Friday, November 18, 2005

Second attempt at imaging Mars

Tonight is very cold. The temperature dipped just bellow 0 degrees Celsius here in Harrow. Seeing wasn't too great tonight, and it shows in my image. I took several images tonight but this one was the only semi-decent one to come out.

The telescope was playing up tonight. It produced a lot of "creep after beep" which annoyed me to no end. I decided to reset Autostar and re-calibrate and re-train the drives. This took around 40 minutes to achieve. The creep refused to disappear even after three re-trains so I took the telescope out of Polar mode back in to Alt/Az and re-ran the training. This time it cleared the creep and the motors became much more responsive to commands from the hand controller. I decided to do a moderately accurate polar alignment using the Kachab star method. I stopped short of using the drift method to align the telescope mainly due to almost every part of me being half frozen. I hadn't anticipated it would take almost 50 minutes to get set up tonight. In the end I managed to get a really decent alignment and the image of Mars stayed pretty much within the central area of the LPI's field of view for a long time without drifting out.

I integrated for much longer tonight, but it didn't do much good to the image quality. I played around with the edge enhancement in Autostar Suite and adjusted the number of evaluation frames it took before applying processing effects. I also increased the quality threshold of each from 50% to 60%. I found it quite hard to achieve a sharp focus on Mars tonight and the seeing conditions didn't really help matters.

I think I need to get a 3x Barlow or even a 5 x Power Mate. I’ve seen people with smaller apertures than my 105mm telescope achieve much larger and sharper images when using higher powered Barlow lenses. Perhaps that will be my Christmas present to myself this year?

Before packing up I managed to observe the Orion Nebula for a few moments before the cold finally got the better of me, sending of retreating back in to the warmth of the house.


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