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We were lucky enough to spend two weeks over Xmas and New Year on La Palma with the family. It was my first visit to the island and loved the place. First week we stayed at the Northwest (Puntagorda), that coincided with full moon, so did not do much imaging wise. However, a very memorable moment was when stepping outside between the main curse and dessert of Xmas eve dinner and within 5 seconds of looking up, I saw a large fireball meteor sweeping accross the sky and breaking up into several pieces.
Second week we stayed about 10mins drive from Santa Cruz, so was worried about light pollution from the capital, but the first night it become obvious that the sky was still one of the best I've ever seen. The small light pollution is in the form of sodium lights, so can be dealt with by filters (apart from some flashing LED xmas lights around).
The equipment I took was a Fuji X-T1, modded Canon 6D, Samyang 135mm and 35mm lenses, and Fornax lightrack II. Unfortunately, at the end I couldn't use the Canon as I found out there that its remote release connector is different, I use a Canon compatible intervallometer for the Fuji, and just assumed it was the same for the 6D. At home I've been using the 6D with the laptop, which I did not take with me to minimise the amount of kit. Learnt the hard way that everything needs to be tested before the trip and assume nothing. Anyway, I was enjoying using the X-T1 / 135mm combo on the Fornax, it was very quick to set up and worked very well. Fast lens meant that max exposure I needed was 2mins, which the fornax coped with easily.
We visited the GTC and was hoping to see one of the other telescopes, but I've messed up the booking and bought tickets for the GTC twice, so that will have to be another time.
Also drove up to the observatories in the evening and was hoping to do some imaging, I unpacked the equipment, but was so cold with strong winds (at some point I had 3 jackets on) that I basically bailed and just did some very wide field shots. The fun bit was when we got too cold and was ready to go down, the car wouldn't start. ? It was around 10pm, nobody around, no moon, so pitch dark. I'm still not sure why the car battery went flat, I run the Fornax off the cigarette lighter socket, but its power consumption could not be the reason. To have voltage in the cigarette lighter, the key had to be turned to ignition on, so I guess in that state something was taking current in the car, we did not have any interior / exterior lights on. We thought we might have to sleep in the car, when after about 20mins I saw a car driving down, jumped in front to ask for help, and the chinese couple inside very kindly helped to push the car to jump start it. This was a major struggle as the parking platform was lower than the road, so the car had to be pushed up the ramp. When the car eventually started I was ready to hug those friendly people but they were in a hurry...
The sunset and the views of the milky way were amazing up there, still I've decided after this adventure that I rather put up with the little light pullution I have on the balkony of the nice warm house and my bed nearby.
So, overall a few mishaps, but it just means that I definitely have to go back again in the summer, timed so that it coincides with new moon.
Anyway below are some of the quickly processed images I took, also have some 46P data but haven't managed to process that to give anything decent yet. All processed in Astroart / Gimp, however my processing skills are not very advanced, still need to learn about layers, masking, etc.
Just a quick query regarding this, and to ask if anyone out there has had any success in getting a D3300 to work with Astroart. I've downloaded the Nikon plugin from the website, and the blurb suggests that it might work. I've tried setting the plugin up as a Nikon camera, selecting "other" from the drop down list but get the message:
Cannot find other md3 DLLs I have also tried the D5300 setup on the off chance, but got:
Cannot open md3 DLL - Verify that Microsoft Visual Studio redistributables are installed I have installed MS Visual Studio but that does not seem to have helped. I've checked my file system and the only md3 file I can find is called Type0011.md3, and is in the Astroart6 directory of my computer.
Anyone out there have any ideas?
For reference, the reason I want this is to set up a script to automate slewing and imaging of a set of variable stars. If there is any other software out there that will support an HEQ5 mount and Nikon D3300 I'd be interested to hear about that also.
It's been a while since I wrote here, also because this year I've been less active in the field, unfortunately...
Anyway, I've now started to do autoguiding, with mixed results. I bought myself a laptop and guidescope, with CCD.
I'm able to do 10 minute exposures that come out fairly well most of the time. Guiding is mostly good. I tried PHD as well as Maxim, but lately Maxim seems to be doing better, or I just found the sweet spot for my setup.
The last 2 or 3 times however, I'm having difficulty in obtaining decent images. Even with no moon, the images I get are quite bright, with stars barely visible, and the stack is terrible: it's a light shade of grey, hiding all stars (let alone a nebula), and the histogram shows the peaks (in DSS) far to the right, so adjusting that is a nightmare, so much so that the last two times the result was not worth showing to anyone....
The site I go to is always the same, and I already obtained quite nice images, also with 10 minute exposures and the same ISO...
Apart from this, I'm having a very hard time getting my flats right... I've got a "flatbox" (EL panel with two sheets of white paper, 8 sec exposures at 800 ISO, the same ISO I use for the Light exposures) that I tried at home in the dark with the scope and camera, to get the right histogram, as I gather looking online: the peak should be at about a third of the histogram.
Problem is, which I discovered only last week, the histogram changes with the same setup, for the various "receivers" of the flat image: the camera, Maxim, or DSS. As shown in the photos below (the camera is a RAW picture, taken with the same settings as the FIT picture I used for the DSS and Maxim screen caps):
Apart from the histograms, I also always get those very ugly red hue photos in Maxim.. Is this something of Maxim, or am I getting something wrong?? The image obviously is not red, but the grey shade of the DSS photo (the photo of the camera screen shows only white, but that's because of the phone cam)... This means I can never check in a decent way if the exposures are coming out right while I'm taking them with Maxim... So, recapping, problems getting the flats right, and headscratching about the bright exposures I'm getting lately from a setup that already proved it doesn't have to be that way... At the moment I don't have examples of the latter problem to attach (because I didn't finish any stack, seeing as they came out so horribly), but I can attach some, if needed. Any suggestions? Somebody had the same problems? I'm getting a bit frustrated, I must say... Clear skies!! Gerhard.
Yesterday evening I finally was able to have a success with my new setup.
Since february / march I have been struggling with getting autoguide up and running, but due to various mishaps and lots of bad weather, I haven't been able to produce a single image, up until now.
This is what came out:
M13. As you can see the stars are not very clean... So guiding apparently wasn't as good as hoped for...
I also used flats, but there still is a bit of a gradient, but a lot less than previous.
These are 180 sec exposures at 800 ISO, so I guess I have to be at least a little bit happy with this result, because without autoguide I could go up until 90 secs, approx.
Any thoughts on what can influence good guiding?
FWHM was around 5, so not perfect... maybe that could be better, but I never seem to be able to go below those numbers, and often in the past it was way higher...
yesterday morning I wanted to set the focus point on the guide scope, so I pointed the moon during the day, and focussed it as best as possible, and marked that on the scope. this night, focus was in fact very close to that mark. But FWHM says it wasn't perfect...
I also did drift alignment beforehand, and the guide error graph in Maxim was pretty nice, after initially having to redo the calibrate, because "guide star faded". There were no clouds, however, and the images from the guide scope showed good clear stars (I use a dew shield on the guide scope)... Any idea what this could indicate?
I collimate every time, so that should not have been a problem either...
Any thoughts much appreciated!! :-)