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Hi everybody - I wanted to share my experience of designing and building my own observatory. It is a unique octagonal design and offers pros and cons to more common designs often utilised by the amateur community. If you are considering an observatory project, I hope it gives further inspiration and allows you to find a solution that works for your site, skills, budget and observing aspirations. The story is on my website, link here:
I wan't to tell you about a relatively new open source imaging suite that I have been using for around 7-8 months now.
Night time imaging n' astronomy or in short NINA!
The new website is really quite informative, so check it out here: https://nighttime-imaging.eu/
As a software developer and IT professional I was blown away by this application these guys were creating, when I first stumbled upon it last year.
It is a really feature rich application as the very long feature list below will show, and it is absolutely free!
I was immediately drawn to the very simple but still quite information rich UI that was presented to me when I tried it the first time.
Isbeorn (the developer), Dark Archon (massive contributor) and Quickload (big contributor) have really created something impressive here, and it is constantly being improved upon.
It is quite normal to see these guys working on the next cool feature in the middle of the night
As it is a "hobby project" and Open Source, and these guys don't have every model of every camera available - sometimes there can be glitches with new equipment, but it is usually sorted out in quick fashion.
But this is where we "mere mortals" can help improve this amazing piece of software, by using it and providing feedback and logs (in case of errrors) via. Discord or the Issue tracker on bitbucket.
In return for this you get a very comprehensive piece of astro imaging software for absolutely nothing!
If anyone needs any help in settings this up, don't hesitate to write in this thread and I will try to help, or jump on Discord and join the "support" channel.
I recommend taking the latest beta version, pretty much always, as it has the latest fixes and is generally stable.
List of main features as grabbed from the webpage and personal experience (I surely missed some):
Equipment control ASCOM Cameras Mounts Filter wheels Focusers Rotators Native camera drivers for Atik ZWO QHYCCD Altair Astro cameras Canon Nikon Touptek Can run multiple camera's and supports syncronized dithering (early version, but tested in the field!) Image analysis Image statistics Auto stretch Full image star detection with HFR calculation (used for autofocus as well) Exposure time recommendation Sequencing Multitarget sequence lists (image multiple targets automatically) Automatic mosaic capture as defined in framing assistant Light, Bias, Dark, DarkFlat, Flat frames of various exposure lengths and gain/iso Automatic filter change Autofocus using full image HFR calculations over time number of exposures Temperature change Automatic centering and rotation of targets using platesolving Save as raw (dslr), fits, xisf, etc. Customizeable filename pattern Automatic meridian flip Can automatically flip and recenter target after flip has been completed Sky atlas Sky atlas with more than 10.000 objects. Filtering on type, magnitude, size, altitude and more Altitude chars showing showing altitude over time for your location Framing assistant Can pull data from various skyserveys, to make framing and planning easier You can see a preview of your fov based on camera and scope details Mosaic planning mode Shows your mosaic tilesin the framing wizard Set desired overlap percentage Offline skymap shows gridlines and all sky atlas DSO's, constellations and coordinates ("Cartes du Ciel'ish") Sleek and customizable UI Imaging tab can be customized to show all the information you could possibly want to see image (duh! ;)) Statistics HFR history PHD2 graph and statistics Mount information Camera information Filter wheel information Platesolve information Weather data and more.. Quick switch between light and dark scheme Customizable colorschemes Flats wizard Set a desired ADU and tolerance for flats Simple mode or multimode where flats are captured for each filter Set minimum and maximum exposure time Guide to help you get the desired flats Can automatically capture matching darkflats Other cool features PHD2 integration with Dithering Weather data from OpenWeatherMap API List of bright focus stars for use with Bahtinov mask, clik and slew to it Polar alignment tools Configuration profiles, so different setups can be used
A word about open source:
The project is open source, this means that all source code is readily available from bitbucket, and anyone is free to contribute code.
The developer is Isbeorn (Stefan) and as the repository manager he decides when and if a submission (pull request) is deemed good enough to enter a release..!
There are a couple of other main contributors who do a lot of work, and put in a lot of their free time to this project.
You are free to ask for features and request support and people are generally very helpful and quick to implement something if it is a good idea.
BUT as this is a hobby project for these people, don't expect the same of them as you would of a company from whom you buy a product, IT IS UNFAIR!
A word about Discord:
Discord is a free chat (text and voice) platform that anyone can create a server on. Discord as a whole is not run by the people behind N.I.N.A., only the NINA server, and as such is not moderated by the developers.
I have a steel pier for sale. This was purchased along with a pulsar dome and believe it is an older Pulsar model. The pier sat in a yard, exposed to the elements for a few years before I purchased it so there is some surface rust and flaking paint but will clean up nicely. £250 and buyer will need to collect from Suffolk.
Once again we travel South in Europe, this time we visit Lisbon. Never been in Portugal earlier so this travel was really exiting. Lot of old culture to see and tasty foods. Maybe a bit higher cost than expected but still cheaper compare to Sweden where I live.
This time it was not only I and my girlfriend, we had also brought with us a friend. All three of us are interested in astronomy.
When I know we should visit Lisbon I started to search for some astronomy related. I found that there is an old observatory just 6 km from where we stayed. They also had guided tours, but should be booked at least two weeks before visit. This was a last minute travel and not enough time left.
Here is my mini report from Lisbon Astronomy Observatory:
It didn't worked out as expected, but you at least have the information if you visit Lisbon in the future.
I am putting this in Astro Lounge as opposed to DIY Observatories because, well, I probably won't be doing it (all) myself.......
I stuck my neck out at my societies AGM and raised the prospect of having our own observatory. Arguments against were expense, lots of folk have their own dome, location and security.
Arguments for included outreach, lots of folk want but can't have their own observatory, skills progression.
I was tasked with a feasabilty/ cost study before we decide whether to approach organisations for either funding assistance or permission to site an obsy on their ground.
To kick start the costing side of the study, I need to asses what is required (outside of a plot of land for the obsy).
My first thoughts are:-
Shell. I am thinking sustainable so a substantial wooden structure including a dome and warm room. 'Flatpack' with DIY assembly would reduce financial impact. Perhaps increase the warm room size into something large enough to become our meeting hall?
Power. Mains would be best but, would a solar panel/ battery combo suffice?
Pier. This would be one of the DIY part of the project and I am thinking a reinforced concrete pier with mount fixings to suit the desired mount though a steel pier is a possibility.
Water/ Drainage. As a society obsy, with outreach use a goal, somewhere to produce refreshing beverages (and to download the later result) may be desired. Mains and sewer or mains water and septic tank?
What have I missed?