2007 Observing & Imaging Sessions - still needs lots of updating

Mar. 23 - 24
Time: 23:00 - 2:30 Telescope: 10-inch LX200 GPS
Location: My Backyard Activity: Deep Sky Imaging with DSI Pro

First observing session of the year, after a typical cold and cloudy January and February. Set up on the deck in alt-az mode in the early evening but only started imaging close to midnight. Set up the scope at f3.3 to image M66 in Leo.

The image at right is the result, which is a bit of a mess!  Since it was taken in alt-az mode, the LRGB frames are rotated relative to each other, and there's also some vignetting (uneven field illumination) which could have been eliminated with flat frames (which I did not take).  Processing by Stef Cancelli.

L: 90 x 30sec = 45 min
R: 24 x 30sec = 12min
G: 30 x 30sec = 15 min
B: 19 x 30sec = 9.5min
 

M66 - taken in alt-az mode, what a mess!

 

April - May
Backyard Observatory!

Started planning a backyard observatory in early April. Constructing a backyard observatory seemed the best way to celebrate my 25th anniversary as an amateur astronomer (1982 - 2007).

The main phases of the construction were:
1) preparing the ground (ie sod removal)
2) digging a 4-foot hole (12-inch diameter) for the concrete footing
3) pouring concrete in the hole
4) building and leveling the floor frame
5) erecting the observatory building (garden shed!)
6) adding power cabling (not done yet)
7) installing a pier for the telescope (not done yet)

 

 

 May 21
Time: 22:00 - 23:00 Telescope: 10-inch LX200 GPS
Location: My Backyard Activity: Observatory testing

After working hard during the long weekend to complete the observatory, I set up the 10-inch LX200 GPS inside the observatory shed for the first time!  The size and height of the observatory are just perfect. The roof opens and closes without any trouble. The floor is quite sturdy, however with the scope mounted on the tripod, the scope shakes too much.   The sky was somewhat hazy with some clouds so I just looked at several brighter Messier objects. The comfort of the observatory is awesome. 

The shed is made by Royal Outdoor Products and it's the YM808 model, which appears to be discontinued as of May 2007 (I bought mine just in time!).  The design of this shed is very suitable for use as an observatory because the roof slides up and down very easily. The roof is held shut by just four screws which are removed in seconds.

 

May 22
Time: 22:15 - 23:45 Telescope: 10-inch LX200 GPS
Location: My Backyard Activity: General observing

I was out in the observatory at about 22:15 under mostly hazy skies with a quarter moon, therefore all deep sky objects were quite poor.  I re-did the polar alignment, and when the scope went to Polaris, it was dead centre (from last night’s alignment)!!  However, when it slewed to Arcturus it was just outside the field of view – not sure why, but no big deal. I centred it and all was fine.  The ENTER key does not work well when used to synch on an object (I experienced this many months ago).  After pressing many times, it eventually works.  I also noticed that when the scope goes from opposite sides of the sky, there’s quite a bit of mirror focus shift, and therefore the focus needs to be re-adjusted.  I guess that’s why the mirror lock is so important for imaging.

I looked at several Messiers, but they were all quite poor due to the hazy sky.  Then I decided to fix the collimation. Following the instructions in the Meade manual worked perfectly and I got perfect collimation in just a few minutes. It took about 1/5th of a turn of the screw to get it collimated correctly.  I looked a Vega and it was a very nice, tight, crisp image.  Then I looked at the “double-double” (Epsilon Lyrae) and I could not believe that I could detect the double stars with just the 26mm eyepiece (96X).  Then I used the 10mm Celestron Ultima eyepiece (250X) and the two doubles were clearly split with dark space in between.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen these stars split so cleanly. The collimation really helped!

 

May 27
Time: 22:00 - 23:00 Telescope: 10-inch LX200 GPS
Location: My Backyard Activity: Testing wooden pier

Spent from 11am to 9pm building a temporary wooden pier for the observatory.  The job took a lot longer than I expected – lots of cutting, drilling, bolts and screws. Also, there were two slightly loose J-bolts in the concrete, but I quickly resolved the problem by stacking several washers on the bolt, between the concrete and the bottom nut. I tested the pier from 22:00 to 23:00 and the positive is that it does not flex while the scope slews all over the sky – this is very good because it allows me to maintain the polar alignment.  The negative is that if I hit the pier, the scope oscillates for several seconds. 

My very simple top plate still allows me to polar align accurately using the wedge’s slow motion controls. The total cost for the pier as shown in the photos was $75 including 14% taxes.  The wood was about $25… hard to believe the rest was nuts, bolts, washers, screws, and angle brackets !!!  I was hoping for a more solid pier, but it will do for now as a temporary pier, while I plan and build a steel pipe pier in the next few months.

Update: I did some imaging on May 28 (see below) and the pier worked perfectly!

 

Pier attaches to the base with several angle bracket and through the bottom are eight 7-inch screws.

   

 

May 28
Time: 21:30 - 00:00 Telescope: 10-inch LX200 GPS
Location: My Backyard Activity: Imaging with DSI Pro

First time imaging in the observatory with the wooden pier. All equipment is working fine and the pier appears to be quite steady for imaging (as long as I don't hit the pier!!).  Quite clear, temp is 12'C, and the moon in nearly full. I did some test tracking on Spica and after 11 minutes it's just outside the crosshair center - not bad!

Below is an image of M51, the Whirlpool galaxy. Taken with the DSI Pro, IR filter, 21.2 seconds x 100 subs = 35 minutes total exposure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Time:   Telescope:  
Location: My Backyard Activity:  

 

 

   
 
Time:   Telescope: 10-inch LX200 GPS
Location: My Backyard Activity:  

 

 

 
Time:   Telescope: 10-inch LX200 GPS
Location: My Backyard Activity:  

 

 

Year End Stats
No. of observing sessions 0
Approx. telescope time   0 hours
No. of imaging sessions 1
Approx. imaging time  3.5 hours
"New" deep sky objects found 0
No. of comets seen 0
No. of auroral displays seen 0
Total deep sky objects observed 1003


Observing / Imaging Frequency
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
0 0 1 0 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


Final Comments

 

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