My objective was to beging to get back into DSO imaging after a couple of months away.
The NP101 was already on the G11. I went out to attach the ASI6200/EFW/OAG with guide camera/Flattener package before dinner. Sunset was at 1959, and I went out at 2035 to power up, polar align, focus the main and guide cameras, and calibrate. This activity went quite smoothly, and it took me about 45 minutes of work at the scope. It seems like I was able to get through the outdoor stuff in less than 30 minutes in the past, so that is a goal to work toward. I was inside for the re-baselining and the M60 capture, and I went out to capture Flat Frames at the end of the session. It was 53F at the beginning of the session, and surface winds were calm. Astrospheric projected Above Average to Average transparency, Below Average seeing. It was 38F when I went out for flat frame capture.
My first order of business was to do another PHD baseline run. In addition to the activities called out in the Brian Valente document that I was working from, I played with various other PHD settings. This activity was successful as I achieved a .75” total RMS error by the end of testing.
I completed the baselining runs at 2130, and set up a NINA sequence to capture M60 and NGC4647 (which has an active supernova). The sequence was L: 30 x 60s, R, G, and B: 10 x 180s. I initiated the sequence at 2200 and it is expected to complete at 0030.
The Good: Most things worked as they should have. I was able to get through most activities with only very moderate fumbling around. There is a lot of room for improving smoothness.
Guiding seemed worse when I connected to PHD2 from NINA. There is no need for NINA to get involved with guiding, so I am content to let PHD2 run as a standalone app.
I should have made the color filters expose for 2m instead of 1.5m. Rookie error. I should have done a test exposure to see what exposure was needed.
Plate solving may not be working correctly. After initiating the NINA sequence, the mount should have slewed to the target’s presumed location, plate solved an image, and centered it in the display. I found the target somewhat above center. I reinitiated the sequence and though that I saw the target at the center of the frame, so I let NINA proceed with the capture. I have no idea what this is all about. I will need to pay closer attention to this in another outing.
I saw some evidence of stiction in Ra. I could see Ra pulses getting stronger without the mount responding for several seconds. After a while, the stiction would break free and PHD would very quickly resume normal guiding.
I was on the new laptop continuously for most of the evening and had plenty of reserve power. I would have the laptop open a lot less if I were not doing the baseline run. This was encouraging.
I purposefully did not use autofocusing. I need to double check the setting, and perhaps I will be ready to incorporate autofocus in my next session.
The Ugly: At one point PHD2 stopped guiding as it reported that the telescope was slewing. I went outside to check and it was not slewing. The hand controller was unresponsive. I disconnected and reconnected the cable and it resumed working just fine. I need to recheck the mount control panel battery again. This kind of issue scares me a lot, because it is intermittent, and I really have not nailed down a cause.
I was back outside briefly at 0035 to capture flat frames. It was 39F, surface winds were calm, and I could see no signs of dew.
Flat frame capture was problematic. I did not spend any time troubleshooting tonight.
The settings from my test run were still there from a couple of days ago and worked well. During the capture, I could see some horizontal banding in the images. I think that these are like “scan” lines in the LED light panel, and I may have set it brighter than I did last time. I let the run complete. I was prompted to cover the lens for dark flat frames, and this where it started going bad. After about six very fast frames, the frames started coming in excruciatingly slow. I suspected an issue with my remote desktop session, and seem to confirm that when I tried to reset and could not re-establish the connection.
Processing and posting details to follow.
Bottom line: I think that getting out to do a lot of solar and lunar over the winter translated into much less fumbling around at the scope than I expected. I think that after a couple more sessions that DSO imaging will be going a lot better. In the future, I eventually want to do a full imaging dress rehearsal without using any household power, just to see if I am packing enough energy to make it through a night of imaging. I would also like to get the standalone nano router working correctly and use it in the rehearsal.
This was a great first night out, and I feel like I have already gotten a lot of issues out of the way, or at least identified so that I can work on them.