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Moon, planets; more StarLock setups;
M13, M57, and M16 imaging

Posted: 4 September 2016

Monsoon season clouds returned on Wednesday, 31 August 2016. Was mostly cloudy on Thursday, 1 September, at Cassiopeia Observatory. That evening I went to a meeting of the Oracle Dark Skies Committee. On the way a heavy rainshower occurred along the highway as sunset approached. It created a pretty double rainbow:

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Received 0.18" rain from the shower. Cloudy skies continued until Saturday evening, 3 September.

Open: Saturday, 3 September 2016, 1826 MST
Temperature: 94°F
Session: 1007
Conditions: Mostly clear

Equipment Used:
12" f/8 LX600 w/StarLock
Wired AutoStar II handset
2" 24mm UWA eyepiece
2" 8-24mm zoom eyepiece

iPhone 6s Plus
D7200 DSLR

1833 MST: LX600 ON, StarLock OFF, High Precision OFF.

1837 MST: viewed the crescent Moon, 102X.

1847 MST: sunset.

1854 MST: viewed the Moon and Venus, 12x70 binoculars. They were separated by just slightly more than the binoculars field-of-view (FOV).

1901 MST: resumed observing the Moon, 102X. Took this handheld iPhone 6s Plus photo, afocal 102X:


1905 MST: viewed Jupiter, 102X, very low in the western sky. Could only see the equatorial belts. Then viewed Venus, 102X. Its gibbous phase was visible.

1910 MST: took this photo of the western sky using the D7200 DSLR with 70-300mm lens, f/4.5, 1/30sec, ISO 400, FL 75mm:

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1913 MST: Jupiter was now faintly visible as a naked eye object.

1917 MST: viewed Mars, 102X. Switched to the Zoom 8-24mm Eyepiece. Syrtis Major and a cloud on the limb were visible at 305X (8mm).

1920 MST: viewed Saturn, 102X. The moons Titan and Rhea were visible. Using 305X, the moons Dione and Tethys were also visible.

1929 MST: handheld D7200 DSLR photo of the crescent Moon with Earthshine and Venus (just above trees), f/4.5, 1/5sec, ISO 2500, FL 75mm:


1935 MST: Mars, Saturn, and Antares, handheld D7200 DSLR, f/5, 1/2sec, ISO 4000, 70mm:

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2000 MST: set up for iPhone sky photography using the iOS app NightCap Pro and the clip-on lens set I discussed on the previous report. Tried more tests using the fisheye lens but could not get a good focus, even if I manually adjusted the NCP focus setting. However, using the wide-angle lens I got a pretty good photo of Sagittarius, Scorpius, Mars, and Saturn in a 5 minute exposure, Star Trails mode:


2041 MST: ended sky photography.

2107 MST: StarLock ON, High Precision ON. Did RA PEC update 1 and 2 using the StarLock. 2157 MST: PEC updates completed. With the initial set ups of the new 12" LX600 now completed, I could resume Deep Sky Object (DSO) astrophotography using the 12" telescope and StarLock.

GOTO NGC7331 (galaxy), StarLock centered it in the 2" 24mm UWA eyepiece (102X). GOTO NGC6050 (galaxy); nothing visible at 102X. GOTO M13 (Great Hercules Globular Cluster). Great view at 102X. SYNCed on M13. Back to NGC6050; still nothing visible, but it was getting low in the sky. Decided to try imaging it anyway.

SL/HP OFF. GOTO Alp Och for focus test using the focus mask. Mounted the D7200 DSLR at prime focus + focal reducer. I used the "focus lock bolt" (discussed on my 2 June 2016 report) to lock the focus. Then did a GOTO NGC6050. StarLock and High Precision ON. Set StarLock Guide Rates to RA=10% and DEC=10%. Trailing occurred with exposure of 5 minutes. Noticed that the StarLock Status was reporting errors >7, >3. Both values should be <2. Also noticed that the focus had shifted.

Set StarLock Guide Rates to 66% and 66%. SL OFF. GOTO M13. Focused on the HP centering star. With M13 centered turned the StarLock ON. This is a StarLock guided 1 minute exposure, ISO 3200 image, White Balance 4000K:


SL OFF, GOTO M57 (Ring Nebula), focused on HP centering star, then with M57 centered turned the StarLock ON. This is a 1 minute exposure, ISO 3200 image, White Balance 4000K:


Repeated the same SL OFF/ON and focusing process for M16 (Eagle Nebula). This is a 1 minute exposure, ISO 6400 image, White Balance 4000K:


The images of M13, M57, and M16 were post-processed using Adobe Lightroom and then the Milky Way Finisher Photoshop Actions purchased from The specific action used was "MiniSTARS 5". I plan to do more tests with these actions.

2324 MST: done imaging. I think I now have technique for image focusing with the 12" telescope. I have given up on using the focus lock bolt (still can't believe that Meade didn't design in a focus lock on the 12" LX600). By focusing the High Precision centering star I can achieve good focus for objects.

2335 MST: SL/HP OFF, removed camera. Viewed M16 (Eagle Nebula), 102X, but it was too low for good viewing. However, M57 (Ring Nebula), was a nice view, 102X. Then viewed the Double Cluster (open star clusters), 102X. Both clusters were in the same FOV; pretty view. Next, viewed the Pleiades (M45), 102X, but it was still too low in the eastern sky.

2345 MST: viewed M33 (Triangulum Galaxy), 102X. Really good view with lots of structure visible. Also viewed M33 with the 2" 30mm (81X) and 2" 50mm (49X) eyepieces; nice views but the 2" 24mm UWA (102X) eyepiece provided the best view.

I then began closing up after this six hour session. Will do additional StarLock long exposure guiding tests on the next session.

Close: Sunday, 4 September 2016, 0026 MST
Temperature: 69°F
Session Length: 6h 00m
Conditions: Clear

I have posted some photos of our vacation trip last month.

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