Monday, 24 November 2008

Freindly Bino view

There were some gaps in the clouds yesterday evening, and a friend and I had a few minutes out with the 15x70's. The Seven Sisters were strutting gloriously across the heavens in their inimitable fashion, so we spent some time looking there, a look at Mirfak for the association, and the Hyades. All this in the gaps between the clouds. It wasn't a long session, but my friend was astonished at the numbers of stars visible in the bins.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Running man past the birdie

Or, capture M42, M43 and the running man...

Orion was just clearing the roofline when the clouds parted and cleared off. Even though it was quite late, I decided I needed to know if my corrective actions had worked and whether I was going to hit all sorts of tracking errors again or not. I setup, levelled, aligned on Betelguese. Waited a couple of minutes and took a 90 second shot. Spot on. No noticeable trailing, no tracking errors from the mount. Phew... I used the goto to slew to M42 and left it for 10 minutes to allow M42 to clear the roof line. I figured that rather than waste the time, I'd shoot my flats and flat darks so did that as usual.

Using the time remote, I captured a sequence of frames varying from 2 seconds for the trap to 45 seconds. Total time 875 seconds or 14.5 minutes. Captured with darks (only 10 of each, should really have gone for 15) and a total number of useable frames of 47. Only lost 3 to trailing and one to tracking errors. Orion is sadly too far south for longer exposures by the time it's cleared the roofline, and trailing becomes a significant issue.

Anyway, I threw the whole lot of frames into the DSS mixer, set to blend and left it to it. Then used PS to stretch and tweak resulted in


Ok, I've blown the trap, I wasn't sure how that was going to come out, but I will stack the short subs to pull out that detail and try and merge them together in PS. It's also a little noisy, I think for ISO1600 I really need more dark subs. However, I'm really pleased with this result, but will revisit to see how much further refinement I can achieve.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

A couple of the moon today

Nothing doing last night. To much cloud around, not enough gaps. I couldn't be bothered setting up, so I went out for a beer instead. However, this morning, clear, bright, blue skies and the last quarter moon hanging there. I grabbed a couple of shots...

The first is the moon on it's own...


The second, I spotted the vapour trail heading in the right direction for a close pass, and grabbed the camera just in time...


Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Pulling my hair out

What a mare last tonight. My double flare was spoilt by clouds. The planets shots were all poor... looks like some movement in the camera, I'd probably have done better hand holding it. This is the best one


Since "balancing the scope" I'm getting tracking errors at only 30 seconds.... Never mind any longer. I shot a bunch of subs of M42 tonight, and only 1 x 2 minute sub it usable. Anyway, suffice it to say, that to top it off, the clouds moved in around then. I've put everything back how it was and I just hope that's cured it.

Anyway, here's the image from the single 2 minute frame. Not done much with it to be honest... The green tint is the CLS filter, that the DSS stack normally removes.


However, the high point of the night, whilst I was trying to work out what was causing my tracking errors at about 2220, and waiting for an exposure to finish, I glanced around and saw a fireball shoot across the sky. It was heading sort of from the Pleiades towards the South West ish, the track ran across about 40 to 50 degrees of the sky, and I watched it break up and disintegrate leaving behind a trail in the air that dissipated quickly.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

I've done it again

I managed to get another image on the S@N cover disk. I can't quite believe it, but two in a row. This time it was my double flare shot.


Monday, 17 November 2008

Clear Sky... Nearly

Last night, after another grim and grey day, the sky actually cleared. I managed to get a handheld shot of the moon, although it was a little misty.


I went inside to do a couple of things, and checked again a few minutes later, and yep, the cloud was back with a vengeance. I'd been planning on setting up the bins, to show my OH the Pleiades, to see if I could at least engender a little appreciation for the wonders of the night skies, as opposed to looking online at pics. And hopefully grabbing a stack of M42/43, but this wasn't to be.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Shooting the Moon

A couple of shots of the moon in gaps in the clouds from the previous nights.



A clear night yesterday, and the Moon was nearly full. I got out and grabbed a shot with the camera and 55-250 lens handheld earlier on


I got the scope out later, levelled, powered up and aligned on the moon, then on to use the webcam to try and capture the lunar surface closer up. I had a real headache getting everything setup. I couldn't remember the tubing required on the focusser to allow me to get focus, I couldn't get the right settings in wxastrocapture to enable to get a reasonable preview on screen. After about 50 minutes of faffing I managed to get the right combination of tubes and settings and there she was on screen. Phew.

Then onto focussing. Well, that was another major headache. Whilst the drawtube no longer moves up and down (there's still a little play visible when using the 5x barlow, but not enough to be a problem) there's no fine tuning and getting precise focus is tough, add in poor conditions and it was horrible. After yet more faffing I finally got it as close as I was going to, and started capturing.

I ran off a bunch of avi's. Firstly at 800mm on Aristarchus, then at 400mm to capture four sets (although it ended up being 5 due to drift) and compose as a mosaic, then a final 800mm on the terminator.

Time passed whilst all this capturing was going on. I then swapped out the webcam for the 450d, using the OM mount 2xTC to get some image scale, and the 10x preview on liveview. Focusing was really hard thanks to the conditions, I've had it much easier to focus the moon before in this config. Anyway, here's the not great result


I started trying to process the AVI's this morning, and followed my previous routine for processing them. Went through, clicked on the option to debayer (RAW modded webcam) and the picture on screen turned to mush. It didn't matter what options I tried it did the same thing. I then tried aviraw to convert and that showed exactly the same symptoms. I stacked the image anyway, using single point, I still can't get multipoint to produce anything other than broken segments, and adjusted in wavelets. The image still shows the Bayer matrix pattern across it, but it did work.


I ended up comparing my old config to the new one, and found that the capture format was set to RGB24 on the new machine and YUV420 on the old. I reckon this is the problem. I don't know if all the AVI's are wasted or whether I can find something that will debayer them for me, but the hunt is on.

Friday, 7 November 2008

I saw the sky

The clouds actually parted on and off today. I was surprised as the forecast was supposed to be rubbish. Anyway, I saw the moon rising quite early on, early enough for the sky to still look light blue.


Having checked on HA, and found a flare prediction at -4, I grabbed the SatCatcher and decided to go for it. 20 minutes before the prediction, the sky was clear, 10 minutes before, rain, then a couple of minutes before it cleared. I dashed out setup and caught it. The flare didn't reach -4 though.... and it looks like I must have mucked something up on the SatCatcher whilst is was in storage...


The moon was now higher and against a dark sky...


A little later, after another band of cloud had passed through, the sky was once again clear. I grabbed the scope and all the paraphenalia and setup. A quick align on the moon, popped in the webcam with the 5x barlow, attempted to focus... hmm nothing... I looked up and the clouds were back in force again... so I packed up. I've still got to test this setup out. Hopefully soon.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Visit to the Adur Astronomy Society

I managed to get along to my first meeting of the Adur Astro Society last night. Bit of a rush to get there on time, but what isn't nowdays :grin: . I must say, a very friendly and welcoming bunch indeed.

Robin kicked off with a welcome, before handing over to Ed, who provided a useful run through of some of the better and easier to find visual objects, in a video he'd prepared earlier and giving insights and on screen computer generated images into the expected views that one can expect.

Ed, handed over to Steve, who followed with a similar presentation, this time, concentrating on imaging targets for the coming month, accompanied with images he had prepared to show the sorts of results that could be achieved.

Then back to Ed again for a detailed look at some astronomical filters. Discussing what each filter could/should be used for, how they enhance the viewing experience and what can be expected to be seen using them.

After tea and cakes (Cracking carrot cakes, made be Leanne I think :thumbright: )
the floor was opened to members to present where they were at and advice could be sought. Robin, also ran through a presentation, with details of his gear and results from the various cameras.

Bern from Modern Astronomy was also there with an interesting looking array of equipment. I'm sad to say that I steered well clear, the CFO would have shot me had I gone near, cos I would probably have ended up buying something... (Sorry Bern :grin: )

Trev did a sterling job in the background, providing technical support (I think it was his laptop in use) and tea duties :grin: .

Thanks Robin, Ed, Trev and Steve for the work and effort put in to organise the evening, a very useful and enjoyable evening out, just a shame the weather is back to it's dismal usual self again.