Moon, Jupiter and Mars (Farm V)

This was our second “bright sky” trip to the Farm. The purpose was to gain more experience with the camper as an astronomy support platform, and to try out the generator. With the waxing gibbous moon dominating the sky, our astronomy plan for the trip was to image the moon and planets. As I wrote earlier this morning, that part of the trip was a success.

After setting up the camper, I began setting up the G11/Meade. Installed the ASI178MC OSC camera as the moon would be my first target. Setup and pre-dark smartphone polar alignment went well. I installed the dew shield/heating strap, and I turned the controller to full on.

I improved my polar alignment with PoleMaster just after dark and found that NCP was about 1 degree off.

Before slewing off of CWD, I connected Firecapture to the camera and found Polaris within the field of view. I installed the Bahtinov mask and did an initial focus. My focus strategy for the night was to “memorize” the focuser position, and let muscle memory get me back to that baseline if seeing did not permit good focus by eyeballing it.

I elected to not do a star alignment because I had decided not to shoot Uranus and Neptune, which meant that my targets for the evening were bright enough to easily find with the Gemini II search function.

Throughout the night, I experienced difficulties with the hand controller becoming unresponsive after a few button presses, usually while manually guiding. Initially I was able to reset and get a few more button presses by disconnecting and reconnecting the RJ-11 connector, but eventually resets would not restore operation. In the moment I attributed the problem to the hand controller itself and was ready to give up for the evening. You encouraged me to reset the mount control panel, which I did, and I found the controller accepting a few button presses before becoming unresponsive. I was then able to take all of the images that I wanted. Examining hand control end of the cable, I found that the main sheath around the wires had separated from the controller, and that several wires appeared to have damaged insulation.

Surprisingly, the dew on the metal table stayed at bay until about 0000 and the telescope was clear until I packed it in at about 0030. I think that this was our best dew situation yet at the Farm. I have noticed in my last couple of outings that I start seeing my breath at about the same time that I see the first dew on the metal table, so I now have three indicators for impending dew: RH crossing 90%, metal table, and my breath. The next observation that I would like to make is how long does the uncovered telescope stay clear after I see the indicators.

From about 2120 to nearly 2200, I shot 10 OSC runs on the moon as it approached the meridian. I used the ASI178MC with no PowerMate. I am not certain that I can get images out of all of the runs because I had guiding difficulties as a result of the hand controller becoming non-responsive.

At around 2200 Jupiter was approaching the meridian, so I changed over to the ASI290MM with the 2.5x PowerMate, and I went to work right away on that target. In the moment, I believed that I was shooting 3 RGB runs of 45s in each channel. When shooting Mars a couple of hours later I noticed that the filter wheel was not changing filters. I presume that this condition existed when I was shooting Jupiter. Since I was cold and tired, and Jupiter was well past the meridian when I discovered this condition, I did not go back and re-shoot Jupiter.  I might not have a decent image of this target.

I wanted to wait until 0400 to shoot Mars as it would be more highly elevated and more interesting features would be facing us. I was getting tired and cold, and I could see that the weather might not hold up, so I went ahead and shot it at around 2300. The seeing was not as good as when I shot Jupiter (due to elevation differences, or conditions had changed) a couple of hours earlier.  I discovered during my first set of runs that the filter wheel was not changing filters, probably as a result of changing from the ASI178MC OSC camera. I connected Firecapture to the filter wheel, and started over. I do not recall how many runs I shot without and with the filter wheel.

I wrapped it up at about 0045, and tried to warm up in the sleeping bag.

Post event todo list is to repair and test the hand controller cable, and to set up a laptop connection to the mount so that I can have laptop control as a backup if the hand controller stops working, and so that I can start to experiment with Firecapture’s organic autoguiding capability. I have not unloaded the astronomy equipment yet, so I might wait until I see an imaging opportunity coming up.

Jupiter - 2022-11-04 01:50 UTC - With Gallilean Satellites
Jupiter with Satellites
Moon - 2022-11-04-0138_1-U- Montes Apenninus
Montes Apenninus
Moon - 2022-11-04-0127_6-U-L- Copernicus
Crater Copernicus

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