2012 June

Nebula night!

Nebula night!

Stardate 18062012

Nebula night

We had a really clear night on Saturday. The mission Eta Carinae nebula.

The scope was realigned – an all sky polar alignment this time, what a difference! Easily the best alignment I’ve managed to get.

Using hyperstar, nothing can be seen thru the eyepiece, so I’m dependent completely on the camera output so I installed the hyperstar lens and the SXV-M26C camera, got the autoguiding working using Maxim and ran focusmax. Now the last time I used focusmax was a disaster, however – it wasn’t aligned properly then, and the selected star kept drifting out of the subframe. This time – no problemo! so I got a great focus.

I did have a little trouble with PHD Guiding – something about the stars not moving enough?! good problem to have I thought! using Maxim DL it seemed to cope OK, suspicion is that  it’s just a PHD Guiding preference setting somewhere.

First target was ETA Carinea. Here it is….

eta carinae 500


That was just the start of it, I haven’t processed all of the images acquired yet, but i’ll post when I do.

I used Observer Pro on my Ipad to identify targets. I have got to say, this app is really really good, it shows you what astronomy objects are visible, when they are visible etc – can’t say enough good things about it. It rocks.

There were a couple of things that I need to sort for next time.

1. Dew heater strap wasn’t on the guide scope properly and slipped away from the lens part, when it inevitably fogged up – I started to get weird tracking on long exposures. This was because it couldn’t focus properly, it’s sorted now, but its a shame that I didn’t pick up on it earlier, there are a few images that could be better because of it.

2. I really need to calibrate my images using flats and bias frames – and darks as well, I don’t have a flats box, but I’ve found this article on how to make one. A good project for the cloudy nights!

3. Use of filters, I have a couple of filters which are ideal for this type of work, a light pollution filter and a narrowband nebula filter, I didn’t use them at the time. But I should have and will next time. The way they are fitted to the hyperstar assembly was a bit of a mystery, but upon further inspection, the threads have been discovered between the camera and hyperstar lens, so I’m all set now.

4. Colour conversion settings for Maxim DL – I’m having a bit of trouble on this one – I’ll need to research this online a bit more.

Despite these issues – and learning all this stuff is half the fun!, I consider Saturday night a success, it got pretty cold! but was a very enjoyable night and a good reminder about why I enjoy this hobby so much!

Kirk out.

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Stardate: 15062012

Images of Saturn

We’ve had a couple of fantastic clear nights out here in Manukau, so I trotted out to the observatory and fired up the scope.

Telescope alignment was something that really needed to be sorted as it wasn’t really required for the transit of Venus the other day, so I fired up the two star alignment routine and added an extra alignment star. The intention was to do an all star alignment, but it didn’t quite work out due to an unexpected power cut (Sheryl flicked the wrong switch!) however the alignment was pretty good.

Saturn was selected using the hand controller, and when it finished slewing, sure enough it was right in the centre of the eyepiece. Nice.

Next on my to-do list was get autoguiding working, so I used PHD Guiding, and it worked a treat. As suspected a good alignment is the key here.

I fired up the DBK imaging source camera and had a go at Saturn.


I posted this image on Facebook, and had some good comments about it. I must admit the first time you see Saturn in the eyepiece is amazing. Much brighter than the photo, but you can see some more details when it’s a little dimmer.

The next night I had another crack at it, but this time I used the 3 x Barlow. The image was bigger obviously but not really a significantly better result actually. The atmosphere and light pollution is a likely source. I will use my light pollution filter next time.

However the Observatory and Telescope are now operating really well, and I’ve got the observatory set up how I like it. The carpet was a really good idea, and I’ve got a Logitech Boombox connected to a laptop via bluetooth, which works a treat.

I’ve decided to have a go at some Deep Space Objects and use the hyperstar lens next time, see if I can get a good shot of Eta Carinae, this could be a bit optimistic, but I’ll give it a shot.

Kirk out.

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Transit of Venus

Transit of Venus

The transit of Venus

stardate: 08062012

I managed to get a picture and a few videos of the transit of Venus.

The weather was very bad, massive amounts of cloud and it rained, however it did clear up for about 40 minutes. And I was ready.

transit of venus

and I manged to get a video


I used a solar filter over the telescope and used the DBK astronomy camera.

Worked quite well. There is some dust on the CCD I think, which was a shame for the video, I’ll clean that off now! Grr.

Kirk out.

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Observatory pics

Observatory pics

Here’s some pictures of the observatory.

observatory 1 observatory 2 observatory 3-1

inside1 inside2 inside3

me inside

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