Tuesday, January 22, 2013

simulated with MaxIm

The plan tonight was to meet up at Manuel's, have a bite to eat, and then tackle a few varied tasks.

He had a few objectives to the evening: collimate the 9-1/4 inch telescope; "explore" the MaxIm DL software; make sure focusing worked with the Moonlite focuser (and he said, using the FocusMax software); test guiding; and then image Jupiter and M45. Not too much! For a Tuesday night.

I just wanted to do some "warm room" MaxIm DL work. Get it up and running. Make sure it talked to the hardware. Maybe run through some tutorials. And if we had time, try imaging.

He was hoping it was going to clear. During the afternoon, he said "The Sun is coming." I wasn't convinced we were going to receive good skies. The Clear Sky Chart was predicting 40% cloud cover to 10:00 PM, dropping to 30%. Transparency was "too cloudy" to predict. But the seeing was to be average, 3 out of 5. Environment Canada was more pessimistic: mainly cloudy with a 30% change of flurries. The wind would be strong: 20 klicks, gusting to 40, and then becoming light. That would make for -23 degrees with the wind chill. I packed my woolies.

It was clear around Taurus as I stepped off the 76 bus and walked the block to his place. But clouds threatened from the north and west. Where's the roll-off roof when you need it.

Spotted the minivan out front. Looked like he made it OK despite the bad traffic. I was worried I'd be early. Clearly he had been home for a while. And had already eaten. He microwaved a few slices of warm pizza for me. Afterwards, we headed down to the man cave.

I had him install the software while I started perusing the hefty coiled user guide. I mentioned the license agreement. One computer at a time. I discussed the update license arrangement, the annual subscription. He immediately responded, "Oh, I'm not gonna do that!" I urged him to keep an open mind and make a final decision in 11 months.

After he checked the skies and found that we were completely clouded out, I suggested we run through the tutorials. We simulated setting up and then activating cameras, turning on cooling, focusing, and guiding. Neat. Pretty good tutorials. I only found one mistake in the instructions. We talked about the imaging run steps. We played a bit with the integrated planetarium. A little strange but we figured it out.

Manuel pulled out the focuser at one point. And showed me the 6.3 focal reducer I didn't know he had.

We talked about field sizes. I often wondered if he has a good sense of the field of view he's working with. I suggested he set this up in MaxIm. 'Cause Stellarium's is kinda kooky. We added some of the particulars, after checking the focal lengths and apertures of all his OTAs and the pixel information of the cameras. I duplicated some entries and then changed the focal length to simulate the f/6.3 FR. Then I showed him that he'd be only getting the centre of the Andromeda galaxy if he used the 9-1/4 big gun. Even with the focal reducer, he was still seeing only 20% to 40% of the galaxy. I think he was surprised.

The only way to capture it would be to do a tiled mosaic. He perked up. That'd be cool, he inferred. Yeah. And hard! But at least MaxIm could do the plate solves...

I wanted to hook up some hardware, check cables, do more trials, but he wasn't interested. He thought it best to do it under the stars. Oh boy. That said, it was getting late. On a school night.

We concluded the evening discussing FocusMax. He wondered where it would fit in. I explained that if MaxIm DL's features were robust, good, easy to use, maybe he wouldn't need to use FocusMax. Alternatively, they might work well together. But if MaxIm could do the job well, I'd personally tend to a simpler solution. Less things to break. Still, it would require some research.

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