I was out on Tuesday, January 22, 2007 with Fred and Manuel at Area51. I was specifically playing around with the autoguider in my SBIG ST2000-XCM CCD camera (making certain that my earlier success at autoguiding wasn’t some kind of fluke), and shooting M42 only because all I needed to do was polar align and point at it through the finder to get it on the chip (okay, maybe I was a little unmotivated).

The autoguiding was going quite well – looks like I should be able to pick any reasonable exposure time and expect the camera and mount to work together well. Unfortunately it also looks like I’ve had my camera long enough to need to recharge the dessicant. The picture below just has to be the result of a frosty chip! Click on the image to load a larger version.

Please don’t pick on the processing – this was a fast run of 10 5 minute frames through Images Plus with an average combine and a click of the “auto” button in Digital Development to stretch it out so I could see what I had captured. The computer did it all by itself, basically – I’d have reprocessed it later on before showing it to you guys, but as it is, there’s not really much point in doing so…

…anyways, I thought it might serve as an object lesson. Time to warm up the oven and recharge that dessicant!

That very afternoon I just got the the new SPC900NC web camera from Wal-Mart.com ($59.98 + shipping) and a 1.25 inch nosepiece from e-bay ($18.00 + $2.00 shipping) all put together, so while the night was winding down we popped the new camera into Fred’s 14″ Meade GPS and gave it its first light.

We had been imaging deep sky earlier in the evening and thought that the seeing was pretty decent – we were taken to school on that assumption as soon as we got the camera focused – Saturn was looking a lot like a coin at the bottom of a pool.

Unruffled, we decided to go ahead and try some captures while we had Fred’s scope set up for it.

We tried a series with Fred’s 2.5X Powermate,

then with my 2X “shorty” barlow,

and then finally at the prime focus of the 14″ LX200GPS.

I very quickly put together the three images above to see what we got. Due to the seeing and the rough processing (just quickly run through registax, no other processing attempted) they’re certainly not museum quality, but they show tht the camera definitely has a lot of promise…

Within minutes of finishing the last Saturn capture, a pea-soup fog rolled in and completely cut the night off.


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