It was warm last night. Comfortably warm, but not a lot of the flying, biting armies. It was clear, too- but the seeing was terrible. The Clear Sky Clock seeing blocks were Green, y’all. Not good. But, it was clear. And that’s a miracle after what happened in my last post. The ground wasn’t even wet or saturated, as it usually is after hard precipitation. So I thought, “Why not?” and lugged the ‘scopes out, set them up, and was onto GoTo procedures as twilight was fading. I had my trusty 6″ AstroView out, and the CGEM hooked up to it’s (very) small battery pack, a homemade concoction assembled from an unwanted hand vac. This was it’s first time out in the field, and it did well for the time I was out. But I digress. I decided I didn’t want to do a full blown Two-Star alignment, so I decided to try out the Solar System Align. It work exceptionally well, placing ‘ol Jupe well within the view of my 25mm Plossl. Centered it up, pressed Align and I was ready to go, and off I went to the moon. After getting the moon in the field of view, and noting that CSC was indeed correct on the seeing, I wandered over to the AstroView. Plopped in the 25mm giving 30x, focused carefully, and gazed at the lunar surface. Not long after, I decided to do some photography through the AstoView- at F/5. “But I thought you said there wasn’t enough infocus on the AstroView for DSLR imaging at F/5…” There isn’t, as is. But I found a way around that. What I did was unscrew the piece at the end of the focuser tube that holds the eyepiece. I then held up my DSLR w/ t-ring square to the focuser, and fired several shots with a cable release. The brightness of the moon, and the comparatively short focal length allowed me to do this successfully.
In goes the 25mm Plossl for visual viewing. If you ever get a chance, try viewing the moon low power during 1st quarter. It’s an amazing 3D effect. The moon looks like a globe- and I could make out the limb of the unlit side, as well as see stars in the background. Of course, the terminator was impressive. Time to kick the power up a notch. In goes the 2.5 PowerMate for 75x (which, by the way, is the closest I can get to the SCT’s lowest power of 98x). I noticed that the seeing was less bothersome, probably due the smaller aperture (smaller aperture is said to decrease the affects of seeing) and lower magnification. The Moon was putting on it’s usual impressive display of detail, despite the seeing. Montes Apenninus- the lunar Apennine Mountains- is my favorite lunar feature, probably because I don’t know a lot of others, and because it’s very impressive in the eyepiece. So after panning up and down the terminator, I went over to the SCT. After some lunar viewing, I slewed over to Jupiter, just to see if I could see anything. Nope, not really. Just a fuzzy blob with two equatorial belts. So, the moon was the decided target of the night. [Note- the SCT image is through the diagonal, as I don’t have a 2″ t-ring adapter, or a 1.25″ visual back, or a 2″ to 1.25″ adapter.] In goes the camera, and I rattle off a number of images for stacking later. I found that at about 1/250th second exposure did a pretty good job of freezing the terrible seeing. All my images up to now have been individual images. So, after that was out of the way, I decided to try some video. After taking some short videos, I decided to call it a night and head in. So… off with the OTA, off with the counterweight, out with the power plug, into the shed with tripod and mount, on goes the counterweight, on goes the OTA, in with the battery pack and eyepiece case, in with the AstroView, and I’m inside processing the night’s catch in a jiffy. I started with stacking the individual pictures, my tried-and-true method. I do all my stacks, video or otherwise, with a free downloadable program Lynkeos. I would use the more popular (and probably better) Registax, but Lynkeos was the only program I could find was Mac compatible. After the pictures, I cautiously bring a video into the program and start playing around. What did I find? I found that I love stacking video frames a LOT better than normal photos. A short video captured about a thousand frames. Of course, not all were usable, I let the program choose the best 50-200 or so. Here’s the result. Yes, I know the majority is overexposed, but I’m not an expert processor. I don’t know anything about wavelets, I just played around with the sliders until it looked good. I do think, however, I applied to much unsharp mask (sharpening). Practice makes perfect, I guess, so I’m heading out tonight, and I hope I get something good (despite the CSC predicting green-squared seeing again).