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."