, Central Oregon, Friday, 4/9/10:
My son Tony (age 10), and I spent Friday, Friday night and Saturday morning in Central Oregon at OMSI's (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) Camp Hancock Field Station, near Clarno.
The day was pleasant, although were concerned about persistent high clouds. We needn't have worried. Right on cue as darkness fell, the clouds evaporated, and we had clear skies all night until the sun came up Saturday morning. Tony got a nice view of M13 in his 6" Dob. Once I showed him how to find it with his Telrad, he was able to go back to it later without help. He also got a great view of M42 earlier in the evening. Later (I am terrible with names) one of Neil's friends gave Tony some great views of Markarian's chain in his 18" Dob.
The seeing was a bit mushy, and it was Coooooold......about 30 degrees. All of our gear was coverend in frost. At about 4:30am we retreated to the car. Ran the engine for a while and we were toasty warm inside......although a few hours short of a night's sleep.
This was my first outing with autoguiding gear and it was only partially successful. I shot (3) sequences of M101. The first two were not well focussed, and the auto guider had problems keeping the Declination axis under control......the Declination graph was girating by up to 4 pixels......way too much. The images all had oblong stars even with 2 minutes exposures.
Then for some odd reason, the auto guider took hold and the graph smoothed out.....showing less than a pixel of fluctuation. I ended up getting (40) 2 minute frames of M101. *see gallery.
Controlling the telescope pointing with Stellarium was a failure. It worked but the mount wasn't aligned accurately enough for it to center objects. I think that can be solved.
I am not sure about the declination axis issues. It may be a problem with my CG5 mount, or it could be a weight or balance issue. I will work on it. Actually I should have known better than to try things for the first time in the pitch darkness. I should have worked out the kinks at home where I can turn on a light if I need to.
I moved the scope to NGC 4565, but then the auto guiding graph started wildly girating again.....so I don't think I got any useable frames. My focus looked off as well. I didn't refocus......which is turning out to be an absolute must.
Astrophotography is great fun, BUT there are literally a hundred things that can and will go wrong.......I should probably make myself a NASA style check list, and check things off as they are done. It is very easy to forget simple things like locking down the focuser.
6" f/5 imaging Newtonian: primary scope
80MM ST refractor: guide scope
CG5 GT mount
Canon 350D imaging camera
Orion StarShoot II guide camera
captured in Nebulosity
Aligned and stacked in Deep Sky Stacker
Processed in Photo Shop Elements with Carboni tools + Gradient Exterminator
40 subs at 2 minutes per sub, ISO 800 * Both images (slightly different processing) are un-cropped but downsized.
Didn't come out as bad as I thought it would
Cropped & sized to 35%
21 subs at 2 minutes per sub, ISO 800
Lots of noise in the background.....probably because I failed to take any new dark frames....forced to use previously taken 60 second darks.