Wednesday, April 22, 2015

quick processing

Pushed all the lights and darks through DSS. And then some minor (quick) processing in Ps. About 30 light and dark frames.

Interesting. Down to mag 9-10.


Ha ha. I caught Messier 67 as well!

Lovely orange X Cancri below-right of Jupiter. Not a hot pixel!

And then FZ Cnc. Hot fuzz.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

fun at the Forks

Real quick processing of shots from tonight. All shot with Canon 40D, kit 18-55 lens at 35, daylight white balance, raw format, custom barn door tracker on tripod. Focused with EOS Utility and Y-mask.

Slight editing in DPP.

First, Orion setting. ISO 1600, f/4.5, 30 seconds.

Then Cancer with Jupiter near the Beehive. ISO 800, f/5.6, 45 seconds.

Shot 20 subs and 20 darks for the latter so will have a go at stacking.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

repaired Nicole's old booster

Repaired Nicole's old booster pack. Picked up a new SLA from A1. 

The barnacle there actually cracked a joke... Wow. 

Found some big power connectors too! Cheap.

Now Nicole has two power tanks!

Friday, April 03, 2015

torn down Earth and Moon

I removed the Earth and Moon element from the blog. It appeared to create a weakness on the Android platform. I will elevate the alternate Moon phase widget...

Thursday, April 02, 2015

designed new case

Look my first 3D printing lesson at the Toronto Public Library.

We started with Sculptris. Quickly we moved into 123D. James gave a demo of OpenSCAD. Fun!

I worked on the new case...

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

installed SkySafari

Procured SkySafari Plus 1.8.5 for the Android tablet (first official tablet app purchase). No joke.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

found Y-mask

Found my Y-mask kit. Packed away. Found a small box I can transport it in. Will need to update the packing list again...

do not centre

Confirmed. I will need to be mindful of NCP in the Celestron finder scope with the barn door tracker.

The specs of the finder are 6 x 30 with a 7° field as inscribed on the device.

So I'll need a chart, or software, or an app, to accurately show it. And I will need to eye-ball the relative distance from centre. Bearing in mind that the cross-hairs are off a little.

As well, I need to figure out a way to ensure the scope itself is parallel to the hinge.

I'm pretty sure I'm seeing trailing arcs in last night's 3 minute images...

Saturday, March 28, 2015

more barn door tests (Richmond Hill)

"Second light" for the barn door tracker. So to get more data and experience. I also wanted people to see it in action. Another objective was to gauge portability. I hauled it about the subway.

Made all kinds of mistakes. Again!

Set up beside Nicole inside The Ellipse of the David Dunlap Observatory. Near Chris V. Chatted with various members, including Peter, Shawn, Iosif, Allard, Chris J.

Like Tuesday, Mamiya tripod with the Manfrotto hex adapter. Custom barn door tracker and control unit (and 9v battery)! Sirui ball head with Arca-style plate. Polar alignment with Celestron finder scope. Mounted the 40D and 18-55 kit lens. Zoomed out. Already on Custom Settings 1. Attached the intervalometer. Bulb mode.

9:34. Took first test shot. Manually focused on Sirius.

9:39. Oh yeah, the bottom knob. Pivoted the base of the ball head. Ha. I was able to get a good angle this time. First good shot.

30 seconds, f/7.1, ISO 1600. Lens at 55mm. OK. Changed the camera settings. Ready for long exposures.

9:40. Oops. Forgot to turn on the drive!

180 seconds, f/8.0, ISO 100. Duh. Turned on the motor. There's was a bit of slop in the mount. Tightened the tracker on the tripod hex plate.

180 seconds, f/8.0, ISO 100. Jitter. Huh? Turned off the drive to investigate. Oops. Discovered the bent rod was touching one of the tripod knobs. Stiff rods? Stiff knobs? Oh my. 

Did a few more test shots. Forgot to turn the drive on. Again! Tried once more. Sped up the drive slightly. Camera shutdown. Battery issue again! Gah. I suddenly realised I had forgotten to install the battery grip! Put in another battery. No response. Damn. Already too cold. -6°C Nicole had predicted. Put the remaining batteries in my pants pockets.

10:15. Reframed.

180 seconds, f/8.0, ISO 100. Still slightly streaked. We all thought the focus off a bit? Steve loaned me his little Kendrick Bahtinov. Suddenly realised I had not brought my Y-mask. Huh. If I'm not bringing a computer (to pack light) I better bring at least the mask...

180 seconds, f/8.0, ISO 100. Better! Better focus. Still trailing. Maybe I need to re-evaluate the polar alignment. Oh. Quite far off. Adjusted, i.e. centred.

180 seconds, f/8.0, ISO 100. Damn plane. Hey! Longer trails. OK. Polar alignment is becoming a factor. Will need to research this...

Lessons learned:
  • Don't forget to turn it on. That's why I put the red LED in it! 
  • Use a focusing mask. Or focusing software.
  • Examine first test shots for focus.
  • Pivot the ball head. Turn it to get the notch in the right spot.
  • Don't forget to warm batteries.
  • Don't forget to attach the battery grip. 
  • At long focal lengths and long exposures, will need better polar alignment. 
  • And don't forget to turn it on.
Fun. Quick pack-up.

recognised member photo

Learned that one of Manuel's recent Jupiter images was accept in the SkyNews Photo of the Week. We congratulated him at the DDO Members Night. He's come a long way. I noticed however that he and Ida arrived after that acknowledgement. Too bad they missed the group acknowledgement.

fun members meeting

The Members Night meeting at the DDO was really fun.

On arriving in the parking lot, Peter met with the member returning the orange C8. I helped lug the tripod (the cheap part) to the truck.

On arriving the lobby of the admin building, we met a crowd. They were looking at Mélanie and Emma's science fair poster on exoplanets and congratulating them on their gold medal win! Fantastic.

To a packed house, Stu started off the evening programme outlining the tips-and-tricks theme.

He shared Manuel's Jupiter image.

Paul M. acknowledged the girls again. Well done.

He showed off the new telescope loan programme collapsible 5-inch Dobsonian. New ready for use! Excellent.

Then he handed over the reins to Richard Blackman. I enjoyed his DIY themed presentation. I liked how he emphasised that is it not just about saving money. I also like how he framed projects, at levels. "Can you build a robot?"

Stu then asked me to show-and-tell my recently completed barn door tracker. I also showed the new lithium car booster battery.

Steve showed his adjustable telescope chair. He and another member are going to coordinate a group-buy-and-build project.

Chris talked about the Sky-Fi product and offered to demonstrate it. He also showed the clever smartphone adjustable camera bracket with eyepiece. Great for public events.

A member shared that they had found a red light app for their smartphone, in lieu of having a red flashlight.

Another member shared they have found very inexpensive LED dimmer controls on eBay that would operate as dew heater controllers.

Allard briefly showed his custom smartphone app that would show position information, i.e. what it was aiming at.

George's proudly showed us his heated sweater, an alternative to a battery-powered coat.

Took notes on the new tablet directly in Evernote. Joy.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

long exposure check

Quick upload of one of the best shots from last night. Orion and Lepus region. From Bayview Village Park.

Canon 40D, 18-55mm lens at 55, intervalometer, bulb, 121 seconds, ISO 100, f/5.6, daylight white balance, RAW, manually focused. Tripod mount, custom barn door tracker, Sinui ball head.

Minor processing in DPP. Tungsten, contrast bump, shadow -1, sharpess +1.

heard from Midland

Heard from the Midland company in Kansas City. They received our faulty weather radio. They are beginning their evaluation to determine if it can be repaired or replaced. I was intrigued planned rapid response. Looking forward to their report. Perhaps we'll have a working radio for the spring!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

tested barn door (Toronto)

After helping his wife with her car, Peter and I arrived at the Bayview Village Park. It was around 7:45. Maybe later. It was dark. I helped him carry gear into the baseball field.

Said hello to Stu, Guy, Charline N, Charline X, Maia, George, et al. Chatted with a gentleman about tracking platforms. Interesting. A lot of cameras. At least two iOptron trackers.

Set up my "new" barn door tracker. First light for the thing! Finally. Finished it back in early February but the very cold weather kept discouraging me. It was also a bit more interesting to try it with fellow keeners around...

Mamiya tripod with hex adapter. Barn door tracker and control unit (with on-board 9v battery)! Sirui ball head. Polar aligned! Mounted the camera and kit lens. Switched to Custom Settings 1. Attached the intervalometer. Bulb mode.

Stu loaned me a red flashlight; Charline loaned me her iPhone. Calibrated the tracker with the iOS stopwatch. 1 minute on the big gear. It occurred to me it was turning the wrong way, drawing the top board in. Oops. Flicked the N/S switch!

Zoomed out with the lens—to 55mm. Tried to focus on the Moon.

8:30 PM. Switched to Sirius for focusing.

2 seconds at f/5.6. ISO 1600.

8:32. Aimed toward Orion. Ugh. Couldn't get the camera at the angle I wanted. The camera body was very close to the top board, colliding with it at certain angles.

5 seconds at f/5.6. ISO 1600.

8:36. Peter spotted them. Dual satellites overhead moving south.

From 8:55 to 9:13 I took gradually longer and longer exposures. I also dropped the ISO as I went along.

Got to 120 seconds at f/5.6 using ISO 100! Ha. The images together turned into a mini-time-lapse.

I looked closely at the trailing. I sped up the tracking (clockwise) slightly to dial-out the streaking. And the camera battery died! Gah.

9:17. Installed the new battery but it immediately reported low. Dang. And I lost my camera settings, of course.

From 9:24 to 9:36 I shot 180 second exposures! Sped up the tracker some more. But I had lost focus! While changing the battery I had bumped the lens. So I tried to get back to good focus...

Looked closely at the iOptron units. There's a spacer under the ball head. It's about 1 cm thick. Of course, the whole device is small. Less chance for camera body collisions...

181 seconds, f/6.3, ISO 100. Wow.

Peter was getting cold. I tried to squeeze in some more shots but all my batteries were cold and not performing. It was taking too long to regain focus. So I started wrapping up.

Helped Charline X with the Little Dipper. Looked at Jupiter at high power through a little refractor. Purple fringing. All four moons visible. Looked at Joe's SCT imaging set-up as he photographed the Moon. I was intrigued by the tablet control of the Canon! Did he say free? Looked at the comet through Maia's Dob. Well done, tagging it in the city. A faint smudge with a bright centre. Had a could of looks in the new loan programme's mini-collapsible Dob. Nice views (with a good eyepiece).

No humidity. I was warm enough in my winter coat. Hiking boots were OK. Hands were cold, primarily from constantly removing my gloves.

Fun night! Learned a lot. It was good seeing some friends again. Stu asked if I might bring on the custom tracker to the DDO show-n-tell night. OK.

I was very happy with the tracker. Overall, it worked well. Set the direction correctly. The polar alignment looks good. Not too surprised with that. Thanks to Peter I was able to transport gear easily but it looks like the tracker and camera will fit in a duffel bag and with the tripod on my back I can get anywhere.

Lessons learned...
  • Don't raise the tripod to its full height. It was too high to operate in a convenient way. It was impossible to look through the view finder.
  • Keep batteries warm. For cold conditions.
  • Use the grip! Then two batteries can drive the camera.
  • Consider a larger, external screen for focusing!
  • Raise and/or move the ball head. To avoid collisions.

Learned Iosif was there! Dang!