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Imaging: Mercury, Lunar Montes Alpes & Crater Maginus, Saturn;
Review of AstroAlign iOS App

Posted: 6 June 2014

Opened: Thursday, 6 June 2014, 1817 MST
Temperature: 106°F
Session: 692
Conditions: Clear, breezy

1835 MST: viewed Mercury, 83X and 222X. It was a lovely thin crescent against a bright blue sky 55 minutes before sunset. Switched to 666X for imaging but could see Mercury to focus. I slewed to Jupiter, focused at 222X, switched to 666X, focused while noting the amount of focus knob rotation that was required. Then finally at 1853 MST, slewed back to Mercury; it was in the FOV and in focus. Unfortunately, it was way too dim and low contrast for imaging. Decided to wait until sunset before imaging.

Next, I updated the TLE for the night's pass of the International Space Station (ISS). It would not be a high pass, but still fairly good. At 1913 MST, had a visitor to the observatory:


1820 MST: Mercury was now easily visible at 666X. Mounted the iPhone 5s on the 8" LX200-ACF using my homemade afocal adapter. This is a stack of 1111 slo-mo (120 fps) video frames, 666X:


Switched back to 222X; nice view of Mercury. The view at 444X was still pretty good. This is a handheld afocal 444X image of Mercury taken with the iPhone using some digital zoom:


1930 MST: sunset. 1934 MST: last look at Mercury, 222X. Then slewed to Jupiter; three moons were visible using 222X.

Slewed to the moon and did some lunar observing at 222X and 444X. The shadows from Montes Alpes were great, as seen in this handheld iPhone 5s afocal 444X photo (cropped):


Crater Maginus was also a great view. Handheld iPhone 5s afocal 444X photo (cropped):


1950 MST: I began preparing for the ISS pass. Mounted the D7000 DSLR at prime focus + 2X PowerMate, focused on the moon, locked the telescope focus, and checked the finderscope alignment. 1957 MST: now ready for ISS pass, which was to start at 2019 MST. While waiting for the ISS to appear I did some more work with the iOS app "AstroAlign". I'll report on it at the end of this report. 10 minutes prior to the start of the pass the Wireless AutoStar II batteries died! Panic! Had to do a quick swap to fresh batteries. 2015 MST: saw first Kissing Bug of the night on the dome. Terminated. A 2nd Kissing Bug appeared on the dome. Terminated. Now it was time for the ISS appear. There was an initial pointing error. I rapidly slewed the telescope to center the ISS in the finderscope. Then the fun began. Tracking this night was horrible. I had to keep making large corrections to get the object to even move through the center of the finderscope. Finally the slewing went berserk and slewed the telescope downward. It was then I discovered I was trying to track Jupiter and NOT the International Space Station!!!! Sheesh! First time I have ever done that!

2032 MST: having recovered my composure (!), slewed the telescope to the moon and did some D7000 DSLR prime focus + 2X PowerMate photography:

North, 1/400sec, ISO 1600:

South, 1/400sec, ISO 2000:

And at prime focus:

1/400sec, ISO 1000:

2050 MST: removed the camera and began observing Mars, 222X. Seeing at Mars was not good, so didn't attempt any imaging. The North Polar Cap and Syrtis Major were visible.

2053 MST: viewed Saturn, 222X. Four moons were visible. Seeing was better at Saturn so began doing iPhone 5s afocal 666X slo-mo video recordings. This is a stack of 3525 frames:


Then resumed Saturn observing, 222X. The view was very nice.

2110 MST: ended observing. Did some software beta testing. After completing the tests I began closing the observatory. Saw two more Kissing Bugs; both terminated.

Closed: Thursday, 6 June 2014, 2138 MST
Temperature: 78°F

On my previous report I mentioned that the local Ford dealership manager agreed to disable six lights at his location that are unshielded to support Oracle State Park "Going for the Gold" in its "International Dark Sky Park" proposal to IDA. On Thursday I learned that the local Circle K manager has agreed to redo the unshielded lights over the gas pumps. The Oracle Dark Skies Committee is making a difference here.

Review of AstroAlign

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