Monday, May 15, 2017

Sudden disconnects from MyT mount

On Sunday, when I tried to take some sun images, my MyT mount suddenly started to disconnect. At first, I thought that it is just a fluke thing, but then it happened pretty reliably every time I gave a slew command from TSX.

I saw two error messages:
Device: Mount
Error, poor communication, connection automatically
terminated. Error = 213.

Receive time-out.COMM_TIMEOUT . Error = 21002.


After the slew ended I could connect TSX again...

Tried a different USB port or a different cable, both with the same result.

I then tried with my other NUC and my laptop - both worked fine. So, it seems to be something about the computer. I then tried to power the mount and/or the NUC separately to make sure that there is enough power, but always with the same results.

Finally, I posted in the Bisque forum.

... maybe it is the 12-48V converter ...

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

PHD2 needs "screen" ?!

When I setup the new NUC, I initially did not plug in an HDMI headless plug. Everything seemed to work OK.

But in the first two nights of imaging, it seemed as if PHD2 at some point stopped responding/working. Which mean that a) the guidestar wandered out, but also that SGPro could not get a response and aborted the sessions.

When I tried to figure what happened at the time when PHD2 stopped responding I noticed that these were the times when I closed my laptop from which I remoted into the NUC. And with that effectively ending the screen session.

Weird!

Last night, I kept the laptop connected - and everything worked fine. Tonight I'll try with the headless plug and see if that works...

... no luck either.

Next, I checked if the USB ports might get powered down (although this is unlikely to be the cause as other software like SGPro or TSX keeps working). I made sure that for all USB hubs, the checkbox next to "Allow the computer to turn off this device to safe power" is disabled.

... still the same ...

Running out of ideas, I posted to the Open-PHD-Guiding Group.

Andy Galasso suspected that this has something to do with "Adaptive Hibernate" mode - though I couldn't find it. He also created a binary of PHD2 that tries to keep the computer alive. But that also didn't work.

So, I need to dig deeper (Windows 10 setting, BIOS...) to find out what causes this...

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The crazy thing is that every other program seems to work fine. I did a whole T-Point run with TSX with Teamviewer detached. SGPro continues to take images (but then hangs when it wants an update from PHD2 after dithering)...

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Andy asked if I would see the same behavior with other remoting software. I tried out "Windows Remote Desktop" ...
... and everything worked!!!

Really interesting: after I used Windows Remote Desktop once, I could then use TeamViewer again and PHD2 would not stop after disconnect ... really strange ...

So, between just switching to Windows Remote Desktop and spending more time on trying to figure out what TeamViewer / PDH2 is doing, I take the shortcut and use Remote Desktop (even more so as there is now a Mac and Android client too!) I still summarize my observations and will send them to TeamViewer support. Maybe they can figure something out.

With that, my TOA-130 scope is finally back in full service. Yei!!!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Eclipse Imaging #5 Aerial video / time lapse of moon shadow creeping over the land

This is probably the most far out idea. I want to fly the Mavic as high as possible and take a video or time lapse of the final minutes before the eclipse. Point the camera towards the horizon and hopefully see how the shadow of the moon creeps over the land. And then rely on the Mavic that it will auto-land once the batteries are low

Equipment: Mavic Drone - that's it!


Things to figure out:
  • Can I take images from the horizon to our location from the maximum height?
  • The shadow will be VERY fast (supersonic speed!!!) - What frame rate do I need to use
  • How long of a video can I shoot with that frame rate?
  • How long can the Mavic stay up there?
Scary is that during the eclipse it could get quite windy. Will the drone just be blown away and/or miss it's home landing zone?

Eclipse Imaging #4 360 video

To capture the event AND us, I want to take a 360 video:

  • Nikon KeyMission 360
  • Manfrotto tripod
The only thing to figure out is how to take a 2.5 hour video with the camera (SSD Card size, Resolution).

Setup should be easy: put camera on tripod. Start.

Eclipse Imaging #3 Ultra-wide angle Timelapse

Of course I want to take a timelapse of the event. And what better equipment then:

  • Nikon D750 and the 14-24mm lens
  • qDSLRDashboard (Holy Grail mode) + Intervallometer
  • On top of Really Right Stuff tripod
A couple of things to figure out:
  • The totality will last for 1min 28sec. In order to get a good timelapse, I need to take images every 5 seconds. Which means that the shutter speed can't exceed 3 seconds! Is that enough for the light during totality (I can ramp up ISO!)
  • The brightness will change before/after totality MUCH faster then at sunset/sunrise. Should I take the average of 2 images or just the last image for adjustment?
  • Can I use (again) a cable to control the camera, or do I need to control via Wi-Fi (sucks up much more power...)
Setup will be fairly straightforward:
  • Mount and orient camera the day before (for perfect framing)
  • Focus as always
  • Configure qDSLRDashboard
  • Connect and start Intervallometer

Eclipse Imaging #2 Ha-images with the moon covering the Sun

Well, this is what I bought my Lunt scope for :-)

I hope that these images provide some interesting detail (craters and mountains on the side of the moon against the sun with all it's surface details). And/or will make a good time lapse of the event. After reading more about it, the one thing I won't see here is the outer layers of the corona during totality (I would have to remove the filter for that ...)

So, the equipment I will use is:

  1. Lunt scope with automated pressure tuner
  2. Grasshopper camera from Point Grey
  3. MyT mount
  4. FlyCap software (from Point Grey)
Things to figure out:
  • For the sun surface vs. corona I need different exposure times. For my images so far, I took many images of the surface and then many images of the corona and then combined them. But here I need to take both at the same time. I.e. I need a program that can alternate between exposure times. Can FlyCap do that?
  • I also need different pressures for surface vs. corona. The app from Lunt to control the pressure can't do that and even if, I doubt that I could synchronize pressure alternation with exposure alternation.
    Maybe I need to write a script that triggers both (but need to find out if and what API the pressure tuner has)
  • How can the MyT mount track the sun over 2.5 hours?
    • TSX has a "sun tracking" speed. Need to try that out and how accurately it keeps the sun centered.
    • "proper" sun guiding solutions (like LuSol) might not work as the sun will be distorted.
  • Need to setup the Lunt scope side-by-side on the MyT mount
    • Need a better way to rotate the versa plate (without pinching the cables)
    • Need to route the RJ11 cable for the focuser through the mount
    • Need to run the whole setup from the NUC
Things I'll have to do onsite:
  • Accurately polar align the MyT mount (should not be a problem as I will use the MyT mount for astro imaging the nights before)
  • Focus and pressure tune as good as possible (I can do that the day before as I will keep the scope mounted)
  • That's it! This should be pretty easy! ... famous last words!!!

Eclipse Imaging #1 Individual images

I was reading a lot about how to take individual real-color images of a solar eclipse. But the outlook of constantly adjusting exposure time, changing filters.. wasn't too great. I want to enjoy the eclipse as much as possible and pay as little as possible attention to my gear.

So, I was delighted to learn about Eclipse Orchestrator. It does create a whole script and executes it along a very tight timeline (needs exact location and time). The only thing that it needs is to remove the filter just before the second contact and put it back on after the third. I can do that!!!

Initially, I was thinking of using my 300mm lens for my Nikon camera (I can only use the D7000 as the D750 is not supported) and mount it on top of the TOA-130 scope and use the Mach1 mount to track. But then I realized that I could also use the TOA-130 scope itself with the Super Reducer to take images. The field of view should be perfect and the non-flat image shouldn't be too bad for these images (especially considering that the D7000 isn't a full frame camera!)

So, the equipment that I want to use is:
  1. TOA-130 scope with Super Reducer
  2. Nikon D7000 (connected with DSUSB from shoestring astronomy to short the time between exposures)
  3. Mach1 mount
  4. Eclipse Orchestrator
There are a number of things to figure out:
  • I have an adapter from PreciseParts that should work (might be a few millimeters too short). Need to try it out and measure the distortion in the corners.
  • Need to spend a lot of time trying out the script that Eclipse Orchestrator generates - maybe adding some frames as possible (this turned out to be very involved and I decided to write an extra blog post about it)
  • How can the Mach1 mount track the sun over 2.5 hours?
    • The AP driver has a "sun tracking" speed. Need to try that out and how accurately it keeps the sun centered.
    • I could use APCC Horizons to accurately track the sun
    • "proper" sun guiding solutions (like LuSol) might not work as the sun will be distorted.
  • Need a new Serial-USB adapter (my old ones don't work with Windows 10)
Things I would have to do to set this up onsite:
  • Good polar alignment (not a problem as I will use the TOA scope the nights before for astro imaging)
  • Focus the sun extremely well
  • Enter exact coordinates from GPS (unfortunately Eclipse Orchestrator can't read from my GPS - have to enter them manually)
  • Keep NMEATime running while imaging to make sure that time is as accurate as possible (and disable Dimension4 - it shouldn't do anything as it won't find any internet. but better be on the safe side)
  • Exchange my normal imaging train (flattener, filter wheel, CCD camera) in the morning with the Super Reducer and Nikon camera WITHOUT affecting polar alignment or such.
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Update 05/01:
Received the new Serial-USB adapter - works. Yei!!!

Eclipse Imaging at OSP

After thinking and reading a lot, I decided to image the solar eclipse in 4-5 (automated!!!) ways. One of the main goals was that I could set everything up in advance and then just let it run, so that I can just enjoy the eclipse itself.

1. Individual Images of the Eclipse
  • TOA-130 scope on Mach1 mount with my Nikon D7000*
  • Controlled by Eclipse Orchestrator
  • Nikon D750 with 14-24mm lens
  • Maybe on slider
  • Controlled by qDSLRDashboard
  • Nikon KeyMission 360 on Manfretto Tripod
  • Just shoot - no control
  • Mavic Drone high up (390 ft)
  • Fly Drone up, start video / images, forget about it, let it land automatically when batteries get low
There is still a lot to figure out for each of these. With 2 months before we are leaving on vacation, I don't have too much time to plan for all of this...

* I had to use the D7000 for this as Eclipse Orchestrator does not support the D750 camera.