Tuesday, December 23, 2014

All my 2014 images

I created a movie with all my astro images from 2014. It's quite the variety:

(best to watch in full-screen!)

I had to create individual mp4 files for all photos and their zoom effects. When I then integrated them into the main movie, a lot of the detail went away :-( Also, only a few times, the direction of the zoom out of the image is in the same direction as the zoom effect in the image itself - those look really cool. If the direction is not the same it feels somewhat jerky. Still, I like it a lot.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!!!

Monday, December 22, 2014

New Equipment / Software

I recently ordered a new chip for my AP Mach1GTO mount, so that I can try/use APCC. My mount had a Q chip and APCC needs the latest V chip. Using AP's instructions (and the included device to safely remove the cip), it was super easy to replace the chip. Apparently, the Q chip is so old, that all the data in the control box had to be removed (periodic error curve, locale...) When I powered the mount back on for the first time, I connected it to the AP telescope software on my laptop and everything got written back.

At the same time, SGPro 2.4 beta was released. I also downloaded that to try it out. Took a little bit of a risk: the 2.3 configuration files can be read by 2.4 but not vice versa. I.e. after you install and run 2.4 for the first time you can't easily downgrade.

Here was my first night:

1. Mach1GTO chip
I setup the scope as usual (polar alignment with RAPAS, connecting to the computer). I did a couple of test slews: they pointed all into the right direction. So, the Mach1GTO chip update and re-initialisation seems to work.

2. New SGPro version
Connected SGPro 2.4 to the scope. Tried everything manually (slewing, moving focuser, filter wheel...) - everything seemed to work.

3. New SGPro autofocus routine
One of the main improvements in 2.4 is the autofocus routine - it tries to adjust if the focus point is too far out. I tried it - and sure enough, the focus point is way out (the focuser was set to the much lower end of night temperature). SGPro took 4 measurement on the right hand side, realized that the focuser is even further to the right. 

It stopped the autofocus run and moved the focuser further out.
... or at least tried it. Nothing happened and when I checked the log file, I could see this exception:

[12/22/2014 7:05:53 PM] [DEBUG] [Camera Thread] Find Stars: 211 found...
[12/22/2014 7:05:54 PM] [DEBUG] [Camera Thread] Auto focus HFR calculated at: 157[12/22/2014 7:05:55 PM] [DEBUG] [Camera Thread] Detected focus getting worse! Shifting auto focus range[12/22/2014 7:05:55 PM] [DEBUG] [Camera Thread] Focuser moving to 59326[12/22/2014 7:05:55 PM] [DEBUG] [Camera Thread] Focuser move call complete[12/22/2014 7:06:10 PM] [DEBUG] [Camera Thread] MoveFocuserAbsBlocking: Focuser position 59326 matches requested position 59326[12/22/2014 7:06:10 PM] [DEBUG] [Camera Thread] Auto focus data[12/22/2014 7:06:10 PM] [DEBUG] [Camera Thread]  - Data Points: 8[12/22/2014 7:06:10 PM] [DEBUG] [Camera Thread]  - Step Size: 2000[12/22/2014 7:06:10 PM] [DEBUG] [Camera Thread]  - Current Position: 59326[12/22/2014 7:06:10 PM] [DEBUG] [Camera Thread]  - Initial Move Position: 67326[12/22/2014 7:06:10 PM] [DEBUG] [Camera Thread] AF Darks exception: The path is not of a legal form.[12/22/2014 7:06:10 PM] [DEBUG] [Camera Thread] Moving focuser to next position (67326)...
[12/22/2014 7:06:10 PM] [DEBUG] [Camera Thread] Focuser moving to 67326
[12/22/2014 7:06:10 PM] [DEBUG] [Camera Thread] ASCOM Focuser: Error in Move(abs) : Exception has been thrown by the target of an invocation. (System.Runtime.InteropServices.COMException (0x80020009): Focuser is currently moving)   at System.RuntimeType.InvokeDispMethod(String name, BindingFlags invokeAttr, Object target, Object[] args, Boolean[] byrefModifiers, Int32 culture, String[] namedParameters)   at System.RuntimeType.InvokeMember(String name, BindingFlags bindingFlags, Binder binder, Object target, Object[] providedArgs, ParameterModifier[] modifiers, CultureInfo culture, String[] namedParams)   at SequenceGenerator.SafeFocuser.Move(Int32 val)   at av.Move(Int32 absolutePosition)

    this seems to be the same exception again that I saw before (when SGPro tries to move the focuser when it's still moving). Need to follow-up on this.
    I then moved the focuser manually further out. This time, the autofocus routine ran through but had not enough points on the left hand side to create the straight line. 

    It added a few points there until it could approximate a line.
    Worked really well!!!

    4. Temperature
    SGPro seems to have issues to read the TEMPerHUM device. When I use it I get temperatures in the 40-50 degree range (Celsius). Same with the external FLI focuser temperature. The only temperature that seems to work is the internal FLI focuser temperature - and even that one not reliably...
    For now, I set the autofocus routine to refocus every 4 frames.
    Reported that too.

    5. Running SGPro sequence
    Then I tried to run a sequence. SGPro showed an error message, that I need to use a newer PHD2 version. SGPro is using the newer PHD2 API which was introduced in 2.3.4. I downloaded 2.4.1, installed it. Restarted PHD2, reloaded the calibration data and tried again. But SGPro still thought that I have 2.3.1 installed. I checked all directories, settings (guide log...) but everything looked OK. I then restarted SGPro - and then everything worked.

    I finally ran a regular SGPro sequence with no problems (focusing, refocusing, meridian flip...)

    Sunday, December 21, 2014

    M82 reprocessed

    For my 2014 movie, I wanted to reprocess my image of SN2014J in M82. The image that I had was really noisy:

    But when I took the image, I too many more images - in different exposure times (I wanted to try out of the readout noise of the H694 camera is really low and wanted to compare similar overall exposure times between many short exposures and fewer longer exposures). I had the following stacks:

    From 30 sec exposures:
    Luminance: 1020 sec + 1380 sec (from two different days)
    Red: 1800 sec
    Green: 1800 sec
    Blue: 1960 sec

    From 7.5 sec exposures:
    Luminance: 4800 sec
    Red: 3600 sec
    Green: 3600 sec
    Blue: 2700 sec

    I combined them by using the overall and individual exposure time as weights (e.g. the Red 1800 sec exposure got a 1800/5400=1/3 weight, the Red 3600 sec exposure got a 2/3 weight). After combining them, I need to adjust the colors as the different colors had different exposures (and of course because I have a very strong red tilt because of our light pollution). I used Pixinsights ColorCalibration process and then process as normal. This was the result:

    Quite the improvement!!!

    Monday, December 8, 2014

    The Horsehead Nebula (IC 434) and the Flame Nebula (NGC 2024)

    I took only Ha exposures for this image:
    (click image for full resolution)

    This image consists of 13x600 min Ha exposures (=2h 10min). You can clearly see the Horsehead Nebula on the right, the Flame Nebula (NGC 2024) on the left and the streams in the ionized gas in the background - which stem from the magnetic fields in the nebula.

    I tried to improve the grainy glow of the bright star Alnikat on the upper left, but could not find a good way to mask it, but not the nebula. I.e. every attempt resulted in the nebula loosing a lot of it's detail. The trickiest part of processing this image was to remove noise and to keep detail and a smooth background.