Category Archives: Astronomy

All Sky Camera #7

I have finally changed the overlay on the all sky camera to match (somewhat) the orientation of the stars for when I place it. I guess this improves the educational value of the system.

There are a few improvements left to do, some of these will obviously depend on budget:

  • Waterproofing.
  • Better Camera.
  • Better Lens.
  • Permanent location.

All Sky Camera #6

Well, we still have some issues with the Moonmode deactivation in the software. I’ve upgraded the firmware on the camera and am in discussions with the backend developers about where the bug might lie. It is possible that we may just disable the transition into and out of Moonmode to get over the bug.

Here is a timelapse from last night, unfortunately, the moon is in direct view for most of the night, so gain setting had to be set low to avoid over-exposure.

All Sky Camera #5

So – the new INDI AllSky backend is now up and running. Running outside in an ambient temperature of around 11 degrees C. The sensor appears to be stable at 19.2 degrees C. So hopefully the resistors will keep the dome above dew point.

I’ve managed to, at least, get the live image uploaded from the new backend to the website, so you can still view the live view here.

We will see whether the videos / startrails & keograms upload properly, although I suspect that I will have to re-apply some of the sealant.

I will also have to re-do all the dark frames again, I may sort that out this evening.

All Sky Camera #4

So, I left it running overnight, and we hit some issues. Thankfully it was mostly dry, but there was a lot of dew.

I have now mounted 4 100 ohm resistors within the dome, and attached them, in parallel, to the 3.3V line on the Raspberry Pi. It should give me 0.43W of heat to the dome area. They’re connected to a breadboard, so I can easily disconnect one of the resistors if it gets too hot, or I can move to the 5V line on the Raspberry Pi for 1W of heat.

I’m unsure if there was just too much water, or if I was out of focus or something, or perhaps seeing overnight just wasn’t any good.

I’m also unsure about the handling of the ASI120MC-S camera by the allsky software. It could be that I need a better camera (this is the cheapest you can get really). So an upgrade to something like an ASI178MC or ASI178MM might be in order.

One thing I will be trying now, is to use my USB 500GB SSD drive, with a new install of Raspberry OS Buster (10), and try out the indi-allsky web package. It may allow me to change some settings that are not functioning ideally on the standard allsky package. Of course, this change will probably mean the Allsky camera website will not be updated in a while until I fix things to upload properly.

All Sky Camera #3

Equipment has been drip feeding to complete a build. I’m currently testing powering the Pi4 and the ZWO camera via a SkyWatch 17mAh PowerTank. I am hoping that this would allow me to run the All Sky camera for a whole night without needing mains power.

Items I have:

  • CCTV clear dome
  • Some Steel brackets
  • Various M3, M4, M6 Nuts and bolts
  • A 12V –> 5V 3A USB power converter
  • Various Cables
  • Pi4 4GB
  • ZWO ASI120MC-S
  • Cigarette Lighter 12V Power plug & cable

Items I’m waiting on:

  • PVC Junction Box (hopefully arriving today)
  • Power Connector Strips (collecting later)
  • Holesaw Kit for my drill (collecting later)
  • Cable Glands for sealing the power lead (arriving tomorrow)

Hope to get an initial build done over the weekend..

Some initial test show that:

  • Current ambient temperatures allow for enclosed operation without the need for any additional cooling.
  • The PowerTank can probably last 24 hours without needing a recharge.

Just one hole so far needed into the junction box. Hopefully the last one.

All Sky Camera #2

I have some issues, as we’re running inside the conservatory there are reflections whenever the inside lights are turned on. Also some graininess with the ASI120MC camera, so switching to mono Y8 mode for future acquisitions. I will also stop saving daytime images (live daytime view still available), but the daytime images are not useful for me for keogram / startrail or timelapse videos really.

Keogram, night time on the right hand side
Star Trails, note reflection of conservatory window, and graininess of the colour image.

All Sky Camera

I’m going to be tinkering with my old ASI120MC mini as an All Sky Camera, currently just have it indoors and looking out the conservatory.

We have some clear skies forecast for tomorrow night, so may see if I can mount it outside.

The sub-website for the All Sky Camera can be found here. It will take some tweaking to get everything functioning correctly. Very much still in testing at the moment.

I’m ordering a weather proof junction box, an acrylic clear dome and some miscellaneous parts to house the system so that it can be mounted outside to get a fuller view of the sky. I will probably be putting the camera in monochrome as well, as the pictures can be a bit grainy when in colour.

The software runs on the Raspberry Pi, and some methods to build a similar project can be found in and around here.

DX Express Service

I ordered some photo items from a supplier, and the supplier sent these via a courier “DX Express”, I had heard of DX, I think through having had some third party experience where they’re the preferred supplier for the couriering of legal documents etc…

Not been too impressed, still not received the goods, and their tracking information appears to show that the items have been traversing the local area for a couple of days, so not really making much of an attempt to deliver, but rather continue to risk damage rolling across the Devon hills.

Here is the latest on their tracking page:

Hopefully, third time lucky, otherwise we will rename DX (Delivered Exactly), to DXWWCBB (Delivered Exactly When We Can Be Bothered).

Update: They did finally manage to deliver on the 9th December.

M42 – Orion Nebula

Had a go at the orion nebula yesterday. First outing in a long time, just 30 x 5min exposures, with some Ha. Here is the first stab:

After a day or two, I decided to look again, and see what we can pull out of the data. Two and a half hours of capture roughly equates to about 1 Gigabyte, so there is a lot that can be done. Here is the final that I will settle with on this acquisition:

(11395) 1998 XN77 / HIP 12148 event on 2021 Dec 16, 21:18

It has been a while since posting anything. It has been unfortunate that the weather has just not been amenable to allow for any serious amount of viewing.

However, things may change, and the new moon approaches on the 4th December where I will have some spare time to take advantage if the clouds do clear.

I do, however, appear to be in a lucky location for an event that will happen on the 16th December. The 67.3km diameter asteroid, designated (11395) 1998 XN77, which orbits between Mars and Jupiter, will occult a visible star (magnitude 5.5) in the Cetus constellation (HIP 12148).

If the weather is dry and clear then I might be able to set up the telescope and camera to track HIP 12148 and take a video to see this “mini-star eclipse”.

The event at a glimpse

* date and approx. time of event: 2021 Dec 16, 21:10 - 2021 Dec 16, 21:29
* geocentric midpoint of event [JD]: 2459565.38883333
* magnitude of target star: 5.50
* magnitude drop [mag]: 11.76
* estimated maximum duration [s]: 7.210
* Moon: 95 % sunlit, 22° distance
* Sun: 134° distance

More NGC7822

I have been continuing to get data for NGC7822, although I’m yet to obtain quite a few narrowband subs as yet, so we’re not seeing quite the detail or colour I would like. I also think I will have to increase the length of my narrowband subs.

Anyway, here is another integration result, with still minimal post-processing as there isn’t much point working on the data too much until I have a full set and can start discarding the sub-optimal exposures.

Experimenting and NGC7822

I’ve been experimenting with the new set up, and what with the weather there are a lot of software changes to account for.

The following is an image of NGC7822, a random target that I’ve put on while I run through bugs and problems, mostly arising from lack of having been able to regularly use the equipment due to the current weather.

I’ve not bothered too much with post processing, just a quick, mostly automated workflow, and then quick levels adjustment with Gimp.

Perseverance Rover approaching Mars

The Perseverance Rover will attempt to ‘softly’ land on Mars later today. This is a routine that’s been tried in many ways and unfortunately has only had around a 50% success rate. Of course, we hope that through past failures we can achieve future success.
Here are the Live Feeds for the landing, which starts around 1915 UTC.

And, here is the uninterrrupted clean feed:

Imaging Session 21-Jan-2021

I continued to grab more data for M33, and have added the Hydrogen Alpha in a slightly different way to before, although I wasn’t able to get any more sub-exposures for Hydrogen Alpha due to software issues. Still think I need to continue to add more data.

Annotated Image

Focusing is actually working well now, although the focuser appeared to want to refocus far too often. Guiding was also being suspended during focusing. I think we will now manually move the focuser to 83000 steps at the beginning and probably limit travel to 1500 steps in either direction or so, and work with much smaller initial steps (initial step 200, max step 300). This should allow me to refocus often and quickly and not have to suspend guiding during focusing, which appeared to be an issue.
I am hoping some Kstars updates to Astroberry in the near future will sort some of the software issues I have experienced last night.

M33 Triangulum Update

Have managed to get some more data for the M33 image on the 24th December.

M33 Triangulum Pinwheel

We are now seeing some colour detail from NGC604.

Had some difficulty running from mains, seemed to trip out and reboot the Nevada PSU. Managed to overcome those issues by switching to the SkyWatcher Powertanks. I think I will have to look at a high-density LifePO4 battery. Also had some issues with the GPS detection, which might have also been rooted with the power issue.

UPDATE 29/12/2020

The issue with the PSU is that the PowerBox Advance does state it needs 10A power, I looked at my PSU and it can output 6A continuous (8A surge) – via the binding posts, and max 5A via the cigarette socket. I checked my cables and found that while the PowerBox only appeared to be drawing 2.7A for all the kit it must have been surging at times. I also found that in the length of cable from inside mains to the outside I had cigarette plugs with 5A fuses. I am now in the process of getting an upgraded PSU rated to 10A on the cigarette socket and have found a 10A fuse to use, the PSU also has a 25A-30A red/black binding posts at the back – which should suit me for any future requirements I may ever have. It also has adjustable voltage from 9-15 VDC, so I should be able to crank up the volts a little if necessary due to the cold. The PowerBox can accept 13.8V and will protect trip out at above 14.5V.
The issue with the GPS seems to have been that I located it at the back of the Argon One M.2 case, and there must be some electronic or radio interference in that location. I have now been testing semi-inside with attaching the GPS mouse with Velcro to one of the Tripod legs, and when not in use I can use that Velcro strap to wind in the cable and just store the GPS mouse in the location I had hoped to be able to use it from.

Here is a recording of the Live Stream of the capture, you might want to switch it to HD for viewing and then perhaps skip through playing at x2 rate. When switching to the second power block

Here is a picture of the rig, almost completely set up – I think we just needed to run the power cable at this point. We still have some cables on order which will shorten some of the lengths and improve the cable management, but this is a lot better than the mass of cables I had running before.

The set up for imaging

Pegasus Powerbox Advance and Raspberry Pi mounted onto a Perspex Sheet

In order to control the number of cables and perform some cable management we often mount equipment onto the telescope mount. This is commonly done by mounting an additional plate onto the tube rings of the telescope. These plates can be heavy Losmandy D-types. Here is a solution I found using some 3mm Perspex, which can be easily ordered online from plastic sheeting companies. I drilled a few holes into the sheets and mounted my equipment onto the sheet, which I attached to the Esprit’s tube rings.