Tracking Tricks that Work

On March 9th, my father and I brought the telescope out to test its tracking capabilities. We aligned it to two stars and pointed it at Jupiter. After applying some tricks, we checked back and saw that it had not moved from its position. My father was impressed by that, and we declared that “we are back on track.”

The reason why it worked is because, earlier, I read this forum post about tracking issues. It talked about how commercial grade telescopes are manufactured using spur gears rather than worm gears, which means the teeth of the gears have some space in between them. This can lead to significant drifting before the teeth mesh. The solution, according to the forum post is to slew the telescope to the right, and depending on its position, up or down (down is pre-meridian, up if post-meridian, adjust as necessary). I did that and it worked. =D

Jupiter stood straight in the center of the eyepiece, and it was beautiful. We tested it further by putting Jupiter near the edge of the eyepiece, and after a while, it didn’t move at all.

After all that testing, we decided to pack up the telescope. I didn’t take any pictures because the clouds were rolling in. It was a successful night, with tracking actually working. I’m thankful that it is actually working and I can say with certainty that I’m back in business! 😀

You Can See The Dark Side from Here

On January 22, 2015, the sky was very clear, and I saw a beautiful, thin, crescent Moon. In contrast with the surrounding sky, you could also see an outline of the whole moon, despite the fact it is mostly unilluminated. I imaged it using my father’s Telephoto lens, and the images turned out really well.

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2 Day old Crescent Moon 1/400″ exposure, f/5.6, ISO 1600

 

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2 Day old Crescent Moon. Old Moon in New Moon’s Cradle. 1/3″ exposure, f/5.6, ISO 1600

The image was so good, I wanted to take my telescope out and image it using that. The results were very good:

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2 Day Old Crescent Moon 1/30″ exposure, f/10, ISO 1600

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Is this a Dim Moon???

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Nope! It’s a 2 Day old Moon. Old Moon in New Moon’s Cradle. 1.6″ exposure, f/10, ISO 1600

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4.3″ exposure, f/10, ISO 1600

The resulting images were a great improvement compared to my earlier images. It was a sight to see the Moon so thin like that. However, something else caught my eye. A red star close to the Moon. I slewed to it, and took a few images:

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A don’t know what the star is beside it, but the red star looks like Mars. 10.1″ exposure, f/10, ISO 1600

After some time, after asking my father for help identifying it, my father told me that it was Mars. I was surprised to see Mars at this time. It was so far from Earth, that you wouldn’t be able to see anything from it. Nevertheless, it was a good image.

Sadly, the clouds started rolling in, and the Moon and Mars became obscured by a thick cloud, which ended my astronomy session. All this was in preparation for January 23/24’s event when Jupiter will do a triple-transit, and two of it’s Moon’s shadows merge. I still need to process the photos, so stay tuned.

Attempts at Comet Lovejoy: Failure at Glen Major

On January 9/10, 2015, my father and I decided to go to Glen Major Forest to image the comet.

It was -13 C that night, with windchill making it worse. Within a few minutes of arriving, we started setting up the telescope outside. We quickly aligned the telescope to the Moon, and we saw the majesty of the Moon up close. We tested the mount’s tracking capabilites by letting the telescope track the Moon, and it was successful. We decided to move towards Jupiter next, and we stayed there. However, it started to drift greatly. This gave us the theory that the planetary alignment is only good as long as the telescope doesn’t move around. It was a revelation. We then begin to realign using the Two Star Alignment method.

We aligned the scope to Betelgeuse, and Polaris, but the mount started to slow down at top speed. Having been exposed to the cold for over an hour, the motor started to freeze, and soon enough froze all together. Luckily, we brought two telescope mounts with us, and we debated whether to switch out the mounts. Eventually we did, but when it came time to align the telescope, the mount did not respond to my commands. It was heartbreaking for me. Our second chance at imaging the night sky failed for some reason.

After that, I took a few random pictures, and then we quickly packed up and left. That session went really badly. I didn’t get any good pictures that night. The only thing I took away from that night is that Solar System Alignment is only good for planetary observing. The next time I go outside, I will not make that mistake again.

Back in Action

I had telescope troubles earlier this year. As a result, I was out of commission for a large part of the year. Earlier, this week, my dad was able to resolve one of those troubles, and On Friday, May 16, 2014, I took the newly resolved telescope on a test run.

Once I brought everything out, I decided to align my telescope to Mars. My biggest worry in the repairs is that the tracking ability of my telescope would not work. After aligning it to Mars, I left it pointed at Mars for a while. When I returned to Mars, it hadn’t drifted from its position. This is a good sign that tracking is still working in the fixed scope.

After checking it a few times, it had drifted but not enough that tracking failed completely. I was happy with the results I was seeing. To see if tracking works away from the alignment object, I slewed my telescope to a random star. Leaving it for a while, the star did drift, but not far enough to conclude that tracking is not working. As far as I am concerned, tracking was working. I was really happy with the results I was seeing.

My next test took place in the opposite part of the sky. There was a dim star in the Western part of the sky, which I pointed my scope at. I looked at it for a while. I had to readjust my scope a couple of times, but it didn’t drift fast enough to conclude that tracking was failing. I was really impressed with the great job my dad did in resolving the issues in my telescope.

Lastly, aligned to Mars, I decided to point my scope at Saturn. There, it drifted a great distance, which concerned me. If it didn’t track with Saturn, then what is the problem? Has the gear burnt out? Has the software failed? Luckily, there was no problem. Saturn was able to stay inside the field of view of my telescope for a long time after readjusting it back to the center of my field of view. This confirmed the results that I had received, that my telescope troubles were over at last.

Happy with the results of my test run, I decided to pack up my telescope, and bring it inside. However, I wasn’t done. Before packing, I saw the rising of the moon through dense trees. This gave me the idea of watching the Moon rise. Therefore, after packing up and bringing all my equipment inside, I decided to head to a dark spot where the moon can be easily observed. Sadly, the moon had already risen, but it was no less beautiful. With my tripod and camera, I was able to compose a number of images of the scene with the moon in the background. It was very nice. A short while later, when it started to get too cold. I packed up and headed home. I was very happy with the results of that night, and with my telescope troubles officially over, I can continue to observe and image in the near future.

 

Deep Sky Observer – The Orion Nebula

On January 21, 2014, the sky was clear again. Therefore, I decided to take my telescope out once more. Outside was a temperature of -18 oC. It was not that windy. I set up on my driveway, which had a great view of the constellation Orion. My goal for this session was to find the Orion Nebula once more and properly image it.

When everything is set up, I align my telescope to two stars: Betelgeuse, and Mirfak. It was a successful alignment. After alignment, I slewed to M42. I looked at it through my eyepiece, and I saw the glorius green cloud of the Orion Nebula, also known as M42. Since I already tried taking an image with the DSLR, I tried to image it using the CCD Camera.

For those who don’t know, A CCD Camera is a camera that uses a chip to collect the light and create an image from it. CCD stands for Charged-Coupled Device. It is a major advancement in digital imaging technology. It is used not only for light detection, but when high-quality images are needed. The first images I took, such as my triple-transit Jupiter image, or my Saturn image, were with a CCD camera.

After fiddling with the telescope, eye piece and CCD camera, I was able to find an image of three stars. I don’t know if that was M42, however, I was happy to be able to image far away stars from my CCD camera, designed for planetary imaging. Unfortunately, after processing the video footage, I realized it was not M42, but were three stars that were poorly focused. After filming the stars for a few minutes, I decided to stop CCD imaging the stars. I was determined to find M42 though.

Orion Nebula Stars captured using CCD Camera

Orion Nebula Stars captured using CCD Camera

Therefore, I decided to use the DSLR Camera again. I eventually found M42, and took a few long exposure images of it. Looking at them now, it is much clearer this time around, but not at the level that I want it to be at. I believe there might be a focusing issue on my telescope. I’ll need to look into that. Below is the image of the Orion Nebula:

The Orion Nebula

The Orion Nebula

During my imaging attempts of M42, I went to the side of my house, and I saw the Big Dipper, clear as night, between my house and my neighbour’s house. Seeing it at its position inspired me to image it, but at a later time, after Jupiter.

After imaging M42, I set my sight to CCD image Jupiter. However, before I could do that, I see my computer has restarted and repairing itself. Waiting for it, I realize that the computer is on a cycle that prevents the operating system from booting. I don’t know why, but I believe it was because of the intense cold prevented the proper functioning of my computer. Therefore, I decided to take my computer inside to warm up. With my computer out of order, I decided to focus my attention on capturing that image of the Big Dipper.

I relocated my set up to the dark area between my house and my neighbour’s. I set the camera on top of my piggyback mount. I then set the telescope to capture many long exposure images of the sky. They turned out beautifully.

Wide Angle View of Stars

Wide Angle View of Stars

The Big Dipper Between Two Houses

The Big Dipper Between Two Houses

Stars with Jupiter in the sky

Stars with Jupiter in the sky

Note that on the center-bottom portion of the images, my telescope was visible.

After I was satisfied in the quality and number of images taken, I decided to refocus my attention on Jupiter. I went back inside to obtain my laptop. At the same time I also went to swap out the batteries. To conserve used batteries, I reused a set of old batteries having warmed up to room temperature, thus allowing any extra charge to be used up. I went outside and replaced the batteries.

I set it up and I set the telescope to realign itself to Jupiter. However, the telescope was starting to give me a No Response 17 code. That means that my hand controller lost contact with the Altitude motor, which means I had no up or down capabilities. I conjectured it to being exposed to the cold for so long. However, I also read that it could be due to the used batteries having been completely drained. Regardless of why, I decided to call it a night. I brought all my equipment back in, and got warm.

That night was not only quite successful, but has been the busiest I had ever been. I ran back into my house to get equipment more times than any other time. I got a better image of M42 despite it not being at the quality I desire it to be. I was able to image a farway star using CCD. I was also able to get a lot of long-exposure images of the big dipper and the night sky. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to image Jupiter. The next time I observe, I will image Jupiter. I also discovered focusing issues when I use my DSLR camera. It will have to be resolved if I want to get better images. It has been a great learning experience, and I hope to do it again.

Before I conclude the post, I have one announcement to make:

  • The Facebook page is officially live. If anybody has any questions, feel free to ask them there. The link is: https://www.facebook.com/jolyastronomy

Thank You for following my blog. I hope you enjoy it. Happy Observing!

WORK CITED

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charge-coupled_device

http://www.celestron.com/c3/support3/index.php?_m=knowledgebase&_a=viewarticle&kbarticleid=2434