Sunday, January 31, 2021

imaged Sirius and sigma Ori (Bradford)

7:19 PM, Saturday 30 January 2021. Half way through the setup. Mount's done. Triangle, counter-weights on. Heavy duty extension cord and GFCI power bar.

Polar aligned, quickly. I thought I had been in a good spot but it was actually just covered by the roof.

Looked at the custom 6-wire extension for the hand controller. About 3 or 4 metres. Not really that much. Didn't make it to the corner of the house.

Powered the mount. Put the cases in the garage. Installed the mirror and an eyepiece. Did a two-star alignment. Way off the target stars. Large delta numbers in the polar report. Centred on the star. Then unbolted the visual gear and installed the camera, on AC power, with the 2x PowerMate. Using the camera back, shot test photos to work on the focus. 

7:51 PM. Continued to work the focus. Transitioned to Live View and fine-tuned. Centred the star on the sensor. Slight drift. So the polar alignment was off...

Hooked up the USB-ethernet extension. Oh. Couldn't use the unpowered end at the 'scope due to the gender. The long blue ethernet line reached the office window. All right, that meant the long yellow was not required.

Realised I had a bunch of stuff that I didn't need... Remote ops does not require as much outside. Don't know why I brought the netbook out!

Headed inside to connect to the jumper and a short ethernet line. Oops. Connected to the Linksys router for a moment. Duh. Glad nothing sparked or melted. Rushing. Not thinking straight. Making mistakes. Had to keep telling myself there was lots of time. Realised I had not puts my hands on the AC adapter for the USB extension kit. Found it, took it outside, and plugged in the power adapter to the power bar.

Re-centred on the star.

8:15 PM. Headed inside. Took off the coat and boots. 

No space at my messy workstation. Put the netbook atop the laptop. Installed the red film to the netbook. Totally drew a blank on the netbook credentials! Gah. The pressure. Finally got in. Plugged in the USB dongle. Oh oh. No good. Tried again. "USB device not recognised." Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Swapped the short grey network cable for a blue one. It worked! Holy Universe!

Opened Backyard EOS.

8:26. Checked the Sony voice recorder. 7 hours left. Low battery warning.

Installed new batteries.

No response for BYE. Had the camera shut off? Tried Canon EOS Utility. No response. Headed out to wake the camera...

8:33. EU connected. Did a test shot, ISO 800, 10 seconds. Saw the star at the edge of field. The drifting was fast. 

I wondered about how to control the mount. Moved the netbook by the printer and started the laptop. Test shots at 1600 and 30s. Installed the red LED keyboard light. Nothing on the display, no stars, no trails.

I was amazed that this piece was working. But now I wondered how to get a control cable out there... I did not have another USB extension.

Was getting confused knowing if EU was working... [ed: Dimmed text.]

Went outside to re-centre.

8:44. Back inside. Wondered if I had a super-duper long serial cable. I hadn't thought this out clearly. I looked in various bins. And my old carry-on bag, with the travelling kit of cables and stuff for presenting. No long serial or USB cables. Special cables and adapters for testing TANDBERG servers. Ha. The old pocket modem. Memories...

I had the star! Pollux. 1600 and 5 seconds. Tried 10 seconds.

I realised if I did a cracker-jack polar alignment it would get me out of some trouble. Less mess. Back to the Siberian Steps... I had to guess but I think I did a better job. Returned to my target star.

8:58. Shot the star again. 10 seconds. Wait a minute... Maybe I was not on Pollux. I double see a tight double. Was I on Castor. Ha! I saw A, B, and C. North was roughly up. Um, top-left. Tried a longer exposure. Confirmed. I could see D in the 30 second. The alignment was good now. Down to 5 seconds, less bloat. 1 second. A half. I could split the A and B. Slow drift to the north. Focus looked OK.

9:05. Did another ½ second.

Oh. What was the separation of Castor A and B?! From SkyTools 3 Pro, sep 5.40" (as of 2021.1). And what was Sirirus?! Sep 11.23" (2021.1). Wow. Twice. So, easily within the resolution of the optical system currently. Exciting!

Checked my notes again about cabling. Considered taking the laptop outside and remote into it. I would have to be TightVNC on that... Wait. Stick to the plan. Image Sirius now, get that data. Out the airlock again. Acquired alpha Canes Majoris. Synced the mount.

9:19. Test shot at a 0.5 seconds again. Yes! Did a 15 second shot. Weird. A diffraction spike. Where was that coming from? Simulated the view, rotated the field, in SkyTools. 1/10th of a second. Increased the brightness of the computer screen. Up to 2 seconds. Still drifting to the north. B was mag 8 to 9. I needed to be able to see mag 8 field stars. The B star should have been to the left but I could not see the Pup. Lost in the glare. I needed more grunt. I didn't have any else I could do to increase the magnification.

I kept wondering what the decrementing number meant. Was the camera saving the images? I checked the settings.

9:28. Did more bracketing, down to an 1/8th. No B star.

Thought about an occulting bar... Where would it be placed? Best to do in daylight? What about a diffraction mask.

Disappointing. Nothing else I could do work on Sirius. Still this was a major milestone, imaging indoors, remotely, robotic control. A first here at home.

9:31. Did another round of bracketing. The magic number. I found 2 seconds revealed the nearby mag 8 star, SAO 151875. 

The sky was getting bright to the east. Oh! I saw the Moon, over the neighbours garage... I was at a 90 degree angle to the Moon right now.

I took a few more 2 second shots.

Checked the meridian time again. 10. Coming up soon.

Considered M41. Oh. Too big with the doubler. What about sigma Orionis? Looked good especially if I rotated the camera counter-clockwise 90 degrees.

I thought I could dial out the poor alignment. Checked drift notes. I was aimed south, early the equator, the star was drifting north, so that meant the mount was too far west, so it would move it east or right. 

Headed out to flip over the meridian, shift the mount east a bit (kinda goofed), rotate the camera, and get on the sigma double. It was a little disorienting in the finder. 

9:53. Nothing in the photos. Strange. 

Tiring. Where the heck was I. Checked the chart to get the layout for the finder. Back out into the deep freeze.

Discovered the mistake. When I had manually flipped over the mount, at one stage, I was nose down. The hand controller issues a "Below horizon" warning and it must have shut off the sidereal tracking. That flicked through my brain but I forgot to check it at the time. So I just turned it on.

I checked the camera image at the rig and it was soft, dim. I checked the corrector plate and it was started to frost over. The frost was crawling down the dew cap. I had not yet attached the dew fighting gear. Nor did I have a power supply ready.

10:05. Realised I could use Rhonda's hair drier to get back in the game quickly. Worked well. Hooked up the 8-inch strap to the Kendrick classic controller--full power. Powered with a marine battery. 

Returned. Wanted to do a test shot quickly... Was the netbook on?! It looked like it was off? Why was it off? Why did it do a full shutdown? Cold start. Was worried the camera was gonna time out... Static? Peas and rice. 

10:20. Thar she blows! I had sigma on the sensor, near the top. 30 seconds. Got it! Focus was off... 10 seconds was the right exposure. Now north was to the bottom-left. 

Brother. Mirror flop. Suited up again to focus and centre. Focused with Alnilam.

The counter was down to 49. Confused. What was going to happen?

10:32. Imaged sigma. Looking good! Teenie weenie star above, south-west, Struve 752 C. Very little drift. Sometimes down too! Bracketing between 30 and 5. Eight seconds was best. 

Google alarm went off. Right, the meridian crossing.

Remembered that I would need darks at the end of all this.

Checked the space on the drives in John Repeat Dance. Made a folder on C with lots of space. Changed the options in EU. Ah ha. Space now for 1300 photos. I don't think I every really thought about this before, the countdown.

Programming the intervalometer for 8 sec shots with 30 sec gaps.

This part was awesome. Running up and down the stairs was not. After this run I would go back to Sirius. ST3P showed it had crossed over. Good. A short slew and no mirror movement. 

Headed out. Took in the whole sky while the camera did its thing. Counted steamboats to know when the run was complete. Saw Auriga, Capella, the Pleiades over the western trees, Aldebaran.

Checked the Oregon Scientific portable weather station before heading to the warming room: 38% relative humidity, -15.4° Celsius. Barometer falling.

10:53. Test shot. Now the neighbour mag-8 star was above, easily seen in the 8 second exposure. Sirius dead-centre. 

Spike visible again, vertical now, and 90 degrees from before. There might be something on the corrector plate!

10:57. Bracketed every step from 8 seconds to 1/30th. At 2.5 seconds I could just barely see the field star.

Programmed a run using 4 seconds. No significant drift.

Rhonda arrived home. I thought the headlights might interfere with a shot but no issue there.

Wondered about another target. What about a globular? Or a small open cluster? Meissa might work, not too big... Took me a while to star hop. The moonlight was just angling over the hedge, almost touching the telescope.

Netbook crashed again. Hard locked. Must be static as I return. Or bad stuff coming down the wire... Tried to quickly get EU running again. Long time to start. Must be lots of photos on the memory card.

Remembered to get photos of the rig.

11:22. Imaged lambda Orionis. But it was not centred. Much tighter. Double star--touching.

Wished I could nudge it. Damn it!

11:27. The Trapezium?

That's it. Not enjoying the running back and forth. Too tired. Considered the critical things I needed to bring in. Made a note to bag the camera.

Temp: -16.9.

Wow. Done. Back. Hibernated the laptop, which I never used.

12:00 AM, Sunday 30 January 2021. Grabbed some things at the side window, including the Sealed Lead Acid and observing chair.

I'd get the tripod tomorrow.

12:03 AM. Put the netbook asleep.

Learned a few things tonight. Sometimes I could not operate the camera outside so it left me working blind. But it was pretty cool controlling the camera from inside. No luck with Sirius unfortunately. I'd need a 4x or a much bigger 'scope. Good images of sigma Orionis cluster and double star.

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