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Thursday, May 7th, 2009
Hmmm.. I was doing more testing tonight. trying to make sure I'm really dialed in with all of this new equipment for the star party season. I'm feeling very confident. First off, I had an issue at the last star party where my collimation would go out severely as I changed altitude with the Lightbridge. It turned out that one of the spider vanes was a tad loose. Tightening it up brought it to a more reasonable point of play as altitude is adjusted.
Secondly, I've been wanting to play with EQMOD (which I wasn't able to do tonight) but part of that step is updating the firmware on my hand controller to SynScan 3.24. Among other fixes, version 3.24 is also supposed to have improved auto guiding support. I upgraded it and was primarily testing that tonight.

Also, I've been struggling with focusing with since putting the stock focuser back on so I wanted to really spend some time trying to achieve great focus and see if I can get the "feel" for using the single speed focuser.

The good news is tonights seeing was good enough to actually test things like focus and guiding. The really good news is that auto guiding is definitely improved with this version of the hand controller. It also saved me $40 plus shipping to get an EQMOD serial adapter.

Below I'm posting a few screen shots displaying auto guiding quality and star sharpness which is a testament to tracking, guiding, and focus.

A few things to note in the screen shots.
1) Guiding is better on the Iris Nebula then it is on vega (most likely because it's closer to the pole) but it could also be that my mount just likes the position of the Iris right now due to balance or some other such thing)

2) I tried something different for focusing this time. Instead of using the Fine Focus part of Nebulosity, I used the Frame and Focus but concentrated on the diffraction spikes on Vega instead of a small medium-bright star which I normally use. I made the adjustments until the spikes were as sharp as possible. When it's out of focus, it's very obvious in the spikes in that there are often 2 of each vane or they are a bit fuzzy. I may use this technoque again as it proved to be very successful.

3) Compare the Iris screenshot to the screenshot I took last year on 7/25/08 with the Megrez 90. The stars every bit as good in the 50% version and nearly as good in the 100% version. Of course, the brighter stars get somewhat boxy or diamond shape in the R200SS due to the spider vanes. One of the key things to understand though it that tonight is a full moon and when I took the Megrez shot on 7/25/08 the moon was not up at all. I'm liking this mid sized short tube, fast reflector more and more.

Vega Image
Just having some fun I went ahead and stacked the shots of Vega. 34 minutes total of all random times and ISOs. The longest shot was of the batch was 10 minutes at ISO 100 and the shortest was 30 seconds at ISO 800.
Scope: Vixen R200SS 200mm @ f/4 w/Vixen R200SS Coma Corrector
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD
Camera: Canon EOS 20D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
Exposure: 34 minutes - (9 shots at various timings ranging from 30 seconds to 10 minutes)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image


Iris Nebula (NGC 7023) Image
I've shot the Iris Nebula before during proper seeing conditions (i.e. no full moon!) but in my tracking and focus experiment I ended up shooting an hour of it. It's pretty bad, as far as signal goes, but I was particularly pleased with the sharpness of the corners stars and you can make out the void of the dark cloud and lane around the outside of the nebula though there isn't any real detail in the dark cloud.
Scope: Vixen R200SS 200mm @ f/4 w/Vixen R200SS Coma Corrector
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope: William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD
Camera: Canon EOS 20D (unmodified)
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800
Exposure: 1 hour - (12 x 300s)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Stacked in Deep Sky Stacker, Levels and Curves in Photoshop
See Gallery below for image


Image Gallery For This Session
1 Test 50 percent 2 Test 100 percent
3 Iris 50 percent 4 Iris 100 percent
5 Vega 34m 6 Iris Nebula Full Moon 1h
   

1-Test_50-percent.jpg
Click picture above for larger version
If the picture seems too bright or too dark, try adjusting the brightness below.
Brightness:
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Comments:
On 05/09/09 at 09:13pm Barry wrote:
Interesting Neil. I like both.....but Vega is definitely a creative shot.

Somebody in a forum suggested using string and a bunge cord to hold them in place over the end of the scope.....to create artifical spikes....and as a focusing aid. Sounds like a similar concept, although I haven't tried it.



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