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D7200 DSLR Imaging: Eskimo Nebula, ISS (oops)

Posted: 31 January 2016

Clouds began showing up in the western sky mid-day on Wednesday, 27 January 2016. Since I was still trying to fight off a cold (no longer "mild"!) I decided to not open the observatory this night. Thursday, 28 January, the clouds (and cold) lingered on. The sky dawmed clear on Friday, 29 January, and my cold was much better, but unfortunately clouds returned mid-day. Saturday, 30 January, started out mostly clear and I had mostly recovered from my cold. I decided to do some shopping for the materials I needed for the POD Zenith Table (part of my planned observatory upgrades). Got everything I needed. Strong winds and more clouds arrived mid-day, but the sky was mostly clear with some wind by sunset. With another storm on the way I decided to do a short session in the observatory, especially since there would be a short pass of the International Space Station (ISS).

Open: Saturday, 30 January 2016, 1759 MST
Temperature: 64°F
Session: 913
Conditions: Mostly clear, windy

I delayed opening the dome due to the wind. While waiting I prepared the D7200 DSLR for prime focus imaging. 1815 MST: the wind was calmer now so I powered on the 8" LX200-ACF and opened the dome. Updated the ISS TLE in the AutoStar. The Space Station would rise behind a tree and would only get to 38° elevation before fading out. I synced the observatory clock to WWV.

1832 MST: viewed M42 (Orion Nebula), 83X. Some nebulosity was visible against the still bright sky. Then slewed to the star Betelgeuse and SYNCed the AutoStar.

1847 MST: viewed NGC2392 (Eskimo Nebula), 83X and 166X.

1903 MST: slewed back to Betelgeuse. Mounted the D7200 DSLR at prime focus + 2X PowerMate. Did a focus test on Betelgeuse using the Bahtinov Mask. Next, tweaked the finderscope alignment. The wind had increased again.

Slewed back to the Eskimo Nebula for this cropped, 30 second, ISO 6400, exposure:


1915 MST: began waiting for the ISS pass to begin at 1942 MST. Although it was windy, the night sky was gorgeous. The Winter Milky Way was nicely placed overhead. 1930 MST: rotated the dome back to the west and saw the Zodiacal Light shining brightly in the southwestern sky. Lovely.

Started the HD video recording, 1.3X crop factor, 60 fps, 1/1600sec, ISO 6400, at 30 seconds before the start of the ISS pass. When the ISS became visible in the finderscope I started tracking on time and centered the Space Station. Tracking was pretty good. But as the short illuminated pass neared the end I noticed that the video recording had stopped! Argh. That had never happened before. I restarted the video recording but the Space Station was now fading out. Since I was using the ShutterBoss to control the DSLR shutter release I suspect something glitched with it and stopped the recording, or maybe I accidently pressed its shutter button when I placed the ShutterBoss down so that I could hold the AutoStar during the pass. I will have to watch for this on future ISS passes.

I was still having some lingering effects of my cold so took a final look at M42 and then began closing up for the night.

Close: Saturday, 30 January 2016, 2007 MST
Temperature: 55°F
Session Length: 2h 08m
Conditions: Mostly clear, breezy

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