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Clear winter nights

Clear winter nights

stardate 11072012

A few good nights observing

Winter is a great time to do Astronomy! It gets dark early, the temperatures are great for the optics and camera, and despite the cold, the skies are often clear.

There has been some fog around lately which has stuffed things up a little, and we’ve also had a full moon which has caused a bit of consternation, however I’ve managed to resolve a few of the issues from the last update, managed to try a few new things and produced a few nice images in the process.

Issues from last time:

Dew strap issue sorted, filters tried – and they work great, especially the narrowband nebula filter

Flats – I made a flats box! based on Lorenzo Comolli¬†excellent article, I procured the opal acrylic and surround (corflute) from Anythng Acrylic, bought the LED’s, resistors, switch, and potentiometer from Jaycar. It worked out to a pretty cheap $60 all up. The electrical stuff was easy enough to put together, but I had some major problems with the glueing.

Just to recap – flats images are vital to creating well calibrated images.

Mounting the whole thing on a tripod and using it to get flats was a bit of fun in confines of my 2.4m2 observatory, but I got my flats images. It was frustrating however, so I did a little research to see if anything more compact was available.

flatfielderThat’s when I discovered the All Pro Spike-a Flat Fielder.

So realizing that the drama I went thru with my home built job would need to be done fairly regular, I bit the bullet and purchased one. It arrived today…. I’ll let you know how I get on with it.

The only other issue from last time was the colour conversion settings. It’s really easy for unbinned images. For MaximDL, simply use x=0 y=0 and 100 for all RGB values using the profile for the SXVR-M25C (because there isn’t one for the M26C. The problems come when you try and sort out values for images binned at 2×2. I haven’t been able to come up with settings that work for this yet…

I’ll just use unbinned images for now. FYI Binning allows you to use a 2×2 or 4×4 pixels as one pixel which increases the sensitivity but decreases the resolution.

I managed to take quite a few photos last time, however I had a problem. Most of them were Binned 2×2 and I couldn’t get the colour right, plus I really need to take multiple images and stack them in order to reduce the noise in the picture.

I had another go with the Eagle nebula, using a combination of images from the camera unfiltered, to using the Light Polution Filter and finally the Nebula Filter.

new image

Not quite as good as this image, but I’m slowly improving on my image processing skills.

Anything else to report? – Well my friend Paul managed to wire up a second switch for the lights in the observatory, which makes life a little easier. This new switch is located where me and the computer are located, as opposed to the other side of the observatory where the door is.

It was recommended that I give PixInsight a go for image processing by Steve Lang who works in my building – he’s taken some amazing astro pics with his DSLR camera and an 8 inch RC telescope. So I emailed them and got sent a key for a 45 day trial. The program looks powerful but very confusing… I’ll need to figure it out.

I’m hoping to get out tonight, and take some pictures of the Lagoon Nebula – and use my new Spike-a Flat fielder!

– Kirk out.

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Written by Andrew Kirk


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