Friday, August 14, 2020

tested MCU on double stars (Bradford)

Skies were good!

dark blue Clear Sky Charts for the region

7:56 PM. 7 hours left on the voice recorder... It would be enough.

I was ready. Mostly.

backyard setup stage 1

Telescope was set up, with an eyepiece. Camera ready. Computer ready. I had let Andrew know I had a good hardline internet connection from the yard. The loaner coupler did not work—maybe it is not a full 8-wire unit. Had to use my old no-name hub/switch to bridge two long ethernet cables together. Weird. I thought it was dead... Working fine. Whew!


Clear Outside chart for the evening

Checked conditions, Clear Outside and Good To Stargaze. Dew point was predicted at 15°C. It was 25; it would be 15 at 4? It would be at 19 at 1:00 AM so probably I wouldn't need to worry about active heating. Good. Keeping it simply. Already had a lot of wires!

8:11. Retrieved the netbook and some water. And another counter-weight.

Rhonda popped out for a bit while a cardinal trumpeted. We pondered the bizarre locations that squirrels were hiding their nuts. We avoided the murderous tree in the back corner.

Decided to take some screen snapshots of SkyTools running in Real Time mode via ASCOM while controlling the mount through the IDEA GoToStar motor drive system. For the evergreen GoToStar page... Powered up the mount, skipped alignment, turned on tracking, and slewed to Polaris (or thereabouts). Grabbed a half-dozen shots. Slewed again.

As I mounted the camera, the mount fell or pivoted forward! Whoa! Scared me! The altitude axis was lose! Grabbed the Allen key from the case and secured things. Sheesh! Wouldn't not have been good on show night...

Balanced the mount, as best as possible. It is so heavy in the butt when the big MallinCam and the doubler are attached.

Waited for some stars to appear.

Did a proper two-star alignment. Ha! First suggestion was Albireo! I'll see you later. Off to Alphecca. 

Back to Albireo. Pointing was off a little. 

8:52. Phone rang! Weird... Was in the thick of it so had to let it go to voice mail...

9:01. Slewed to Vega. Installed the camera with the Tele Vue 2x PowerMate.

9:05. Tried to get something on the camera. I was sure I was out of focus. I had no idea what settings to use on the MallinCam. Did a 3 minute exposure. Had the gain high. Set gamma every which way. Oh! When really low, I saw it, the big donut. Focused the SCT by moving the primary mirror. Collimation looked good! Yeh. Balanced gain and gamma. Noted drifting, to be expected—I was not formerly polar aligned. Overshot the focus. Tried to centre the star and almost lost it. Dropped exposure from 3 to 2 seconds while the neighbour's dog freaked out and a firetruck peeled through town.

Rhonda returned. She tagged the Summer Triangle. She asked about our meteor tally. I shared Richard's amazing meteor count, 10 times our numbers. The advantage of being away from the awful light pollution.

I continued to work the focus, now on the Williams Optics. I had no idea what camera settings were best. 

Synced on Vega. Slewed to Albireo. Nothing... Panned over using the finder.

more trip hazards

The mount protested at one point... motor overload?! "Overcurrent." I ignored it and carried on.

9:23. Recorded video of Albireo. Nice colours. All video was produced by the MallinCam Universe software, the new version. 

It was surprisingly steady so my rough alignment to the north celestial pole was not too far off! Lucky.

Checked the video in the MS annoying app.

Reported to Andrew it was working.

All image frames grabbed from VLC. Best frames manually selected. All images, north is left, east is down.

Albireo aka β (beta) Cygni. Round one.

first attempt at Albireo

Increased the exposure to 5 seconds and I immediately saw trailing.

Reviewed the MallinCam Universe settings:

  • gain: left, 6.8
  • contrast: left, 16
  • gamma: left, 17
  • exposure: 5.2 seconds

Contrast to the extreme right made the stars look bloated with hard edges. 

Did a quick polar alignment putting Polaris in the centre of the reticule. Close enough. Put the OTA back on Albireo.

Moved the gain to the middle. It did brighten the stars. Then all the way to the right. It did bloat the bright stars but I could see other stars, w00t! Decreased the exposure to 3.2 seconds.

This was better:

  • gain: far right, 26
  • contrast: far left, 16
  • gamma: far left, 17
  • exposure: 3.2 seconds
  • histogram: full

Other stars visible. It minimised the effects of drift.

Gamma at the far right may the stars look weird and lose all colour.

9:27. Andrew told me to share so I looked in Evernote. Launched the OBS Ninja link.

9:39. Asked Drew if it was coming through. 

9:40. Bumped saturation a bit, which was good, and turned on sharpening, which made no improvement and created noise.

Did another recording and launched Zoom, via wifi, on my phone.

Albireo aka β (beta) Cygni, round 2.

double star Albireo

Awesome. Yellow and robin's egg blue. Magnitude 11 stars in the field.

Tried the automatic setting on the histogram but it didn't work... Tried manual settings of the white and mid-tone. Meh. Back to full. Tried noise reduction. No improvement.

Good settings are:

  • histogram: full
  • gain: far right, 26
  • contrast: far left, 16
  • gamma: far left, 17
  • exposure: 3.2 seconds
  • saturation: 2/3rd the way to the right
  • sharpening: off
  • noise reduction: off
Centred the pair. Synced with the hand controller. Verified SkyTools repositioned the marker.

Checked my email and found an invitation.

9:51. Connected to the Zoom call with Andrew, Jana, and Roshelle. They were sorting out other issues but were happy to have me join. Plugged in my earbuds.

Used the crop feature to get closer to the colourful stars. Jana really liked that.

Moved to the deck to get a better wifi signal for the call.

10:05. After the Zoom, I returned to the mount. Checked the next pair in the software. Whew, same side of the meridian, hadn't considered that... Lucky. Synced and slewed. Oops. Didn't leave enough room between the camera and the laptop screen. Had to fine tune again the pointing.

γ (gamma) Delphini

double star gamma Del

It looked good. Gold stars. Double HD 197913 aka STF 2725 is visible at the far right.

10:11. Andrew saw the change, asked what we were looking at.

I wondered about better settings...

Focus was off a bit. Two ticks clockwise. Oh. Better.

10:17. Hey. I noticed Jupiter was visible, clear of the trees, above the notch. And Saturn would be soon. So I could do planets, if need be. Except it is "end of the event." 

Considered other doubles. Reviewed my suggested targets in Evernote. Slewed.

61 Cygni, round 1.

double star 61 Cygni

Yellow and orange stars. 10 seconds, to draw in surrounding stars. Verified the view in the SkyTools 3 Pro Interactive Atlas.

[ed: Misread the chart. ST3P has an error. The A star is not a tight double.]

Discovered I had forgotten to stop recording on gamma Del. [ed: That made a 2 GB movie! Yikes.]

10:26. Andrew suggested binning, to increase the sensitivity. I stopped the camera feed, changed the option, reconnected to the imager. Dropped the exposure time to 8 seconds.

61 Cygni, round 2. 

61 Cygni binned

10:31. Binned 2 by 2. Neighbouring stars visible.

The E star of 61 Cyg aka STF 2758, orange, is near the top-right, bright. Amplifier glow visible at the top-left.

eta Cas was not possible, given the time. Didn't feel like chasing down epsilon Equ.

Went back to gamma Del. Then bounced around the head of the dolphin. Nope, none of the other doubles were better.

10:43. Told Andrew I was gonna tear down.

One more.

Ugh. Way off target... Did I hear gear hop?!

Alfirk aka β (beta) Cephei. 

10:47. Set to 1 second exposure.

double star Alfirk

Lovely unequal pair. I like it but maybe not a good candidate... The primary is a fantastic ice blue.

So, a successful test for the OSC/RASC event 24 hours away. Figured out good settings for the MallinCam for the stellar pairs, despite the frustrating software. Reached a decent polar alignment. Verified I can be on a hardline in the middle of the yard. Tested Zoom on the phone in the yard (not great). Was able to record images for rain-date playback. Oh, and tested Ninja with Drew.

22:53. Dismounted the camera. Started packing up. Asked Rhonda if she wanted to look at Saturn.

Accidental hit a key on the computer. Whoa, stop. Bull's-eyed the ringed planet.

Hawkeye spotted Titan, Rhea, Dione, Tethys, and Enceladus. She was stoked. I noted Iapetus way out there.

Continued the tear-down. Rhonda helped me haul gear inside.

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