A Christmas image and equipment update

First of all I hope everyone had a fantastic christmas.
I was actually a little surreal as this was the first year in about 10 years that I have not worked at all over the christmas holidays.
Things have been a little slow of late due to the weather but it has given me a chance to tweak a few things.
In the last set of images there was a few things that I was not completely happy with Diffraction spikes did not look right which pointed to a possible issue with the spider vanes and also some slight collimation issues which showed in the flat frames as well.

M78

Having worked on the scope on and off for a week or so and after getting a laser collimator for Christmas I think I fixed some of the issues and any remaining issue should be a little easier to solve. My Flat fields look a lot better as do the stars, there is still a slight reflection issue that I am trying to figure out but nothing unpleasant. Yesterday however I finally got a clear spell to actually get everything out and test. I have been building a library of dark frames taken at various different temperatures and timings so this was a good chance to see how the mount faired with a longer exposure time. Since getting the mount back I have only gone as long as 300 seconds, last night I shot my first set of subs at 600 seconds in less than ideal seeing conditions. Although the PHD guide graph was very erratic due to seeing the resulting images all had round stars and with a zero bin count I am very pleased indeed.

 

I also installed and setup Astro Tortilla a few days ago and last night was the first time I have got chance to test out platesolving. This was very successful indeed and is going to become a main part of my acquisition workflow. Having to setup the scope each time means that I have to Polar align the mount and then align the scope and sync it using software to get accurate go-to’s.
Platesolving allows me to take the guess work out of this and uses software to calculate where I am pointing, sync the mount and then if required re-slew to the required location with the errors corrected (I hope this makes sense). This is something I will be looking at further over the coming weeks once I have had more time to use it.

Latest images and updates

Having got everything back and setup, last week I finally got around to trying everything out.

The mount is a massive improvement, dave at darkframe has done a superb job and I am over the moon with the results so far.
There is still a  little bit of fine tuning needed to my guiding setup but  this will be dialled in over the next few sessions.

The modified cannon needed a little bit of further work following on from inital tests. After trying everything out I found a fair amount of dust and I had no idea where it came from.
After stripping the camera back down it turned out that the Baader filter was the culprit and after trying multiple times to get this clean I eventually found that there was a number of imperfections in the filter and did away with it.

The scope is performing a lot better now as well, there does seem to be a marked increase in contrast compared to standard. I am currently working on fine tuning the collimation and currently have the scope stripped again as the focuser still seemed a little off. This will be put back together again over the coming days and tested again, I feel a sense of collimation OCD coming on however I am determined to tune the scope as far as possible.

I also had a few days off last week that coincided with a few clear nights. Getting everything out and field tested hightlighted a few small issues but over all I have been very pleased indeed with how everything turned out.