I think I gave manual guiding a fair try. I've been doing it for quite a few months and it hasn't been going too bad. I started out really enjoying it but as time went on I started to become conscious of the observing time that I was missing... not only that but I was eventually getting tired and achy after staring at the illuminated reticle for several minutes at a time. Also, after looking at a ton of astro images on the net I started to notice how crisp the autoguided images were compared to the manual guided ones and figured perhaps I need to try it out someday. I did a bit of research and realized that all I would need is a cheap webcam or imager. I already lug my laptop with me into the field so why not lug around one more item plus a few more cables. So I talked to Mike and he recommended the DSI because of its sensitivity to fainter stars. I bought it off of him for a pretty good price and immediately began to work on re-configuring my astrophotgraphy setup.
I had to first get my CG5-GT (ASGT) mount to communicate with my laptop via the RS232 cable and ASCOM platform (many astro programs require ASCOM in order to communicate with the ASGT mount). I then loaded a free program called PHD Guiding which was able to communicate with the DSI and my mount. A few clicks of the mouse a bit of DSI focussing and a few more clicks and I was on my way. I was surprised at how easy autoguiding was to get running after getting the initial communication bugs worked out.
Last night at Binbrook I lugged my entire setup out and after my alignment, balancing, and focusing I started the autoguiding and the rest was pretty easy. WHile I was collecting the frames I could walk around and enjoy the views through the other scopes and actually have real conversations.
I tried a few frames on M27 and since this is my first real attempt, the tracking is not yet perfect but still better than when I did it manually. There are some settings in PHD guiding that I probably should play with in order to get better results
M27 Dumbell Nebula
Canon 300D with C6S-GT and f6.3 focal reducer
3 x 5 minutes autoguided with PHD Guiding and DSI-C on the 80mm APO
2 dark frames
Stacking in Deep Sky Stacker and processed in PS
After some instigation by Don, we all decided that the alternate site had a hope of providing us clear skies. Of course, with the new GWS, the chance for actual clear skies was slim. However, a big enough scope can see through clouds.... and a dob can slew faster than a goto.
I was the first to arrive, at about 9:05 pm, and Kerry pulled in before i had a chance to get out of the car. I selected a firm surface for the GWS and began assembling it. I chose the path just beyond the parking lot.
I put the top half on rotated 120 degrees but had it right 2 minutes later, for a setup time of 9 minutes from car to view. I aligned the finderscope, using the moon, and got it bang-on. I got a nice view of Venus as it was setting. A sharp crescent it was, even though it was directly behind a tree branch. A big enough scope can see through trees... ;)
The finder works great on anything that has bright stars nearby. M57 came in without any fuss whatsoever. It was quite easy to see M57 even with direct vision. I think i might benefit from a right angle finder scope for the GWS,
to help where the sky does not have bright enough stars for me to see them without help. Perhaps an 8 or 12-inch finderscope would do. ;) (Actually, i think a 3 inch at 6x power would be fine).
I was able to hold my camera at the eyepiece and get a few shots of the moon by hand, and was impressed it could pick things up and the auto focus could focus on the moon. I borrowed Don's camera holder and put my Dimage Xt onto it. It weighed down the GWS but i eventually remembered there's an adjustable clutch which was able to counteract the weight. I think a super-magnet would help too.
I was able to get 4 second time exposures of Jupiter and the moon. Then i tried zooming in... I was able to get the camera to focus on Jupiter, but at 3x zoom looking into the eyepiece things move about 1.5 Jupiter diameters in 4 seconds. Once you know which way to go, adjusting a dob to keep things in view is easy. Guiding to keep them stationary is not possible though.
I tried one flash shot, after warning all within earshot to close their eyes. I got a sharp shot of Jupiter, but the moons don't show in a 1/1000 second exposure. Here it is. You can even see some bands on it. ( i wish i knew how to link jupiter_1ms.jpg here. it's uploaded already)
We brought in M13 and i switched to a 10 mm eyepiece to get a 180x magnification. Even with that magnification it was about 1/3 of the field of view and pretty bright. That's when the collimation issue started showing up though. It turned out that the collimation was a bit off, and we all agreed that steps should be taken. I thought the gentle bump it got when I put it down last Thursday might have thrown off the collimation but I now think that a truss Dob can be out in several different ways, and what I need is a rigorous collimation procedure at setup time.
First, the secondary mirror might not be directly on the axis of the primary and the view through the eyepiece might not go to the center of the primary, as viewed in the secondary. These depend more on the length of the struts and the selection of which strut to use in each position than anything else. I plan to mark them. Unfortunately it was pretty dark (even with the Hamilton skyglow bouncing off the clouds) by the time I wanted to collimate, and that made it kind of impractical.
Clouds blew in and blocked our view of the area around Linear, and although i waited about 20 minutes for them to clear, they were followed by high clouds that made spotting comets impractical.
I packed up at about midnight, and zipped home, with enough energy to spare that I can do it again. I plan to try assembling the scope a few times on my porch and checking how the collimation changes. I am keen to see through all manner of eyepieces and at high magnification, once things get straightened out.
A group of us took advantage of a late day break in the clouds to head out to Binbrook for some observing just as the initial sliver of the new moon was just dipping below the horizon.
Tim and Therese were out visiting after a day running around Waterloo and then dinner with Mike. Tim didn't bring any equipment, but he was providing sage guidance to Therese about the pros and cons of the various equipment that was set up. I quickly set up my binoculars and we were able to observe several of Jupiter's moons. Tim and I could only make 2, but Therese's keen eyes were able to resolve one of the points into 2 distinct moons (later confirmed in the scopes). With her sharp eyes, she's going to make a great observer.
I didn't bring along any of my little green friends from Fri night at the Parks Canada Discovery Centre, but Jackie was busy entertaining the local furry residents. The raccoons housed in a tree near our observing site appeared to be fascinated by her shiny cases and camera. One was even bold enough to come right to her feet. Judging by the way she jumped, I got the distinct impression that Jackie wasn't quite as enamoured with the raccoons as they were with her. Being the shy wallflower that she is, she didn't want to be the center of attention for the local fauna so relocated a little further away, into the midst and the safety of other observers. Dispite the disruptions of the animals, she's a real trooper and returned to trying out her new XTi on her great little 80mm APO. We also had a great serenade by the coyotes for a little while, but they chose not to venture quite as closely.
Kerry meanwhile was busy snapping away at Comet Linear. It looked like she was able to get quite a few good shots. They'll be something to look forward to once she gets them posted. She also noted a couple of smaller NGC galaxies in the area. I think she also managed to grab a few Messiers amongst all the shots she took. She was well set up with her C6, 80mm APO and Canon 300D.
After struggling with getting my Mak set up, I was finally able to start doing some observing. With Tim and Therese, I initially spent my time looking at some more conventional objects like Jupiter, M57 and a few other clusters. Later, thanks to coordinates provided by Kerry and after several re-alignment attempts, I was able to get Linear into view. A lot larger in the 7" f/15 Mak than had been observed Fri night with the 100mm f/5 richfield, but alas still no observable tail. As midnight approached, I tried for Neptune and Uranus. Neptune never resolved into a disk, but its blue-green colour was evident. Regrettably Uranus was obstructed by trees East from our location.
After granting us a few good hours of observing, the weather gods decided it was time to bring the clouds back shortly after midnight. We were fortunate to have our dew shields with us as well since some dew was beginning to form. Those that had been imaging switched over to viewing to take in a few more objects before we were forced to leave for the night. Finally by around 1am we packed up and headed off to pleasant dreams of a fine night observing under the great skies of the Binbrook Conservation Area.
Update By KerryLH :
I had a real nice time... I got to see Neptune for the first time thanks to Don. It was funny how the racoons were so intersted in Jackie and her equipment; I guess they like shiny new things just like astronomers. Anyway my main goal was to capture comet Linear. After finding the RA and Dec coordinates on Carte du Ciel (free astro software) I plugged it into the keypad of my CG5-GT mount and several seconds later there it was in the middle of the eyepiece on my 80mm scope. I managed to take several images which I stacked manually in Photoshop. I'll try a re-process of it later to get rid of the noise. Since the comet was touring through a cluster of galaxies I ended up capturing NGC5689 and NGC5676(in the widefield shot). You can sort of make out NGC5689 to the right of the comet. It looks like a small edge on spiral.
Comet VZ13 Linear
M101 second attempt
UPDATE by Jackie
I was very excited to get out to Binbrook Sunday night with my new Canon Digital SLR XTi and apo scope. The sky was beautiful at dusk and I captured Venus, working on my focusing:
My first Widefield view was of Jupiter and the constellation Scorpius, still working on the focusing (a little post-processing added the constellation lines):
Binbrook, Canon XTi 55mm @F/2.8 ISO 1600, 1 sec (unfocused)
I love the camera! I have bought a T-adapter so I can take close-up shots through the telescope. Watch me now!
Despite early technical problems with the theatre projectors (which we'll blame on Friday 13th) part one of the two evening series "Absolute Beginner's Guide to Astronomy" went off marvellously. Held at the Parks Canada Discovery Centre, many families took advantage of the opportunity to get first hand knowledge about selecting equipment and finding resources available to today's amateur astronomer.
While Gail Muller manned the welcome desk (and even signed up a new member - welcome to the Club, Bill!), Tim Philp, Glenn Muller, and Mike Spicer got the session rolling with three short but informative AV presentations.
Outside, many HAA member had set up a wide variety of equipment, for both solar and dark sky viewing, and with the parking lot lights extinguished the guests were able to compare scopes and learn about several of the brighter celestial showpieces.
Jan, a videographer from Cable 14, collected footage for a future airing. He said they got a lot of mileage out of the last segment about the Club, and will let us know when this segment will air - stay tuned!
I heard nothing but positive comments and enthusiastic conversation, all evening, and credit for that goes to Darla Campbell of the PCDC, and the many HAA members who volunteered their time to make the evening so enjoyable.
Thank you all!
UPDATE: Images by Tim Harpur:
We had Sun Worshippers
and those that preferred the dark
Don was the first to spot Venus (and the invading horde)
WHY A SUDDEN DOWNPOUR THURSDAY EVENING?
My hopes of going to Binbrook for more comet images were dashed with the sudden downpour at 7 pm. A little while later Steve Germann knocked at the door to show me his new 16" Lightbridge dob. He had picked it up at Khan's at 7 pm and wanted some First Light.
A 16" Lightbridge is a big scope. You have to be 6' tall to see into the eyepiece when looking at things overhead. Still, it's marvellously compact and easy to set up:
It fits into a VW bug:
One guy can put it all together: .
Looking through the scope was fun.
It moved smoothly; it was well-collimated; the dual-speed focuser was very smooth through its 35mm of focus travel. The scope gave very good views of Jupiter through the light clouds:
Watch out! Steve will be driving to Binbrook on every available clear night from now until Starfest! Here's your chance to see through a very nice 16" dob.
A STUNNING NIGHT AT BINBROOK 11 JULY
The cold front that threatened rain but did not deliver, provided us with an outstanding opportunity to observe/image at Binbrook Wednesday night. Transparency was so good you could see many deep sky objects with the naked eye and the Milky Way glittered from horizon to zenith!
I didn't notice the clouds had disappeared until 11:30 pm. Rushing out to Binbrook with Jackie Fulton, I set up for imaging and was polar aligned by midnight for two glorious hours of imaging through an 80mm apo refractor. Here's the globular cluster M22 (a single one minute shot with the Digital Rebel):
Jackie wanted me to collect images of some of the nebulae she was looking at through binoculars. Here is a one minute exposure of the Trifid Nebula in Sagittarius:
Of course, the images here have been reduced to 450 pixels wide and further reduced to JPG format. The air was so transparent that it was possible to get an image of globular M4 near Antares, showing the faint globular NGC 6144 as well:
Jackie spotted 5 bright meteors that passed through the Summer Triangle overhead (all I saw were 8 or 9 very large jet planes - what's that all about?). We were not able to spot the little Comet Linear, but I ended the night by taking some passable shots of galaxy M51:
Tomorrow night should be another great opportunity for some kewl observing at Binbrook. We had over 20 clear nights in each of May and June this year; July is also looking good, so I don't want complaints you didn't get in much summer observing, once the snow flies. Other astro-groups get together to eat hamburgers or to watch space movies... clear nights are your chance to show that Hamilton Amateur Astronomers is the area's MOST ACTIVE ASTRONOMY CLUB!
MONDAY NIGHT AT BINBROOK, 9 July '07
With all the heat and a prediction of thunderstorms Monday, it seemed better to be working indoors. I spent some evening hours with our HAA Publicity Director making up a 41 page application in the 2007 Astronomy Magazine astro-club contest.
Peeking out at 11:30 pm I was surprised to see very clear skies and Jupiter hanging to the south, although it was still 28C degrees. Stopping work, we piled into the car and drove out to Binbrook to collect images piggyback on the TAL mount. While it was clear in Hamilton, there was hazy cloud passing Binbrook when we arrived. I decided to try an hour's imaging before fog and dew overwhelmed the camera, and colected some interesting shots like this one of Serpens rising aboue the E horizon:
Dew never arrived. The camera took mostly 30 second exposures while Jackie observed with her Celestron binoculars. We saw heat lightning and Jackie spotted a couple of meteors before we left at 1:30 a.m. Like I always say, you have to be prepared to get out there when the opportune clear skies are available (especially in summer).
PERFECT WEATHER FOR 07-07-07 AT BINBROOK
"... and gentlemen in England now abed, will think themselves accursed they were not here..." runs the great speech from Henry V. We happy few who were out at Binbrook had a spectacular treat: perfect weather, very few bugs, sputtering meteors, several bright planets and a wonderful southern sky with a brilliant milky way... and no clouds.
I opened the park at sunset and was set up, ready to observe with the 80mm apo on a TAL mount or image with the digital rebel, by 9:15 pm. Jackie did her alignment thing and started to observe the shadow transit of Ganymede by 9:25. Tim Philp and his friend Therese pulled in a minute later with his 8" dob ready to go in a trice; Steve's VW climbed the hill and disgorged a full binocular observing station, several green lasers and a Meade motor-driven reflector. A time-exposure can make darkness seem like daylight:
Dusk brought out Venus, then Jupiter, then Saturn as the sky darkened. Most were steadily watching the shadow of Ganymede complete its transit (seemed to be about 10 minutes faster than Starry Night showed it), with the 4 Jovian moons clustered to one side of the planet. For Jackie, who missed last night's shadow transit of Europa, Ganymede's shadow was both exiting to watch and a rare event.
Once the sky became dark, imaging started in earnest, with focus on Scorpius and Sagittarius. Tim and Therese toured several Messier objects with the push-pull scope, falling behind Jackie and Steve's tally using the go-to and her wonderful little apo. The sky was clear though the seeing was only fair. Therese learned to identify the Teapot, here's a much-reduced image:
To really appreciate how the Milky Way looked, you'd have to turn your gaze higher to see it spreading up from the Teapot, through Scutum and Aquila... like this:
I was more satisfied with the Nikon 50mm F/1.8 lens I used tonight, than with last night's Soligor lens. Star images showed no coma in the larger-sized image which I will post on my astro-gallery.
If you looked way up, the Milky Way ran right through Cygnus and showed a little colour overhead (a rarity for the Hamilton area). Tim took his friend on a tour of M57 and several globular clusters through the Milky Way, using a green laser as his finder (and it worked like a charm). I took just a small piece of the overhead sky shots, to show how beautiful Lyra looked. M57 is visible (between the yellow dashes), and Epsilon Lyrae is well separated (between the blue dashes):
Tim and Therese left at midnight but Jackie, Steve and I stayed for quite a while longer - several meteors including one at least mag minus 3 that swept slowly from the NE into Aquila, sputtering as it went. We listened for a sonic boom, but I didn't hear anything as loud as when the raccoon fell into a garbage bin (apparently they can't get out).
As the last quarter Moon rose over the lake, Steve and I imaged it and Jackie looked through a 5" scope and a set of big binoculars (she loves that terminator). The temperature had fallen below 20 degrees when we finally packed up about 1:30 am.
A great night and to our friends who didn't come out, take advantage of what comes by! November is only 110 days away and you'll look back fondly on warm, clear summer nights!
A PERFECT FRIDAY NIGHT AT BINBROOK, 6 JULY
I could not pass up the opportunity to try some wide-field imaging Friday evening at Binbrook. The sky seemed unusually clear with some high cloud and Jackie said she wanted to observe with her perfect little apo scope, so I had company for the session. She left for Binbrook before I did but somehow arrived about 5 minutes after me (go figure).
I set up a TAL clock drive mount with a SkyWatcherPro 80ED and had my scope polar aligned when Jackie pulled up. As she set up her go-to scope (aligned on the first try), I snapped some exposures of Venus settling toward the horizon over the lake, nestled between Saturn on the right and Regulus on the left:
It was simply a beautiful evening, perfect temperature, few bugs, a cooling breeze and even a couple of racoons in the nearby tree, watching with their bright green eyes. Of course July evenings are for imaging Sagittarius and Scorpius. We had the added benefit of Jupiter with a transit of Europa - Jackie spent most of her time watching for the moon's shadow, but it was so far behind the moon that it didn't arrive. TOMORROW we will set up at dusk to see the GIANT shadow of Ganymede on Jupiter (shadow transit ends at 10 pm). Imaging Sagittarius was my goal, let me know what you think of this much-reduced version:
And of course, capturing just about all of Scorpius and its tail (also much reduced to fit in this blog):
With her marvellous 5mm eyepiece Jackie captured excellent close-ups of M4, M22 and M20 and some dazzling views of the cloud banding on Jupiter. As we left Binbrook, the last quarter Moon was rising through the trees. I took a few images of it from home while downloading the above images:
If tomorrow is as good as tonight, we should have one really excellent outing. Bring your binoviewers! Remember, Tim Philp is coming out tomorrow with some (not all) of his astronomical equipment. It'll be a night to remember.
Here's the positions of Venus and Saturn, as they appeared at Thorpe Park in Burlington, ON, just around the corner from my place. Venus is the bright one below; Saturn is the dim one above. Note the change of positions from one night to the next.
June 30, 2007 10:13 pm:
July 1, 2007 10:12 pm:
I joined the Mullers for some observing last night at their "GEM'n I Dob-servatory". What a nice night of stargazing and good conversation! I really enjoy observing with Glenn and Gail. Glenn always has a line up of pretty interesting objects to look at. Since the moon was up and very bright we spent some time looking mainly at brighter objects. We started out by observing Venus and Saturn in the same eyepiece of their 6in Dob. Afterwards we turned the scope south to Jupiter. It was absolutely stunning in their Pentax EP. I have never seen so many bands on this planet (surprising since it was so windy). The moon was nice but because it was almost full it lacked in interesting features but we still enjoyed observing many of the craters. The night ended with some observing of really pretty doubles in or near Lyra... oh of course we took a peek at the Ring nebula. All this while there was a nice fireworks display across the street.
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