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dark knight

2 clear nights, 3 mishaps and a couple of images

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Well the 20th and 21st of this month were reasonably clear so I decided it was high time I tried some DSO imaging using my unmodded Nikon D80 at prime focus. 1st job was to get polar alignment sorted, now my 8"sw200p is pier mounted at about 4ft high making access to the polar scope fairly easy without too much bending, great for me as my back is knackered. The other reason the mount is so high is to allow a better view of the South (our house is in the way), the down side is I have to use a step ladder to get to the eye piece most of the time. Choosing suitable targets was fairly straight forward, just hit the Tour button on the Synscan and pick from the list. So far so good. I attached camera, put in place a Bhatinov mask and kept tweaking and taking test shots until Vega was bang in focus. Now this got me thinking, Do I need to do this every time I attach the camera? well I found the answer, NO, I carefully took off the camera,put the 2" to 1.25" adapter in the telescope, inserted a 25mm eye piece, moving it in and out until focus was obtained and locked it in place, all without touching the telescopes focuser. Parfocal to the camera achieved, I thought this is great, easy peasy, re-attach camera, check for focus, yep all good. Steph had her 12" Dobsonian set up and there were some oohs and ahhs coming from her direction,,,hmmm what is going on I thought. A quick look through her manually driven scope and there was M13,,right I'll have a go at that, how hard can it be. Punched in M13 on the synscan, let the scope slew and settle on target. Now I don't know about you lot, but the sense of anticipation waiting for the quick 30sec test shot to confirm I was indeed on target was giving me butterflies. I needn't have worried as the test shot proved I was on target. Ok plug in remote camera cord, set camera to ISO 800, set a shutter delay on camera to avoid any shutter shake, finally set camera to Bulb setting. Press button on remote shutter release and...............nothing, no click, no noise from camera, in fact diddley squat happened. Check connections, try again,,,,,nothing. My range of expletives finally made Steph raise her eyebrows as I wandered around the garden looking for the dog to kick..Ok for those who know our dog, I would never actually kick him. To make things worse more oos and aahs were coming from Steph. Right I'm not giving up so I manually had to hold the camera button down (not easy while balancing on step ladders). I expected loads of shake, but I couldn't give up, especially as Steph's oos and aahs were getting louder and I needed something to show for all this effort. 3 minutes of arm ache later, my very first shot was in the bag. Steph came running over to see M13 nestled on the camera's display, "not bad", she said, followed by "but I've just found The Ring Nebula", and "I'm off to bed". Not to be out done I found Ring Nebula in the synscan and pressed goto, telescope slewed and the same process followed, lots of arm ache but managed 2 or 3 shots. Well I couldn't believe it, there it was on the camera's lcd. In my rush to tell Steph (who had now gone to bed) I forgot I was precariously balanced atop a step ladder in a strange contorted position, a sharp pain shot through my back, 1 misplaced foot as it jolted me and I was left in a crumpled heap on the floor like a turtle on it's back sandwiched between the step ladders and some garden furniture. Lots and I mean lots of expletives at this point, it took me 20 mins just to get up from the tangled heap I was lying in. When I did, I realised I had also ripped the power cord to the telescope out of it's socket and it was bust. I decided at this point to call it a night.

Night 2.

Well this really started in the day as I went about mending all that got broke the night before. Remote cord for camera was first up followed by making a new lead to power the synscan. Soldering iron plugged in, take apart camera remote and sure enough 2 wires had come away from their soldered positions. Now this should of been an easy fix. hold wires in place and resolder, except I was too busy concentrating on holding the wires in place,,,reached down,,,, grabbed soldering iron,,,!"£!"$%$£"!,,,"£$%$£^,,,hell, I'd only grabbed the wrong end. Lots of hopping around clenching my burn't fingers ensued, again followed by more profound expletives and I hadn't even got to nightfall yet. Once over the initial shock, I realised I had also pulled the remaining wires from the remote,,Oh no, now I had to work out all the wiring from scratch,,put it all back together, and all this with burnt, throbbing fingers....I decided no more soldering would take place that day and so just concentrated on the power lead to the synscan, which I did manage to complete.

I managed to take some shots of the Ring Nebula and a new one on me, the Blue Snowball that night. I have since mended the remote camera shutter release, but now the white fluffy things have moved in, preventing me from doing any stargazing and testing out my handy work ( or not so handy work).

I know lots more data is required but thought I couldn't tell you all this and then not post the images I did get. Was anybody else's first forays into DSO's as eventful as this, If so please share, so I 'm not alone in looking an idiot..:o

1st image is Andromeda Galaxy, M13, Blue Snowball and then Ring Nebula.

I now need to fine tune my polar alignment further, and who knows, one day guiding too.

Most images only consist of 2 or 3 3.5min light frames, Blue Snowball a single 4min light, notice I must have knocked the telescope during this one.

Any comments are welcome, and yes to me they were worth the effort lol.




Blue Snowball.tif


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yup, sounds like one of my typical evenings, although it usually clouds over once I'm finally ready to go....at least you got some images!

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I'm always tripping over wires in the dark. Remember when the wires were pulled out of my azimuth encoder :o

Despiite all your troubles you still had a good night.

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Maybe there is a lesson here? Do not operate machinery under the influence of pain medication.....:o

But you got some cool photos and have a good idea of where to go for more data, once your fingers stop throbbing :)

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You have my sympathy!

1) USB Hub power suply broke last night, blowing a fuse.

2) DSLR Focus (capture software) all of sudden refuses to work with my 10D. Might have something to do with the USB 2.0 Hub... (Of course this happens on a clear nighgt!)

3) My DSUSB unit broke down last winter, with problems in the connection between the unit and cable. I ordered a new unit, and a few weeks later the cable "broke" making the unit unreliable (on and off).

4) The battery lid of my canon 10D stuck, I had to pry it open with a screddriver, now the locking mechanism is damaged and sometimes turns the camera off.

5) The screws of the mirror cover plate of the SW Explorer 200 is cr*p. I damaged all of them on my second collimation. I havn't found replacements yet, and cover the rear of my scope with a plastic bag.

6) The alt-adjustment screw of the HEQ5 PRO was damaged 3 days after arrival, due to a misunderstanding of how the darn thing worked. I now only have one alt. Adjustment screw (luckily the bottom one!)

7) My son knocked over my William Optics megrez 90 on the porta pro mount. Damaging the mount, and scope. It still takes great pictures but cannot bee rotated as smoothly as before.

8) When I operated my mount without a mains power lead I damaged and broke 2-3 cigarette lighter plugs from my battery pack.

9) I damaged the charging plug for the battery pack.

10) My guide camera (Opticstar, don't buy!) Is not "windows XP compliant" and sometimes need to re-install the software whenever i plug it in.

.. I know have a philosopht of continously improving the reliability of my gear. I try to do these things on cloudt nights; My last 3 actions include

1) Soldering a new mains power lead, more realiable and easier to fix if broken, than my previous one. Also eliminating the need for a power pack.

2) Velscros fittet on my mount and on USB HUB+GSUSB+DSUSB.

3) New USB Hub (the old one disintegrated).

4) Looking into new capture software

... etc. etc.. Steady improvements are the key I think... :-)

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should have added that one night, after a selection of the above mishaps, when it didn't cloud over and I thought I'd get a good few hours of subs, the camera slipped out. Fortunately the very first sub was ok.:o

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