Thursday, July 23, 2015

Mallincam DSm, ST-80, and Smart EQ Pro

My grab n'go combo pulled it off again last night, with the EQ Pro tracking brilliantly and allowing 1-minute, unguided exposures and spot on GOTOs. The ST-80 is light, has a low f-ratio and a very wide FOV (as you can see in these images). The usual suspects are here--the Ring, Dumbbell, and M13. But I also captured for the first time, M56, a small, compact and rather faint globular cluster. Like most of the objects in these images, it is very small in the wide FOV, but it took almost a 1 minute exposure to capture it. The DSm performed very well and did excellent on-the-fly dark field processing using the same set of 10 x 10-second darks for each exposure.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Moon- Venus Conjunction

Thanks to today's amazing smartphone technology. You don't need a scope to capture astronomical events. I'm in Nashville, TN at the moment, and here are couple of shots I took of the Moon-Venus conjunction

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

First "Deep Sky" Light of Mallincam Sky Raider DSm camera!

The clouds melted away last night with a northerly breeze and a clear, transparent sky opened up. As it does not get dark until around 10:30 pm here in Indiana, I did not make the trip to the observatory a couple of miles away, but mounted my trusty ETX 125 OTA (f/15) on my iOptron SmartEQ mount. I added my MFR 5 focal reducer (not ideal in this configuration, I know), Skyglow filter and the Sky Raider.

Here are some of the results for the Whirlpool Galaxy, the Ring Nebula, and M13.
I have yet to figure out how to fully use the software as there is no documentation on the software installation disk I had some problems with occasional dropped camera connections which I eventually traced to the provided USB cable, but I muddled through. The pix here did not use dark frames as the exposures were long (the Whirlpool was 1 minute--not a bad image for an unguided exposure on an inexpensive mount) and the intermittent camera connections required restarting the software occasionally with the consequent loss of my darks. I could not get the histogram to work on either the "live" images or those I saved. I could make changes to the histogram, but my pix did not change at all; I will have to do some digging to figure out what I'm doing wrong.  

One thing I would like to see in the software is a countdown for long exposures. My minute-long exposures seemed to take forever and sometimes they never completed due to the loss of contact with the camera. Documentation at some point would also be a plus :-)

Overall--I am delighted with this camera. I can't wait to try it on the 14 inch where the exposures will be much shorter!  Even without dark field processing, the images are surprisingly smooth and free of noise. The Sky Raider is truly a winner!

Monday, July 13, 2015

First Light SkyRaider DSm 7.12.2015

Here are a couple of first light images I took yesterday with the Coronado DS. I was fighting a buggy USB connection with the camera, so it was hard to get optimal focus and exposure, but the results are pretty good. These are single images with unsharp masking and colorizing in Photoshop.

The sun is fairly quiet, but the images show long filaments and ARs 2381 & 2385.

New Camera!

My new Mallincam Sky Raider DSm arrived on Saturday and it is a thing of beauty! The camera is hand-built (as are virtually all Malincams) by Rock Mallin in Ontario. Compact and very heavy, it is extremely sensitive and allows faint, deep sky objects to be imaged with very short exposures.

Here is a pic of the new camera:

The Sky Raider series offer a real revolution in astronomical imaging. Exposures that used to take many hours with a CCD imager can be achieved in seconds with this imager!  I can't wait to try it out when the night skies finally clear here!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

First Light--New Grab n'Go Imaging Platform!

I wanted a small, lightweight scope to add to my collection exclusively for quick grab n'go imaging. I'm very impressed with the performance of my ED 80, but it is mounted in the 14 for guiding and high-quality wide field imaging. For the grab n'go scope, I wanted something relatively inexpensive, compact, and with a good F-ratio. The Orion ST 80 fits the bill perfectly. I've had the scope for a while, but the recent Jupiter/Venus conjunction gave me the opportunity to use the scope for the first time (what a great first light subject!). Although the scope is only an achromat, it performed extremely well--as the pix of the conjunction earlier in this blog show. The moons of Jupiter are pin point sharp in the first image, and a couple of belts of Jupiter are resolved in the second. For simple, prime focus imaging, this is good performance.  The pic below shows the ST 80 on my iOpteron SmartEQ Pro. The ASI 120MM is mounted on the scope and you can see the images of Jupiter and Venus on the computer.  The second image is the "safety" image I took of the conjunction with my smartphone, just in case it clouded over before I could get the ST 80 set up!

ST 80 Imaging the Jupiter/Venus Conjunction

Venus/Jupiter Conjunction Imaged With Smartphone

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Independence Day Prominence

The sun is quieter now, but this lovely, complex prominence made getting the PST out worthwhile.