Saturday, April 18, 2009

I've been doing it wrong for years! (Telescope alignment)

We had some clearing last night, but it wasn't anything too exciting, so I took the chance and spend a few hours trying to tweak the scope mount for better polar alignment. I found some software that makes drift alignment almost painless to do - once you figure out how the software works. Drift alignment is what you do with a polar aligned scope to align it when you don't have a clear shot of Polaris. It's a pain (although people say it's easy) since you have to watch a star in the east and south to see if it drifts up or down in the view. That will tell you if you need to twist the RA left/right and move the DEC up/down. It's confusing to do - at least for me!
So, I found this "WCS - WebCamScheinern" software that makes it fairly simple. There is a 30 day trail, and I have 15 days left. I'll just say it works, and I'll send Wolfgang my 21 EUR for registration.
Before, I would slew across the sky, and totally miss my object. After a few hours of tweaking (not as much cussing as usual) I find that now I can slew across the sky and the next object is still inside the view of a 26mm eyepiece. HUGE improvment! Also, did some testing of the autguiding and my errors are now much smaller. I've been putting up with a mis-aligned mess for about 4 years now?
Here are some quick samples I took last night to test out the autoguiding. M27 The Dumbbell nebula - focus isn't great, but the stars are only slightly "Twinkie" shaped. M57 Ring nebula - I've always had guiding problems in this par of the sky for some reason, stars would always trail. Now it looks better than ever.
I now wait again for a clear night to test this out more....

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