Nights on Mars Hill

Anza Trip June 2013

I decided to pack enough supplies for a four night trip and I’m glad I did. It is starting to look like summer again, the days were in the 90’s, nights in the 60’s, and the seeing was good all four nights. The first night is always a little stressful because the mount needs to be set up, balanced, and polar aligned. I am currently using Pempro for polar alignment and I like the program because it allows me to drift align with camera in place, no more swapping out eyepieces or the live view dslr camera. All went well and  I had the primary mount ready for imaging in about an hour. The first target was M20, the Trifid Nebula. It was low so I waited until about 10:30pm and let it rip. I did a meridian flip around 2am, set up another sequence, and hit the sack.

The next day I set up the other mount with the solar scope to capture some video. Right now I am using the Lunt 60 with double etalon and a DMK51 mono camera. I love the DMK51 camera because it has a big chip and I can get the entire solar disk on the chip. I also like to make 6 panel mosaics with the 2x Barlow and closeups with the 3x barlow. Not a lot going on with the sun today but I was able to post some images under the Solar Image tab so check them out.

The second night I decided to go for M8, the Lagoon Nebula. I had to wait until 10:30pm as the object was low in the sky. I did a meridian flip around 2am, set up another sequence, and hit the hay. I was really tired that night, the second night always gets me.

I continued the solar imaging on the second day. The sun is an ever-changing object and some days are outstanding and others meh, today was meh. Still I was able to get a couple of keepers and they are under the Solar Image tab.

The third night I went for M16, the Eagle Nebula. Again it was low so I waited til around 10:30pm and let ‘er rip, did a meridian flip around 2am, and then got some sleep. I forgot to mention this but I really like sleeping in the truck bed right next to the imaging setup. It allows me to be close so I can hear any alarms but thankfully no alarms this trip!

The third day I noticed the wind picked up a bit and it showed on the live view video of the sun. The disk edge looked like someone was shaking out a towel! I tried some video anyway but the finished images were poor. I could not align any of the 6 panel mosaics because some of the panel blending areas showed crisp disk areas right next to fuzzy disk areas. Also, the closeups were effected so I just ditched everything. It is strange though because some days I have conditions like this and get good images but today was not one of them. Oh well, the days are long now so I didn’t worry too much about wasting a couple of hours of capture and processing. I had plenty of time to kill!

The final night I decided to go for M17, the Swan Nebula. Just like the other nights the object was low and I waited until around 10:30pm to begin. Like the other nights I did the meridian flip around 2am and then hit the wrapper.

I woke up around 5am and made a pot of coffee. I started tearing everything down right away because I was mentally done. Four nights of around 4 hours sleep per night had taken its toll and I was ready for the trip home. I love this time of morning though and after everything was loaded up I took a few moments to take it all in.

It was a good trip as I had four good nights and two good days of data. I will post everything shortly.

 

JB

 

 

 

Welcome to Nights on Mars Hill

Welcome to my site. I wanted a place for posting my images and after looking at a few options I decided to start this website. My goal is to provide a place to post my images, do brief write ups on various topics, show the equipment that I use, and to eventually add some tutorials on image capture and processing.

Each navigation tab will take you to a new page. The image pages are set up so you can click on an image to see a brief description of the object and some image capture information.

Astronomy has always been an interest and recently I tried some photography using a telescope. I was warned that I was in for a ride but ignored this advice and started the long and winding (and expensive!) road to imaging. Looking back on the last 18 months I can honestly say I love this hobby. I was amazed early on by what a 10 second image of M42 could produce on a Meade ETX-125 and DSLR camera compared to visual observation. Seeing this pushed me further in to longer exposure times which in turn required a better mount. The better mount had me wanting a better imaging scope. The better imaging scope had me wanting a better camera. Many reading this will know where I am heading with this! Not to mention solar, lunar, or planetary imaging as these all require different imaging scopes and cameras (I have these too!). But to me it is all worth it. There is nothing like the trip to the high desert and dark skies, to meet some friends and sleep under the stars, and to eagerly wake up in the morning and check your results. The peaceful and quite weekend washes away the craziness of the work week and recharges the spirits. The back to nature aspect of this hobby keeps me relaxed, refreshed, and ready to hit Monday hard. My only regret is that I can’t devote more time to this hobby.

This site is a work in progress and bear with me as I have never created a website so any constructive comments are welcome!

JB