What can I say, the weather has been absolutely dreadful, a couple of strong storms, lots of rain and seemingly endless cloud cover and howling wind. The Leonid meteor shower was clouded out ( all of it ), it’s just plain depressing – but not unexpected, last year was exactly the same. The forcast for the rest of this week is the same as it has been for the last two months, that’s right two months have passed since the sky has been good enough to do any type of imaging, that’s when I managed to finish the Cygnus Wall.
The trouble is, when you have not used your imaging equipment for so long – you forget how to do stuff, more importantly the order in which to do stuff, for example my equipment is separated into two categories – Hardware and Software. The hardware – Mount, Telescope, Camera, Guide telescope and Guide camera are the main of it, there is also supporting hardware, Guide port adapter ( allows guide commands to be sent to the mount ), Dew bands ( to stop dew forming on the optics ) and telescope remote focusers for both main and guide telescopes and a laptop computer to run it all and of course all the necessary 12 Volt power and USB leads, now the USB leads are permanently connected, but as with such leads, every now and then they have to be un plugged and then plugged in again for them to work – or all you get is “device not found “, why this is I just don’t know. The Software on the laptop is again grouped into two, the main software is – ASCOM ( AStronomy Common Object Model ), which allows different astro software to work together and provides a standard interface to a range of astronomy equipment including mounts, focusers and imaging devices in a Microsoft Windows environment, the huge majority if not all astro software has to be ASCOM complient. PHD2 ( guiding software ), Cartes du Ciel or CDC ( planetarium software, allows computer control of the mount ) and APT ( Astro Photography Tool, image capture software ), and the remaining software is for control of the two remote focusers. With all this stuff it stands to reason that there is an order of doing things -power up laptop, turn on mount power, turn on camera power, turn on remote focuser power and turn on dew band power. set the date and time on the mount hand control and select if daylight savings is enforce or not, do a star alignment so the mount mainboard computer knows where it’s pointed and set the mount hand control to PC Direct mode ( so the laptop computer can control the mount, RS232 cable required ) now back to the laptop, Start CDC, connect telescope ( mount ), start PHD2 and select connect all ( guide camera, guide port adapter and mount ) and start APT, start imaging camera, cool imaging camera ( set to -20C ), connect to PHD2 ( for dither between images command ), connect remote focuser.
That’s the bare bones of Setting Up, you also have to select a target to image, run a guiding calibration, check your focus and adjust if needed and select the number of images to capture and the exposure length ( this setting up takes about 10 minutes or less to do ), as you can see if you have not done all of the above for some two months, it’s quite easy to see why some parts of the sequence can be forgotten, leading to some head scratching until the forgotten portion is remembered.
So when a break in the clouds permitted me, I set up the observatory for some imaging, just to keep my hand in so to speak, everything turned on, everything connected, mount star aligned, software all working, camera cooled and target selected, guiding calibrated and imaging commenced – five image captures later and the clouds rolled in and it started to drizzle. All shut down, mount parked up and all powered off. in all just over an hour of good clear sky, in two Bl**dy months – add to that another month of lockdown due to COVID 19 or whatever ruddy strain it is now, a Spanish variant was the last I heard, in short BORED BEYOND BELIEF are not the words for it.
I’m really starting to question whether Astronomy or Astrophotography is a worthwhile hobby to have under and in the UK climate, oh and sorry no pics this time, HumBug.
Oh ok then, this is what I was trying to image, the Wizard nebula in Ha, I have already imaged this object before using the Hydrogen Alpha filter, but I wanted to add more data to get a cleaner image.