Viewing Report 5th/6th August 2019 – IMT3 Observatory

Viewing time period – 22:17 – 01:04

Configuring the guider to work with DirectGuide was tonights job, it was so important I have created a separate blog for it. That took the majority of this session before I really did need to go to bed for work tomorrow.

Once setup and now having the ability to reliably guide without the need for an ST-4 cable, I went to take a quick photo again to test the stability of the system. The importance of DirectGuide is worth labouring here as given we have 3 scopes to guide from, there is only 1 ST-4 port. We did not want to keep plugging in and unplugging the different cables, more did we want to build a bespoke connector for all 3, so DirectGuiding is really the only way this would work.

Once complete I once again tried to slew to the exact area for the Elephant Trunk, this has been problematic due to not quite getting sync and solve working, it works sometimes, and locating a star that I can reliably use. I have noted now that HD 205850 in Sky Safari and SAO 33570 in the SkyX represent the pair of stars in the main section of the trunk. I also took another frame nearby to label for future reference.

SAO 33570 centre of Elephant Trunk and SAO 33573 end of the Trunk
Nearby star pattern SAO 33626

Unfortunately Sync and solve failed and landed up moving the scope to the wrong area, hence I missed the object when trying a longer exposure with the Ha filter. I need to reliably get sync and solve working to be able to use SGPro else I will have to go back to The Sky X that I have used before for image capture which I would prefer not to do given the flexibility of SGPro.

So I landed up pointing at a star UCAC4 739:73701 which was an offset frame from where I needed to be, the purple oblong representing the FoV of where I should have been and the UCAC star showing where I landed up.

Pointing at the wrong object

SGPro did error as mentioned during Sync and Solve as can be seen in the screen grab below. I will talk with GingerGeek to resolve.

Sync and Solve SGPro Error

Viewing Report 20th/21st July 2019 – IMT3 Observatory & Travel Scope

Viewing time period – 21:15 – 02:15

There were two things I wanted to do tonight, one was to get first light with GingerGeek through the Skywatcher Esprit 120ED, the other was to setup my Esprit 120 on the MyT in the garden and grab a photo of the Moon to celebrate 50 years since Neil and Buzz stepped out onto the lunar surface. As a bonus I wanted to to get the guiding working on the MyT too.

As GingerGeek opened the dome on the IMT3 I setup the portable gear on the patio. I connected the setup to a 12V car battery to see how well it did at running the Mount and the camera. The initial voltage of the battery was 13.1v when I started. I connected the camera to EZCap and the Mount to TheSkyX (TSX).

Meanwhile GingerGeek opened the dome, connected the mount, opened the very geeky but cool Flip Flap covering the Esprit 120 and slewed to a bright star for deterring the focus and the position relative to the 12″ main scope.

Remarkably the focus was fairly near and after a few iterations GingerGeek managed to get the V curve sorted for good focus. Before this was done he setup the Luminance filter on the filter wheel control with SGPro that had not been configured. I then looked at the resulting image and determined the FoV within TSX. The field almost fits the 12″ and so the position is fairly close, close enough for solving and being in the right area for imaging. There was an error by SGPro complaining about 800px difference with what was to be expected, the problem being the difference in the angle of the Esprit 120 vs where the mount knows it is pointing as shown through the 12″.

Despite that we managed to take an image and then move on to see if we could guide with the 12″ off-axis guider for the Esprit. This worked a little but the guider graph was way off at various points, I believe this is potentially either a setup issue on the guider and/or the fact that we are too frequently taking too many images to correct and thus chasing the seeing. I will look at this next time are out.

Back on the portable setup, I managed to very quickly connect, perform polar alignment using the PoleMaster and the new bracket I fitted. I then slewed to a star which was not quite in the FoV so I need to spend more time on this next time I am out. No problems though, I nudged the scope and found the star. Performing a sync on this solved any further slewing problems.

I then waited for the Moon to come up over the roof tops which was unfortunately not until 2am of the 21st thus slightly missing the landing date of 20th by 2 hours (Eagle landed at 9:17pm BST) but non the less still obtaining an image of the Moon to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing at the time Neil put that famous foot on the Moon at 1:56am BST on the 21st July 1969 🙂

Apollo 11 50th Anniversary

GingerGeek managed to get a few images but nothing much was showing on them especially the Elephant Trunk nebula he was imaging, I suspect, but am not sure, the wrong filter was selected so probably OIII rather than Ha as a previous Frame and Focus command through SGPro for 15 seconds showed the Elephant Trunk, at this point we were taking 10 minute exposures so it should have easily been visible. Again another problem to sort next time we are out.

Viewing Report 12th July 2019 – IMT3 Observatory

Viewing time period – 20:32 – 22:56

After several reboots by GingerGeek who is looking after the observatory I am now logged in. I currently have the dome open and the 12″ centred on Deneb that can be clearly see whilst the Sun is still above the horizon and thus not dark yet.

The rebooting is due to hanging of the NUC. We have had various problems, the external ASI120MC with ASICAP/SharpCap and Firecap seem to cause an issue, we have a problem rebooting and the NUC just powering off and today trying to login through Windows and it was just hung. So lots of niggles.

Tonight I hope to test a single Ha guided exposure on the Elephant Trunk nebula in Cepheus to the North East as it rises and will look to image from 11pm for a few frames before closing the dome for the night. I have already noticed that Deneb is drifting in my FoV so something is still amiss with the polar alignment event though I thought I had it cracked. I will make a note to go back and check it. Currently Deneb is +42 Alt and 66 deg in Azimuth. I think the key will be looking at where I pick the star for polar alignment and making sure I have truly tightened.

So now it is nearly 10pm the sky is getting darker. The strangest thing happened, the dome closed. I only noticed as the image was blank. I checked and the Hitec Weather Station had tripped and closed the Dome. I toggled the Relay and then I could open the dome. Interestingly if you try to open the dome from TheSkyX it tries then stops and resets to closed. For the moment given the clear skies and forecast I have disconnected the Hitec Weather Station software but will reconnect later. Something else to debug.

HiTech Weather Station Software

It’s now 22:21 and dark enough to focus, I spent some time getting the auto focus routine working in SGPro. Interestingly I had to set the step size to 1000 given the 100k steps my FLI focuser is capable of. I also increased the data points to 10 and this gave me enough movement and data to get a good V curve.

I managed to get down to an HFR of on average 6 tonight at focus point 71290. It took me 3 runs to get the right figures. I then made the changes under the 12″ profile within Profile Manager and saved them for future use.

Auto Focus Run

Next I moved on to PHD2 and guiding. Once I got an image I then found I only had hot pixels and no stars. I also had a funny cone of light and something large out of focus and the edge of the tube. I then remembered GingerGeek had fitted a new guard ring to the guider camera and inadvertently moved the position due to a loose screw elsewhere on the fitting. Thus I need to go and focus that the next night out as because I am not there tonight I cannot do this. This also means I am stuck for testing a guided exposure.

Very out of focus Autoguider

So instead I tried a few different exposures with the Ha filter unguided even though I knew I had the problem with polar alignment. I took exposures at 120 seconds and 180 seconds by which time I had trailing, given as I said I had polar aligned and could image for 10 minute exposures in a different part of the sky I need to redo the aspect. Note I did not perform a second autofocus on the Ha filter. I will at some point calibrate the offsets of the filters once I have the auto guider working.

120s Ha Elephant Trunk area still not dark

So at least a useful night to try and get a few things working, a few things to add to the ToDo list but all in all a good evening.