SkyMiner Observatory: Blog en-us (C) SkyMiner Observatory (SkyMiner Observatory) Sun, 11 Jun 2017 05:12:00 GMT Sun, 11 Jun 2017 05:12:00 GMT First time in awhile I finally had a clear(ish) night on a weekend to fire up the scope again.  All in all, most things worked alright, but there's still room for improvement with regard to a better autoguider and cable management for the USB devices.

I spent the night taking a few quick images of Jupiter, M106 and M5.  It's windy as hell (the observatory is creaking and shaking constantly), so I don't know if anything'll actually come out.  Either way, it's been really nice to be out again.

SQM 18.7 with the full moon, and 22 degrees at 1am.

]]> (SkyMiner Observatory) Sun, 11 Jun 2017 05:11:43 GMT
More reliable communications with mount Just used the scope quickly today after putting a PCIe to Serial card into the observatory computer.  Hopefully this will allow for some more reliable communications with the mount from now on.

While I was out, I took the opportunity to take a quick shot of the Sun.

]]> (SkyMiner Observatory) Sun, 16 Oct 2016 02:16:33 GMT
First session of Spring We finally had a couple of clear nights, and I made it out to the observatory to spend a few hours last night.  It was a beautiful evening, with a 1/2 moon, cool air, and the temperature was comfortable.  As I haven't used the setup in months there were (naturally issues), but I did manage to get some imaging done.

I took some video of the sun earlier in the day, and of the moon and Jupiter at night.  I'm happy with how things turned out for the sun and moon, however Jupiter was just a murky mess.  I'm sure that's more due to my Celestron than the sky.. I need to do something to speed up cooling of the tube.

I tried a little deep sky, but was plagued with autoguider issues.. either the camera wouldn't connect, or it would disconnect after 1sec of looping shots.  I think it's time I spent some time and money sorting out my power and USB requirements and come up with a more robust solution.

]]> (SkyMiner Observatory) Sun, 17 Apr 2016 13:29:26 GMT
A little snowy astrophotography Tonight is the first opportunity I have had to use the telescope in over 2 months.  Although we've had a couple of clear nights, they have either been inconveniently in the middle of the work week, or a cold night after a warm day, so my CCD would just frost up anyway.  Tonight was fairly clear, but the transparency was poor, so focus was an issue.

I just took a quick crack at the Christmas Tree Nebula region.  After 2 hours of exposures, it's clear that I need better skies and a much longer duration to get a good result on this one.  I'd queued up to take some 10min subs, but the guider stopped working and when I went outside discovered that it was snowing.. time to call it quits and just take -25 darks for the rest of the night.

It's also becoming more and more evident with this camera that I need to start taking flats.  There's a pretty obvious gradient appearing in the images that I need to flatten out.


]]> (SkyMiner Observatory) Sun, 14 Feb 2016 05:46:58 GMT
Quick observing session tonight Was only our less than an hour tonight.  I got everything set up for an imaging run of M33, then cloud and fog rolled in about 1/2 later.  As its 10p now, I'll just pack it up for the night as opposed to seeing whether it clears up.

SQM = 19.16 and 1C

]]> (SkyMiner Observatory) Sun, 06 Dec 2015 02:48:46 GMT
Fall is definitely here Just a quick note tonight as it's cold and late.

Beautiful clear and calm skies tonight.  Took a shot at the Iris and a Tycho target.. I have yet to process and see how they've turned out.. I'll likely post them tomorrow.

Skies are 19.84 tonight, and it's -3.

]]> (SkyMiner Observatory) Mon, 09 Nov 2015 07:10:03 GMT
Harvest Moon Lunar Eclipse I hadn't really intended to take any pictures of the lunar eclipse tonight, but once it started, I figured I'd regret it if I didn't roll the roof open and take a few.

The forecast was calling for clouds, however the moon managed to stay between them for the most part.  I only headed out for an hour or so, but long enough to get about 50 images and enjoy the evening a bit.


]]> (SkyMiner Observatory) Mon, 28 Sep 2015 03:58:08 GMT
Things coming together Tonight is a fantastic night.. it's beautiful and clear, and also the night of the Perseid meteor shower.  Whether I put my Nikon on top of the scope to try to capture it is yet to be seen.


I've refined my polar alignment and got it pretty dialed in, and have got the QHY5L-II working as an autoguider on the WO66.  I'm currently capturing images of the Crescent Nebula and they seem to be tracking well, so tonight might turn out to be a very good night!


The next things I need to work out are my auto-focusing, and the field flattener.

Sky Quality Meter - 20.07

Temp - 9C

]]> (SkyMiner Observatory) Thu, 13 Aug 2015 05:11:01 GMT
My SBIG ST-8300 Arrived! I did a little bit more imaging tonight.  I bought a 2nd hand SBIG ST-8300C which arrived today, and as luck would have it, it was clear tonight.  Getting the camera up and running was really easy, unlike the issues I had with the old QHY 9M.  First impressions of the camera are good though.. it cools down quickly and doesn't seem too noisy.  It'll be interesting to see how it works out with dark frames and proper focusing.

After getting the camera up and running, I did a quick polar align with PemPro.  I'm under 2 arc minutes in both directions, however still can only go 30-60sec without guiding before trails show up on images with the 98FLT.  I'll have to take a look at my PEC.. maybe that's messing things up somehow.

I have plate solving working again, but manually focusing is a pain, so I'll have to get that all hooked up soon.  To do that effectively though I'll have to make the mounting bar for the dew heater and such up on the scope.

One thing I did discover is that my Orion Starshoot Autoguider either doesn't work, or doesn't work with Windows 8.  It seems as though other people have a similar problem with it, but I'll have to find some solution.  PHD supports my QHY5L-II so I may go that route.. otherwise I'll find a camera that is specifically supported by Maxim.

I think my long mounting bar should be arriving tomorrow, so I'll finally be able to get all 4 scopes on the mount and set up.  Balancing will be a pain, but once it's all set up and running smoothly, it'll be worth it.

]]> (SkyMiner Observatory) Thu, 16 Jul 2015 05:25:02 GMT
Setting Everything Back Up Well, this is my first real time using the observatory since we've moved home after the fire.  Things are just barely up and running.. the C14 isn't mounted yet, the mount isn't polar aligned, and only some of the software is running, but I've been itching to use the scope, so I thought I'd give it a try.

It was a nice night out under the stars.  Despite the lack of polar alignment, the scope worked well, if inaccurate in its pointing.  The QHY5LII-M worked alright (the driver still hangs a lot), and I had a chance to try the Mallincam SkyRaider DSC I picked up at AstroCATS.  All-in-all I'm not impressed with it yet.. it does capture images, but they're really, REALLY noisy.  Hopefully it's just something I don't know how to deal with yet.

I also tried to use my Nikon D5300, but Maxim DL doesn't recognize it for some reason.. I'll have to open a support ticket with that.

All in all though, I'm happy to have gone out.

]]> (SkyMiner Observatory) Sun, 05 Jul 2015 05:44:41 GMT
First Session of 2014 Well, it's been many months since I've been out in the observatory.  Between a bitterly cold winter, the "Polar Vortex", piles of snow, and my laptop being nabbed to use with my 3D printer, I've not had an opportunity to head out.  That said, it was really nice to get outside tonight, however briefly.  I tried a couple of images of Mars and Saturn before the clouds rolled in.  Mars turned out ok, although I think I need to re-collimate and get the remote focuser working on the C14.

]]> (SkyMiner Observatory) Fri, 23 May 2014 04:40:20 GMT
Fall has come Although my last blog was back in August, I've actually played around with solar since, but have neglected to keep any notes of those observing sessions.  I've managed to put together a couple of reasonable solar animations, which are both in my gallery.

I've sold my QHY9M and have decided to go back to basics and work out some of my bugs before adding too much complexity to the setup.  As for tonight, I'm playing a bit more with the QHY5IIL-M to see what it'll do.  It does seem possible to do a bit of deep sky imaging with it, but will take some fiddling with the exposure and gain settings to get anything worthwhile.  It's certainly not a replacement for the DSLR or CCD.

One major upgrade I've made is to the observatory laptop.  I've installed Windows 7 and increased the hard drive to 500M, which seems to have eliminated my BSOD issues when streaming video from the QHY.

Now to get everything else sorted out!

]]> (SkyMiner Observatory) Thu, 19 Sep 2013 04:50:31 GMT
A quick bit of solar Took a bit of time today to head out to the observatory, get everything up and running again, and capture some solar images.  It was partly cloudy so I was shooting in between clouds, but did manage to capture a couple of good shots.  It was a very active Sun today, so there was lots to look at.

It looks like something is now wonky with my mount-to-PC connection.  The keyspan USB to serial interface wasn't powering up or responding, so I switched it out with an old Belkin one I had.  With the Belkin I was able to connect to the scope, but it would disconnect a short time later.  I also had a number of BSOD occur, so it could also be that my laptop is packing it in.

]]> (SkyMiner Observatory) Thu, 15 Aug 2013 02:00:55 GMT
More Planetary Experimentation Spent a couple of hours tonight experimenting some more with the QHY5L-II and saturn.  I had a bit more luck working with the 2x powermate, but images seem blurry and noisy.. I'm not exactly sure what I'm going wrong.  It is difficult to focus at that focal length, so I'll definitely need a mask or something to help out with that.

I also played around a bit at native focal length with similar results as last time.  I sort of wish I had a color cam to try out and see what I could do.

I did discover a bug with FireCapture 2.3 Beta 10 where the long exposures (greater than 1sec) seem to just loop at the same number.  I posted to the group to report the issue.  I star hopped from Saturn over to M51 (through the C14), syncing along the way, to try a longer exposure with the camera, but could only successfully do 1sec.  I was able to barely see M51 at 1sec (no structure or anything, just enough to know that it was on the chip), so it should be interesting to see what happens when I can run 30 or 60 seconds.

]]> (SkyMiner Observatory) Tue, 04 Jun 2013 04:47:15 GMT
Sunny Sun I took a bit of time yesterday to head outside and do some experimenting with the solar scope to see if I could eliminate the Newton's Rings.  Long story short, I couldn't.  Brian at KW Telescope suggested I try a few lenses to try to break up the interference pattern, but nothing worked.  I tried a moon filter, and the couple of filters that came with the camera (clear and IR?).  Looks like I'll have to buy a new camera if I want to get rid of them.

That said, I was able to pull some nice images through the high clouds.  Probably my best images of the Sun yet.

]]> (SkyMiner Observatory) Wed, 29 May 2013 15:24:47 GMT
First real Saturn I finally got out to observe again the evening of May 2nd and gave the QHY5II-L a good try with Saturn.  I'm actually quite happy with the result when shooting at the native F11 through the C14.  I was able to capture a reasonably well-focused image.  When putting the Powermate in front of the cam though, everything goes to hell.  I'll have to experiment a bit more with that.

What I am having a big problem with though is system crashes.  It seems like when I have the cam streaming to the computer with relatively quick FPS, the computer either locks up, and blue screens.  I don't know whether it's the driver or the computer, but given the age of the laptop, and the amount of data that's likely trying to stream to it at high FPS, I'd assume the latter.  Now, if I can just manage with it as long as possible before replacing it, I'll be a happy guy.

On another up note, I rec'd an email from QHY stating that my QHY9 is fixed, and should be en-route back to me from China.

]]> (SkyMiner Observatory) Tue, 07 May 2013 15:37:31 GMT
New QHY5L-II M and Newton's Rings I had my first real opportunity to try my new mono QHY5 camera today on the sun, and buy is it different from my old cam. It's much higher resolution, and really sensitive... So much so that I'm having a really hard time finding the right settings to properly expose the sun, both surface and edge. Much more practice is necessary, but I can see the potential that's there, and really look forward to using it some more!

One downside is that I'm getting Newton's Rings with this cam when shooting in HA. Apparently it's solvable, but will take some experimentation. Hopefully I'll get some clear days soon. 

]]> (SkyMiner Observatory) Fri, 15 Mar 2013 01:56:03 GMT
Adding some RGB to the Rosette When I was imaging the Rosette nebula the other night, clouds came in before I could capture a proper set of RGB.  Tonight is going to be a short night, just grabbing the needed RGB to complete that set.

]]> (SkyMiner Observatory) Mon, 18 Feb 2013 01:00:31 GMT
A quick Orion Took advantage of the relatively clear skies tonight by capturing some frames of the Orion Nebula. If everything turned out, I should have 5 x 5min RGB and 12 x 5min L frames.  I also captured a sequence of shorter images to try to process the core without blowing it out, but we'll see how that works out.

Autoguiding for the last 2 nights hasn't been working right... It slowly drifts down in the X axis in DEC. I'll have to get that figured out, but I seem to be able to image just fine at 5min exposures without guiding. 


]]> (SkyMiner Observatory) Sun, 10 Feb 2013 05:15:19 GMT
Post-storm skies Yesterday we had our big snow storm for the season, and today it's bright and sunny. As it was so nice and clear I took a quick look at the sun today ad it was absolutely amazing... Crystal clear, lots of different promenances of various types, etc. I only had about half an hour at the scope, but the time was worth it. I also took a little video to process later. 

]]> (SkyMiner Observatory) Sat, 09 Feb 2013 22:31:57 GMT