physically powered off with their switches that we forgot to turn back on, so that set me back 20mins to figure out.

I slewed to Arcturus and opened up the dome, the dome being slaved to the scope got very close to where it needed to be. The camera was extremely out of focus as it was set to 0, so all the way in, however it also needed another 57mm of adapters to get the camera to focus!

SGPro downloaded image from QHY168C

I also noted visually the offset on TheSkyX for the Tak so that later I could move the FoV indicator to match it.

Tak offset, Arcturus centre, Yellow circle and dot telescope pointing

As can be seen above the offset due to the mounting of the Tak on the side of the RiDK is clearly noticeable and we will have to adjust for this offset when pointing.

I then had problems getting the other Lakeside to connect and noticed the Optec Flip-flat panel software was temperamental and required disconnecting and reconnecting if I left for some time and wanted to open/close. So instead I moved to the RiDK to get the pointing for it instead.

Here is the screenshot from TheSkyX for the RiDK so just slightly off for pointing but I have not Pointed yet nor have I adjusted the polar alignment with PHD2.

RiDK 12″ and Arcturus

I then took a quick image to prove it worked with the camera again since we had all the cabling in bits yesterday.

Arcturus through 12″ RiDK

I also noted a couple of other things that I could start to adjust, so I initially kept the dome and telescope slaved, I then went to Arcturus and then disconnected the slaving of the dome and manually moved the small distance to allow the RiDK to be through the slot and then moved a chunk more for the Tak. We will need a camera with night vision to be able to see the slot and adjust for the Tak and Sky-Watcher Esprit 120.

So fairly cold and tired and I was getting up at 8am to head out for a coffee with my friend Paul, I packed up just before 3am to head off to bed.