Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New permanent links added to the blog links window

Now you can link right to NJAA's overhead sky and post an  Observer ALERT while you are browsing  the blog.
Check out the Links window in the right column.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Luna 2 Computer Installed !

First and foremost, we all must thank Tim Benko for his work today on Luna 2.

We now have a new computer installed in Luna 2.  The system has The SkyX Pro installed and the Camera Add in activated.  The system was successfully connected to the CGE Pro Mount and operated bi-directionly as featured in the software.  It was also tested with the Canon T2i connected via USB cable to the computer.  The SkyX was used to control both without issue.

This blog post just gives you a quick overview of how the equipment interoperates.  There will be demos and training in more detail in the next several weeks.  That being said, these are the exact steps that you would take to operate the setup.

Start  here...

1. Power on the mount.
2. Press ENTER button (see image below)  to wake up the scope
3. Wait for the gps sync or you can enter the date and time.
4. CGE Ready

Now that the scope is ready, power on the computer if not done so already.  Launch the SkyX Pro application by clicking on the "X" icon.

Click on the "Telescope" Tab on the left side of the display.
Click the "Connect" icon to connect to the mount.

The SkyX Pro Telescope cross hairs will now show the current position of the mount on the Sky Chart.

At this point you can use the SkyX to find an object and then "Slew" to it.

Also, you can use the hand controller to find targets and slew to them as well.  When you do, the SkyX software will follow along in the Sky Chart.

At this point you are free to explore the UNIVERSE !

When you are finished finding , tracking and photographing targets, you'll need to put the scope in the "Home" position and power it down.  

Here are the steps to follow:

1. Press "UNDO" until the display says "Cge Ready"
2.  Press "MENU"  (#3 button).
3.  Scroll the display using the #6 button (UP) or #9 button (DOWN) until you see "Utilities" on the display, then press the "ENTER" button.
4. Scroll again until you see "Home Position" on the display,  then press the "ENTER" button.
5. The display now says "GOTO".  Press "ENTER" and the mount will now move to a preset position.  WAIT FOR THE MOUNT TO FINISH ITS MOVEMENTS, THEN CONTINUE.
6. Press the "UNDO" button once, then scroll until "HIBERNATE" is on the display.
7. Press the "ENTER" button.  The mount is now in Hibernation mode.


8. power off scope

On telescope tab on the SkyX, press "Disconnect".  Close the SkyX and shutdown the computer.

Close the roof, shut of any lights that my be on and close the door behind you.

There you have it in summary fashion......

Again a huge THANK YOU to Tim for his extraordinary efforts today in putting this all together.

Now we just have to wait for clear skies.

Jim Roselli

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Testing DSLR camera configurations on Luna 2

NJAA has received a donation of a Canon T2i which is a wonderful addition to the already stellar equipment that members have access to. 

Last night Tim Benko and Jim Roselli went about testing configurations on how best to mount the camera on the Celestron 8" Edge Optics telescope in Luna 2.

Tim just acquired the proper adapters to connect both Nikon and Canon cameras at prime focus on the scope.  Prime focus will be one of the methods used to image with the system.  

NJAA has a fleet of Canon lens for use with the T2i.  Specifically a Canon 50mm and 135mm primes as well as a Sigma Mirror Telephoto Fixed F8-600mm.

Over the next few weeks we will be installing a permanent guide cam setup using a Starlight Xpress Load Star.  We will also be testing other mounting options when using DSLR atop the scope.

Here are a few pictures of the testing.  Tim is authoring an article for AstroNotes regarding this project.

Stay Tuned as we continue this journey ...
Jim Roselli

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

NJAA Astrophotography & Research Group Alerts

It can be challenging at times to let members of your group stay informed about events.  While NJAA  does have a calendar, its much easier to "SMS" text or email a quick note about what's happening.

This is exactly the purpose behind a website serviced called "RainedOut.net". 

"RainedOut" is a quick and simple service to let a group (small or large) know about events.

At NJAA we are weather and seeing dependent so scheduled and impromptu events can be rescheduled or cancelled at a moments notice. 

With this in mind, I created an account for NJAA on "RainedOut.com" so that anyone can subscribe to one of our groups and receive instant eMail or SMS status alerts.

Admin's for the Astrophotography group are: Keith Marley & Les Tilly.
Admin for the Research group is Bill Anthony.

These admins can log into "RainedOut" and can send group messages / alerts such as:

I'm on the way to NJAA to image with LUNA1, please join me.
Going to use LUNA2 for video astronomy tonight, need help with the setup. Call me.
Don't forget to attend the Research Group Meeting this Friday.

You get the idea.  Quick & Simple messages to keep you up to date.

Signup is very simple and you can if you like, remove yourself from receiving messages anytime!

First, click HERE to launch a new browser window at "RainedOut".

When you see the screen below, type in "NJAA" and press search.
You will then see, New Jersey Astronomical Association. Click on the name.
Now enter your telephone number or eMail address. You will be sent a verification code to the address or number you entered.  Enter that code when asked.
You can then select which group or groups you would like to subscribe to.

When you click on "Subscribe" you will then see a notification in green confirming your request has been successfully completed.  Please note that it is NOT necessary to subscribe to a "Private Group".
For the group(s) that you are subscribed to, you will see "Unsubscribe" next to their name as another confirmation that you are indeed "Subscribed"... 

Remember that you can unsubscribe anytime if you no longer desire to receive these alerts.

Please be advised that non of the admins can see your email address or telephone number information.  They can only see how many have subscribed to their group.  Also this information will not be used by "RainedOut" for anything other than the intended purpose.

Thanks for subscribing...
Jim Roselli

Monday, December 15, 2014

Recent sunspot activity photographed near Cycle 24 maximum

Info taken from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center post updated 11/14/2014

ssn_recent2.gif (2973 bytes)
Click on image for larger version.

Sunspot Numbers

In 1610, shortly after viewing the sun with his new telescope, Galileo Galilei (or was it Thomas Harriot?) made the first European observations of Sunspots. Continuous daily observations were started at the Zurich Observatory in 1849 and earlier observations have been used to extend the records back to 1610. The sunspot number is calculated by first counting the number of sunspot groups and then the number of individual sunspots.
The "sunspot number" is then given by the sum of the number of individual sunspots and ten times the number of groups. Since most sunspot groups have, on average, about ten spots, this formula for counting sunspots gives reliable numbers even when the observing conditions are less than ideal and small spots are hard to see. Monthly averages (updated monthly) of the sunspot numbers (181 kb JPEG image), (307 kb pdf-file), (62 kb text file) show that the number of sunspots visible on the sun waxes and wanes with an approximate 11-year cycle.
(Note: there are actually at least two "official" sunspot numbers reported. The International Sunspot Number is compiled by the Solar Influences Data Analysis Center in Belgium. The NOAA sunspot number is compiled by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The numbers tabulated in spot_num.txtare the monthly averages (SSN) and standard deviation (DEV) derived from the International Sunspot Numbers)

I took this white light solar image through a Baader filter on a 102mm Explore Scientific refractor right around Solar Cycle 24 maximum:

Keith Marley                                                                                                                            Sept 27, 2014

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

NJAA's - Luna 1 Observatory, CCDWare AutoPilot V5 Setup and Test

At our last meetup, Les Tilly configured Luna1 to operate with CCDWare Autopilot V5.  Autopilot is a software environment that integrates with several different astronomical applications to automate the  targeting and acquisition of deep sky and stellar objects.  Click HERE to read about the software and watch video demonstrations of the various aspects of CCDAP5.

CCDAP5 configuration and setup to some time as expected.  Once all the parameters were entered,  the "Initialize" button was pressed that started CCDAP5 testing each segment of the setup. 

After a couple of modifications and re-initialization's of the software,  CCDAP was able to complete the process successfully.  Below is the setup panel and as you can see we are using the SkyX for principal control of Luna1 and @Focus to control the FLI PDF (Precision Digital Focuser).  Click HERE to read about the PDF.

Without getting to technical about all this stuff, one important element to understand is the pixel / sky resolution we are imaging with.  With our focal length at 1,001mm (F7.7) and the pixel size of 5.4um (Main Cam) we are at 1.11 arcsec's per pixel.

I created the below spreadsheet to show some data points including the CFZ (Critical Focus Zone) for Luna 1's imaging setup.

As you see, the CFZ ranges from 194-137 microns for the various wavelengths.   Also important is to see how many PDF focuser steps there are for the various wavelengths.  As the telescope and equipment heats and cool's, its important to focus every 15 minutes.  This is where automation using a digital focuser is necessary for autonomous operations.

We had issues with @Focus & CCDAP5, so we still need to do a bit more work on that component.  We did get the system to focus successfully even though the image screen did not display the star it selected in the focus control window.  So we will continue working this issue.

Another item to note is the FOV (Field of View) at 1.11 arcsec per pixel across the height & width of the 8300 sensor.  We have a 1.03 Deg  X  0.77 Deg FOV on the Main Cam.  Also expressed as 62 x 46 arcmin's or 3,720 X 2,760 arcsec's.  The FOV of the Guide Cam is very small at 16 X 12 arcmin's or .27 X .20 Deg's.

Why you need to know this?  If you need to "Jog" the telescope to move a star in the Guide Cam or move your target in the Main Cam, using this info, you will know how far the the object is going to move within the image frame.  Here is a snapshot of the JOG selection from the SkyX Telescope Tab.

While testing everything, we used M33 as a target for the evening.  The camera temp was set to -15 Deg (from ambient) which was quickly reached being the ambient temp was 30 Deg in Luna1. 

With the session (see below) updated taking 1 frame at a time during our testing phase, we collected 8 image frames (subs) that were 300 sec (5 min) each in duration for a total of 40 minutes combined exposure.

Les, did the integration of the frames using PixInsight.   Here is the result from the evening's testing and collection of ancient photon's that are 3 Million +/- light years away.

Thanks to everyone that attended this first of many Luna 1 educational session's.  
Clear Skies for now.
Jim Roselli