November 2020

Dodging Clouds

  • Nik 

This week I managed to get my scope out for a few hours during a break in the clouds. Only advantage of working from home (until July 2021 according to my company’s latest communication :-s ) is that I can setup my scope in daylight during a quick coffee break and spend 1/2 hour first thing in the morning putting it away after doing the school run.

M33 - 2020/11/10

My main target for the night was M33. This was taken in full dark before the moon was up and the seeing wasn’t to bad. There was a bit of light cloud which split my on sky time into two two hour chunks. On the whole I’m reasonably pleased although it could benefit from a CLS filter and I gave up getting the background perfect.

Since I thought I’d got enough light on M33 in the first half of my run I decided to do a ‘bonus’ object and went back to the Crab Nebula again. I had even more trouble processing this and getting the background right but I like this and it’s a lot better than last months attempt (although it was taken with my 200mm refractor and Hypercam so it should be)

M1 - 2020/11/10

My shopping list

So, given the above, and that my Christmas bonus is coming around I’m making up a shopping list. I’ve been thinking about this for a few months now and have paired it down quite a bit. Firstly, although I’d love one, I’m not going to spend £5000 on a Polaris dome and drive system however groovy that would be. Secondly, I was seriously considering upgrading my mount from an HEQ5 to an EQ6-R but now I’ve got the belt mod going I’m leaving that for the time being and seeing how I get on with the new and improved HEQ5. So my wife should be happy, I’ve saved myself approx £6500 (with astronomy logic!).

So now on to the wish list of stuff I’m seriously looking at getting at the end of this month:

Item 1 – A new observatory shed.

Two years ago I built myself a little 1.6m x 1.6m observatory shed to put my EQ3-2 (later the HEQ5) and my ED80APO in. It worked well enough with a hinged roof but when I got my 200PDS it was to small so now I’m using it to story stuff in and have to carry my scope out and set it up of a night.

I’m thinking of replacing it with a modified 6ftx6ft shed with a hinged roof.

Price ~ £300

Item 2 – A new CLS filter

Bit of a no brainer really. I have a 1.25″ one for the GPCAM3 and ED80APO but I desperately need one for my 2″ focuser on my refactor.

I’m thinking of the Astronomik CLS CCD Filter

Price £179

Item 3 – A set of narrow band filters

OK, so I’m probably going to slim this down to just a Astronomik H-alpha 12nm Narrowband CCD Filter

Price £266

Whole set – price £802

Item 4 – Baader VIP Modular 2x Barlow Lens (1.25″ and 2″)

Basically I’d like to play about with getting a decent shot of Mars so a bit of extra magnification would be useful.

Price – £162

Item 5 – 0.5x focal reducer

Again, I have one of these for my 1.25″ setup but need one for my 2″ setup. Something like the Antares 0.5x Focal Reducer 2″ looks just the ticket.

Price – £57.99

Giving a grand total of ~ £965. Good job I saved the £6500 by not buying all that extra stuff 😉

HEQ5 Now Working Again!

  • Nik 
I sometimes question the wisdom of taking up a hobby that requires clear skies whilst living in the UK (one of the lowest points in the UK to boot!). Most of September and October have passed with no opportunity to point a tube shaped device at the sky. The clear nights that we have had the seeing has been pretty abismal.

The best shot I managed to get last month was of M1 on a really dodgy night seeing wise using my ES ED80APO and EQ3-2 Pro (which worked remarkably well after sitting in the astroshed for nearly a year). This was made up of 44 x 120s exposures using my GPCAM3.

But enough moaning about the weather!

The HEQ5 with belt mod is now running smoothly. The hardest part of fixing it turned out to be hauling it up to my upstairs office so I had somewhere quiet and dry to fix it and finding a few days where the clouds have cleared so I could point it at the sky to test it.

After an initial try of tweaking the backlash on the RA axis using astro baby’s guide the clicking still remained.

I briefly toyed with the idea that there might be a slight lump on the RA belt, which was reported in one thread, but this turned out not to be the case (just flip the belt over and see if the click happens in the opposite direction of travel).

So I reread the instructions carefully and did the job properly. Clicking disappeared. Movement appeared to be smooth.

My pipe-dream of making a laser spot on the wall to do a star cross test in PHD2 seemed like to much trouble and clear skies were forecast for that night so I just took the plunge and set it up outside and started taking test shots.

First Night of Test Runs

So I started off taking test shots on the first of two nights. The first night I did unguided shots and the second I setup my guide scope. All pictures were taken with my 200PDS and Hypercam. I should point out that although the sky was clear the seeing was bad and the moon was near full. Oh well. The first shot I took was a 60s shot of Almaak. All good so far 🙂

I then took a series of shots of Betelgeuse.

Obviously 300s unguided is to much but 120s looks OK which is about what I’d expect from an HEQ5 and what I could get before I started the belt mod.

Of course the acid test is if I can actually put together a stacked image.

So unguide 60s exp produced this. 1hr 30m of 6os exposures once processed.

So a sucessful first night 🙂

Second Night of Test Runs

The purpose of the second night of testing was to get my guide scope working with the new setup. Again I used my 200PDS and added my StarWave 50mm guide scope and a mono GPCAM AR130.

So I ran the calibration on PHD2 and all seemed to go well.

Next up some single shots of stars. Starting at 180s this time and going up to 600s. Again all seems fine 🙂

So again the acid test, can I take a stack of exposures. Seems to be yes.

12 x 5m exposures

1 x 10m exposures