Friday, August 21, 2015

First Stacking of DSO from Crest Astro-Shack

I guess I can call this the first "official" deep sky image from the new observatory since I did stack these with a dark filed.  Seven shots at ISO 1000, f/6.3 with Canon 60Da, CLS filter, Meade LX200 classic 12", StarShoot Autoguider on piggyback Orion 80ED Apo, and 5 minute exposures. 
Stacked with DeepSky Stacker and Gimp processing.  
Nothing special, I can complain about a lot of things in this image, but I have a lot to re-learn about this since I've been away for a couple years and forgot a lot!

M33 

Just some pretty photos

Just some pretty photos of the observatory during a recent colorful sunset, and in operation at night.
Sunset over Crest Airpark's only observatory

Nothing better than warm summer nights!

First light!

Not sure if the official "first light" should be something really pretty, stacked, processed, Photoshopped, then proudly displayed.  These are just some rough "test images" while I work out guiding issues.  I did take a series of M33 that are probably good enough to stack and tweak, but I'll get to that next.
Last night I was able to find comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy at 10.5 magnitude quite easily, so things are running well enough to find the dim fuzzies!

M33 at f/6.3 ISO100 5mins

M13 at f/6.3 ISO1000 2mins
Guiding problems, but the comet is in the middle

Latest Astro-shack update

Building the computer
Once again, it's been a long time since I added any updates to this page.  So here is the latest.   I got a new main computer for my home use, so my older Windows 7 machine was assigned to the duties of being the new observatory machine.  I did some drive swapping and put a solid state hard drive in there for fast boot (for when the thing crashes, I don't want to sit around waiting too long!).  Fortunately, the Microsoft anti-piracy check let me install it without a call to India for activation, since it was the same motherboard and just a new drive.  (Don't ask me my opinion on that crap!).
Corner operating desk
All the astro stuff has been installed and I built a little corner desk in the observatory to put the monitors and keyboards.  I still need to work out the optimal place for the computer since there are a lot of cables that run through the place to control the dome, scope and cameras. I started in the opposite corner, tripped over things a lot, then move it to a place next to the pier.  I'll probably build a raised floor with a computer space underneath for the next project.
So I guess it's operational now, and have just been doing tweaks on alignment and other things.  ASCOM drivers are finally working well, and the dome syncs up with the telescope! (Or getting close at least).
It's alive!
I recently found a good deal on a 50mm Williams Optics guide scope and camera, so I'm playing with that as a guider option.  Still seem to have some drift that I need to work out.  I think it's almost down to the PHD Guider software that I just need to get the right settings in. 
A few very rough samples of photos have been taken, mostly  just mess with autoguiding rather than anything pretty.  That will come soon I hope!


Nice Ebay find for $270!


The little white thing is the new guider.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Our new "Gemini" two seater.

As some of you know, Traci and I are building an airplane in our home hangar here at Crest Airpark.  Do we ever have enough projects around here to work on?  In addition to building the new Astro-shack, working on growing a home business, maintaining the yard, and managing a bunch of cats.
Our latest addition to the airport home is a 1973 Cessna 150L that we just picked up from Prosser last week.   The plane flies great, has a strong engine with fairly low time, and best of all will get us airborne and make us feel like we fit in with our other flying neighbors around here! 
It does need a little cosmetic work mainly replace cracked panels in the cockpit (very common with these vintage planes) and some other improvements.
Eventually, we may add commercial insurance so I can do a little flight training in it, but that's later on as we work out ideas and get a few projects done around here.

Jet thinking of the bird hunting possibilities with a C-150

Everything Gemini

Just a fun thing I stumbled across in the aimless internet wanderings.  Actually, this showed up on Facebook on one of the many space geek groups I'm in.  
Kind of a fun interactive page full of diagrams and stuff from the Gemini spacecraft.  If you look at the main pane images, click on some of the buttons and controls - a new page pops up with a short description of the control that you clicked on.  I think a lot of work has gone into this web page! 
There are a lot of diagrams that I haven't seen before. Fun stuff!



Monday, June 1, 2015

Big Blue is home finally

Big Blue finally was dragged out of storage on the same wagon as the cement, pier and rocks dug out of the hole.  (It's a useful thing around here!).
The scope is about 80+ lbs but Traci and I together were able to get on each side of it and lift it up on the pier.  The height in relation to the dome opening turned out perfectly.  As expected (yes, even with the low Hobbit sized door) a raised floor or platform will be needed to reach the scope easily.  That's one of the next projects on the list.  
Scope is in new home

As planned, the height and the hole lined up just right

A floor platform will be needed

Danger - black hole where not even eyepieces can escape

Dangerous hole!
I realized once this was installed that I had a very dangerous situation that could result in a very difficult retrieval.  The hole at the top of the pier could easily attract and suck in telescope mounting nuts, eyepieces, evening observing snacks, cell phones...or anything that fits in an 8x8 inch opening!
Safely covered
Fixed that problem with some scrap and covered up that danger.  Later I did paint this black.







Test fitting the wedge





Drilling the holes for the bolts

Drilling template
After a lot of discussion, thoughts and other positive negatives about how to mount this thing, we figured that the best thing do do would be do use anchor bolts to hold this thing to the ground.  The last one I built I had threaded rods embedded into the cement as it was poured.  The bolts used were 1/2 inch diameter and about 7 inches long.
A template was cut out to match the base holes on the pier and used as a guide for lining up the hole properly.   A hammer drill with masonry bits was used to drill the holes.  Drilling cement is surprisingly easy, just make sure to wear eye, ear and lung protection from the noise and dust that seems to squirt up in your face when pulling the bit out of the hole!
A straw taped to the hose of the shopvac was used to suck out the dust from the hole and clear it for the bolt to be pounded and then tightened down.
One bolt ended up not quite perpendicular, but with a little effort the pier did drop down right where I wanted it to be!  Success!
Drilled and sucked out with vaccum

It fits!

Moving the pier out to the Astro Shack

Moving day
The monster has moved from the hangar finally.  We used the garden wagon to haul this thing out across the yard to the observatory.  I think the whole thing is over 130-lbs total and if you drop it on your foot, it would be a bad day.
Centered and marked 
If you review the previous posting, the rebar was arranged to carefully avoid where the bolts would be drilled in.  Again, drilling the holes and hitting rebar would also be a bad day.
The pier was placed into the center of the slab and carefully centered.  I used a big marking pen to mark it on the cement for later.  


Cement base poured - and a memorial.

Ready for cement
A little bit of Alex in there
Again, a long time since I've updated this, so here is some catch-up on the construction of the Crest Astroshack.  We finally got the base cement mixed and dumped into the hole.  The hole wasn't quite as deep as I hoped, but digging in our backyard really, REALLY sucks!
It's probably just under 2 feet deep, but with all the pebbles, fist sized rocks, and the 75 lb boulders down there, I figured there was a pretty good surrounding foundation for anything there.
Rebar cage was constructed and suspended in the hole so the horizontal parts would stay in the middle of the slab.
As a tribute and permanent memorial to our late friend, construction supervisor, and helper cat - Alex - we mixed in some of his ashes into the base and put his name on it.   He'll forever be an observing companion.  We miss him terribly, but know he'll always be out there!

Mix and pour


Done!
Alex forever





Friday, February 13, 2015

Shutter and dome rotation completed.

It's been a while since I posted progress on this.  Finally got some warmer weather the other day and I figured it was time to take a break from indoor work and do some more on the observatory.
Long story on the fun and frustration of hooking up the cables that open and close the shutter, I'll post that fix another time. For now, here is the dome functioning as it should.  Ok, I still need to make sure it rotates a full 360 degrees - both ways - without getting stuck.  When I got the rotation motors running a while back, it was getting stuck in one direction.  I'll get to that too!

Here is a video from the outside showing the shutter opening, some rotation and closing again.  I did grease the tracks also, so I'll have to remember not to lean on that now or mess up my shirt!



This next video is the inside view of the dome rotating and closing.  it has two small electric motors that drive 4 wheels with a rubber belt.  It seems to work fine, I was fearing that I would need to replace all those since they were slipping in the old location in Renton - but then again, I've learned and improved on this one from my previous mistakes!  
The cable winch or jackscrew can be seen at the back of the dome wall.  That is a real pain to get working, and I DID get it working without any kinks or binding this time. I think I may have had the cable too loose previously.  Just need to grease that up good too. 


I'm still hoping for "first light" sometime in the spring.  I have to tie up some cables in the dome that are hanging all over the place, then I think I can call that completed.  Next, is the rebar in the hole and pouring concrete.