After more than two months of intensely imaging my largest-yet, a 9-panel mosaic in Orion's Belt, it is now complete (sort of). The original mission was to capture Orion's Belt in its entirety in (R+HA)GB. Unpredictable weather during a good number of Moonless nights unfortunately led to this being reduced to RGB, for now. My plan is to capture the 22.5 hours of Hydrogen-Alpha data late this year, to add on. However, RGB being complete, this is the end result:
After having problems with my Gemini Telescopes SnapCap on my remote setup at e-EyE, I decided to replace it by the much-simpler Optec Alnitak Flip-Flat. This particular product, though expensive, replaces the awkwardly-wired SnapCap with a single USB connection that covers both the power and the control.
A fairly significant bug was introduced in version 1.5 of Tweet Remote Control, with regards to the Twitter re-authentication timer. A change was introduced in version 1.5 that stopped Tweet Remote Control from having multiple connections to Twitter, essentially, but this change accidentally broke the re-authentication feature altogether.
Tweet Remote Control has now been updated to version 1.5. This is again a very good update to improve Tweet Remote Control and extend its capabilities.
I am personally not someone who celebrates the New Year very much. At the risk of sounding very pessimistic, I feel the fireworks are nice, but I find the change from one year to the next very arbitrary (it is after all just another day). Thinking of astrophotography, it has however prompted me to look back at some of my very first images and comparing them to what I produce these days.
By far the biggest image project I have undertaken thus far, my IC1805 Heart Nebula image, is now complete. This took about a month and a half to acquire all the data for, which I set myself out to be 100 hours of total exposure time in a 6-panel mosaic. Some changes to plans led to a reduction in total exposure time used in the final image, resulting in it being 82.5 hours. Nevertheless it is just under 10 hours more and 2 panels more than my second-biggest image project (M31 Andromeda Galaxy). Below is the final image (clicking the image will open the high-resolution version on Flickr):
Tweet Remote Control sees a new update to bring it to version 1.4. This new version has added what I had planned to add as soon as I added Lunatico Astronomia Seletek Dragonfly control in version 1.3.
Tweet Remote Control has now been swiftly updated to version 1.3. This new version has added quite a few new capabilities that I have been wanting to add since I released version 1.2 on this website.
Over the last two weeks or so, I have been working on a Windows program in Visual C# 2015. I have called it Tweet Remote Control. This program connects to your Twitter account and accesses your tweets. When you post a specific tweet that the program deems a command, it performs a function on the computer the program is installed on. It then deletes your tweet and tweets on your behalf to let you know of what is happening.
After just, just under 48 hours of total exposure time, my image of the M33 Triangulum Galaxy is finally done. As with the M31 Andromeda Galaxy image, I opted to capture separate Hydrogen-Alpha data to enhance the Red channel of the image. This has brought out the most active regions within the galaxy in vivid detail. Below is the final image after all post-processing (clicking the image will open the high-resolution version on Flickr):
The NGC7293 Helix Nebula is a very interesting and pretty large planetary nebula located towards the South. Given Spain's latitude, it can be imaged within a window of about two months of the year, though it is still fairly low in altitude above horizon throughout. I tended to start imaging this target when it was 18° above horizon, and ended before it dipped to the same altitude above horizon later in the night. My initial plan was to do this in the Hubble Palette, but between the weeks passing and the Moon disappearing later in the night, the window to image this target was soon closing. I therefore cut my imaging run short of capturing any Sulphur-II data.
With 60 hours of imaging over, I have gathered all the data I set out to gather for the IC1396 Elephant Trunk Nebula image in Narrowband Hubble Palette. This image involved a 4-panel mosaic with 10 exposures per filter, per panel. All exposures were 30 minutes long, captured with Sulphur-II, Hydrogen-Alpha and Oxygen-III 3nm filters. The following is the end result (clicking the image will open the high-resolution version on Flickr):
With the long weekend in Gibraltar gone, so is my trip to e-EyE concluded. I primarily went there to help the owner learn PixInsight in person, which he very much enjoyed. Part of my trip was also spent making sure my equipment was fine. This included installing the recently-purchased FeatherTouch 3" focuser upgrade for my Takahashi FSQ-85ED as well as setting up the replacement Aviosys IP Power 9258 (after the first one I had died on me). The following are some photographs of my equipment setup:
It is finally here! A focuser worthy of its job - the Starlight Instruments FeatherTouch 3" focuser, adapted for the Takahashi FSQ-85ED telescope. The following is essentially a list of parts that make up the focuser:
With my new Takahashi FSQ-85ED telescope set up at e-EyE, imaging has begun swiftly. The recently published NGC6992 Eastern Veil Nebula in Narrowband Bicolour Palette image is officially first light for the telescope, with M31 Andromeda Galaxy currently being imaged in a 4-panel mosaic. The following is the current work in progress result:
I have recently been imaging the M101 Pinwheel Galaxy in Hydrogen-Alpha, with a 3nm filter. Since this is going to be a serious image with tons of exposure time, I decided to do 50 exposures of 15 minutes each at 1x1. The result of stacking all these exposures together has a very, very clear effect on the Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) of the overall result. The following is a GIF animation showing the result of stacking exposures from 5 to 50 in steps of 5 (click the animated GIF to see a larger version):
In the past, I had been imaging with my Borg 77EDII refractor using a Hutech IDAS LPS-P2 filter in front of the optical train, mounted on to the Borg 7870 focal reducer. This was due to excessive light pollution in Gibraltar, benefiting from the excellent light pollution suppression performance of the filter. The Hutech IDAS LPS-P2 filter has the following transmission curve:
This may seem like a fairly random and short blog post, but I wanted to comment on my experience with a particular USB 3.0 hub. Once you start gathering a fair number of pieces of equipment that require a USB connection to your computer, or have a permanent setup, you may find you need a USB hub of some kind. The Intel NUC5i5RYK Mini PC I use to control all my equipment has four USB 3.0 ports, which is excellent, but I needed more. I bought a fairly inexpensive powered (active) USB hub by Trust at Media Markt in Spain and after half an hour of using it at e-EyE (for my permanent setup), it started failing. A combination of the near 0°C temperatures and the abnormally high 87% humidity of the night must have killed it. Either way, I was grateful I had taken a spare, which turned out to work like a champ!
With the Easter holidays off work for both my wife and I, we headed off to Extremadura in Spain, to stay a few nights at the e-EyE facility. This was not only a three-night break for us, but also a big step up for me personally, as I aimed to finally set up my astrophotography equipment there for remote hosting.
New PixInsight Processing Example Tutorial: NGC7000 North America Nebula and IC5070 Pelican Nebula - CCD Narrowband Bicolour
A new PixInsight post-processing example tutorial has now been published. In contrast with the first one published a while back, this one is based on narrowband images captured with a monochrome CCD camera. The image is of the NGC7000 North America Nebula and IC5070 Pelican Nebula, captured in Hydrogen-Alpha and Oxygen-III to form a narrowband Bicolour Palette image.
The very popular tutorial for pre-processing images in PixInsight has just received a good update. A new section has been added to cover the use of the SubframeSelector script. This is used to allow the user to exclude and approve exposures for use in stacking, and quite importantly, to optimise the approved exposures' weightings.
Anyone who controls their mount through ASCOM can use an EQDirect cable that connects the mount directly to the computer via USB (allowing use of the likes of EQMod). A popular choice are the EQDirect cables made by HitecAstro. These are based on a controller made by Prolific, which have no officially-supported drivers for Windows 8.1 or Windows 10. Anyone trying to use these beyond Windows 7 will only encounter driver problems. Thankfully there are alternatives, which use a controller made by FTDI.
A recent conversation with Rupert Smith of Astrograph.net on Facebook led me to find out about the facility named e-EyE in Extremadura, Spain. Created and ran by Jose Luis Quiñones and his wife Cristina Fabo, this facility provides many things beyond remote hosting. This includes accommodation on-site, a conference room for courses, an area powered with mains electricity for star parties, a pool, an area for BBQs, etc. Most interesting for me was the actual observatories for remote hosting.
Despite my affinity for the narrowband Bicolour Palette, I thought it would be a nice idea to complete the set of Astrodon narrowband filters with this one - the Sulphur-II 3nm filter. Astrodon also make a Nitrogen-II 3nm filter, of course, but the wavelength is so close to Hydrogen-Alpha, that I have not observed enough of a difference in images to push me to want it. Besides, now having the Sulphur-II filter as well allows me to produce images with the Hubble Palette if I like.