Saturday, June 11, 2011

recorded supernova (Blue Mountains)

Travelled to the CAO with the Horvatins. They picked me up on time at my place. Trevor drove all the way. Tony rode shotgun for the first part of the trip. We stopped for a nice dinner in Orangeville. Noted that it rained while we were inside. I took the shotgun seat for the rest of the trip.

I was hoping the clouds would ease off later in the evening. I wanted to view and record the supernova in Messier 51 (M51). I also wanted to try recording an International Space Station flyover (although I didn't have the times noted anywhere)... I also wanted to try broadcasting on the Night Skies Network (NSN). The radar images were looking promising. A tight, thin band was heading off to the east.

Prepared the telescopes in the Geoff Brown Observatory. Connected everything this time to the regular observatory Dell laptop: the mount to the serial port (controlled by TheSky6, of course); the MallinCam Hyper Color composite video feed to the AVerMedia PCMCIA card; and the MallinCam auxiliary control cable to the computer (via my personal USB-to-serial adapter).
Instrument: Tele Vue 101 refractor
Mount: Paramount ME
Method: Go To
Fri 10 Jun 2011, 11:18 PM. Fired up the Sony digital voice recorder. The skies were starting to clear.

This evening was experimental and mostly an attempt at video astronomy. I had the MallinCam was installed on the Tele Vue 101 refractor. I was basically ready to go. I considered using the Moon to focus.

Shut off the dehumidifier. Released the top roof bolts. Retracted the roof (motor worked fine). Slightly different sounds with the new wheels... Already had power to the mount and accessories and MallinCam.

Saw clouds off in the distance. As the roof drew back I could see the Moon was behind some scattered clouds. But it was looking good.

Did a link-up of TheSky6 software to the Paramount ME. It went to the Home position. Noticed the Sony was in VOX (er, VOR) mode. After homing, I sent the 'scope to the Moon. Oops. Forgot to removed the dust cap off the TV... Realised that without the LCD monitor in the observatory connected to the MallinCam, I would have to focus by running back and forth to the computer and 'scope focuser. Used the Motion Controls dialog to nudge the mount to the Moon. There was a slight alignment issue... it was close but still... A flip-mirror would have been handy.

The sky was opening up, particularly to the north.

Used the MallinCam Control software. Already configured to COM7. It was working OK.

Continued aligning. It was not quite as far away as I initially thought. Still a bit out of focus.

Saw clouds going by in the camera view. It completely dimmed out the Moon at times. Ah. Perhaps that was why I was having at hard time finding and centring on it.

11:30 PM. Used the voice recorder Divide feature to get a time stamp. The focus was getting better. Did a bit more.

Decided to rotate the camera about 180° to simulate the view in TS6.

MallinCam Hyper Color. Moon settings. North is down; east is left.

Reached decent focus on the Moon. Did a little video recording (on flickr, 1:20 minutes) on the Moon. Nudged the 'scope a little bit. Noticed a big crater, in the centre of the Moon, not far from the terminator (Copernicus).

Decided to pop over to Saturn for a moment. A short slew...

MallinCam Hyper Color. Planet settings. North is down; east is left.

Changed the MallinCam settings to planetary. Noticed that selecting a preset clears the text settings. Which is OK, I guess... Changed the Zoom level to 8. I could see the rings. Still, it was faint. Changed exposure time from 1/6000 to 1/1000 exposure. Did a little recording. The planet image was very small, without a Barlow.

Went to Messier 51 (M51), the Whirlpool, 23 million light-years away.

Turned on the MallinCam integration settings to 7x. Bumped up the Zoom level to 5. Coaxed out some more detail. Increased the manual AGC setting from 4 to 5. The focus looked pretty good. I kept increasing the gain. The pop-up note said that many set it to the maximum, 8, for DSO objects. Settled on 6. Played with the White Balance settings.

Saw a satellite go through the field.

Set White Balance to off.

It occurred to me to check if the Dell had a built-in microphone. If it did, I could do voice-overs in an Night Skies Network broadcast. Initially, it didn't seem to work. I found an "internal mic" option switched off. Turned it on. All good.

I reviewed my MCC Advanced tab settings.
  • AGC, manual: 6
  • White Balance, manual: off
  • Zoom: 5
Saved my settings to a file and closed everything down, i.e. AVerMedia software, TS6, all other web pages except NSN, etc. Logged into NSN.

Set my Facebook status. Composed an email to the RASC Toronto Centre Yahoo!Group.

It looks like it was working! I saw one visitor pop in... Then two more!

Then. Suddenly. Nothing. Oh great. Kablewy! Our internet access went down. WTF?!

I did some quick PING tests. Tested with the Dell and ASUS computers. Done. Frickin' crap service. Useless. What a useless company. I rebooted everything. No joy.

Considered changing the camera's focus but then decided I shouldn't mess with it. Did another brief recording of M51. Fired up MCC. Loaded my M51 configuration preset file. Played with a couple of settings but something went wrong. I rebooted the camera.

Continued to experiment. Set the Gamma to 1 which darkened the sky. AGC manual at 5. I set the Red to 6 and the Blue to 5. Zoom was fairly high. Decent looking image.

Went to the CAO house to reboot the LAN. Tested it on the kitchen hard-wired computer. No joy. Internet did not come back up. I was steamed. Realised I could not check ISS flyover times!

Stopped video recording.

Set the MCHC integration to 14. Wow!

Sat 12 Jun, 12:27 AM. Started to record again at the higher integration. Gamma at 1 still. Dropped the gain from 5 to 4. White balance, manual, red 4, blue 4. Looked quite good.

MallinCam Hyper Color. Deep Sky Object settings (custom). North is down; east is left.

Hover over or point to the image below. Markers will show the position of the supernova.

Tried recording M51 again (flickr, 1:30 minutes).

Reviewed the MallinCam notes Tony and I worked on for DSO targets. Sense up, 128x. AGC vs. ELC. Gain set to manual but my notes don't say anything explicitly about the red or blue. White balance in ATW (for bright) or manual (for dim).

Just noticed something on one of the videos, a streak, a satellite.

Well, that was fun. But frustrating. Grrr. No internet. It struck me as very odd that the service went down just as I started the broadcast. 30 seconds of NSN?! Damn it! So irritating.

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