Tuesday, December 30, 2014

20141229-1230 C2014/Q2 Comet Lovejoy

Found it visually with my Ranger from inside my home!  I did it via one star alignment on Rigel and then slew to its RA/DEC.  I also slew to M79 afterward and got it detected too.

Tonight, I've extended the exposure to 15s at ISO1600 and then a few more shots at 20s as well (cf. 10s at ISO 800 last night), in the hope of more signal...  the outcome was nearly washed out on each individual frames, total 35 shots.

While waiting for DeepSkyStacker, I also slewed to M42 and M41 for quick look... very nice!

Better than that of yesterday for sure, but don't really know how to process.

Pushed crazily to see a hint of the tail:-

Monday, December 29, 2014

20141229 Moon with slow fps ASI

Transparency drops but seeing improves a bit.

Took out my ASI 120MC to test on the moon, the first shot is normal and fine.

But then the frame rate drops crazily to lower than 2 fps, and no matter how I change the setting, it does not improve...

So, only one shot 2115 (GMT+8):

I guess it's my slow hard drive... my all-in-one PC runs on a notebook hard drive... got to sort out why.

20141229 Sun

The transparency is so high, like 9/10 but very poor seeing.

The full disc image is so bad, most detail were washed out.  The seeing cell seems very large to distort large scale detail, two frames stitched together.

2x closeup, taken at 1351 (GMT+8):-

2x closeup, taken at 1352 (GMT+8):- 

5x closeup, taken at 1355 (GMT+8), surprisingly despite the poor seeing, this image is not too bad:- 

This is the biggest surprise today, a huge prominence at the bottom of the solar disc, it's dim but it's huge too!

Check out the full disc shot to see how big it was:

20141229 Comet C/2014 Q2

I'm doing it inside my home!

The sky clears with the cool front, but it's no good by any standard.  Light pollution was crazy and by following star charts, I failed to locate it with my Canon 10x30 IS.

I tried to shoot some close by fields with my 50mm lens and 200mm lens on my Mark-X, none of the frame shows any promising result.

And then I asked myself, why not pull out my Nexstar SE mount?  Alt-az tracking was not too bad for short exposures.  I couldn't do long exposure from a light polluted sky anyway!  With the GOTO, at least I know that I can pointing at the right place.

I choose one star alignment with Sirius, and then I GOTO C/2014 Q2 by manually entering RA/DEC.

I did take an exposure of 10s at f2.8 with my 200mm lens, a green fuzzy patch of light was shown!  Feeling encouraged, I took a few shots successively.

Around 2 minutes of exposure accumulated... not enough signal obviously!  It's ugly but it's mine, and I had fun!!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Imaging on the other side, Sun 20141222

One picture says it all.  The dry cabinet serves as a tripod and also a sun shade for me to focus with my Eee PC... But I found that it's so shaky and with a 2x barlows, vibrations damp out in more than 3 minutes!  I couldn't do accurate focusing today, as a result.

The sky was no good today, transparency at 3/10, seeing 1/10 with so many cloud moving around at variable thickness.  The sky was foggy too, the image was "muddy" at the eyepiece, too.  I even suspect it was the ghost image due to internal reflection, but unluckily, it was the real image!

Many drop frame today, I don't know why exactly, but I guess it's due to the automatic software updates since my Eee PC was not used frequently.

Prime focus shot stitched by two frames taken at 1559 and 1602 (GMT+8) respectively.

And at 2x, taken at 1610 (GMT+8):-

Very poor results.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Imaging from another room, Sun 20141213

I'm freeing up my playing room for my kid, so I tried to take image from my own room.  It's not as good since there is a bed so I've to place my notebook and take image while seated.  So, this is more like a feasibility test.

Since I couldn't use my desktop, and my notebook has very limited resolution and processing power, so I go back on using my Lumenera, the ASI was sold.

1129 (GMT+8), prime focus two frames stitched:-

1131 (GMT+8), with 2x barlows:-

1132 (GMT+8), with 2x barlows:-

Very nice result, the environment is not very important afterall.

The sun was rather low in the sky even in the afternoon!  It's winter time!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Equipment Migration

The electronic dry cabinet arrived, sad to say, even after removing the legs, the window was still blocked, but it's not a big issue.

All of my telescopes, eyepieces, filters, optical stuff, camera lens and cameras could be packed inside, and there are still some space left. 

What are left?  The mounts, and various adapters, etc.  They don't have to be stored in humidity controlled environment, so maybe I can just buy a box to place them along with the dry cabinet.  This dry cabinet occupies half of my windows platform.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Adapter plate for my Nexstar SE and Gitzo tripod

The Nexstar SE does not have standard camera tripod interface, but three 3/8" threaded holes near the edge.

Therefore, I have to create a metal plate having one 3/8" threaded hole to connect to the tripod, and three 3/8" holes to connect with the base of the Nexstar mount.

Finding such a plate is pretty easy and at the same time, hard.  We don't have to use a strong plate since it's just "the meat between the sandwich", and I believe even a plastic plate will do the job nicely.  We will need a plate of around 9" diameter.

I placed a piece of paper over the base of the Nexstar plate, and use pencil to mark the holes.  Then I stick that paper over the metal plate for drilling:

I drilled one more small hole beside the 3/8" screw, i.e. the guiding pin of the Gitzo:

Placing the plate between the original mounting plate and the tripod:

Fixed the Nexstar mount on top via those 3/8" holes:

Frankly, there are some vibrations but it's acceptable since this setup is only for visual purpose, photography is another story but then it's not a photographic mount afterall.

Further thoughts:

A bigger plate could be made so that the excess areas could be used as eyepiece holders by drilling 1.25" and 2" holes. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Electronic Dry Cabinet

Size of my windows platform: 44" (110cm) x 22" (50cm) x 16" (44cm)

Maybe I could try to find an electronic dry cabinet instead of tailor made a regular wooden cabinet, the price should be quite similar?

Some of the size of my gears:

Tele Vue Ranger: minimum length = 42cm

Celestron C5: minimum length = 35cm, thickness = 16cm

Solarmax 60 box: minimum length = 33cm, thickness 21cm, however, the box could be stored else where

Actually, most of my other stuff could be stored in a regular cabinet.


Update on 2014/12/01:-

I will buy one shortly since the price is right, just similar to a regular wooden cabinet, but then I will have a wooden cabinet too by its side.

Inside the dry cabinet, I should have:

1. Camera and lens: 450D, kit, 50mm f1.8, 8mm fisheye, 200mm f2.8L, Kenko 2x

2. Eyepiece and barlows: 20mm widescan, 4mm TMB, 2x barlows and 5x powermate

3. Telescopes: C5 and Ranger

4. Filters: Solarmax II 60/BF10, Baader, etc

Should have enough room...


Update on 2014/12/04:-

Ordered one and shall be for delivery ready next week.

The dimension of the dry cabinet: W537*D358*H456 

Shall be able to fit in my Ranger which is the longest stuff, and my C5 which is the thickest stuff among my gears.

The legs could be removed, and hopefully just fit my window platform without hindering the operations.

Battery life of 18650x3 on Nexstar SE mount

I counted and there are more than 10 observation sessions, each over half an hour and the battery is still going strong. 

Having said that, I will recharge them today since Lithium battery should keep more charge to be healthy.

I'll need 3 of them at a time to give 11.1V, and I've six of them.  So, this should be more than enough.

Monday, November 24, 2014

20141124 Sun

Sky condition very poor today, so I couldn't do anything else except a 2 frames mosaic as below as a record, no flat field:-

Taken at 1507 (GMT+8).

Sunday, November 23, 2014

20141122 Sun and experiment with flat field

The CMOS sensor of ASI 120mm is quite sensitive in creating Newton's ring.  I found it's pretty terrible in the last imaging session.  People suggested that Newton's ring could be removed by tilting but then it involves on more adapter and it's not really a good way indeed.

An alternative approach is to do a flat field which can remove the Newton's ring as well as any dust on the CCD.  A flat field could be acquired by de-focusing the image a large bit, and I found it natural for the whole work flow.  I normally do a prime focus shot, and then pump up the magnification by adding a barlows/powermate, and before I refocus with the barlows/powermate, I simply capture a flat field first!

First up is a mosaic of two shots, taken at 1151 and 1153 (GMT+8) respectively.

So, two shots were taken afterward by using the method above with a flat field.  The first one is done very close to the flat field, so the Newton's rings were removed completely.  It's taken at 1157 (GMT+8):-

Next one is taken at 1159 (GMT+8), I don't exactly know, but seems like the Newton's ring is not as cleanly removed as above.

There might be two reasons:

1. field rotation since I'm doing alt-az tracking with the Nexstar SE mount, I found it unlikely, however

2. the flat field was not done correctly, since the solar disc was not occupying the whole frame, so the flat field is only partial, some dark corner was not illuminated afterall

So, next time when I do a flat field, I shall move the camera to the center of the solar disc.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Home@Walnut Changes (again)

Formerly, this room was my playing room.  There is only a computer, and a store room of my equipments.  But then when my daughters have to learn piano, I need to spare some rooms and so I sold my C8 and downsized to a C5.


Recently, my daughters requested their own room, so I have to move out from this playing room altogether.  My faithful self-design computer desk with storage cabinet has to be thrown away.  Actually, the upper half had been discarded when the piano moved in but now the whole thing would be gone soon.

I'll need to find a replacement.  Last night, I've measured the window platform of my own room and I found that it was 42" (width) x 22" (depth)  and then I could make a cabinet as high as 16" without blocking the windows.  This cabinet will be tailor made to store all my existing stuff inside, and I will be taking photographs from inside by using my Nexstar SE mount there and there should be enough room.  However, I couldn't use my desktop PC to take images by then and I've to go back to my Eee PC which should suffer from much lower frame rate?  Maybe it's time to upgrade with a better computer?

Before it was killed, let's take a photographs in remembrance:

Top most level for my Camera gear which consists of a Canon 450D, a kit lens, a 50mm f1.8, a 8mm fisheye and a Canon 200mm f2.8L plus a Kenko 2x, a couple of manual macro tubes, shutter release, flash, etc.  And there are two new members namely the ASI 130mm and ASI 130mc.

On the second level is my trusted Ranger, my Mark-X, eyepieces and accessories box.

On the third slim level is my Canon 10x30 IS, and some miscellaneous stuff.

Finally, the lowest level is my C5, plus my Solar 60.

Monday, November 17, 2014

20141117 Sun (ASI 120mm + Sharpcap + Avistack)

This is a whole new combination.

At prime focus, it really shines at its first impression!  Most detail could be seen very easily.  After processing, it's even more wonder:-

Taken at 1205 (GMT+8), very impressive, not much processing required.

However, on going to high power (5x), the evil comes.  Newton's rings were very serious.  I've tried to remove that protective glass window, does not help.  And that introduces some dust too...

It seems like I've to try to add a flat field next time?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

ASI Cameras

What is better than an ASI camera? 

The answer is two of them!  I got myself an ASI 120MM and an ASI 120MC, the monochromatic model is for solar and lunar imaging, while the color one is for planets.  Frankly, with only a C5 as my biggest telescope, I believe that I will let the color one go soon.  But anyway, why not give a trial?  I had success with a DBK and a C5, so I'm pretty confident that the ASI will do the job nicely as well.

The general impression is excellent.

Packaging is simple but works.  It comes with a lens, a 1.25" nosepiece, a driver CD, a very nice USB cable, and you even get a ST4 cable!

Installation is SUPER EASY as mentioned in the user guide.

The software is easy to use, too.


The software and the driver are rather stable, but this is only my first impression.  Sharpcap is easy to use and pretty powerful.

I've to update my Registax 5 to the latest release to support the Mono8 codec, RGB24 is fine as expected, no need to upgrade.

These were pretty dark, I have to use very high gain and relatively long exposure (~1s) to get images like the above.  Not bad, I would say.  Not a huge improvement over my Lumenera nor DMK, but I should test again with astronomical targets.

These two cameras were again close to par-focal with my Japanese Widescan 20mm Type III, nice plus.

Expect better sky next week.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Selling my L070m

This has been my workhorse camera.  The only problem was the connecting cable from the USB side PCB to the lens side PCB, but it is fixed perfectly.

Comes with a DIY plastic case, the original lens, plus a C mount to 1.25" nosepiece.

Only ask for $111 USD paypal shipped.  Will be posted to cloudynights shortly.

Monday, November 10, 2014

20141110 Sun

Seeing 3/10, transparency 4/10, most cloudy.

Tow prime focus shots, with some tweaking on the T-max and RichView, also the processing style...  1422 and 1431 (GMT+8)

 Close up of AR2205, taken with a 5x Powermate, 1450 (GMT+8):-

Notice that these three shots were taken with some gaps in-between, this exactly shows the amount of cloud floating around.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

20141030 Moon

The moon is in front of my windows.

Aligned my C5 on the Nexstar mount, I found millions of drop frames... reboot does not help, replacing the USB cable does not help.  Eventually, the camera even black out....

So I pulled out my 450D, but then the balancing becomes an issue... tracking is inaccurate, and the mirror induced much shake to the system.  It's still alright at prime focus but then when I just up with a 2x, the 450D rotates around its adapter nose piece, and the shake is no longer trivial at 1/10s exposure even with a shutter release cable.

I disassembled the Lu055M and I guess I know what's the problem.  Put it back and it works again but then the moon is sinking quite low and cloud rolling in too!

First up is a moon taken with my Canon 450D through my C5, live view focus, manual exposure (a bit over), taken with a shutter release:-

This is my Lu055M being repaired:-

Next is another prime focus shot taken with my Lu055M, notice that this 1/3" CCD rendered a much higher resolution than the APS-C sized CMOS even both were taken at 1250mm focal length:-

Without much time left, I took another shot with a 2x barlows with my Lu055M:-

It seems like that Lu055M is dying?  Before its death, I will make good use of it!

Monday, October 27, 2014

20141027 Sun, another observation on AR2192!

From that prominence loop on 20141015, this is the 4th observation/imaging session on AR2192!  This monster has grown to the size from slightly bigger than our Earth to now bigger than Jupiter.

All time in GMT+8.

Prime focus, taken at 1428:-

5x, taken at 1430:-

5x, taken at 1433:-

Taken at 1436 to 1441 all with 2x barlows, 12 frames stitched together, I guess the focuser draw tube slips a bit so that the lower left corner has a gap:-

 2x close up of a long filament taken at 1442:-

2x close up of AR2192, taken at 1443:-

I will try to do mosaic later, but the Tmax and RichView must be more carefully adjusted.