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Sunday, February 17th, 2008
What a fabulous evening.
 
The seeing was mediocre, the moon was nearly full and high in the sky - wait, that doesn't sound like a fabulous evening.
 
But the good part was that it was clear then entire time I was out. It was cold (started at 36 and dropped to 30 - brrrrrr) but clear so I ran through some more testing and learning of this new mount.
 
There was 3 other things I wanted to experiment with tonight:
1) A cardboard box for my laptop. Yes, though it may sound strange, I put my laptop in a box enclosed on 5 sides with a door I could shut while not using it. I wanted to try this to see if 1- it would keep the dew of of the laptop and 2- if it would trap a bit of the heat coming off of the laptop and make little [less cold] cubby for thing like eyepieces and a cup of cocoa. I'm happy to say it worked out pretty well. It will probably be part of my setup on nights that tend to dew up (most of them around here). I think of it as a dew shield for my laptop. No picture today, but I'll shoot one next time. But umm.. its just a cardboard box.
 
2) Hook up the new mount to the laptop and control the scope via Starry Night. It worked like a champ! I was very pleased to not use the hand controller, but simply locate the object in the software and slew the scope to it. Using my camera FOV outline in Starry Night I could also use it to frame the object how I wanted it in the shot. So I was able to locate, center, and acquire frames all from the laptop. Now if I could only focus and rotate the camera from the laptop...
 
3) Image and observe. I ultimately want to be able to have relatively unattended imaging so I can observe through my Dob while I take pictures. This was a the first step into that objective tonight. I was shooting images at 30 seconds (because I still need a shoestring bulb control) but I was taking 25 images to start, then went to 80 images - without repositioning the scope! Over the course of 50 minutes (for 80 shots plus transfer time for the Raw file from the camera to the laptop) the field drift is about 10 arc minutes (a third of a degree). My camera FOV is 3 degrees by 2 degrees (or so) so that is very little drift when it comes to stacking the images. This means I can shoot an hour worth of frames without having to concern myself with what's happening at the scope.
 
And further, with having the scope hooked up to Starry Night - which I use for identifying objects to visually observer - when the sequence is done, I can take a few minutes to kick off the stacking, and target a new object, acquire an hour of data on that one and keep visually observing. Simply incredible. This technology is amazing and I don't have any high end gear.
 
Here are the images I took is this mostly bad seeing, near full moon night.
 
M3/NGC5263 
Scope: Celestron 102mm Achromat Refractor @ f/5
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Camera: Canon EOS 350 Digital Rebel XT (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 1600
Exposure: 25 minutes - 50 @ 30 seconds
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image
 
M31/32/110
Scope: Celestron 102mm Achromat Refractor @ f/5
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Camera: Canon EOS 350 Digital Rebel XT (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 1600
Exposure: 25 minutes - 50 @ 30 seconds
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image
 
M51 (and a few faint friends)
Scope: Celestron 102mm Achromat Refractor @ f/5
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Camera: Canon EOS 350 Digital Rebel XT (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 1600
Exposure: 40 minutes - 80 @ 30 seconds
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image
 
M81/82/NGC3077
Scope: Celestron 102mm Achromat Refractor @ f/5
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Camera: Canon EOS 350 Digital Rebel XT (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 1600
Exposure: 40 minutes - 80 @ 30 seconds
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image

Markarian's Chain
Scope: Celestron 102mm Achromat Refractor @ f/5
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Camera: Canon EOS 350 Digital Rebel XT (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 1600
Exposure: 40 minutes - 80 @ 30 seconds
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image
 
This was the first night that I was able to use 100% of the acquired frames as well as get this much data in a single evening session. Needless to say I'm thrilled about moving forward with this setup. 


Image Gallery For This Session
M3 11m 30s M3 24m 30s lg
M31 25m 0s lg M51 40m 0s lg
M81 82 40m 0s lg Markarians Chain 40m lg
   

M3-11m-30s.jpg
Click picture above for larger version
If the picture seems too bright or too dark, try adjusting the brightness below.
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