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Pathway Lighting Update; Critter Visitor; ETX-90 tests;
Imaging: Venus, Some Galaxies

Posted: 15 March 2017

On my report of 10 March 2017 I mentioned a problem with the new red solar pathway lights that we had purchased. The light only illuminated during the daytime while charging. We contacted the Amazon reseller and finally heard back. We learned that there is an ON/OFF switch but that the unit has to be disassembled to get to it. No instructions had been supplied with the lights, nor is this switch visible without disassembling the light. But once the switch was turned on, the light worked properly!

photo photo

I installed one of the lights outside to check it out at night:


It looks like the lights will be effective. I will be installing the other two lights.

Open: Tuesday, 14 March 2017, 1806 MST
Temperature: 93°F
Session: 1086
Conditions: Mostly clear

Equipment Used:
12" f/8 LX600 w/StarLock
2" 24mm UWA eyepiece
2" 9mm 100° eyepiece
1.25" 26mm eyepiece

iPhone 6s Plus
D7200 DSLR

1814 MST: LX600 ON, StarLock OFF, High Precision OFF.

1816 MST: viewed Venus, 102X and 271X. Mounted the iPhone 6s Plus on the 12" telescope using the Levenhuk Smartphone Adapter. This is a stack of 456 video frames, afocal 271X, taken with NightCap Pro (ISO 25, 1/3000sec, 15 seconds):


1825 MST: began setting up the Meade ETX-90AT on the observatory patio. I plan to use the ETX-90AT for the "play time" following my "Beginner Digital Astrophotography Workshop" this Saturday at Oracle State Park. So I wanted to check it out this night.

1829 MST: ETX ON. Faked the Two Star Alignment as stars were not yet visible. Slewed the ETX-90AT to the planet Venus.


1831 MST: sunset. Viewed Venus in the ETX-90AT, 48X. Nice view of the thin crescent. Mounted the iPhone 6s Plus on the ETX using the Levenhuk adapter and did some video recordings using NightCap Pro. This is a stack of 462 video frames (ISO 25, 1/90sec, 15 seconds):


1843 MST: Calibrated the ETX motors. ETX OFF. I would return to the ETX after dark for more checkouts.

1845 MST: returned to the 12" LX600 telescope and viewed Venus, 271X and 102X. Then viewed Venus using the Vortex 12x50 binoculars. The thin crescent was nicely visible in the binoculars.

1855 MST: slewed the 12" telescope to NGC2683 (galaxy), which I had planned as the first Deep Sky Object (DSO) 12" imaging target for the night. It was not yet visible due to the still bright twilight sky. 1917 MST: slewed to the star Regulus and SYNCed the AutoStar. Then went back to NGC2683, now faintly visible, 102X.

1929 MST: ETX ON. 1935 MST: nice view of M42 (the Great Orion Nebula), 48X. Mounted the iPhone on the ETX using the adapter and did some imaging of M42 using NightCap Pro. This is one such image (Long Exposure, Light Boost, ISO 5000, 1/3sec, 10 seconds):


Even with the small aperture of the ETX-90 some nebulosity is visible in this smartphone image.

1950 MST: ETX OFF. When I came back inside the observatory I heard some "tapping" noises from one of the bays. I had left the observatory door open while I was at the ETX telescope and my packrat visitor had returned (he had visited me a few nights earlier):


2001 MST: I was finally able to convince him to leave.

I then took the photo of the solar LED pathway light seen at the top of this report.

2015 MST: began setting up for DSO imaging using the D7200 DSLR. Mounted the DSLR at prime focus + focal reducer, focused on Regulus using a Bahtinov Mask, and locked the mirror. Due to its position I would not be able to image NGC2683 this night, so slewed to NGC3377 (galaxy).

2025 MST: StarLock ON. Did a framing test exposure, StarLock autoguided, 1 minute, ISO 6400. Seeing was not very good this night and there were autoguiding errors. I adjusted the Right Ascension guide rate from 66% to 33% and then to 75%. Test exposures at 75% were the best. Breezes began. While imaging NGC3377, the galaxy NGC3367 was also in the field-of-view. NGC3377 is at the upper left and NGC3367 is at the lower right in this autoguided 5 minute, ISO 6400, image (cropped):


2044 MST: the eastern sky was beginning to brighten from the rising waning gibbous Moon.

The last DSO I imaged this session was NGC3338 (galaxy), autoguided, 5 minutes, ISO 6400 (cropped):


2100 MST: ended imaging due to the brightening sky. Set the StarLock RA guide rate back to 66%. StarLock OFF.

2106 MST: viewed the galaxies NGC3338, NGC3367, and NGC3377, 102X. All were difficult to see due to the sky brightness.

2111 MST: LX600 OFF.

Close: Tuesday, 14 March 2017, 2122 MST
Temperature: 66°F
Session Length: 3h 05m
Conditions: Clear, breezy

Reminder to those of you in the local area: "International Dark Sky Park" Celebration & Star Party, Oracle State Park, this Saturday, 18 March 2017. From 2-4pm I will be giving my "Beginner Digital Astrophotography Workshop" (for the 3rd time) and we'll have door prizes. There will be live music on the Kannally Ranch House patio, 4:30-6:30pm. The star party will be 7-9pm with telescopes provided by the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association and the Saddlebrooke SkyGazers Club. All events are free with park admission, but a reservation is required for my Workshop. Call the Park at 520-896-2425.

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