Saturn, Jupiter, Moon and Equipment Tuning

I had a pretty full slate of things to do for this session. The high level plan was to work on Planetary Imaging Improvements from the time that I finished polar alignment until Saturn peeked out of the trees just after midnight, and then image Saturn, and Jupiter. After swapping cameras, I would finish the night by imaging the Moon.

The planetary imaging improvement topic was about moving planetary imaging from the laptop to the mini computer, collimating the Meade, checking for focus offsets for the filters, and attempting to autoguide from Firecapture.

I had set up the mini computer on the Meade and attached/connected the mount, the electronic focuser, filter wheel, and camera by early afternoon. An initial frame rate check suggested that I could get 100fps from the mini computer.

I was getting chilly right at about sunset, so I put on a light jacket. I noted that the temps were to drop into the 50s over night, and that RH would stay rather low, perhaps holding off dew until about 0300 or 0400. Astrospheric forecast indicated Above Average transparency all night, and seeing would improve from average to above average at about midnight.

While waiting for it to get dark, I began the planetary improvement work by testing Firecapture frame rates on both the mini computer and the laptop. With an ROI of 600 x 600 (Jupiter sized) and Exp of 8ms, the FPS was about 100 on the mini computer and about 200 on the laptop. Obviously the laptop is better in this regard, but I’ll defer any decision about which platform to stick with until after I have finished my work.

I was powered up, polar aligned, and slewed to Vega to continue working on planetary imaging improvements by 2050.

First, I checked collimation with Vega out of focus. I had the best diffraction rings that I have ever seen, so seeing was pretty darned good. Collimation was off a little, and it was easy to adjust even though I had not done an adjustment for over a year.

Next was to check the filters. I had to abandon the minicomputer at this point because data from the constantly changing Firecapture display overwhelmed the RDT connection and rendered it useless.  I connected the laptop to the camera and filter wheel and continued in that configuration.

I tested for filter offsets by focusing on Vega with the Bahtinov mask through the L filter, and then cycled through the other filters. The Bahtinov diffraction spikes that indicate focus remained constant across all of the filters, which indicated that the filters were parfocal with respect to one another.

At this point it was 2135 and I decided that because of the low frame rate and with the RDT connection issues due to the rapidly changing display that the mini computer was not a suitable platform for planetary imaging. I abandoned the autoguiding part of the test for the night, because I did not want to reconfigure equipment in the dark. I will reconfigure the laptop for controlling the focuser and mount for autoguiding before my next planetary session and attempt to autoguide then.

I came inside and napped from about 2230 to 0030, and came very close to turning off the alarm and going back to sleep. I was back at the scope by 0050.

There was no difficulty in acquiring Saturn. Although seeing was forecast to be below average and improving to average during the 0100 hour, I found that it was poor, at best. I was able to see four of Saturn’s satellites when over exposed. I shot them in L only. For the main capture of Saturn I shot 5 runs of RGB at 30s per filter.

Next I went to Jupiter. Again, no difficulty in acquiring the target. Seeing seemed to have settled down a bit. I shot 5 Runs of iRGB at 30s per filter. I shot another one iRGB run at 60s per filter for comparison.

After finishing Jupiter, I replaced the ASI290MM, which had the 2.5x PM in front of it with the ASI178MC at prime focus and slewed to the Moon, and shot five full frame scenes. I shot three with very fast frame rates and two with somewhat slower frame rates for comparison.

I was back inside by 0245. The temperature when I came in was 58 degrees. No dew had formed on the table or equipment.

I am not able to get anything out of the Jupiter or Saturn data. It was a horrible mess on the display during capture, so I am not surprised. I am going to abandon it.

On thing that I cannot account for is why the lunar images turned out to be quite decent while the planetary captures were so poor. My best guess is that the seeing improved between the end of the Jupiter capture and the beginning of the lunar captures.

Improved seeing definitely could be the case. My capture times were Saturn at 0050, Jupiter at 0155, and Moon at 0245. Astrospheric had forecast below average seeing through the 0100 hour, and improving to average by the 0200 hour. I think that what I saw on the Saturn and Jupiter capture displays were actually way below average. The lunar capture display looked to be at least average, maybe better. I attributed the improvement to having removed the 2.5x PM from the optical path, but what I saw on the various displays is also consistent with the forecast. Thinking about it in hindsight, I should have re-tried the Saturn and Jupiter captures.

The Moon - 2022-08-13 06:22 UTC - Mare Crisium
Mare Crisium
The Moon - 2022-08-13 06:25 UTC - Mare Humboldtianum
The Moon
The Moon - 2022-08-13 06:30 UTC - Crater Anaxagoras
Crater Anaxagaras
The Moon - 2022-08-13 06:32 UTC - Crater Copernicus
Crater Copernicus
The Moon - 2022-08-13 06:37 UTC - Crater Tycho
Crater Tycho
The Moon - 2022-08-13 06:40 UTC - Crater Petavius
Crater Petavius
The Moon - 2022-08-13 06:43 UTC - Crater Gauss
Crater Gauss

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