31 Dec 2009

Ic434: Horsehead Nebula

I imaged this famous object about the same time than the double cluster. The following night I tried to take the color data but there was a thin layer of high clouds that really ruined my session.

After calibrating these Ha-images I thought my flats were poor because there were huge dark spot on one corner. So  I made one only flat-calibrated combined image and then deleted the flats. Now I took a better look to the combined image and noticed that the background is actually very flat, except that one spot of course. Again something to learn for me...

But... This was actually a training session because I also change my guiding system to work with OAG (off-axis guider). I had quite bad flexure earlier which reduced sub exposures to 5 minutes and I couldn't get rid of it, so this was maybe the easiest way to solve that.  I also took the pictures without focal reducer, so the stars in the corners are not round.

Here is 9 of 20 minutes sub exposures calibrated with flats only, combined with CCDStack and processed.

30 Dec 2009

Double Cluster: NGC884 and NGC869

This is the final version of the image I took few weeks ago.

These beautiful open clusters are located in constellation Perseus and are visible with naked-eye. They are also quite close to each other in space because their distances to earth is about 7600 and 6800 light years.

Photographed through SkyWatcher ED80 Pro with QHY9.
Exposure: luminance 10*5min and colors 10*3min (RGB)

28 Dec 2009

Electrical and communication box

I finished this few weeks ago and I kinda forgot it. Plan was to make a DIY -type box which encases every "sensitive" parts of the observatory. I decided to isolate that to make sure that temperature inside the box would remain above 0°C. I didn't put there any heater because I thought that two electrical inverters (220V to 12V) would do the trick. I made it quite wide to ensure that everything would have enough room, so the final size was 50:50:40cm.

Lower part includes electronic equipment. Bigger inverter (silver one) is Meanwell's and provides 12V and 150W which actually is more than enough for my equipment (I calculated about 9A), but I had older 5A inverter which I put also inside to feed power to dew-heater. There is also two transformers which provides 5V to Icron's 4-port USB Ranger and an active USB-hub.

And in the upper part is mainly "communications". From the left: USB Ranger, QHY9 power supply (front), wireless gamepad's receiver (black lying above wires), 2-port USB to RS-232 (just right of QHY) and the USB hub.

There's a lot of wires going to the walls behind and beside the USB-hub. They are part of 12V system which I made. I wanted to put most valuable things behind a separate fuses, and the cheapest and easiest way was to use a electrical box of a boat (cost about 20€). That also allows me to use everything separately by selecting equipment which will be powered. This was very useful when I had that motor problem in the mount. I could disable the power input to the mount just by using switch.

There are fuses and power switches to the mount, to both cameras and to QHY's filter wheel (which relays the power to RoboFocus).

And the isolation of the box works perfectly! Picture is taken with phone so it's really awful... But the temperature inside is +5.3°C even though there was almost -25 outside.

19 Dec 2009

Testing and imaging

There has been clear but very cold nights (well below -20°C). The weather has not been very good for serious imaging because of some kind of ice crystals hanging in the air and light haze.

Mechanical parts is working now without problems!! But new problem came out because I updated drivers during that long and cloudy period. My camera's has issues with binning modes so I have to use only 1*1 binning for imaging. I noticed this yesterday morning when I started to process images from previous night. More than 3 hours went straight to trashbox... Biggest problem with this binning issue is that I can't use focusmax. Let's hope that the manufacturer finds a solution quickly!

During daytime I've been collecting libraries of calibration images. I have to take flats again because I took them with too bright ADU values.

Here's uncalibrated version of double cluster. I'll make final version after I get those flats..

16 Dec 2009

Back in business

Finally some good news! My co-worker soldered a short part between those loose ends and the motor came alive again! Thank you so much Lassi!!!

But it wasn't any fun to attach both motors back to the mount. Temperature was almost -20°C and every metal part of the mount were extremely cold. And it was impossible to do anything with gloves on...

15 Dec 2009

Mount problem

Today I took out another motor of the mount to make sure that the failed part really was the motor. I connected the working motor to the mount's electronics and everything was working properly. Working motor was also a good way to check the real resistance in the motor and wires. I found out that there were two pairs of wires with the resistance of 6.3 ohms. Same measurement to the failed engine revealed that in other pair there was no connection (no resistance) at all.

I was hoping that the problem were in the wires or the connector of the motor, but no luck... Next (and the last) thing to do was opening the motor itself. When I got the metal covers of I noticed a loose end of wire of the inductor lying on top of moving parts of the motor. After a while I found the other end on the opposite side of the inductor. I connect those and found the resistance again on the connector.

So, problem found and tomorrow I'll try to bribe some electrician from the work to fix it...

14 Dec 2009

Finally clear skies!! And one broken mount...

Yesterday, after a month and a half, there was clear skies coming. I finally finalized my DIY-box with communications and electronics and everything was ready for photographing. But....

First of all, my QHY-9 wasn't working. The computer found the camera, but ASCOM-driver wasn't working. So I had to remove the updated driver and go back to previous one. After I got the driver working, there was no TEC-control on the camera and every frame was totally black. After few reboots I opened that new box just to found out that I had forgotten to attach the power chord to the camera-conroller. Ok, just one hour wasted and 12 to go...

Then I slew the mount to Capella to make a rough focus, which after I was going to calibrate my RoboFocus. But there was no bright star in the picture of the QHY. Back outside (-15°C) to see what's wrong this time. I found out that mount's RA-axis was not moved at all. Quick check of the mechanical parts but everything looked normal. At this point I decided to continue the search in daylight.

Today I looked everywhere and finally took the motor out of the mount. I found out that the motor is moving but in rought steps, and there is absolutely no torque left. Even light pressure to the motor's gear will stop it's movement. Great....

9 Dec 2009

My observatory: Third step, polar alignment

I made rough polar alignment with mounts own polar alignment scope. Then I used a free software called "pole align max" or PAM. It sure made things easy!

Basically the computer moves the scope and takes pictures and then tells you where to turn the mount. After 3 runs my polar alignment error was less than 2 arcsec.

Here's my whole setup doing polar alignment. Main camera is QHY9 with QHY's color filter wheel and Astronomik's filters (LRGBHa). I use my old Atik314e as a guider.

My observatory: Second step, structure

The walls came up quite fast because they were made of big plates of plywood. The roof also was easier to built than I thought it would be... The hardest thing was probably to lift it up.

Moving parts of the roof are from sliding doors. Both sides over the wall are u-type metal bars and under the roof are the rollers. The roof can be opened by one hand.

Here is my mount (EQ-6 SynTrek) with my bigger scope, 8" SCT.


My observatory: First step, base of the mount

I started to plan fixed observing site last winter because I got tired of carrying things outside and back in. It happened more than ten times that I carry everything to my backyard and built them up and then when it was time to put power on the clouds came in and covered the sky. And the next thing to do was carry everything back in to the storage.

I started to plan this "observatory" at summer and soon decided to make it with roll-off roof. I also wanted to keep up the possibility to remove it during summer times. So the only permanent structure was going to be the base of the mount.

And finally at the end of September I started this project. Here is the base of the mount! 1 meter long tube with 55cm diameter dug in the ground and filled with concrete. (upper steel plate is there just to keep those 18mm metal bars straight...)

18 Nov 2009

Cederblad 214

This wide emission nebula is located in constellation Cepheus. Everything was working then (early October) without problems so I was again sleeping...

This is an HaRGB-image with total exposure of 7hrs.

M31: Andromeda galaxy

I didn't want to take pictures of our bright neighbor because of my Atik's small sensor. The Andromeda galaxy is so wide that SW ED80 Pro with Atik could only manage less than half of it. 

I finally got that camera with bigger sensor (QHY9). Its 8,6 mega pixel sensor provides much bigger field of view than Atik's 1,4 Mp sensor.I had to wait it for over 4 months (manufacturer was improving it) but this is the first light of my new QHY9 monochrome ccd-camera (photographed in October)

Total exposure is about 6,5hrs (LRGB).

IC 5146: Cocoon nebula

Finally I won the fight against my guider!!! After three weeks of struggling I got it working properly.

Result was quite good exposure time again, almost 6hrs of HaRGB. Everything was now working, so I had time to sleep when pictures were taken by computer.


Another unguided picture! Fight with my guider continued and he was winning... At that point I had no choice but image brighter objects!

This is an colorful open cluster in constellation Cassiopeia. Total exposure of the image was again less than 30 minutes.

M13: Hercules cluster

This beautiful glubular cluster was also one of the test objects of my transfer to automated imaging in August. I still had big problems with my guider which crashed 2 to 4 times every hour. After many reboots I managed to take few 3 min subexposures of luminance-channel. RGB-channels were all unguided.

M27: Dumbbell nebula

Another test object of automated imaging in August. I had huge problems with my guider-camera so this one is unguided. That limits subexposures of my set up to 1 minute or less.

I am quite pleased with this one because the image has many details despite the very short exposure time (1hrs).

M57: Ring nebula

After summer and long bright-sky period the imaging season started again!!

This was my first test of automated imaging session. I started to study and test CCDCommander which can control other softwares used for imaging (mount, guiding, focuser, camera, filters..) Basically I can program the software to take care of whole session. But I have to say that the beginning wasn't so easy...

Total exposure of the Ring was only 2hrs and subexposures were only 1-2 min (LHaRGB).

NGC 7380

This "project" took almost 6 months. I imaged Ha-channel in September 2008 and finalized it with RGB-colors in April 2009.

This one also would look much better with wider picture area. Again my Atik has too small ccd-sensor... I think this was the final push towards camera with larger one!

M97: The Owl nebula

This was my first ever narrowband image. Picture was taken in the middle of April when there was only 12min of astronomical darkness left here in Southern Finland. Total exposure was about 4hrs (SIIHaOIII).

I'm not too satisfied with this picture! I took too short and/or too few subexposures to get a good image. I didn't realize that collected data through narrowband filters is much weaker than through color filters.


This barred spiral galaxy was photographed in the end of march 2009.

Total exposure was about 4hrs (LRGB).

M51: Whirlpool galaxy

This one was taken in late march 2009. This LRGB picture has total exposure of 4hrs.

M42: Orion nebula

This one was a way too wide object to my Atik camera. Even though this is photographed through my SW ED80 Pro refractor telescope.

Picture was taken in new year's day 2009 under darker skies outside town.

M81: Bode's nebula

My first galaxy picture was taken in early november 2008.

Total exposure of this one is about 3hrs (LRGB).

NGC 1491

This emission nebula was captured on three nights in late september and early october 2008.

This was my first ever HaRGB image and it has about 6hrs of total exposure.

NGC 7023: The Iris Nebula

This was my first real attempt to deep-sky imaging. I captured this one in early september 2008.

The nebula was captured on Atik314E monochrome astronomical camera. Total exposure of this LRGB image was about 2hrs.