Saturday, August 01, 2015

prepped for pass

Did some International Space Station flyover preparation.

About an hour away from the flyover...

Decided to try simulating it in TheSky 6. Set the time. Saw the path displayed... Neat.

The flyover times were 22:08 and 22:17, 9 minutes! It would start in the south-west (235°); ends in the north-east (70°). Would go almost overhead, Virgo, up through Libra, Hercules, through the middle of Lyra, passing near Sadr, and off to Andromeda. Closely matched Heavens Above. I didn't think it would be an ideal configuration; ones in the north were better, right?

Pulled up the clock hands. Set to 10:10.

I was very impressed that TheSky fully simulated the flyover, i.e. it showed the satellite moving along the path. Holy moley.

Considered not tracking the first part of the path but the second. So I'd have to start with the telescope aimed straight up. I moved the mount where I would try to pick the ISS, near the meridian. Creeped into the meridian warning zone.

Of course it was moving fast overhead. Tried picking it up. A real catch-up game. Tried again. Could not catch-up. And then I was falling behind.

That was interesting. That was cool.

Reset back a couple of minutes to try again.

Syrma. Waiting for the path to redraw.

Warned people I was testing.

Second attempt was not bad. Looked like I was able to catch up to it. But I had to hustle.

Wanted to try one more time. Considered a star to start from. Vega was too far away. How about SAO 85397?

Considering zooming out, acquiring, then zooming in. Would be ready to trigger the tracking.

Tried tracking just as it crossed the meridian proper. Nope. Too soon. Started slewing the wrong way. OK. What about when it just comes out of the warning zone? Yes. Yes, it worked! The mount was able to catch up. Noted I was near SAO 85750 or omicron Herculis. I would use that to start from. Headed to Vega to focus.

Lora visited. We wondered where our guests were. Cautioned about wires running across the floor. Showed her how the software worked at plotting the satellite path and movement.

Connected stuff. Used the software's motion controls.

Bad seeing. Wow. Focused. Close all unnecessary apps to keep the recording computer fast.

A vehicle arrived. Oh hey. They turned their headlights off.

Forgot to reboot. I hoped it would be OK.

Set the speed to 1/30. ISO 1000. Vega is 0 magnitude star. Considered a star of the same brightness, -3 or -4. Hmm. None. Venus was gone. So α Lyrae would be fine.

Set the target name. 9 minutes would be about 7000 frames. Set the image count to 4000. OK. The profile was ready.

9:39 PM. Checked the weather. Weather Centre reported 18.9°C; 64% humidity, low, nice; dew point 11.9, well away. As of 9:01 PM; 10 minute average, 1.6 km/h; out of the north-west, just a titch to the north; 74%; 100.92 mbars; 17.6; 12.9°. The air pressure was steady over the last while.

Mistook a different satellite on the same path.

9:42 PM. 20 minutes to go. A mozzie buzzed the recorder...

I considered trying some Frame and Focus with the electronic focuser with software control. I started at 3977. I was able to punch low. Easy to use. 6.9 was the lowest value I saw in the FWHM. I thought I had improved it a bit. It was hovering around 7.0, 7.1. Then it went to 6.8. Real-time focusing from the Warm Room!

Had a visitor.

Reviewed. Used Frame and Focus on Backyard to improve the focus a bit. Put it back in Automatic mode. It was slowly climbing. I was at 4222 (3500 is centre). Programmed the Capture Plan for 1/30, ISO 1000, daylight white balance. I called it ISSpass1CAO only remembering the BYE would automatically add time stamps. Wondered if the ISO was too high.

9:52. Dropped the ISO to 800.

Spotted the ISS line draw in the software. Nope. FLOCK 1D2.

Slewed to SAO 85750 for the rendezvous. Reviewed my previously written preparation notes.

Wow. Saw lots of satellites... Like a highway.

Scared myself for a moment when I didn't see anything in the Backyard live view. But it was because I was on a mag 3.8 star now...

Used the Find command in TheSky, so there was no guesswork. The ISS was the selected object.

My allergies were acting up.

The weather data updated. An image corrected. The high was 30.6. Wow. The Bionaire was showing 41% and 22°C. The Oregon Scientific was showing 45%; 21.9°; barometer was flat; 12-24 hour indicator was partly sunny; 9:58 PM; full Moon...

The software updated the sky view. The ISS path arced upwards. The focuser was still climbing. 4231 now.

Considered that I would start recording when it entered Hercules. Then I could relaxed about that.

Switched to the Telescope tab.

Phil popped in to check the start time. 5 minutes to go. To the start of the pass. Reviewed where the ISS would appear: left of Spica.

The Android alarm fired. Ah. Finally.

Saw lines coming up for the Soyuz and Progress. Realised the line for the ISS wouldn't update until the dot reached the end... Reviewed everything was ready to go.

2 minutes to go.

10:08. Shared with the crew that it was above the horizon. Asked Phil if he had his camera running. Yep.

The projected line had advanced. I would start recording soon.

I realised something was different this time. I was connected to the camera by USB-ethernet and it was USB 1.1, so slower. I wondered what effect that would have. Noticed the image quality in the camera was set to "small." Waiting... Started recording. Good. Sampling. Opened the Track Satellite box. Picking up speed. Started to capture frames. Sampling rate was slow: 6.2. Uh huh. Crossed the meridian. Exiting the zone. Slew. Ready to slew again. Tracking. Catching up! Looked at the camera view... And I didn't see anything.

Went outside. Oh. Nice one.

Looked at it through the Tele Vue at 55 power. It was pretty good. Could see the solar panels easily. Well off centre.

Stopped tracking. I hit the Abort in Backyard. It said it captured 1081 frames. The frame rate was about half...

Lora popped in. Gave her a quick report but I would have to wait a bit for the images to finish transferring. Couldn't tell just by looking at the screen... The computer was slow though...

Reviewed the next pass. Not nearly as bright. It would be in the north... Ooh. That might work better. Would start in the west and conclude in the north. Mag -1.2. Lower and shorter but should still be good.

Checked the mount. It was fine.

OK. 90 minutes till the next one...

Checked if everyone was settled in.

10:21 PM. Oh. I could image the Trifid. Slewed.

Just as Backyard EOS finished downloading the images... 1000 frames. I quickly scanned them. Examined the last one. Gah. A whole lot of nothing. Blacky blackness. Lora and I had a good laugh over that.

No comments: