Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Post Calstar Report

Calstar 2016 was held at Whisper Canyon near Lake San Antonio.  This was my first time at this location and the second time that Calstar was held here.  Whisper Canyon has a smaller space than the Lake San Antonio location with the advantage that people are not spread out, saving walking in the dark.  WC features a full kitchen with two stoves and several refrigerators, minimizing the need to bring a grill and cooler.  Also, there is good cell service, a good bonus over LSA.

As the end of the season star party, it had all the good stuff: old friends, new connections, camp food, hot days, cold nights, clear skies, saying good bye to summer constellations and a preview of the winter skies.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Scanner Frustrations

The scanner complained again yesterday while finishing up another film strip. 

The symptom is that the moving tray seizes and the motors whine and chatter.  Usually power cycling the scanner while holding it upside down or on its end helps unstick the tray.  However, this time, no such luck.  Once it did finally stop complaining, the film trays are no longer loaded and recognized; they pass completely through the unit, never stopping.  I think a sensor that is supposed to register the carrier must be offline.

I will speak with an FAE later today.

My first thought is to skip the film astrophotography at Calstar this year out of frustration.

I realize that this is just a temporary setback and it's better to use the film rather than waiting until next year.  I can always leave it in a binder until I'm able to scan again.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Looking ahead to Calstar 2016

Weather looks hot and clear.

Good for several days of imaging.

Haven't set up the scope since GSSP, so I'm out of practice.

Monday, July 11, 2016

One E200 from GSSP 2016

NGC7000: 40 minutes at F5.6.  400mm EDIF. No push in processing.
I got the color rolls developed at the Darkroom last week.  On the preview of the E200, I see that the film looks good.  Exposures could have been better, but if longer, the stars would have bloated more.
Also, focus was off on a few frames, may have been operator error, plus the fact that I couldn't see the screen in the dark (I forgot the loupe viewfinder).  Lastly, frames from the first night were trailed due to poor gear mesh in DEC.

This frame was from Friday night.

I have a new batch of Xtol to mix up and will see how the black and white looks.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

400mm and Film

Planning to burn through some Acros and E200 during GSSP 2016.

Targets in mind:

  • Rho Ophiuchus region
  • Pipe Nebula
  • Snake Nebula
  • M23 star field
  • Triple E
  • Sadr to Deneb
  • IC 1396
  • Veil

This should allow me to run through a roll each night, planning on shooting at F5.6 for 40 minutes.

The apparatus shown above weighs 33.5 lbs.  Just slightly overweight for the GM8.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Final New Moon before GSSP 2016

The weather in the bay area has cooperated with getting the kinks out of the astrophotography setup -- or at least isolate some of them.

In the last week, I have been able to identify one problem and create a workaround.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Crunching Gravel at MBOSP on May 31

The gang got together on Tuesday night for a long-sought chance to get under some relatively dark skies.

Main show was the planets of course with Jupiter setting with a moon transit, Mars at its largest, and Saturn rising.  A stretch goal was to view the supernova in M66, which brought out the big scopes to try to observe this faint target.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Changing Camera Control Software

Switching from Maxim to The Sky X (TSX) Camera Add-On via CCDAutopilot

I've recently been frustrated with some inconsistent controls for Maxim when driven by CCDAutopilot.  Specifically, it would fail when trying to focus due to hot pixels and there were reconnection problems when the camera was not available by USB during startup or resume.  It works mostly reliably, but still, I've not been terribly happy with the guiding results and the poor way that it work hang at annoying times.

I decided to give TSX another shot since I had the plugin for it.  I've been using it for all-sky platesolves and this has been pretty fast and reliable.  I wanted to take advantage of the additional focus controls that were available in TSX.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Practicing for GSSP 2016

I've been working hard in the back yard, tuning the system to prepare for the summer season. 

Last summer, I'd settled on the use of CCDAP5 to control the QSI camera and mount, mostly because of the use of skyflats.  I was able to get several sessions of data from the backyard, which I never processed due to one thing or another.  Once I upgraded the hardware of the laptop that I was using to something a little more recent, the capability of CCDAP5 became much more apparent.  However, the true test had to wait until spring.

Over the rainy season, I worked on some ideas about how to improve the backyard astrophotography experience.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mercury Transit at RingCentral

Since the marine layer was pretty thick this morning, I brought my solar kit to work.  The sun peeked through some clouds.  Then it got clear in the last hour before the end.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Home Made Spacer

Over the winter, I ruminated and fiddled with some different ideas during the El Nino rainy season.
One idea that I finally implemented was a spacer at the top of the DEC axis on the Losmandy G11 mount.

Note the non-anodized block of aluminum.  This is a 4 inch wide, 6 inch long, 1 inch thick block of 6061 aluminum to add a bit of clearance space on the top of the DEC axis.  The goal was to provide a little extra collision room around the motors on the default limits.

My worries about being able to drill the metal plate accurately enough to pass the bolts through it turned out to not be a problem once I drilled pilot holes after measuring carefully.  Since the holes have no need to be threaded, the precision needed was low.

It's worked very well so far.  Meridian flips have been easy and there is no opportunity for motor collisions.

Another benefit is that I can consider drilling and tapping more holes on this block for cable management.