Viewing Report 24th May 2020 – Travel Setup

19:00 – 01:12

Tonight I traveled 50mins and 26 miles to Combe Gibbet, a high point for us in the South of England called the North Downs in Berkshire, which at 940ft above sea level places it in the wind, so it is cold but affords a distance from many towns, so it is dark. The is indeed a Gibbet at the top if one should want to take a hanged man or woman and display them for all the surrounding villages to see ? very barbaric, but part of our history.

The car was packed with various astronomy gear, the Mak180 for Lunar and planets.

Mak180

The Esprit 120 ED Pro.

Esprit 120 ED Pro

And of course the Altair Astro 4″ binoculars with my Paramount MyT mount.

Altair 4″ Binos and Paramount MyT

I met a a social distance my friend Lawrence who was in a much better car than myself more suitable for the off-road terrain of getting to and just past the gibbet. Lawrence brought his trusty binoculars and his deck chair. Meanwhile I setup the 4″ Altair binoculars, the Mak180 OTA on the Paramount MyT and my Canon 6D on a tripod.

All set for tonight
Sun setting

As the Sun set from this location we spied Venus first and took a look through the binos.

Moon, Mercury and Venus

I captured some frames in the Mak180 with the ZWO 294MC camera. We then moved to the sliver of a Moon 2.8% illuminated and 1.6 days old. I placed the Mak180 on this for a few frames also. Lastly we moved the binos to Mercury, which is unbelievably small. Very faint in the twilight sky and surprisingly faint in the binos. I once again slewed the Mak180 and captured some 4GB files.

Lawrence looking at the Moon

We then went a hunting for comet C/2020 F8 SWAN but it did not appear in the star field where it should be despite being able to see Mag 8.9 star. The comet was purportedly magnitude 5.8 but this was not the case. I checked my ephemeris on both SkySafari and The SkyX and I wass definetly in the right part of the sky and confirmed the star paterns from my star hoping, but alas no comet.

Lawrence looking at Mercury

So although the wind was now dying down both Lawrence and I were cold so at just gone midnight we packed up and set off home. I must remover by coat tomorrow!

Addendum, I had read an article the following day that the comet may have broken up but I cannot yet confirm this.

Viewing Report 22nd May 2020 – IMT3

23:09 – 00:57

A gusty night, tried M101 but after a few frames it was cloudy. Used the Tak FS102 taking 5 minutes unguided as M101 was at the meridian. Gain 7 and Offset 30 which worked well but this is a faint galaxy.

I was joined by Bob remotely and also tried to get Venus alongside Mercury as they were close together, in the Esprit 120ED on the travel setup and Bob tried through the Tak in IMT3. However I could not locate in the Esprit on the travel setup due to cloud then the roof of the neighbours house. Bob on the other hand could fit either Mercury or Venus in but not both due to the rotation of the camera. It is currently sat at 118 degrees whereas the OS is set to 187. Once both cameras have been cleaned we will set these along with the Esprit on the Paramount MEII to the same field rotation.

Viewing Report – Cinco de Mayo 2020

Moon 96% Waning.

Our TOSA Manual needs updating now that we have replaced the HiTechAstro Deluxe Cloud Sensor with the LunΓ‘tico AAG CloudWatcher cloud detector.

New Screens to get familiar with:

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Initially I was unable to open the shutter of the dome. Thinking I’d forgotten to reset the HiTechAstro relay I soon realised I had to figure out why the AAG_Cloudwatcher software was reporting Unsafe. GingerGeek spotted that the Brightness level looked like a sawtooth and should settle after a few minutes, which it appeared to do and the dome shutter opened successfully.

Following on from my previous observing session on 1st May when clouds interrupted play just as I was completing a Guiding Assistant run in PHD2, I started tonight’s session with a quick look at Venus before it set below our horizon and then had another go at running the Guiding Assistant in PHD2 for the OS 12″ / Tak FS-102 combination, with the Tak as the guider for the Officina Stellare.

Venus in Ha (because it’s so bright).

Crop

As the Tak has an Alnitak Flip Flat attached to it I added it to the profile I’ve created for the OS12 and Tak combination so that the panel can be opened to allow light through to the camera πŸ™‚

Guiding Assistant completed successfully and values applied for RA MnMo, Dec MnMo and Dec Backlash compensation.

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Y scale = 2, Target Radius = 1.5

Sequence running for 2, 5, 7, 10, 12 and 15minutes.

2, 5,& 7 minutes exposures ok but trailing beginning to show at 10 minutes, quite evident at 12 minutes and very evident at 15 minutes.

Added 8 and 9 minutes to sequence, but both of these show signs of stars trailing.

Started a sequence of 24 x 5 minute exposures.

Aborted at frame 20 as the NGC3628 was now below the horizon.

The image has drifted and NGC 3628 has not remained fixed in the frame, so we still have issues with guiding as that is almost certainly the source of the drift.

02:22 Slew to M5, just off centre.

Slew to HIP 74975 to centre and focus.

De-selected guider.

02:57 Slewed to M5 and started a sequence of 24 x Lum and 8 x R,G,B 120s frames.

Sample Luminance frame:

04:08 SQM graph has started to droop. Was 18.2 before 4am, now down to 18

04:10 ASC image brightening quickly

04:15 SQM 17.54

04:24 Camera Warming Up

Disconnected Guider

Telescope Parked and disconnected.

Dome Parked (shutter closed) and disconnected

De-humidifier on.

Camera Power Off

04:30 I’m off to bed

Viewing Report 3rd April 2020 – IMT3

Viewing time period – 18:56 – 00:59

Opening dome to cool it down

So early on as always I opened the dome to cool down. Tonight Bob, Gingergeek and I want to image Venus in the Pleiades. Even before it got dark and as I slewed the telescopes to Venus, it was visible straight away so I took a quick image, 0.001s from both the 12″ and Bob’s FS102.

Venus 0.001s exposure from the OS 12″ during daytime
Venus 0.001s exposure from the Tak FS102 during daytime

I then went off to watch TV with Helen whilst Gingergeek and Bob grabbed some more images of Venus.

Around 10pm I re-joined Bob and GingerGeek and we set about imaging Venus as it passed by M45 Pleiades in the Tak FS 102. We then went on to perform autofocus on the Tak followed buy setting up the autofocus on the Esprit 120ED

Before the clouds decided to put a stop to play, we took some images of M53 the globular cluster on the Esprit around 00:10am using the Luminance filter.

Quick stack and stretch of M53 from Skywatcher Esprit 120 ED

By 00:59 the clouds finished play πŸ™