Observing Session–July 26, 2018

Since another clear night, I wanted to try the ZWO camera with the Meade ETX.  There was a slight breeze which made it more comfortable and keep away the mosquitoes. 

I setup the power for the laptop and the DC adapter for the ETX.  I went to plug in the ZWO camera but it wasn’t detected by the laptop.  Then I remembered that I only installed SharpCap and forgot to install the camera drivers.  Simple fix.

I decided to try the moon since it wasn’t fully dark.  The moon was very large in the preview in SharpCap which was great.  The electronic focuser on the ETX was nice but never really got a crisp image of the Moon.  I would see the wavy appearance.  Not sure if the hot night or the fact I was at the driveway but still learning a lot.   I also realized I had forgotten all the settings for SharpCap.  I just set to auto and hoped.   I tried the Barlow too but it got way darker.  Not sure if I can fix in the SharpCap settings so something to try at a later time.

I then went to fine Saturn.  It was a very frustrating effort and took forever.  I realized the finderscope wasn’t aligned correctly.  I tried to compensate but swapping out different eyepiece but then realized that the higher magnification of the ZWO camera meant I needed to be perfect in the eyepiece before swapping with the camera.  A couple of time I got close but then realized the exposure setting on SharpCap might not be helping.  I had just set to auto.   Finally, I noticed a donut and thought maybe I wasn’t in focus.  But, we I focused, it move the telescope enough that Saturn moved.   I went through this back and forth for a long time until I finally got lucky and got an image of Saturn in SharpCap. I was able to manually move the telescope once I realized the slowest setting was too slow for the actual motion of Saturn.    I was able to get a few images but there would be no way to experiment with SharpCap settings.  I then realized I needed to have tracking turned on by the telescope and thus need to have aligned it.   It is all making sense and I guess trying makes you realize how much more you need to do.  But, again, learning a lot.

I decided to try Mars next.  It was slightly easier to get it into the SharpCap preview.   I played around with the gain setting and got it to be sort of red but realized never going to get anywhere without tracking so just called it a night.

All the images can be found on the wiki at https://clearskytonight.com/wiki/July_26,_2018.

ClearSkyTonight_mars_20180826_Capture_00110ClearSkyTonight_moon_20180826_Capture_00010ClearSkyTonight_saturn_20180826_Capture_00081

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Telescope and Camera image size test

I was doing some visual observing with my Meade LX70 refractor. I then tried connecting my Canon T3i and was disappointed with the results. I was looking at Jupiter and could make out some of the bands and the moon with the different eyepieces but the image was way too small on the image with the Canon. So, I did a test some tests. I tested all three of my telescopes (Meade ETX90EC, Meade LX70 refractor, Meade Lightbridge 10”) with my two cameras (Canon T3i and ZWO AS103MC).

The results are in this wiki article called “Image Size Test”.

The first thing that is interesting is of course the difference between the image with the 55 MM camera lens and any of the telescope images. But, the more critical comparison is between the telescopes themselves using the different cameras.

The ZWO camera results is significantly closer image than the Canon regardless of which telescope is used.

When comparing the ZWO images, I was surprised the ETX had a larger image even though it is a small diameter. I will need to do more research. The Lightbridge image is very puzzling. It is a significantly larger diameter and the image isn’t a similar order of magnitude bigger. In fact, the Lightbridge doesn’t look much bigger than the ETX.

Related to the Barlow, the image size is noticeably larger.

Though not related to this test, the blurry images are a problem but again the test was during the day going through a window.

To summarize, interesting results and will need another test using a night time object like the moon.

daylight test 55mmimage size test Capture_00005

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SharpCap settings for ZWO AS103MC and Lunt LS50THA

In preparing for the solar eclipse, I experimented with different SharpCap settings.  I settled on these settings:

  • Exposure – 1 ms
  • Gain – 45
  • Gamma – 25
  • Brightness – 0

Those settings resulted in the image below.  I also added the full listing of settings after taking the image.

ClearSkyTonight_SharpCap_Settings

[ZWO ASI034MC]
Pan=0
Tilt=0
Output Format=AVI files (*.avi)
Binning=1
Capture Area=728×512
Colour Space=RGB24
Discard Split Frames=Off
Turbo USB=80
Flip=None
Frame Rate Limit=Maximum
Gain=45
Exposure=0.002
Timestamp Frames=Off
White Bal (B)=78
White Bal (R)=1
Brightness=0
Gamma=25
Auto Exp Max Gain=50
Auto Exp Max Exp=30
Auto Exp Max Brightness=100
Mono Bin=Off
Apply Flat=None
Subtract Dark=None
Display Brightness=1
Display Contrast=1
Display Gamma=1
TimeStamp=2017-08-21T16:26:22.1779171Z

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Total Solar Eclipse on August 21, 2017

I went to Madras, Oregon to view the total solar eclipse at Oregon Solarfest

I setup a couple of cameras.  The first was using a solar filter over a telephoto lens on my Canon.  I took a couple of shots during the first contact phase.  The main effort was using the Lunt and ZWO to try to capture totality.  The last was using the Canon to record a video during the event pointed at the horizon.  The results are located in the articles wiki for astrophotography events for the total solar eclipse

The video of using the Lunt and ZWO didn’t turn out.  The still images are great but the video needed some different type of exposure settings.  The view from the Canon was fine but the video of the event using the Canon was great.  Like I read, it was great to record the surroundings and our reactions to the event.

The total solar eclipse itself was incredible to see with my own eyes.  I am sure with more practice I could figure out the exposure settings but it was just incredible to experience though way too short.  I was also amazed by the temperature change.  Didn’t expect that.

Lastly, here are some news videos for the place we camped and nearby:

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Focus ZWO AS103MC on Lunt LS50THA

I connected the ZWO camera into the Lunt eyepiece holder but I wasn’t able to get it to focus.  So, did some research on the Internet.  The trick is to unscrew the eyepiece holder and screw the ZWO camera directly into the diagonal.  The pull the diagonal back from the telescope to get it close to focus.  Then use the focuser to fine tune.

ClearSkyTonight_ZWO_focus

References:

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ZWO ASI034MC Initial Setup

ClearSkyTonight_ZWO_2ClearSkyTonight_ZWO_1The initial setup was very easy.  The camera was a basically one piece.  I screwed in the eyepiece adapter and put on the cover.  I was going to use it as a guider so was only interested in the USB cable.

There was a small CD with drivers and a manual.  I read the manual and it said to install the driver and then test via some included software.  That all seemed to work fine.

Next, I looked for updated drivers.  The driver was to download the existing one and it removed the included software also.  But, I figured the new drivers were probably better.  I also found an updated manual

The manual suggested downloading SharpCap and FireCapture.  I downloaded and installed both.  They both seemed to connect to the camera and something was displayed though without being in a telescope and preview image was just a solid color.

But everything seemed to be working and ready to try in a telescope.





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