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  1. Hi All, I wonder if you could give me the benefit of your experiences, so I can avoid (if possible) wasting a lot of time and money… apologies for the long winded description of my situation, but hopefully the background will help you to give me some sound advice! I would really like to get into EAA, but like most, I have a limited budget. I retired from my career in Electrical Engineering in early 2020, and finally managed to devote some time to my interest in astronomy. I have owned a celestron Nexstar 5se for a number of years, but never got to devote much time to learning how to use it, after a few months of learning with it, I had the good fortune to acquire a CPC925 XLT alt az scope, which is so much more stable than the 5”. I have added the starsense accessory, and a few eyepieces, and am starting to find my way round the night sky. I also was given a neximage 5mp planetary camera, and have had some great views and images of the moon using the celestron image capture software and Registax. I have started to be able to visually observe some of the favourite faint DSO’s, and am hungry to see more detail… I live in East Kent in a bortle 5 zone, with some potentially disruptive light pollution from some local industrial glasshouses… I purchased a light pollution filter which really helps bringing out the contrast of for instance the Orion nebula. I also have a 0.63x Antares SCT reducer, which I believe may help with eaa. My interest in EAA was initiated by a review of the Revolution Imager R2, and the potential increase in detail that it seems to be able to provide, this started my research journey down the rabbit hole… video astronomy, CCD, CMOS, DSLR, Colour, Mono, pixel size, sensor size, sensitivity, real time, live-stacking, software, raspi, laptop, Wi-Fi, Ethernet etc etc etc… I have been flitting around from one solution to another… and it seems there are infinite ways to go… so I will lay out some of the bits I have already available, what I would like to achieve, and hopefully you may be able to point me in the right direction to get started. I have a couple of Raspberry pi computers available ( a 3B+ and a 4GB 4plus) I have a Windows 10Pro laptop, celestron Wi-Fi module, a stock nikon D3200 and t-adapter and a Sony alpha a5000. I have the Antares 0.63x reducer and a 2” diagonal. I would like to view some DSO’s such as Orion Nebula, dumbbell nebula and Other Messier objects in more detail, and in colour if possible… if I can improve my views from the faint fuzzy mono eyeball views I already see, I would be over the moon… I am aware of some of the limitations of my scope (alt az mount tracking star trails with longer exposures, long focal length and slow optics) but I am not in a position to for instance start again with a new scope/mount. if any of the bits I already own could be used in the setup that would be great… but if they are not useful then that’s OK too… I look forward to hearing your suggestions for a first move into the world of EAA. Thanks, Ian
  2. Hi All: I just acquired a 200mm F4 newtonian from TS Optics which I'll use primarily for Electronic Assisted Observing with several ZWO cmos cameras. My challenge is that my current scope is an F3.6 schmidt newtonian so I have no experience with coma correctors or spacers/adaptors in the optical train. TS tells me that I need 55mm from the coma corrector (TSGPU) to the sensor. They provided 40 mm of various adaptors and spaces and I guess I get the remaining 15mm from the camera housing itself - as shown in the attached image. The threads on several of the adaptors(see notes) are bad so those pieces need to be replaced but, once that's fixed, I have four questions for this community: 1. ...is this odd assortment of parts and pieces typically how one goes about achieving the required 55mm dimension from the Coma Corrector to the camera sensor? Just seems that there must be a simpler, and sturdier way to do this without having to use 4-5 separate parts. 2. Once all the adaptors add up to the correct dimension and are attached to the Coma Corrector, where does one locate the whole assembly(with coma corrector) in the focuser draw tube? Is it a matter of trial and error? 3. If one did not care about viewing peripheral stars looking a bit like comets and didn't, therefore, use the coma corrector, would any of these adaptor/spacers be needed to bring the camera to focus so one could observe using, say, Sharpcap 3.2 Pro or other software? 4. If I were to use a filter or two, where would these best be located in the lineup and do they work with the various threads and adaptors? Apologies for my lack of experience and thank you for any help you can provide me in understanding how to observe and image with coma correctors Cheers Gary
  3. 130pds on the evo mount with the 294mc pro, Baader mpcc and AA tri-band, All images are 30 x 15 seconds captured in sharpcap pro with master dark and flat. at -10c. Saved as viewed and resized to 1920 with some light level adjusting in photoshop. Andromeda Bubble Cocoon - close to zenith, field rotation hit this hard Crescent Double Cluster Eastern Veil Heart Iris Dumbbell Pinwheel Soul
  4. Does anyone have any experience of using a ZWO Asi174mc for Va/Eaa or any other uses that they would care to share with me?
  5. Hello everyone! After a pretty dreary September and part of October, I was finally able to get out with students to do some viewing. Here are some of the objects viewed over two nights using Starlight Live software on my Borg 77edii (f/4) and Borg 125SD (f/5) with a Trius 694 mono camera. In most cases an IDAS NB-1 "nebula" filter was employed to help with the suburban light pollution in our skies. The first night (mainly 125SD) was much steadier and drier, but along the coast we take what we can get when it isn't raining! ;-D It's so much fun to see these objects from less-than-optimal skies... I often intend to quit much earlier, only to find myself saying (over and over!) "... oh, look, <object> is coming up... I should just have a look at that before I pack up." And then another hour goes by! Cheers, - Greg A Eastern & Western Veil Comparison of FOV between two scopes on the NA Nebula Again, FOV comparison on the Elephant Trunk Nebula And again, with the Rosette Nebula Pacman Nebula through the 125SD: And Crab Nebula: And the Cocoon Nebula: Finally, a few wider shots of objects using the Borg77: Flame/Horsehead, California Nebula, Pelican Nebula and Andromeda Galaxy:
  6. An unexpectedly short EAA session on the night of January 18 led to only one capture... it would have been longer but for the clouds, and I seem to have a problem with star shapes. This is from my Quattro 8", successfully used before, but with a new (to me) camera and imaging train. Here's a 20 second sub as captured on screen (Nebulosity) and then a post-processed image with 22 of them stacked (for a total of 7 minutes, 20 seconds) The problem, though, is with the star shapes: The image train is: Coma Corrector (previously used and absolutely fine) ZWO OAG (new for Christmas, but not in use yet, except as a spacer) Baader variable spacer Atik 460EX mono CCD cooled to -12C (this is 'Gina-cam', thanks @Gina!) Everything is threaded connections, I don't think it's tilt, and it doesn't look like a classic CC spacing issue. This is unguided, and certainly the PA wasn't perfect, but collimation was (I believe) good. The OAG prism was way out of the way from the long-side of the chip, so my hope is that this might be caused by the high wind that night? (Mount is an Avalon M-Uno.) Any suggestions/advice? I will, of course, be trying again in better conditions, if they ever arrive. Tony
  7. Hi there, Happy New Year everybody. My primary astro goal for 2018, will be to put in place a mobile EAA platform to work with my Vixen Sphinx SXW and C8 EdgeHD. I want to utilise modern digital USB, wireless interface wherever possible so all analog-based solutions such as the Mallincam range of cameras or Revolution Imager would not be suitable. My preference would be for a camera with a relatively small circular cross-section with possible long-term use with Fastar in mind. I am currently looking at two possible cameras: Altair Astro Hypercam 183c SX Ultrastar C Although happy to take on board alternative recommendations from this ‘August forum’ ? Fundamental to the platform is the ability to control everything from an iOS device via remote control software, so the integration of the control and imaging/guiding software is as important as the camera itself. My primary interest is real/near real-time viewing as opposed to traditional AP. Elements in the proposed platform are as follows: iPad Air - Already in place Compute Stick/ Mini computer - Yet to be obtained - Needs to be small enough to attach to the telescope dovetail bar without seriously compromising telescope balance but powerful enough to run all the necessary control and imaging software. The aim of this approach is to keep all necessary cabling lengths as short as possible and have as much of the cabling as possible integrated with the scope movement as opposed to trailing from a stationary point around the mount/tripod. I am very much a Windows guy so recommendations should be restricted to that OS for this aspect of the platform. Note my comments in this section of the post are based on the assumption alongside whatever research I have done, that there are no solutions that would enable everything to be controlled natively from iOS which of course from a simplicity perspective would have been my preference. Guide Camera - Yet to be obtained - Suitable suggestions for this aspect of the platform would be most welcome although I am thinking along the lines of the Altair Astro GPCAM2. Guidescope - I currently have an 80mm Altair Astro Maxi finder which I intend to press into service for this aspect of the platform. I am hoping that this may also function as a wide field imaging platform as well. May look to upgrade this to something with better quality optics in the future. Guidescope control - Sphinx GEM - has integrated ST4 guiding interface. Use of PHD2. My understanding is that ASCOM has a much richer set of feedback features to the user however I’m thinking that from a simplicity perspective considering the iOS primary interface I would be better to go with ST4. Primary Imaging Camera - Yet to be obtained Primary Imaging scope - Already in place - C8 EdgeHD Mount - Already in place - Vixen Sphinx SXW Mount Control - Already in place - SkySafari Pro Communications - Over WiFi - Currently scope control is from my iPad and SkySafari via a small TPLink router and thence to a cabled ethernet connection to the GEM (actually the Starbook controller). I am thinking that this may need changing to some sort of powered USB hub with integrated WiFi capability. The completed platform should permit switching in real-time between different scope control, guiding and imaging aspects of the system via the iPad to Windows remote control software. Regarding imaging software I have read on the various forums favourable comments regarding the Starlight Live software that comes with the Ultrastar, and this was one of the reasons why the Ultrastar was first on my shortlist. However I have also recently read favourable accounts of SharpCap which would be used with the HyperCam, not least of which is the integrated polar alignment routine that comes with this software. I’d be interested in any feedback from members with firsthand experience of these different software solutions. Does anybody know if there is a ‘blow by blow’ comparison between Starlight Live and SharpCap? Although I have done quite a bit of research on the topic prior to this post, still obviously very much a novice in this arena so happy to take on board recommendations and/ or alternative suggestions from SGL members to help me get up and running. Wishing you all Clear Skies for the new year Paul.
  8. Hello everyone, I was able to get out again recently and run a few sessions with students. The images below are labelled, and are from our less-than-perfect suburban site on campus using both a Celestron CPC 800 (8" SCT) at f6 and various Borg refractors (in this case, primarily a 77mm Borg EDii) at f4 with a SX Trius 694 monochrome CCD camera. All shot with an alt-az mount using SLL software for capture/stacking. No post processing other than the usual on-the-fly adjustments. I'm using the Trius 694 in 2x2 bin mode, mainly because SLL doesn't seem to want to work with it using any other binning mode. Luckily, it seems to work fine in 2x2 and I'm generally happy with the results, though I find with the fork mounted CPC that the need to use a diagonal makes spacing of the reducer/camera tricky, and I'm not getting as well corrected or reduced a field as I'd like (I'm using an Antares 0.5x reducer, but I'm only getting f6 out of it and still see artifacts at the edges). Any suggestions are welcome! Cheers, Greg A
  9. I'm new to astronomy, I got my first telescope in November (StarMax 90mm f/13), I was really happy with the view of the moon and double stars, but disappointed I could see but barely make out nebula (initially the ring nebula). I also tried to take a photo of the moon with my phone but trying to get a stable shot was too difficult, even with a basic smartphone adapter. I did a bit of research, found about about Video Astronomy/Electronically Assisted Astronomy (EAA) and decided I needed a better mount and took the opportunity to get a faster telescope (StarTravel 102 f5/). I really like the Sky-Watcher -102 AZ GTe with the ZWO ASI 224MC. I've only used it for 4 nights as there is so much cloud about but it's allowed me to take images of things my eyeball wouldn't see. Although my setup is below the minimum specification most would consider for imaging and entry level for visual observations I think I've found a setup that seems to work for me. I like that with SharpCap I can get instant results and the day after when it's back to cloudy I can get a bit more out of the images with Deep Sky Stacker and Gimp. I have tried looking through the eyepiece at the Pleiades, that was a pleasure as well. I can see how observing with a big Dobsonian and amazing eyepieces would be great, but many objects seem better with a camera than eyeballs. The Horsehead nebula wasn't found until astrophotography came into being. The photo above was taken on my first night with the setup. The January 2019 issue of Sky at Night Magazine has a review of the Sky-Watcher StarTravel-102 AZ GTe and they give it 4.5 / 5. Combining it with an Explore Scientific UHC filter seems to reduce most of the chromatic aberration and increases contrast relative to the stars, and light pollution. Video Astronomy/EAA seems to offer a great window into both the visual and imaging worlds of astronomy. As First Light Optics say "Your first telescope is arguably the most important because if the views do not amaze and delight, your interest in astronomy will crash and burn on the runway!" I understand cost could be an issue, but if the beginner had a suitable camera Video Astronomy could be as accessible as a Go-To visual setup, and seems more likely to amaze (especially in the skies of a typical house). My question is why is video astronomy not the first suggestion for beginners interested in both visual and imaging?
  10. After a fistful of stars from the other night here's a few stars more from last night . Transparency was poor, though and I had to give up in the end. As well as fitting the Lightwave 0.8x to my 80 mm F6, I've also transferred the scope to the Heq5. Although I think Sharpcap is great for live stacking it won't always detect enough stars to auto align which means I have to use guiding. I can see plenty of stars on the screen but Sharpcap refuses to share my view! I've tried noise reduction and boosted digital gain etc. I think I'll try the v3.2 beta. I might try without the uhc in future as it probably cuts out too much light when combined with the IDAS D1. All live stacked with darks and flats. Some were guided. M35 - 20 x 30s with IDAS D1 and UHC: NGC 2420 aka the Twinkling Comet Cluster, 30x30s: Jellyfish Neb, 40x30s: You can just see the edge of it with some stretching! More apparent with overstretch but - yuk! Louise
  11. I wasn't sure where to post this tip....it is probably of most use here.... Many of us with observatories or indoor Mission Control use Windows 10 Pro Remote Desktop to control a scope side computer running camera and scope control software from a second computer indoors. This works superbly at 1080p resolution. However, I have struggled for a year trying to perfect a wireless solution that works with 4K UHD cameras terminating in a 4K UHD display. Until now, whilst cat 6 cable does work fine, wireless even at 5Ghz 802.11ac has struggled with some lag and poor performance. I have spent a fortune upgrading wireless adapters and range extenders, but this isn't the issue! Here is a solution; 1. Seperate your dual band network into distinct 5Ghz and 2.4 Ghz channels. This is easy with (say) a BT Home Hub. If you don't do this, it can be a bit hit or miss whether your 5 Ghz wireless adapters connect to the right channel. You will now see TWO channels, one at 2.4 Ghz with a suffix like <hub name> and another at 5 Ghz named <hub name -5>. Connect your 5Ghz adapters to the latter. If your internal adapters are merely 2.4Ghz, you can disable them via Device Manager and plug in a USB version costing around £5. Note that at 5 Ghz wireless range might drop. If so, a Netgear EX8000 wireless extender is recommended as it employs 'mesh' technology. 2. ONLY if you have a fast network, and powerful CPUs and quality graphics card, try DISABLE 'RemoteFX compression' in RDP. This allows uncompressed screen data to flow across RDP. I have found this improves performance whether using 802.11ac wireless or cat 6 cable. What RemoteFX compression appears to do is limit effective RDP speeds to under 10Mbps (due to translation times). That is crazy if you have 433 Mbps adapters, and an 802.11ac network (or catv6 cable). Unleash the beast! Send across uncompressed data! The issue is not with speed or bandwidth, it is an artificially imposed limit in RDP. To do this type 'Edit Group Policy' in the Windows 10 Pro search box (doesn't work in Win 10 Home). You need to drill down through about five levels of Windows Configeration Folders, and Administration Templates and Remote Desktop Services/Host folders to find a utility named <Edit RemoteFX Compression>. In that, your options are <disable> compression or <enable> a compromise mode. If you don't know how to do this try Googling 'Disabling RemoteFX Compression' to find a lengthy Microsoft tutorial. Or visit https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-server/administration/performance-tuning/role/remote-desktop/session-hosts . I deliberately don't here state the quick route sequence to access this deeply embedded network utility command because you are delving deep into developer/administrator territory and do need to understand what you are doing and how to revert to your original RDP settings if your network can't handle these levels of uncompressed screen data. We don't want any novice attempting this on a cheap Compute Stick on an inadequate network! 3. When employing RDP from your computer indoors, select <WAN 10 Mbps> or <LAN 10 Mbps> as appropriate via <Options><Experience>. The default <auto-select my connectivity> often selects too low an option. The irony here is you can select this and still not enjoy faster speeds unless you have edited/disabled RemoteFX compression. I now have Atik Infinity plus CPWI software running in an end to end 4K UHD system terminating in a 4K UHD monitor. Over 802.11ac wireless it is now rock steady. Over cat 6 cable my system is now turbo powered. If you don't need RemoteFX Compression, don't let it restrict your network performance. It is evidently set to ensure it works on lowest common denominator networks. If you have a fast network/CPU, disable RemoteFX compression and finally release the beast of 4k UHD over RDP.
  12. On 25th March I tried some live stacking with Sharpcap and a 102mm f5 Startravel achromat & ASI120MC camera. Mount was Celestron SLT on custom tripod. Image size: 1280x960. With this setup it is possible to dial in an object to the GoTo and be confident that it will appear on the laptop screen. These images may not look too exciting but they do mimic the FOV and general appearance as seen in a 203mm SCT with 25mm EP. Check the image for M87. When I checked the field in Stellarium I found that two faint non-star smudges matched with NGC4478 and NGC4476, which are 11th and 12th mag galaxies. I am gob-smacked that I managed to image these with such modest equipment from an urban site. There is no way I would be able to see these visually even with a C8 from here.
  13. So here's a thing - it seems to me that astronomy is one of those not very straight forward hobbies. Last night I though it would just be the same as Friday night - set up, look at the moon take some pictures! Simples... Aw but not to be!! I'm good at setting up in the daylight, get my mount bang level (checked with electronic level app on phone...) Get it facing north with my beautiful brass compass and enter coordinates back to Kidderminster from Thame, then you would think just observe... Nah! Moon very wobbly with tinges of green on the edges... Barlowed it and got some superb views of Gassendi and the Hippalus Rilles albeit a bit wobbly... Then the tree came so I thought check out Jupiter the other side of the tree with the camera. Once again folks it appears I have a great deal of Astro luck! Couldn't find Jupes at first, camera in and out of diagonal, EP in and out of diagonal... Shall I just go to bed? Then just before my capitulation - Boom she appears as a large white circle! Mmm something to work on I thought... Messed with the Gain and Exposure, what's Gain mean? Now it's a smaller white ball no moons... Then after another stop and start - Boom!! a ball with bands on... Hello Jupiter my old friend I whisper like a sniper lining up a kill! Brainwave, blue filter! in she goes and Boom again deffo a Jupiter view (although very wobbly) Quick action - click the 'take a picture or million' button... Next quick, take a video or million button. Amazing here I am with a table chair laptop wonderful AVX mount and my Starwave 102 doing EAA.... It's not that clear and it looks like a black spot just above the main band... Er it couldn't be could it? Could it be? Not another transit surely.... Run indoors get the phone check my Jupiter moons app and Bingo is Io, only Io transiting Jupiter... Wonderful how lucky am I? I call my girlfriend down out of bed, look look she's sat at the table looking and and "can you get the image any sharper? Oh that's funny I thought the band's go horizontally".. a quick turn of the camera in the diagonal and she's happy! Flipping heck is it me how can she not be doing the I've just bagged a great target dance?? Amazing, another example for me of when things don't go perfect at the beginning, decide it's better to just give up and then a little while later having a wonderful moment. This hobby never lets me down! So today the result of all that is I have a million pictures (exaggerate a bit there) and not a clue what do so with em apart from maybe trying something I heard of called deep sky stacker... Should be interesting later. What a fun night in the end... never give up hang in there the joys are just a moment away.....
  14. hello stargazers, I am getting close to pulling the trigger on a new scope ( i currently have some 25x100 bins and a 125 etx ). I was going for a normal 8 evolution but over the last few weeks the price has seemed to of gone up by nearly £200 so i have decided to save a little more and get better value for money by purchasing one of these other evolution scopes ( well, that's my excuse ) I have researched and researched but seem to get different answers wherever i look, so i will ask the question here. I will be using it for visual and video astronomy, i understand there is no advantage with the edge in video astronomy but visually, there is an improvement. is it big enough to warrant it over the 925 ? i know a focal reducer will cost more for the Edge when i do use it for video astronomy but i also understand that aperture is king and living 12 miles from central London the extra aperture may help a little ( and a beefier tripod on the 925 ), which would you go for ? i am edging ( no pun intended ) towards the 925 but i am just looking for confirmation i am not missing anything as i have no experience looking through either of these scopes and zero experience with video astronomy, any insight or advice will be welcome, thank you.
  15. Having, briefly, tried EAA with a 7nm Ha filter, I haven't been satisfied with the signal to noise ratio achieved within a reasonable time (say, 5 to 10 minutes) with 60 second subs. I'm sure I"ll go back to this, but in the meantime I have been trying out an Explore Scientific UHC filter (because I happen to have one already.) Another warm night last night, with little moon, was a chance to try this out: Hyperstar, SX Ultrastar, UHC filter, and, because I was also going for some longer stacks, I used guiding (which, I must say, works a treat with my Avalon M-Uno mount.) Three targets (only), all 10 x 1 minute: Cygnus Wall (well, some of it – terrible framing) Eastern Veil Crescent (poor focus here, I think: tried to re-focus without a Bahtinov mask – didn't work!) Once again, sadly, I forgot the L-R flip required to orient the Hyperstar images... Just by way of comparison, here's a post-processed image of the Eastern Veil (31 minutes, just stretching and a bit of star reduction, with L-R flip) which I'm quite liking: I still feel I'm not doing well enough to grapple with colour yet. It was a sort of resolution for this year to try and get things reasonably right in mono first.
  16. Hi there folks, at the moment I'm primarily a traditional, through the eyepiece observer, however I'm putting together a list of components/software that I will need going forward as I venture into the realm of EAA. Primary consideration for my EAA platform is that it be easily transportable with as small an on-site footprint as possible. My thought is that I want to be able to control everything remotely over WiFi, I have an abhorrence for spaghetti cabling, so want to be able to keep this situation down to a minimum. To this end I have put together a list of components which I think will facilitate the sort of observing platform that I am aiming for: Item 1 - Polemaster from QHY and associated control software. I have both Alt-Az and Equatorial setups, however I see the equatorial as being the primary mount for EAA, hence the investment in Polemaster. The EQ is a Vixen SXW and the Alt-Az and Altair Astro Sabre. Item 2 - Small footprint CCD/CMOS Astro-Camera (I'm thinking along the lines of the SX Ultrastar), and associate control software. Item 3 - Guide camera (Although this may not be an immediate requirement bearing in mind my primary goal is near real-time observing rather than traditional CCD astro-photography). Thinking perhaps the Altair Astro GPCAM, or perhaps an older SX Lodestar. Associated software perhaps PHD2, what alternatives are there? Item 4 - Computer stick or very small footprint PC capable of being fixed to either the mount or OTA, without seriously adverse weight impact. The device needs to have integrated WiFi capability and the ability to interface to guide camera, primary camera and Polemaster. Needs to be run from 12V DC supply. Item 5 - Apple iPad (already acquired). Item 4 poses the question, does such a device exists that will enable simultaneous connectivity to all three devices? Immediately people may think of alternatives such as the Mallincam line of products, Revolution Imager etc... however I want to try and steer clear of the older analogue technology. Is the suggested approach realistic, in getting me to where I want to be, if not, are there alternative ways of achieving the same goal? Would appreciate the forum’s thoughts, and in particular any insight from fellow forum members who may have taken a similar approach. Kind Regards Paul J.
  17. New everything... observatory, mount, Hyperstar, ... it was also rather novel having a clear sky on the night of August 10, between about 11pm and 1am. On the down side, there was quite a bright moon. Still, you can't have everything. This was a shake-down session with all the new gear, so nothing really adjusted or tweaked to any great extent, and I wasn't expecting anything special. As usual, I just set the exposure to 60 seconds (except for M51 where I got it wrong) and pointed at a few things. Came to an end as the laptop ran out of power (mains power since connected!) Some findings from the session: Observatory: What a joy not to have to set everything up (or break it down again.) Mount: I'd done a rough PA on an earlier night, but checked it again with SharpCap (which says it got me to within ~45") My previous mount (HEQ-5 with belt mod) was OK, but this one (Avalon M-Uno) is spectacular in stability, pointing accuracy, and zero backlash. Didn't bother with guiding Hyperstar: I checked the collimation on Altair, and without any adjustment it looked fine focused with a Bahtinov mask - so easy to get spot on the with Avalon FOCS focuser drive controlled by the mount made no attempt to route the camera cable neatly (something for later) need to improve my fixing of a dew shield (think it led to some vignetting) Here's a few processed images from the night. Not very good - much room for improvement - I think I've remembered to do the left-right flip in each case. When I checked everything in the morning, I was appalled to see how much grime was on the corrector plate (there was a heavy dew by the end of the session - need to investigate options to remove this). All this with an Ultrastar mono camera and no filters (with bad pixel map, bias, but obviously no flats!) M51, 22x 30s. ... because I know what it looks like from previous equipment M101, 11x 60s. ... ditto M13, 5x 60s. ... lots of stars Pelican nebula, 11x 60s ... I had no idea what to expect here: quite pleased with the result. Ha filter next time! Anyway, it's a start. Stars are not great - especially the bright ones - but adjustments yet to be done.
  18. The Canon 700D wouldn't come to focus in my XX12GT dob, so I did the usual thing and shortened the struts. Well, actually the struts are still the same length, but I found the connection plate had enough surface area to allow me to drill a second set of attachment holes 35mm lower on the plate thus effectively shortened the focal length when I used those new holes. Worked a treat and out the backyard in my Brisbane Australia home, I was treated to the best live video feed I've seen from my scope. My other OTA, my old faithful 200p newtonian, has an eFocuser but just hasn't got the fine ratio like the XX12 OTA's dual speed. I need to invest in a new two speed focuser for the 200p. Anyway, live HD desktop video link below ... as per another post with video link, I waffle a bit so use the Youtube settings cog to set (a) twice normal speed so the video is only 8mins instead of 16; (b) set 720p HD; and (c) go full screen. I was very happy I took the trouble to do the mod to enable the Canon to reach focus and thus do liveview. Can't wait to do a bit of outreach at my clubs next astro night. Hope you enjoy the about 320x mag view. Cheers https://youtu.be/LQJ9WyE2nmA
  19. Don't post much on here, but enjoy the reads! Thought I'd make you all envious of Aussie country skies! Live in suburban Brisbane which is red zone, but a couple of months ago I was at a townhouse complex in a "dark green" LP zoned township. Green zzone but surrounding areas were pitch black being in central queensland australia. Amazing what you can do with your scope pointing at dark skies. The link below is to a 16 minute live HD desktop capture so use the YouTube settings cog to (a) speed up to 2x normal speed so its only 8 minutes long; (b) set the highest quality setting of 720p; (c) watch in full screen mode. All were a single frame iso800 sixty second shot on each galaxy. Zero stacking. Zero post processing ... it's a live desktop capture of the laptops screen. The 16 minutes includes me selecting targets, putting them into the hand control, the mount slewing to those targets, and also the shot time. The red "vignetting" patch is the townhouse complexes security lighting bouncing off the Newts tube (no LP shield) and also cos I used Toasters Expand Grad at 6 where I normally use only 3. But it's EAA not AP so I don't mind those sorts of aberations. Having said its EAA, well normally I shoot an object then spend the next 10 minutes looking up its details on SkySafari and marvelling at its stats and science. You'll glimpse a whole bunch of previous shots in the file list in the video which I'd gone to in the evening. But, I had a few minutes left before packing it in for the evening so grabbed the desktop capture so I could recall those wonderful skies in the future by re-watching the video, so I simply moved from object to object in very quick succession. Makes one want to retire somewhere with dark skies nearby! Used were full spectrum modded Canon 650d, HEQ5 Pro with Rowan belt drive, Skywatcher 200p f/5 Newtonian, bootcamped Macbook Pro (2009 model) running Canon EOS Utilities to control the camera lodging S1 fine Jpegs into Astrotoasters monitor folder. ShareX used to capture the desktop video. Enjoy. https://youtu.be/ICxv8eV_JYk
  20. Guys I am considering moving into EAA, and the SX UltraStar C looks very appealling in combination with Paul's Starlight Live software, however ideally I want to keep hardware other than 'of an optical nature' down to a minimum. My scope is controlled entirely from my iPad or iPhone and ideally I would like to control all other elements of an observing session from a single device including image acquisition, was curious as to whether any thought had been put towards connecting iOS devices to imaging hardware. The most obvious initial hurdle that I can see is the lack of USB connectivity, perhaps Wifi miight be a possibility? Of course camera manufacturers would have to build in the necessary Wifi interface (if they have not already done so). I apologise in advance if what I am suggesting is totally impractical, or naive, I am viewing this from a pure layman's perspective. I suppose this whole topic should ideally be targeted at Apple, however I was curious to see what people think about the concept in general, and how this might be achieved. I suspect as well that apple would come back with a rather flat NO on the grounds that there would be insufficient profit in the concept for them :-) Kind Regards Paul J.
  21. So conditions around mid night last night were excellent (or rather as good as it gets here... NELM 4 -4.25 at zenith), low humidity. So decided to give my Quasar hunt one more try. Managed to get down to mag 21.7 using short exposures 10x25s (average stack) using the Ultrastar mono x2 binned. This was using the C8 at F5. No LP filter. The NGC4666 (Superwind field is littered with Quasars as per Martin's deep maps). I identified and marked 3 but there are more in the image if anyone wants to give it a go. The most distant one in the image that I marked is barely visible and required an aggressive stretch. It has a magnitude of 21.7 and a redshift of 2.25 which puts it at 11.6 Bly. Note the dark circle you see in the center is not technically vignetting that you see at high focal reduction. It is actually a reflection I am getting off the optical system. I suspect it is due to the clear filter I use to keep dust off the sensor. I will take flats next time which should fix this. Enjoy...
  22. Hi I've published a video of my viewing session as broadcast on Video Astronomy Live on the 17th March 2016 speeded up by x16 so you get a whole evening in 12 minutes! This shows what can be achieved despite living in a Red Zone (Bortle 6-7) with local light pollution too. Equipment: C8 on HEQ5 with F3.3 reducer Lodestar-C Starlight Live EQMAC Sky Safari Plus V1.8 Enjoy Paul
  23. Date: Saturday, February 13, 2016 Event: Astronomy Magazine Tucson Star Party Location: Pima Community College East, Tucson, AZ Weather: mid-80s at Noon, mid-60s at sunset, low 50s when we quit around 9:00 PM. Some wispy random clouds like contrails occasionally during the day, thinning at sunset, but some patches of the sky showed increasing humidity as the night went on, especially hazy around the moon. Seeing and Transparency: Conditions seemed adequate. Since I was using live video, the conditions did not affect any of my activities. Equipment: Lunt LS60THa B600 H-Alpha solar scope Orion 90 mm ShortTube refractor for a brief attempt at daytime lunar viewing Orion EQ-3 tracking mount for the solar and refractor use 10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount for night use Mallincam Xterminator and Mallincam Junior Pro video systems, 19" QFX LCD monitor. This was the fourth Tucson Star Party, sponsored by Astronomy Magazine and supported by the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association. Duration was 10 AM through 9 PM, so we got in good sessions of both solar and evening outreach. I was the first one there, followed shortly by Jim Knoll, so we set up in a central solar location on the patio in front of the PCC Observatories. I won’t say much about the solar video experience, other than it takes quite a bit of attention to detail on many parameters to get good performance, and I never quite nailed it down. I even tried changing cameras, but still had less than great performance. I got a good active region, an associated sunspot group, and as I kept playing with settings I got some filament lines, but no prominences although Jim and others had them. Later, at home, I fixed the problem. Paul and Cathy Carpenter arrived with a huge amount of equipment and display information on solar behavior and TAAA. Plus a number of telescopes, despite Paul’s recent hip surgery and another one to come. Usually they would be set up in the area where Jim and I had set up, but we hadn’t seen them until after we were in place, but the side they ended up on seemed OK for shade and for displaying all the material they had, as well as the use of their telescopes. I was somewhat frustrated that, despite a shade box for the monitor, I just could not pull out the detail that the others were getting. However, I found the problem at home (bad setting on the Etalon) and next time should be a much better show. But despite the under-performance of the image, I got a lot of good stellar evolution discussion in, as did all of the volunteers. Paul and Cathy were great at doing their own education, and forwarding visitors to the rest of us for more TAAA information. Being frustrated in late afternoon by the solar experience, and with a near-first quarter moon making a daylight experience, I thought I’d try some day time moon light. I replaced the Lunt with the Orion 90mm, but with only a small red bulls-eye pointer invisible in day light, I couldn’t get the moon in the scope. I bit the bullet, took everything down, and set up the big Atlas mount and the 10” SCT. With that setup, I can always get the moon in the daytime with the Telrad finder, since the moon glows on the forward side, so by looking backwards at the illuminator rings, it’s easy to do a daytime moon acquisition. For the next couple of hours, I was able to do lunar teaching in the daytime, as the crowd was starting to grow. Polar alignment was so bad, though, that the moon kept drifting out of view. As the sky darkened and some bright stars appeared, I aligned on Rigel and tried to go to M42, Orion’s Nebula, but the polar misalignment was too great to get a decent GOYO. I stopped trying and did a full polar alignment. After doing the polar alignment, which only took a couple of minutes, and then Rigel, we got M42 in gorgeous detail. I used short integration of only 2.1 seconds to show the Trapezium and about a 50 cent piece display of emitting hydrogen to explain the UV energization. Then I jacked it up to about 6 seconds, and the big nebula appeared. It was very colorful and entertaining. We played around with various settings, easy and fast, to show more depth of the nebula or more of the core. After a while, I upped it to around 15 seconds and got M43 to pop in like a chrysanthemum. Actually, if one moves M42 off the screen, M43 by itself can almost look like a red Triffid. I did this a half-dozen times as the visitors rotated through. Since everyone had, by now, seen M42 and got the emission lesson, and M43 for the wonder of Charles Messier seeing that thing under the late 18th century conditions, I did a quick hop over to Cassiopeia for The Owl Cluster, which was huge and amusing to everyone, Then it came time for some real eye candy. Now that the polar was rock steady, I went over to Dubhe to align, and jumped up to M82. At 57 seconds integration, it was like a magazine picture, with almost five inches length and fantastic red and blue colors and detail in the star forming, reflection and dust emitting core areas. We actually stayed after 9 PM because so many people wanted to talk about it. There was about a half hour period where people were interested in how different cultures look at the sky, so we spent some time on many Native American comparisons with the Greek points of view. Despite the solar fuss, which I straightened out at home, it was another great day and night session of outreach and cosmological education. And now it’s even better. I found a cleaner for the LCD screen that got rid of all the grease, oil, dust, and fingerprints that had piled up over the years. Nice and bright, now.
  24. Date: Saturday, January 30, 2016 I’m woefully late getting this out, but better late than never. Location: Catalina State Park, Catalina, AZ Weather: mid-70s at Noon, Low 60s at sunset, 50s when we quit near 10:00 PM. Some clouds forming during the day, thinning at sunset, open sky when we began serious observing. Seeing and Transparency: OK, not great due to the moisture pumping in off the west coast. Equipment: 10" Meade SCT on Atlas EQ-G mount Mallincam Xterminator video system, 19" QFX LCD monitor. This was the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association’s winter star party supporting Catalina State Park. This was an unusual event in that we had no moon or planets to get an early start on, so we and our eventual 250 or more visitors waited for astronomical twilight to set in so we could enjoy some viewing. We had 10 astronomers to support the event, and we were all pretty busy. After dark, for most of the event, I had about 35 people rotating through my video display all night. As the darkness was settling in, I invited any interested visitors to a side area for a laser sky tour. We covered ecliptic, the relation to the zodiac, all of the visible constellations, and many myths from multiple cultures associated with the constellations and asterisms, comparing the Pleiades, Orion, Scorpius (not visible, but part of a similar separation legend in Navajo to the Greek), Cassiopeia, and the Big Dipper and how they are interpreted among Greek and Navajo cultures. We also discussed the point of view of the creation of the Sun, Moon, and night sky as taught by Tohono O'odham and Navajo, and the nature of the night sky as understood by Cherokee, Seminole, Navajo, and other cultures. It was quite a nice experience with the visitors. Back to the scope, I aligned on Rigel and we enjoyed M42, Orion's Nebula for some time, discussing the nature of this stellar nursery and the Trapzium and its generation of the emission/reflection nebula on the screen. I used the flexibility of the imaging time selection to show, at 2.1 seconds, the Trapezium and some of the nebulosity around the four main stars, then upping the integration time to seven seconds for the glory of the colorful hydrogen emission and the reflections around the nebula. Increasing the integration to 15 seconds brought out M43, the emission nebula adjacent to M42, and marveled at Charles Messier’s ability to pick this item out 235 years ago with a small telescope and the wood and coal smoke pollution. Then we went over to Cassiopeia, and after aligning on Schedar, spent time with The Owl Cluster, which filled the monitor. Rotating the camera allowed it to appear upside down as the Bat, as well as ET and Johnny 5 and other cultures’ name as the Kachina Doll. We then went up to the Andromeda constellation for the beautiful planetary nebula, NGC7662, the Blue Snowball. It was a blue disk over ¼” in diameter, all alone in the view. We talked about stellar evolution and the source of the oxygen glow due to the white dwarf at the core. By now, it was time to close up shop as the visitors left happy, and educated, to the environment that is part of their home. Once again, the Mallinccam live video system enabled showing natural wonders and performing education for a large group of visitors. We’ll be back again next quarter!
  25. Had a productive observing session couple of nights back. It was clear with low humidity which always helps with transparency. Unfortunately the light pollution is pretty heavy here (white/red zone) hence it is hard to get a dark background or a smooth image as a high contrast stretch is usually required (I don't use LP filters). First up is the Coma (Abell 1656) and Leo (Abell 1367) clusters of galaxies which are part of the Coma supercluster and are ~300-330Mly from Earth. The Coma supercluster is the nearest supercluster outside the Virgo supercluster (which we are part of). Wrt the large scale structure of the universe this cluster is part of the Great Wall which is one of the largest structure known to us. The Great Wall also includes the Hercules superclusters. The Coma Cluster has 2 supergiant elliptical galaxies at it's center. NGC4884 (4889) and NGC4874. Some more galaxies from the night. M61, M88, M99 and M100 all yielded some excellent detail in the spiral arms. M61 is classified as a barred spiral but what is unique is the elbow shape in the main spiral arm.
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