Sunday, August 10, 2014

experiment night (Blue Mountains)

Nothing else to do with a full Moon and clear skies.

Last night had been so much fun, for me. Some good observing with good conditions. Eyes working good. Stomach not uncomfortable. Back on the horse again.

Tonight though, I wanted to get some education happenin'. Sort out things. Practice. Conduct trials. In particular, I thought I would get some more seat time with Backyard EOS. I had barely touched the software. I was interested in setting up imaging runs. Lights, darks, etc. And I wanted to get more practice with focusing. So I headed to the Geoff Brown Observatory after dinner and dishes.

As I listened to the Paramount slew, something occurred to me. Were the counterweights in the correct position? I recalled Ian W changing one a while back, I think when we had the Tele Vue off...  Did it ever get put back? Made a note to check the balance.

8:43 PM, Saturday 9 August 2014. It felt cold out on the observation floor! I checked the weather conditions. The Davis reported the wind was still from the east with a 10-minute average of 6.4 km/h. The current was 8.0; the high had been 20.9. The humidity was 75%. Oh. I turned on the dew heaters. The barometer showed 1019.4. The temp was 18.1. The dew point was predicted for 13.6.

8:52 PM. I suddenly realised there should be more opportunities to observe the flyover of the International Space Station. Maybe two tonight like last night. Oh. And maybe I could image or record it! OK. Let's try. I set up. Again used Arcturus to focus.

No one around.

Started tracking the ISS.

9:15. Wouldn't you know it. Tonight it was in the eyepiece! It might have been in the camera frame... Inspiring. Maybe I'll try recording a movie with BYEOS later. The ISS was lovely. Gold panels, brilliant white elements. Slowly rotating. The Paramount stopped tracking at the meridian again.

9:25. OK. What now? More doubles? Some imaging? Learn BYEOS?! Still haven't tried the 100mm portrait Vivitar lens. Oh yeah, it's been on my list for a long time, to make a Y-mask for C14. What to do? BYEOS! Yes, but in a bit...

9:39. Slewed to Jabbah, HIP 79374 specifically, ν (nu) Scorpii. First impression in TV 101 with a 5mm. Was yellow (AB)—still—and orange (CD). Widely separated. With neat field stars. I had forgotten it was a quad. Did not notice sub splits in the refractor. Then in C14. Much brighter. Of course. Aperture wins. But less colour, oddly!

9:48. With the 27mm in the C14, the colour returned to AB and CD. Yellow and orange. Very obvious when defocused. Could easily split C and D. A and B were more challenging. Are they tighter? Or was it the brightnesses? Again, I thought, not a 90-degree angle difference like the Double Double in Lyra. I confirmed orientations in SkyTools. Side note: D star not listed in OI dialog star selector menu. Another item for Greg.

9:56. With the 10mm in the C14, it was soft. But the splits became obvious. D looked about 1 mag fainter than C; B looked slightly fainter than A. I assumed A was south-most and and C was west-most. [ed: The magnitudes, from the ST3P Object Information box, are A 4.0, B 5.4, C 6.5, and D 7.9.]

I think I can put this one to bed. I've viewed these stars on 4 or 5 occasions previously. Maybe it lingered on some view-again lists because B was hard to cleanly split?

10:01. I checked in the little 'scope. C and D emerged with the 3mm in the TV101. AB? Well, I'm biased.

Decided to work on Backyard EOS. Bolted up the DSLR camera.

10:29. Made a note to put 2 carbiners in camera bag. For tethering purposes.

OK. I had BYEOS set up, I thought. I was very happy to see the weather data, for Collingwood, rolling in!

You know, the manual is poor. It doesn't describe what some features actually mean! It is clinical. Written by a programmer. Gar. For example, in the Frame & Focus section, there's a field called Exposures. Is this the number of exposures or number of shots? Or is it the exposure time? If time, what is the unit? Also the Loop feature is not clearly documented! How long does it loop? How many iterations? What controls the iterations? He needs a tech writer. The interface and documentation is confusing enough to make it generally frustrating to read in the field. It suggests trials should be done in daylight. I wasn't not too upset for the time being given the moonlight. But still. It was slowing me down. The movie record settings. Very confusing. I did a bunch of trials.

I readied for the second ISS pass.

10:57. Epic fail!

I did not capture the ISS.

The camera shut down.

Earlier I had noticed the camera battery was getting low. So, I thought, to be on the safe side, I'd charge another and load the warm battery into the camera. It had only been on the charge a few minutes when it reported full. I swapped it in without another thought and assumed I was good to go.

The camera shutdown near beginning of the tracking run. Nooo! At first I thought it was just the camera going into sleep mode. But I couldn't get it back no matter what I tried. No lights. No response. Damn it. Finally I quit and just watched the last bit of the pass. Brooding.

I should have connected the AC when I had the chance! That was stupid.

I had seen the space station in the TV 'scope again. Who knows if it would have been in the camera frame but the chances had been high. Oh well. This will have to wait for another day. Made a note to delete the test and captured movie files.

11:14. Seeing was not as good as last night. At least, not at the moment.

I viewed γ (gamma) Coronae Australis. It did not look round in the C14. But it was not an obvious split. ST3P says the sep is 1.40" (2014.6) and limited by seeing. No doubt. Currently (difficult split at best). It goes out to 1.9... But tonight I couldn't do it. A lot of muck. I need conditions like back on 24 May. Incredibly clear skies down to the horizon.

11:31. Back at 'scope. On a double star. In a part of the sky hopefully affected the least by the bright satellite of earth.

Gah. Why does the EOS Utility take so frickin' long to load?!

Chilly in the observatory.

I tried to remember settings for a good star field. My Albireo shots were done at ISO 400 at 60 seconds but they were over exposed. Or at least the main stars were bloated. I considered lower values this time. A test shot at 60 seconds showed non round stars. I shortened the duration.

Oops, I was on HR 6983. That's why the ST3P chart didn't match!

12:25 AM, Sunday 10 August 2014. Lora and Phil visited. Heading to bed. Phil had a good night tonight. Yeh. I was pleased to hear that.

12:27 AM. HR 6983 is a nice yellow-blue pair. Set up an imaging run to capture 15 light frames.

12:47. Weird. After days for nothing! My allergies started acting up! Something from dinner?

12:48. I didn't understand why I wasn't seeing the captured images as BYEOS shot frames. The manual said they would appear.

12:52. Ah ha. BYEOS was showing the camera sensor temp. Nice. +34c it said. I had tried to put in 30 sec gaps, for cool down. Hey! It just dropped to +22 after the image run. That got me thinking. If this reading works, and is accurate, is fast enough, I could try some experiments. Shoot faster and watch the temp rise...

12:54. Oh, here come the pictures. They only appeared after the imaging run. And slowly at that.

HR 6983, in Draco. A nice coloured double from the RASC Observer's Handbook. Yellow and blue. It's actually a quad system. B is very close to A. The D component is visible, down and to the right of blue B, 5 or 6 times the AB separation. North is bottom-right; east is top-right. Single slightly-processed frame. C14, f/11, Paramount ME unguided, Canon 40D, ISO 400, 15 seconds, daylight white balance, RAW.

Next star system.

ο (omicron) Draconis. Also from the Coloured Doubles list in the RASC OH. Handbook says they are green and lilac. Ah, no. They both look pale orange to me. ο Dra is a triple. The C component is visible below the A and B stars, 3 to 4 times the AB sep. Same exposure deets; same orientation.

Parked the 'scope. Hey! Something went funny with the camera. It was dead again! Appeared to be DC coupler, not quite seating correctly. Sheesh. More power issues.

Shot darks. 15. One set. To apply to both the light runs. While waiting, I shut down as much as I could in the GBO. Pre-packed. But without the keys I could not do as much as I wanted. A little sad. To go home tomorrow.

1:31. Tonight I had used the long amplified USB cable so I could stay in the warm room. I was very pleased that it worked! We should submarine one of these...

The mozzies still after me!

1:48. I was in bed.

Tonight had been for experimenting. I would have liked to capture the ISS but, hey, they'll be more chances. It did not appear to be perfectly centred so I still don't know if I would have nailed it.

It was good to get more seat time with the Backyard EOS software and its challenging documentation. But I'll need to have another go... Or two. Home-grown software again. Maybe I'll just have to write a QRC!

The power issues with the camera were frustrating. But it was good to get them out of the way now. It would have been way more infuriating if it had happened on a new Moon. Lessons learned: avoid using batteries. Ensure the DC coupler is properly seated. Ensure there's no strain on the power cable as it exits the camera body.

Who knows. Maybe I got some have decent double star data.

Oh. The other bit of good news was that I felt better.


Wikipedia link: omicron Draconis.

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