I can't hardly believe we are getting back to back nights. It's been less then a year, but it seems like forever since I've been able to enjoy astronomy multiple nights in a row all night long without fog or clouds or haze or something ruining the pleasure of the evening.
In preparation for the star party this weekend, tonight I didn't break out the imaging gear which I've been testing for the past few nights, just the Dob (16" Lightbridge). Drinking in great views of M13, M92, M53, M65, M66, M81, M82 (yeah... I guess I was on a Messier hunt!). Collimation was spot on and the stars were pinpoint sharp across the field of the 12mm Type 4 Nagler (thanks to Steve Swayze from Swayze Optical doing the refigure on the mirror last year... thanks Steve... it ROCKS!).
I image so much these days I almost forgot how nice it was to roll out the dob before dinner to let it acclimate, then just start looking. The seeing was decent but not great.
Later on in the evening my attention was drawn to Saturn. With the 12mm it was great. Seeing was going in and out a bit, but it was mostly sharp. Clean slice Cassini Division, banding on the planet, ring shadow, etc. It was really nice. Then it got me thinking, "Hmmm... I've been wanting to do planetary imaging since Barry Brence put on that great Registax demo..." [here we go...]
So I break out the tracking platform, the DSLR with LiveView, a 2x ED Barlow, a Power Tank, the laptop, a table, a handful of cables and stuff. Oh man... I should have just stuck to the visual stuff! As things instantly got more complicated I was torn to keep going forward or to revert back to visual. Press on!
- I tore the Dob down because I can't lift it onto the platform put together.
- Polar aligned the platform.
- Got power to the platform from the Power Tank.
- Put the Dob back together on the platform
- Re-collimated the Dob
- Aligned the Telrad
- Noticed that the star wasn't staying still... it was drifting as if the scope wasn't tracking
- Fiddled with the platform (objects are still drifting)
- Tore the Dob down again
- Fiddled with the platform motor (it's working fine.. hmmm)
- Put it all back together again
- All is well
- Set up the table
- Set up the laptop
- Put the camera in the focuser and focused
- Put Saturn in the center of the Telrad
- Kicked off live view
- No Saturn (forgot to re-align Telrad after putting everything back together)
- Took out camera and put in eyepiece
- Realigned Telrad
- Put camera back in focuser and focused
- Yay, there's Saturn
- Kicked off the MovRec software to capture the LiveView to AVI
- Yuck! Focus is way out (hmm...how do these planetary imagers get such great focus anyway?!)
- Refocus... looks good
- Capture at 5x... Pretty significant degradation at that power. Lets keep going and Registax will do miracles!
- Dink around with settings until the exposure seems right
- Capture a handful of short videos of a couple thousand frames each
- Go to launch Registax and it's way outdated, so download and install the latest version.
- Launch Registax, load the AVI and do the Registax thing pretty much using all default settings
- Tweak the stacked image in Photoshop a tad and call it good.
2:39am save JPEG
So it basically took me an hour and 40 minutes to get what essentially equated to a 10 second stack. The image is cool and I've certainly never taken a shot of Saturn anywhere near this good, but I'm not sure it was worth the hassle. Not on a night I was planning on doing visual observing anyway.
I think I'll try it again another night, but this time I'll be more prepared in the setup process. The image is in the gallery below.
I've not done any planetary imaging before, so I thought I'd try it tonight.
Scope: Meade 16" Lightbridge Dobsonian @ f/45 (18,000mm FL - 2x Barlow and 5x Camera Zoom - ~800x power)
Mount: Round Table Platforms equatorial platform
Guide Scope: None
Camera: Canon EOS 1000D (Modified)
Special Settings: LiveView captured to AVi via EOS MovRec
Exposure: Best 200 out of 2000 frames
Processing Software: Acquired in EOS MovRec, Stacking in Registax 6.1, Levels/Curves/Enhancements in Photoshop
Support Files: None