Friday, October 4, 2013

CalStar - 1st Night

I arrived at 4pm, setup my tent and my scope - all without a hitch. Yes - all ready to get going once it turned dark.

When I connected the Mach1 scope, I couldn't remember which location number was CalStar - it would be awesome if I could assign names... Next surprise: the Mach1 mount can't run off the same battery as the rest of my equipment! The motors sounded horrible and slews stopped half way there. So, I needed to use one battery for the mount. And the other battery for the rest of the equipment. Had to improvise to connect the second splitter to the second battery. And I hope I can recharge both batteries enough tomorrow.

Next, I did a rough polar alignment with the RAPAS, star sync and then wanted to do a more accurate polar alignment with PEMPro. But it complained that my camera was rotated in a bad way and that it couldn't do it. No idea where that came from.

So, I used AlignMaster instead. Not sure how exact this was as I needed exact longitude and latitude of the place.

Next, I wanted to work on collimation with CCDInspector. I could improve it, but at some point the results didn't make sense again. I think I got it somewhere below 1" - good!

And finally PHD...
... complete desaster! I have no idea what was going on with that. I could barely get the accuracy below 0.6" and very erratic. In San Jose in my backyard, I could get it below 0.4". At some point - it was almost midnight by now- I got too tired and too irritated to continue trying things out. I setup the scope to start imaging anyway. Maybe guiding would improve later that night.

I got up in the middle of the night when SGPro had to slew to the next object. And PHD could not resume - didn't find a guide start. I checked everything. Finally I took new darks for the autoguider (this time from a REALLY dark side) - and that fixed it! Guiding by now was a little better - but not by a lot.

Next morning, I checked the images - they were all very bad.
This is a 1x1 binned luminance subframe :-(

Clearly the guiding is not suitable. Need to figure out what to do about PHD. I compared my guiding graphs from last night to guiding graphs at home - they don't look that much worse. But much more erratic.

Now I had to use my solar panels for the first time. Needed to cut some cables and make some connectors and got one battery to recharge. I hope that the other (the one that powered the mount) doesn't need recharging.

Oh, and: IT WAS REALLY COLD! I do remember that I was camping once in England when it froze and snowed. But last night felt worse. I guess after 20+ years I need a new sleeping bag :-S