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Sunday, January 2nd, 2011
Yay! I finally got out again to do some real imaging. The last time was mid October (which was the first time since mid September). So in the last 4 months I've been out only 3 times.
 
We actually had a beautiful night on New Year's Eve, but my wife and I were throwing a party and I wasn't able to enjoy the sky that night.

Even still, tonight was productive and educational. Productive because I actually got a decent image out of it, and educational because I had loads of trouble getting started and I always learn something from bumbling around.

The Fiasco
I was working a job this night, so I had to set up the scope gear, head to the job site and monitor things from there. My target is IC405. If I can get imaging by 6:30 it crosses the meridian at 10:30 so I can get 4 hours of imaging in before the flip and I may be home from this job by then. What a great plan! The night seemed to start off great but then...
 
5:45 - I started breaking out the gear and setting up.
 
6:25 - Locked and loaded, pointed at IC405 and ready to roll. Sweet, I'll start imaging at 6:30 tonight. Woot! Switch machines (I was getting established with my work laptop - a Mac, but switched to the scope remote control laptop - a WinXP machine)
The XP machine all of a sudden decided it didn't have the drivers to run the scope gear. Awesome. I didn't have the drivers handy and I needed to get to this job. Annoying.
 
6:45 - Find  the old laptop for remote control and see if it's working.
 
6:55 - It works. Nice... Take a test shot to make sure everything is going to be fine.
 
7:00 - All is good. Kick off the sequence and head to the job site.
 
7:15 - Arrive at job site.
 
7:45 - Decide to check on progress. Trouble. Can't log onto my home network. Hmmm... troubleshoot. Appears the home router is crashed. Decide to boogie back home to see what's up with the router.
 
8:00 - Get home, crashed router. Reboot. Test. All is good again. Nice.
 
8:10 - From my home office, I try to connect to remote control laptop outside. Can't connect. Hmmm...

8:15 - After trying some things and verifying settings, go out to scope. Scope all good... laptop dead. Doh! Reboot laptop, boots up just fine, but complains that battery is nearly dead. (Hmmm... why would a laptop that's plugged in have a dead battery?). Follow extension cord to make sure it's plugged in. Yup. Plug in lamp to extension cord to make sure it's working. Nope. Hmmm... Plug in lamp to wall outlet to make sure it's working. Nope. Doh!
 
8:30 - Check circuit panel and see thrown circuit. Turn it on. Won't stay on. Instantly thrown again. Grrr... Unplug extension cord from wall, turn on circuit, stays on. Go check extension cord, break in cord causing a short. Sheesh....
 
8:35 - Plug in a different extension cord, bring everything back up. Test. Trouble with main camera. Hmmm... Since the laptop crashed while camera was in mid-exposure, the camera freaked out. Reboot camera with both power and battery pull. Pulling battery discovered camera was slightly loose. Tighten camera mounting (which changed focus). Go to do a simple re-focus and realize that the motor on the focuser needs to be controlled. No software to control it on this laptop. I go to download it (Shoestring Focus from Stark Labs) and it turns out it's a Mac only program. Doh... Go figure! I don't want to deal with ASCOM drivers and new focuser control software right now... I'll just plug the stuff into the Mac, focus, and switch it back to the PC again.
 
8:40 - Since everything is fed through a single USB cable, I need to shut down all software on the PC, disconnect the USB cable, and plug it into the Mac to focus. Focus was a snap (I LOVE this new motor!), disconnect from Mac, reconnect to the PC, fire everything up and test again. Things are fine.
 
8:45 - Before I leave for this job again, I want to kick things off again. Start my exposure... strange drift issue after about a minute. PHD can't control the guiding. Recalibrate. No good. Check connections, tighten clutches, etc. Test again. No good. Argh! Realize that when I put everything back, I didn't reconnect to the guide port interface in the software. Oh man... this is CRAZY! Tell PHD to connect to GPUSB. Recalibrate. Success. Test shot (5 minute sub). Success! Yippee skippy!
 
9:00 - Head back to the job site. Meridian flip in only 90 minutes (remember, it was in 4 hours when I first thought I had everything going!). There's no way I can come home for the meridian flip at this point. I'll have to do it remotely.

9:15 - Get to job site, connect to home network, log on to remote control laptop. Monitor from there. All is well.
 
10:38 - Perform remote meridian flip (wondering what things look like at the scope as the camera slews past the legs at full speed).
 
All was well the rest of the night, but man was it a wild ride from 6:30 until 9:00.

Flaming Star Nebula - IC405
Scope: Vixen ED103S with WO Flat 2 0.8x FR/FF
Mount: Orion Sirius EQ-G with GoTo
Guiding:  Meade DSI Pro and PHD Guiding
Guide Scope:  William Optics ZenithStar 66 SD
Camera: Canon EOS 1000D (Modified) with and without Astronomik 12nm EOS Clip-In Filter
Special Settings: None
ISO: 800 RGB, 1600 Ha
Exposure: 4.5 hours total - 3 hours OSC RGB (36 x 300s), 1 hour 30 minutes Ha (9 x 600s)
Processing Software: Acquired in Nebulosity, Calibration, Stacking Deep Sky Stacker, Levels, Curves, Astronomy Tools and Noise Ninja in Photoshop
Support Files: 40 flats, 40 bias, 20 darks
See Gallery Below For Image



Image Gallery For This Session
01 After Stacking 02 After Initial Stretch
03 After Ha Blend 04 After Initial Processing
05 Near Final Processing IC405 4h30m HaRGB
   

01-After-Stacking.jpg
Click picture above for larger version
If the picture seems too bright or too dark, try adjusting the brightness below.
Brightness:
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Comments:
On 01/04/11 at 03:18pm Neil Heacock wrote:
Scott, you're right! That's why I was actually happy to get started by 9 even. Nut I did lose a couple of hours on the image. I was hoping for 3 hours RGB and 3 hours Ha. Now the clouds are back again....

Richard, I should have added that. It was seriously cold outside. Frost was forming on everything quickly and my aluminum Mac laptop would get extremely cold right away. By the time the session was done at 3am (I only got a 4.5 hour shot in 9 hours of being out there) I couldn't touch the gear without gloves on. My dew heaters kept the refractors nice and dry though. Woot!

-Neil

On 01/04/11 at 12:56pm Anonymous wrote:
Neil, You forgot to add that the temp was in the 20's, which is COLD in this neighborhood....
Great picture
richard

On 01/04/11 at 09:54am Leggo wrote:
Hey it could have been July and this started at 10:30!



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