Through the Looking Glass

Through the Looking Glass

Clouds, Snow, It Must Be Winter!

I drove to Amarillo December 20th and picked up a near mint Takahashi EM-11 mount. Got home, set it up, and shot a night's worth of SII to finish a M42 project. Then I came down with shingles, and life as I know it, stopped. CSAC was closed January and February due to the weather. I got meds to control the pain and my skies in Abilene have been clouded over for several weeks.  Weather says it will be clear here for three nights starting tonight, so we will see.

This cloud sequence has allowed me to get some gear in order for the next  dark sky assault. I purchased an adapter from Joel Short. It connects a T mount to Pentax M42, and is cut for the proper backfocus with a QHY8PRO. How neat!



Art at Texas Nautical Repair called asking for some pictures from my first light with the Takahashi Epsilon E-130D. I sent some and they ended up on the gallery at their website and at Anacortes. Art called a few days ago asking for more, and I bought an adapter to mount the QHY8PRO. 

I jerry-rigged another adapter from spare parts to fit a QHY9 to it. That covers most of my cameras. I think I can fit the QHY22, as well.

I have been studying tutorials and re-processing old data waiting on the weather to turn my way. I finally learned how to calibrate and stack in PixInsight, and the results are spectacular. The Canon DSLR had mirror shadow in the horsehead and rosette images I shot in November. I ran DBE and it was still present. I had to crop the lower fifth of the image to remove the gradient. I figured, "Oh Well", that is just the price to pay using that camera. PixInsight removed it completely in the stacking process. Awesome!

Jay Ballauer got the call to do the Intro to AP three hour talk at NEAIC in April. I will meet up with him at CSAC sometime next month. we will swap PI and Photoshop tips and talk about his upcoming trip to New York. 

I will be at the Texas Imaging Symposium at the Texas Star Party supporting TIS with Jeff Barton. It is a freebie; the registration, room and food is gratis!

I am past due being ready to collect a few photons. Check out the Tutorial page; I loaded a few good ones from my web search. I especially like the powerful stretching nebula without bloating the stars. It has pixel math, which I always avoided. Now I appreciate it because it is so useful. 

That's it for now. Clear Skies!



Thanksgiving Weekend 2013 Imaging Session

Jerry Keith and I met up at 3RF Comanche Springs Astronomy Campus Thursday afternoon for a few nights of imaging. I set up my new Takahashi Epsilon E-130D for its' First Light with the Canon 60Da DSLR. Jerry had a Gary Honis modified Canon T3i mated to a Takahashi FSQ106. The weather was just cold enough to let the cameras do their thing at higher ISOs. Got to love winter with DSLRs!

Jerry had a new Baader 7nm Ha filter and was itching to shoot the Horsehead with it. I pointed the Epsilon to the same target. The night was excellent; the SQM read 21.66 with a limiting magnitude of 6.89. There were so many "extra" stars evident; I had trouble finding Polaris to do my initial polar alignment!

I imaged until 2AM when things started getting a little icy. I covered the gear and called it a night.

Friday night was soft, nothing like the night before. I shot M45 and the Rosette. Later I shot flats and darks when the sky began to deteriorate.

Saturday night was overcast with a few sucker holes, so I called it early and watched Netflix in my RV.

Jerry sent me his Horsehead Ha stack after we got home. I did a HaLRGB blend with his data and mine. I think this collaboration produced a great image.


Later, I pulled up some Ha data I shot last February and added it to the data from Friday night.


I think both of these images are outstanding considering they were shot with DSLRs!  I must admit the Ha data in the Rosette was captured with a QHY22 CCD camera. But, you know what I mean!



Arizona Science & Astronomy Expo and SWAP 2013

Bruce Morrell and I drove to Tucson Nov 13th to represent Astrofactors and QHY CCD cameras at both venues. I enjoyed the imaging conference; plenty of great information and interesting speakers including Adam Block, Don Goldman, and Craig Stark, to name a few. ASAE was a big surprise; it was packed with leading edge products as well as old standards.

I took possession of a AP1200GTO mount a week before the show. AstroMart has been flooded recently with 900 and 1200 mounts for sale in order to raise cash for the new 1100 and 1600 models. I got a great deal. It is for a permanent pier mount in a future roll-off observatory.

I had my eye on a little Takahashi Epsilon E130-D hyperbolic astrograph that was just next door to us in the Takahashi America exhibit. Art sold it to me after the show. It went back to Houston for a final collimation check and was rung up there. It is the only one in existence in North America. The scheduled roll-out is set for January 2014.


I have been upgrading my equipment since the last blog entry, too. I now have a complete set of Astrodon LRGB and 3nm NB filters in 36mm round mounted in my SX filterwheel. The narrow band filters are awesome. Bruce sent me a fresh QHY22 camera to try out last month. It uses the new Sony ICX694 sensor with a QE of 77%. It is a little smaller than the KAF-8300, at 1" square and 6 MP. Here is a Hubble Space Telescope version of SH2-132 with the new camera:


The new filters allow me to image from my backyard between trips to my dark site at 3RF CSAC. Speaking of CSAC, I got lucky in early November with this mega-wide field of the belt & sword of Orion. I mounted the Canon 60Da and EF200mm f/2.8L II USM lens on the iOptron iEQ45 and shot it unguided 15X300 at ISO800


I am meeting Jerry Keith at CSAC on Thanksgiving day for four nights of imaging and product testing. I will post another update then.

Labor Day Weekend Party at CSAC

We had a private party over the Labor Day weekend just for the volunteers. Lonnie Wege brought toys from Celestron and left me with a Nightscape 8300C to test for a few weeks. I shot a nice Eastern Veil with it Saturday night.


The weekend was very experimental, for a change. I had to test the new Russian TAIR 3S lens and the 8mm Rokinon Canon lens. I temporarily rigged the TAIR with my QHY8PRO mounted on the iOptron iEQ45. I shot First Light on NGC7000.





Not the prettiest picture I have shot! I think it will be a good lens once I get used to it and mount it more securely. I shot his on Friday night and took the rig apart Saturday morning. I needed the Manfrotto geared head for my iOpron SkyTracker and 60Da to test the new fisheye lens.



Jerry Keith set up next to me with his new rig. It was nice having some company up on the hill. We listened to music and had a great time while the machines clicked away on the stars.


There was a lot of activity on the star field, too. Richard Brown, Joe Mungo, Dave Titus, and others were running Dobs. Lonnie was passing around the new Granite Celestron binos.











Overnight Disaster!

I started an imaging run at 1AM this morning with the EM-10. The DSO's transit was at 4:10AM. I set my alarm for 4:10PM and went on to bed. Do you see a potential problem, Houston? I got up around 7:30, raced outside, and sure enough, the mount had crashed the tripod. I set everything right and powered it up for a test. The DEC works perfectly. No movement left or right when the RA was applied. I could hear the motor, but no movement. I packed it up, called Fred at TNR. He will fix it. This is going to have a silver lining because it will be tuned up before it is sent back. I love redundancy. I have a working NJP and iEQ45 to hold me over. 

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