Well, this post is a few days late, but on Thursday I did some testing on the Lodestar autoguider.
I can now confirm that the cables, camera and mount are all fine.
I increased the amount of guide correction using the hand controller, did a quick align with the telescope and used manual controls in the lodestar software to correct in both declination and ascension axis. I could see the lights (red for one way, green for the other) light up on the lodestar, and I listened very carefully to the motors as I got my partner Sheryl to click the buttons and it was definitely moving.
I must need to play with the software settings a little, which is fine. I just had to eliminate the possibility of a hardware problem first.
In addition to troubleshooting the autoguider, I had a quick go at imaging Jupiter thru my planetary camera.
Unfortunately it was cloudy with fine patches. But not really enough fine patches! I did manage to get a short video, which I’ll try and process, but the conditions were pretty bad.
Went to bed at midnight, so it was an early night.
Managed to bang my head on the counterweights! Ouch! I’ve got a nice cut on my forehead now. 🙁 and this picture is 3 days later. Who says Astronomy isn’t dangerous…
Tonight’s priorities are based on getting more familiar with the gear and getting some of the fundamentals down pat.
1. To setup a good alignment for reasonable goto performance and tracking.
2. Get the autoguiding working properly
3. use FocusMax and make it work consistently
4. Try out my imaging source DBK 31AU03.AS camera and take some pics of Mars
How did I go?
2. Not good – more on this later.
3. Success – telescope tracking was good enough to make it work.
4. Success – I got a video of Mars – well, a round orange blob anyway.
What was the problem with the Autoguiding?
I have a suspicion I may have damaged the guider cable which goes to the mount. It’s seems quite flimsy the way it’s attached. I had problems getting the telescope control to work. The Camera itself worked fine, and I got some really good low noise pics, but the telescope control was a different story.
I spent half the night troubleshooting with no real solution. I need to look into this in more detail. I found some posts on the web which may help – I’ll read thru them.
A forum topic on Stargazers Lounge about Guiding problems
and a troubleshooting an autoguider article. Google is awesome.
I’m not sure if it’s a cable problem, or a software problem – so more investigation required. When I figure it out, I’ll post my solution.
On a good note, my new camera worked really well.
I just need to figure out Registax now and see what’s involved in getting a good image out of 1000 frames.
I saw a meteor!!!!! – At the end of the night, red streak low over the neighbors house. Very cool.
I also got a satelite trail thru one of my pics earlier on. Not that exciting, well not like the meteor but first one I’ve seen so there you go.
Up till 4am again, but I’m hoping for better luck tonight. Sleep can wait till it’s cloudy.
First Light with the Starlight Xpress M26C
Finally the good weather has arrived, so I setup the telescope on the deck with all the accessories, power supplies and laptops I could muster.
I was determined to figure out how to do auto-focusing with the MicroTouch Wireless Autofocuser from Starizona.
FocusMax is the software I was trying to get to work with Maxim DL. It’s freeware, and can be downloaded from here.
It did seem to work really well and is undoubtedly superior to manual focusing – especially when using hyperstar (as you can’t view through the eyepiece) , but the effectiveness of the whole thing rests on having good tracking – or better yet, autoguiding.
The software utilises a subframe analysis using MaximDL, and the subframe only covers a few pixels, so if your alignment and subsequent tracking is off, you find the star tends to drift off the side of the subframe before FocusMax can create a V-Curve. I did get the guiding kinda working, well, enough to get it focused, however I really need some more practice with the PHD Guiding, which is what I’m using for guiding using the lodestar auto-guider.
I have a hunch that the trick to getting PHD Guiding to work is having a reasonably good alignment on the Telescope prior to fixing any anomolies with PHD, that way the tracking corrections are fairly small.
So, to recap – To get good pictures using the starlight xpress m26c you need too:
1. Have a good initial telescope alignment
2. Get auto-guiding working well using PHD Guiding (or at the very least an accurate telescope alignment)
3. Establish good focus using FocusMax
4. Then it’s easy!
I cheated a little bit, I had problems with the tracking, almost certainly because step 1 wasn’t done very well. I did, finally manage to get focus, then I used the hyperstar lens and camera and got some shots that way. The Hyperstar method is so fast that you can get away without tracking as you can get a good picture in as little as 10 seconds.
I took a few shots of the Orion Nebula, and saved the unprocessed photos, I did play around in Maxim with screen stretching and converting to colour etc, however I’ll have more of a session on the processing side, when Im inside and toasty warm. It was a bit nippy out at 3.30am.
Before packing up, I managed to do a bit of visual observing (and one photo) of Mars. It’s getting bigger, Mars has grown to 11½ arcseconds wide, on its way to 13.9″ when closest to Earth in early March. I found it a bit small, but I was using a 23mm eyepiece, and I was having trouble with Dew at the time. After switching to 8mm you could definately see the red colour, and a few surface differences. I think I could just see the polar ice cap, but I could have been wrong. I look forward to future sessions when it’s closer.
I’ll process the images after work, and post the images up soon.
I think I’ll be out again tonight! – the weather is looking great! (4pm now)