Improvements, new kit and images

Thanks to the continued good weather (but variable seeing conditions), I have had a good chance to get out and do some more planetary imaging.
Having this oppotunity has really aided in finding the weak points in both my gear and technique.
First that had to be addressed from gear. I had purchased some Barlow lenses a while back which until now have been fine, however I started to find their limitations.
After speaking to a supplier I ordered an Explorer Scientific 3x Focal Extender, I also managed to get my hands on a ZWO ADC (which at present seem to be in short supply).

After a few further nights of getting used to using the ADC and working out the best settings for the ASI224MC Camera I am pretty happy with the results.
I have also taken the step to increase the height of the pier and mount ready for the Mars opposition.

More Planetary and solar images

Well the weather has held for once and I have had a few nights to attempt some futher imaging. Apart from the seeing not being great its been a good couple of sessions and managed to get some planetary shots for the first time this year.

New camera and new images.

Finally managed to get a new planetary camera and something that can also be used for EAA.
I decided on the ZWO ASI224MC due to it also being very IR sensitive given that its a OSC.
I paired it with a PlanetPro IR Pass filter and give it a test with some lunar imaging.
The result and final image was a 7 panel mosaic.

I have not had much of a chance to get out and do much imaging due to extreme swings in weather resulting in either heavy rain and high winds or hot sunny days with mist and cloudy nights.
These are the only images I have managed to get so far this summer but hoping more will follow



Dyfiastro EAA and live streaming project

Ok so this is a pretty big update and the start of what I am hoping will be an ongoing project.

The weather here has been worse than normal over the last few months and there has been a number of sessions that have failed before they even really got started.
Getting clear nights where I can obtain hours of good clean data is becoming more and more rare. There is the possibility of being able to image over multiple nights however, I have actually seen whole targets come and go between sessions now. Imaging in the way I currently do means I am going at times months without getting a decent session in (three good sessions in total since the start of the year).

I have been looking at what I can do in between that means I am still imaging and able to get the scope out during the more brief periods of clear sky.
Whilst doing some searching and research on a new camera that I was looking at I came across a possible solution, EAA (Electronic Assisted Astronomy).
The new camera I purchased for planetary and lunar imaging also doubles up very well for this, And this is where I am currently at.

I will be starting a new project as I venture into EAA and have spent the last week setting the equipment and software up so that I am able to live stream sessions as well.
Please subscribe to my yourube channel (here) and facebook page (here) for details and live streams.

First images of 2018

Well what can I say, the weather has been terrible (more so than normal). My last session although short has yealded another first for me, Imaging a supernova.

There may well be more of these as its challenge I really enjoyed.
There is also also news coming soon of a potential new project.

Latest Deep Sky images.

Having had very little in the way of clear sky I have finally managed to get a few sessions in.

New Scope and Solar imaging update

After purchasing a used Skywatcher 200p a few weeks back I set about stripping it down and getting it ready for use.
The scope has had a few modifications to make it perform a little better and I have been taking the oppotunity to test it out along with a new “White Light” solar filter I made.


Massive update

The first big bit of news is Dyfi Astro now its own Observatory, The Cantrer Gwaelod Observatory.

If you are interested in knowing more about the name as well as the myths and legend surrounding it then take a look here.
This marks somewhat of a milestone and something that will be somewhat of an evolutionary process of the next 12 months or so.
One of the main issues I have had until now is having to setup and breakdown each night and all the issues that go along with it.
The longest part about getting setup now is letting the scope cool down enough, this will being aided soon with the addition of a fan attachment to the scope.  The build from start to finish took a week, there was however a few bits of prep work done before hand to make that possible.

The scope and mount now sits on a custom built concrete pier which has made a major difference compared to what I had before.
The whole system is now connected to a dedicated computer and can be controlled locally from within the observatory or remotely from anywhere with an internet connection.  Imaging from here has been a massive boost and has spurred me on to experiment and try new things knowing I can be setup within minutes and image through short periods of clear sky.  Everything took a little time to setup and dialled in how I wanted, The end result is a system that is a lot more capable and should serve well going forward.

The first images from the new setup proved to be interesting and these last few months there has been a few more “firsts” mainly due to having a permanent setup.
Until this point I had never attempted to Photograph a Comet, just after building the Observatory I got a chance to photograph two, Comet C/2015 V2 (Johnson) and Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak.

With the summer months here the lack of a dark sky meant I had a chance to try a few things out and test a few things before the cold dark nights come back.
The scope is now fully guided but I have now taken full advantage of Platesolving and took the time to build a decent alignment map.
After helping a mate out setting up his Ha Solar scope for imaging he kindly donated some solar film. This was another first for me and something that really has come into its own these last few weeks.

Whilst setting everything up and getting things tested it has given me a chance to try a few short sessions. Not having a dark sky has limited me on what I can do in regards Deep sky imaging but I have still managed to get a few short test sessions in.
My 600D has now also been turned completly full spectrum and I intend making the most of the extra signal over the coming months. One thig I have noticed this summer is the difference in noise at higher temperatures, this is something I intend addressing for next year.
There are a few things on the cards and I promise to keep you posted more often. Below are a few other shots that have been taken during a number of sessions so far.

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.

The right tool for the job

Over the last few weeks I have been in somewhat of a battle with myself in regards to my current imaging setup.
I have been using the Fuji X System for a few years now and for “daytime” photography it is an outstanding system.
The low light capabilities are fantastic and the new Fuji XT2 has taken it a step further, so whats the problem?

There are two issues at play here, lack of support in regards software and also the X-Trans Sensor (more on this in a second).
Using the the Fuji X System for astrophotography is not as easy or anywhere near as flexible as some of the other brands. The lack of software support at the capturing stage as well as the processing stage makes the whole task a lot harder and lot more time consuming than it needs to be. One of the major disadvantages is the lack of direct software based camera control and no SDK available for third parties to be able to interface with the system in any way.

The other issue is the sensor that is used. The simple fact that there are fewer red and blue pixels really has the ability to hamper the ability to capture data as well as a traditional bayer array. Under normal daytime photography this is not an issue but when you are attempting to capture areas that are for example high in Ha the lower number of red pixels could have an effect on the overall response and sensitivity (Further investigations into this are going to be needed).

The spectrum response of the Fuji XT2 is better than the XT1 but is still hampered by the UV/IR cut and colour correcting filters. Due to the wide spectrum response that they typically block this also hampers capturing Narrow band data such as Ha even further.
Traditionally this is the reason why cameras are modified for astrophotography, the filters are either removed or replaced with specialist filters that do not block these and the camera can pass through 4 or 5 times the amount that it could before the modification (This is not unlike the modification that is done for Infrared conversions).

I had originally thought about going down the dedicated CCD route but the costs are a real factor and more so if going down the route of a mono setup with filters.

After a little more research and speaking to a few people I have made the decision to do something that I never thought I would be doing again, buying a Canon.
Canon DSLRs have by far the best software and hardware support and also once modified are very capable imaging systems.
APS-C Canon DSLRs are also a lot cheaper and although the Noise and High ISO performance is not as good on some of the older models, there are a number of things that can be done to reduce this and once stacked the noise really is pretty impressive.
Although newer models can be used and converted there are a number of older models out there that perform very well and are actually highly regarded and recommended.

Last night I picked up one such canon at a very good price and over the next week will be converting it and making the modifications required. I will also be taking a closer look at the software options and how these can be used to automate workflow as well as cut down on processing and reduce both luminance and colour noise. Some of these techniques I already use however there a few that due to current limitations in the Fuji system mean its not possible. Something I am also currently exploring and may be looking into depending on time and cost is to create a cooled camera setup to reduce noise even further.

There was also a slight delay in my mount coming back however I have been informed that it should be back with me the end of this week. This is something I will also be going into further.

Keep an eye out over the coming weeks for further updates.