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 couple 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.

Was told Iosif was there! Dang!

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