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PZT Construction Started;
D7200 DSLR & iPhone LX600 Astrophotography Tests

Posted: 1 March 2016

Sunday morning, 28 February 2016, I began construction of the POD Zenith Table (PZT). Per the instructions, I started with 2 sheets of 4'x8' "marine grade" plywood 3/4" thick and ended up with 4 smaller pieces that will make up the table:



That's all I got done that day, but it was the hardest part. Still have more work to do. I'll detail all the steps once the PZT is completed and installed at the observatory.

After being clear all day, clouds came in as sunset approached Sunday evening, wiping out my observing session for that night.

Monday afternoon, 29 February, I was at Oracle State Park and saw that a new "welcome" sign had been erected and it highlights the Park's IDA "International Dark Sky Park" status:

Click or tap on image for larger version

Unforecasted sky clearing began late Monday afternoon, allowing the observatory to be opened that night.

Open: Monday, 29 February 2016, 1810 MST
Temperature: 87°F
Session: 930
Conditions: Clear

1821 MST: sunset. 1852 MST: powered on the 12" f/8 LX600. GOTO M42. This night's initial GOTO was good, unlike the first GOTO on the previous session.

1903 MST: GOTO NGC2392 (Eskimo Nebula), which would be the first imaging target for tonight's limited astrophotography tests. The nebula was visible in the 2" 24mm UWA eyepiece (102X) about 40 minutes before the end of Astronomical Twilight. I began preparing for astrophotography. Added the Televue 2X PowerMate and began waiting for the sky to get darker.

As the pier and PZT are getting closer to installation I have decided to wait on doing additional mount and StarLock adjustments until after the installations are done. No dates for installation have been determined yet as the pier and PZT Hardware Kit have not yet arrived. While waiting I will just be doing some limited astrophotography with the new telescope.

Mounted the D7200 DSLR at prime focus + 2X PowerMate. After doing a focus test on the star Pollux with the Astrozap mask I did some short exposures of the Eskimo Nebula at various ISO and White Balance settings. The StarLock trailed some of the images a very small amount. The dome was also getting in the way during the exposures. This is a 4 seconds, ISO 6400, White Balance Auto, image of the Eskimo Nebula, with a slightly magnified inset:


Removed the DSLR and switched to a 1.25" 26mm eyepiece (94X) and mounted the iPhone 6s Plus using the Orion SteadyPix. This image was taken using NightCap Pro (Long Exposure, Light Boost, ISO 3200, 10 seconds), with a magnified inset:


2005 MST: switched back to the 2" 24mm UWA eyepiece and viewed the Leo Triplet (M65, M66, and NGC3628 galaxies). All three galaxies were in the same field-of-view (barely). The view was good but the galaxies were still low in the eastern sky. Then viewed Jupiter, also low in the eastern sky. Seeing was not very good but the four Galilean Moons were visible.

2021 MST: viewed M97 (Owl Nebula), 102X. Very nice view. Mounted the D7200 DSLR at prime focus and did a series of exposures at 30 seconds, various ISO settings, and White Balance Auto and 4000 degrees. This image is 30 seconds, ISO 10000, WB 4K, with a magnified inset:


Since M51 (Whirlpool Galaxy) was up in the northeastern sky (but not very high) I decided to try some test exposures of it. Again, several exposures at varous ISO and White Balance settings were done. This is a 30 seconds, ISO 12800, WB 4K, image:


I can imagine what I'll be able to accomplish once the mount and StarLock adjustments are finalized on the pier.

2050 MST: ended imaging. Viewed the Whirlpool Galaxy, 102X. Good view with some details visible. Will be a great view when M51 is higher in the sky. Began closing up due to activities planned for the next morning.

Close: Monday, 29 February 2016, 2111 MST
Temperature: 60°F
Session Length: 3h 01m
Conditions: Clear, breezy

My review of the Optec Lepus 0.62X Telecompressor Lens (focal reducer) has been posted.

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