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Richie's Blog

Salisbury Star Party 2010
Written by Richie Jarvis   
Monday, 16 August 2010 19:52

This year saw another wonderful Salisbury Star Party in Sixpenny Handley in Wiltshire.  Wednesday was a great start.  It took about 2 hours to get there from East Sussex, so I was there just before dark.  Many thanks to Iain, Neil and Stephen for putting the tent up whilst I got the imaging kit up and running :)

The first target was Messier 8 - the Lagoon Nebula in Sagittarius.  I was able to spend an hour on this in the end, and am very happy with the results so far. I wish I had more data to be honest, but I think it passed muster!  Its not a target I can shoot from my observatory though, so Salisbury is my best option.

Hard Lessons Learnt
Written by Richie Jarvis   
Thursday, 22 July 2010 01:29

Tonight in the observatory has been a real lesson to me.  When I first setup the observatory, I put a steel pier in, and levelled it thoroughly.  Unfortunately, over the last 2 years, it has shifted, and I have been having increasing problems with accurate tracking.

Once I realised what the problem was, I re-levelled the pier and mount, rebalanced and drift-aligned using the excellent WCS software.  If you haven't used it - give it a try - it just requires a webcam and you can accurately drift align your mount within about 30 minutes.

Anyway, the good news is that it worked.  The bad news is that I experienced a blue-screen of death right afterwards, and it corrupted my EQMOD configuration file.  The behaviour was very strange - EQMOD would reach a particular area of the sky (around my target annoyingly - how did it know??!) in Cygnus, and would then convince itself that it was in the southern hemisphere.  Most strange.  It took around 2 hours to troubleshoot that problem!

I did manage to get a few more Sii subs for my NGC6888 Crescent Nebula - here is the result so far:

Full version and capture details available here

Update on the SXVR-H18
Written by Richie Jarvis   
Saturday, 17 July 2010 21:13

I've recent acquired a new CCD camera.  Things are going well with it, and over the coming months you'll start to see alot more output from the H18.  You can find out more about the SXVR-H18 at the Starlight Xpress website:

So whats it like?  For the techs out there, its a Kodak KAF8300 chip based camera.  8.3 mega-pixels, 3346x2504, monochrome CCD in an array size of 17.96 x 13.52mm.  The pixels are 5.4uM in size.  It has a peltier cooler and internal fan.  It also allows the temperature of the device to be specified, which is a good thing as this chip is rather noisy.  Luckily, dark frames deal with this problem very well, and the temperature setting means only one or two sets of darks are needed.

For the non-techs out there, it rocks :)  Read on to find out more!

First Light with the SXVR-H18
Written by Richie Jarvis   
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:01

Crescent Nebula - Taken with the SXVR-H18

Just got my hands on a new toy to play with.  The Starlight Xpress SXVR-H18 is one of the new generation of camera using the Kodak KAF 8300 chip.  Its a bit noisier than the H9, but has 8 times the number of pixels in double the area.  Oh, and a shutter :)

First light was the other night - the Crescent Nebula was the target.  I captured 16x300 second Ha subs and 10xOiii subs.

You can view the full image here




Testing a Vixen VC200L
Friday, 21 May 2010 20:47

I've been testing a Vixen VC200L recently for a review.  Vixen Opticron have been very supportive, and have helped me immensely by providing just the right kit to hookup my SXV-H9 to the Vixen.

I am also using a focal reducer, which reduces the scope from its native F/9 to F/6.3.  With this setup, the scope is performing very well, and giving well resolved and crisp images.

I did have a bit of a problem initially with Polar Misalignment, which caused star trailing over long sub-exposures.  Anything over 5 minutes was giving nasty trailing, which made things rather challenging!  I've now solved the problem by drift aligning the mount with WCS, and am able to run 20 minute subs.  I think the drift alignment could definitely be improved, but that will have to wait until after I've done the Observatory roof!

Here is a recent shot taken at the beginning of the month over 3 nights of Messier 51 the Whirlpool Galaxy.  You can see the full sized version, with the image capture details here

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