Viewing Report 23rd March 2022

19:14 – 21:43

Another clear night, so many in a row and a lovely warm spring day of 18℃ I’m out again πŸ™‚

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.

Jupiter/Saturn Conjunction Christmas Eve – 24th December 2020

The most funny thing about moving to a new house is assuming you have understood your horizons correctly, well at least I found it funny when I got it wrong. After several attempts to catch the conjunction, traveling out to a nearby field with low horizons, Christmas Eve was no difference. I had set off, this time with the Esprit 120 and QHY168C and on arriving at the location realising that the weather was too cloudy to grab the conjunction.

So off I went back home. I decided to wonder up the garden to see if the weather had cleared when I returned, to find that not only was there a gap on the clouds, but also I could see Jupiter !!! This meant only one thing, that my South West horizon was not +15 degrees but actually +4 degrees! Wow that is good and lucky.

View South West , observatory is going to be in front of the foreground trees

I ran back to the car and started hauling the travel scope to the building site of IMT3b which is currently a vegetable patch, this is around 200 feet away from the car part way down the garden. It took 5 trips to move all the equipment, good for my Apple watch exercise rings, not so good for the setting of the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. By the time I setup and slewed the telescope round the pair were setting behind the ancient forest in the distance but I managed to snap a single image! Perfect.

Jupiter and Galilean Moons with Saturn below – 120 Esprit and QHY168C
Cropped

Viewing Report 25th May 2020 – Travel Setup

19:00 – 05:00

Alan and I

So back off to Combe Gibbet again tonight for hopefully a full night until dawn and with a coat. I met with my friend Alan for once again some social distancing astronomy. Again Alan had a much better 4×4 car to get up to the gibbet than my little electric Nissan Leaf, however once again I managed to make it there.

Sunsetting with Esprit 120 and Alan in his chair

After setting up, it quickly became apparent that I forgot the guide camera as it was still attached to the Mak180 that I thought I would leave at home tonight ?

Quick look and focus on the Moon

So despite the slight setback I polar aligned on the uneven ground and managed to get the scope pointing in the right direction. It took me a while to work out why it was not pointing at the objects when slewing with a perfect alignment, then I realised I had the location set incorrectly. A quick look at my GPS on my phone and I input the coordinates into The SkyX and the target was nearly spot on. I adjusted, performed a sync and then was able to slew continuously thought the night with the object in the FoV.

As I was challenged with no guider I could only take 2 minute images and if in the West low down then 1min. So I stetted for those 2 exposures along with 30 seconds for one particular object.

Below are the lost of targets I went after and imaged. I tried to get 15-20 minutes in total for each. We had some early night high cloud, the wind had again dyed down after sunset and although cold, we were both wrapped up warm, although later in the night Alan became cold so wrapped himself up in the dog blanket from the car ?

First up was M44 Beehive Open Cluster, which filled the view nicely so I took 20 x 60 seconds, careful not to saturate the stars. The QHY168C camera was set to Gain 7 and Offset 30 with a temperature of -20℃.

M44 60s

I then tried SH2-129 emission nebula but no luck, it was not registering at all at such short an exposure. I had a similar issue with SH2-155 Cave nebula. Both of these I will try again when I have my guider.

I then slewed to NGC 6888 Crescent nebulaΒ and took 20 subs of 120 seconds.

NGC 6888 Crescent 120s

Next tried to image Trio in Leo M65, M66 and the NGC but I realised I had already imaged, although not processed and the image trailed at 1 minute due to its westerly location. So instead I headed for NGC 7243, a lovely Open Cluster in Lacerta and part of the Herschel 400 at 60 second exposure.

NGC 7243

Next I looked at the double cluster in Perseus and decided to quickly take a few images with the Esprit 120 ED even though it was not on my original target list. Due to its bright stars I took 40 x 30 seconds.

Doublers Cluster in Perseus

Now it was time to grab an image of Comet c/2017 T2 PANSTARRS which was located near a galaxy called the Coddington Nebula. I purposely got the comet at the very edge of the frame to get the galaxy in, although I noticed the tail was pointing in the opposite direction than shown on Sky Safari.

Comet C/2017 T2 PANSTARRS and Coddington Nebula

The night wass really dark, even though it is not true astronomical darkness, the location really helps. The image quality is also much better. I slewed to NGC 7000 the North American nebula that Alan was also imaging. Again 60 seconds was probably not long enough so I need to come back to this object when I get my guide camera fitted.

NGC 7000 North American Nebula 60s

Finally just as dawn was approaching and the light was clearly increasing, I took a few images of Comet C/2020 F8 SWAN to see if I could see it. Was was apparent was it was super faint even at 60 seconds !

Comet C/2020 F8 SWAN

So as dawn approached, Alan and I took flats, darks and flat darks.

During the night we viewed through the 4″ binoculars the Moon, Venus, Mercury, Double cluster, M39 Open cluster, M57 Ring Nebula, Alberio, M56 Globular Cluster, Saturn and Jupiter. Unfortunately I packed up the binoculars before I remembered Mars was up ! So packed up the car, ands drove very tired 50 minutes home.

IMT3 Tak QHY Camera Clean

Bob had noticed a lot of dirt on or near the sensor on the QHY168C camera that forms part of the imaging train on the Tak FS102. Today I took the camera off for a little spring clean.

The first thing was to mark the rotation angle of the camera so that it goes back on exactly. 21 degrees is the rotation angle as measured through an actual image.

Taping up position angle on QHY camera

Next I took the camera off loosing the 3 screws holding it in position and then took a look at the CMOS chop glass cover for dirt.

Inspecting QHY168C for dirt on glass cover

There was really only a couple of pieces of dirt on the cover so I removed them with the blower.

Rocket blower

Next I took off the extension tube with which has the glass UV lens inside. At this point I forgot to mark up the position angle when I took the extension tube off. So when I reattached I look at the image train photo to adjust. Hopefully it will be very close and will only require minor adjustment.

Tak FS102 QHY168C imaging train

Looking at the UV filter it was instantly visible that there was plenty of dirt and dirt on the glass lens, however it transpired to be on the inside of the lens toward the OTA. O removed the filter to clean with the rocket blower.

UV glass filter dirt and dust

I then reattached the filter, the camera and reset the angle. I followed up by feeling for any play in the Tak OTA bracket that piggy backs it on the OS12″ OTA. I could not feel any. I was checking due to a shift on the FoV when Bob was recently imaging. Again the next time out we will need to readjust.

Tak FS 102 piggy back bracket

Viewing Report 3rd March 2020 – Travel Scope

Viewing time period – 19:37 – 22:35

Back out again tonight for a short period to look at guiding again. So with everything setup and a longer USB 2 cable in use I am now sitting in the warm Orangery. I will try again with the PHD2 software to guide and EzCap to acquire images from the QHY168C. I have set the Gain to 7 and Offset to 30 as previously used on my other QHY168C when used in Tenerife.

I polar aligned using PoleMaster. Then set about syncing the scope with Betelgeuse. It was only off slightly. The sync worked fine tonight. I then slewed to M35 and started the PHD2 guider software, selected a guide star and calibrated the guider. This worked well first time proving my new step size of 4 using a small ms time for the pulse worked.

Then I started guiding and very quickly realised the same problem as yesterday with DEC drift upwards. No amount of fiddling with the setting such as Hysteresis or Aggressiveness changes the constant upwards drift. I then remembered that I could calibrate the settings as the other night under Guider Assistant. I ran this made the changes but still the upward drift.

I then remembered that on the Paramount MEII in the dome I had to drift align with PHD2 to get it properly polar aligned and that PoleMaster was only good enough for short exposures or rough guiding. So I set about drift aligning.

PHD2 Drift Alignment

The first thing to note is that the polar alignment was out by a fair bit to get the accuracy I require in both azimuth and altitude. I have now adjusted both and the graph seems a lot smoother.

So in all it took me around 1 hour to drift align and just as I was about to test the clouds rolled in!

Clouds start to roll in

Viewing Report 1st March 2020 – Travel Scope

Viewing time period – 17:35 – 23:00

First time out for a very long time with the travel setup. I need to get the guiding working before the Tenerife holiday in July. I have left Bob to play with the IMT3 whilst I work through the bugs.

The challenge is at first remembering how to set everything up. I found after some effort I was actually missing a cable, it was in the black wheelie case in the garage with the laptop tent and scope daytime cover, but more about that later.

So So after finding a place on the patio where I could feed the USB cable through the Orangery window, I put the Berlebach tripod down and placed the MyT mount on top. I tightened the screws and then placed the Sky-Watcher Esprit 120 ED on top of the Versa Plate. Once in position I balanced the scope then connected the various cables, now all through the mount due to my good friend Bob making up some power connectors for me.

So I tried to guide through PHD2. There was a large wind blowing. On trying to calibrate the scope would not move. After what seemed like an hour I remembered that cable, this was again the ST4 guider cable that is needed on the Mac if you are guiding with PHD2 as there is no ASCOM. So I connected the ST4 cable and it worked.

What I could not achieve tonight was to get the guide graph behaving, it was a mess. The wind was at fault but still there were other issues, not least the slider to control the contrast of the screen was causing anything above 0.5s to become white.

Guiding a mess with PHD2

After many hours I gave up and brought the rig in. I had been using TheSkyX to slew there scope, PHD2 to guide and EzCap to connect to the QHY168C camera and take images. I will try again tomorrow night.

EzCap image of Betelgeuse

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.