Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Cosmic Pinwheel

This is a heavily-cropped image of M101, the Pinwheel Galaxy,
taken last night through significant sky glow and haze. I used the 8 inch f/4 Newt with no filtration. This is a stack of 15 images x 30 seconds at a gain of about 20 db. This is an unbinned image. Tracking was less than perfect, but the final result isn't too bad. The Universe can really pull detail out in mediocre conditions.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Sunday Sun

Sunday afternoon was just perfect for solar imaging. I set up the PST-DS and mated it up to the DS 2.3+ with Barlow. The images below were 500 frame AVI's, stacked in Registax (the 150 best frames) and wavelet processed.

The first image is a crop of the larger, almost full disk image that follows it. It shows AR 2546--a large spot that could swallow earth, but which is also uncharacteristically quiet (no flaring).

Friday, May 6, 2016

Mallincam Universe--First Light, 05/05/2016

Finally, after a couple of weeks of unrelenting cloud, the weather cleared last night. The pristine dark sky gave me the opportunity to try my newly-delivered Universe for the first time. The imaging system consisted of the  8 inch F/4 Newt running the 2 inch focuser (necessary to get full illumination of the enormous Universe imaging chip), the ZEQ 25 mount, the Universe camera (unfiltered) and a Surface Pro 3 running Windows 10.

I did have some issues with the Universe software under Win 10--specifically crashes involving null pointers--but things finally settled down after a few reboots. As I did not have a lot of time to image (it doesn't get dark here in Indiana until around 9:30 local time and I had to be in work early this morning), I just did a rough focus without the focusing mask and started capturing images.

As I don't yet have a 2 inch skyglow filter, I decided to stick with a brighter object--M51. I was surprised how tolerant the Universe was in terms of skyglow--it really looked as if I was using a filter and the histogram function did a very good job of darkening the background (the lower sensitivity of the Universe compared to the Skyraider and video cameras was also a factor, I am sure).

The Universe software is not as "intuitive" as the Skyraider interface, but it took me only a few minutes to feel comfortable enough to image with it. I imaged in unbinned mode with high gain. The amazing thing is how wide the imaged field is with the Newt! The image below is a stack of 5 images x 30 seconds. Some amp glow is visible in the left upper corner, but the emphasis here is on the FOV--quite impressive and offering significant zoom potential due to the high resolution of the camera.

Even with the 2 inch focuser, some significant vignetting and coma distortion are visible (and tracking was less than perfect as I did a very quick polar alignment), but the overall image is very pleasing. I'm looking forward to using this camera on the VRC6 (which I may keep at its native F/9), and with the 14 inch ACF--where I think it will really shine!

As I was packing up, I captured one image of the Pinwheel Galaxy just to see how well the camera performed with a fainter object. The result is below. It is a single, 45 second exposure with histogram adjustment only. Again, the camera has done a good job of pulling the galaxy out of the unfiltered background and the spiral structure is clearly evident.

I'm very happy indeed with this camera, which makes a very good addition to my Mallincam "family."