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Perigee Full Moon;
DSO Observing; Castor with iPhone

Posted: 5 January 2018

Monday, 1 January 2018, was cloudy. I was able to photograph the Perigee Full Moon (aka "Super Moon") through the clouds using the Nikon D7200 DSLR with Tamron 150-600mm lens set to 600mm. This image is cropped from the full-frame photo:


Cloudy skies continued until mid-morning on Thursday, 4 January.

Open: Thursday, 4 January 2018, 1816 MST
Temperature: 71°F
Session: 1183
Conditions: Mostly clear

Equipment Used:
12" f/8 LX600 w/StarLock
2" 24mm UWA eyepiece
1.25" 15mm eyepiece

iPhone 8 Plus

1822 MST: LX600 ON, High Precision OFF. I made some adjustments to the StarLock guide rates per a suggestion by Andrew Johansen. He noted a bug in the StarLock software:

If you set both the RA and DEC guide rates to the same value the system will no longer apply any hi speed DEC backlash. ie If you do set the DEC backlash "percentage" to anything but zero you really need to ensure the guide rates are different between RA and DEC. ie use 66 and 65 or 10 and 11 etc.

I changed my percentages from 66% for both RA and Dec to RA 10% and DEC 11%. Will see how well autoguiding works with these values on a future session. StarLock OFF.

Viewed the planet Neptune and then the planet Uranus, 102X. Both disks visible.

1831 MST: viewed M42 (Great Orion Nebula), 102X, low through the tree to the southeast.

1844 MST: the Zodiacal Light was now distinctly visible in the western sky, extending high into the sky.

Next, viewed the double star Castor, 102X and 163X. It was too low for good viewing but both stars were visible.

1902 MST: SYNCed the AutoStar on the star Betelgeuse. Viewed NGC2264 (Fox Fur Nebula), 102X. Then viewed NGC2261 (Hubble's Variable Nebula), 102X. Both objects were low in the eastern sky, but were still nice views. I plan to re-image both objects on a future session. I had last imaged NGC2264 with the 12" telescope in February 2017 and NGC2261 with the 8" telescope in February 2012. I want to particularly compare the 2012 image of NGC2261 with a new one to see if any changes are visible.

1912 MST: viewed M79 (globular cluster), 102X. I plan to re-image it on a future session when higher in the sky.

1915 MST: returned to the double star Castor and viewed it at 163X. Began preparing to image it with the iPhone 8 Plus. Mounted the iPhone on the 15mm eyepiece using the Levenhuk adapter. Took several exposures using the iOS app NightCap Camera. This is an ISO 2500, 1/1250sec, exposure:


The fast shutter speed was necessary in order to compensate for the poor seeing due to Castor's low elevation in the sky.

Ended imaging.

The Winter Milky Way was really nice this night.

1939 MST: viewed M79 again, 163X. Then viewed M42, 163X. The Trapezium star cluster was a highlight with this much magnification. Switched to the 2" 24mm UWA eyepiece (102X) and viewed the entire M42 nebula.

1942 MST: LX600 OFF.

Close: Thursday, 4 January 2018, 1950 MST
Temperature: 59°F
Session Length: 1h 34m
Conditions: Mostly clear

The CFO (wife) approved the purchase of the new Nikon D850 DSLR camera (and several accessories). It was ordered on Thursday, 4 January 2018, but the camera, announced in August 2017, is so popular that it is still on about a two-month backorder. This will be my first full-frame (36mm x 24mm) digital camera and my first full-frame camera since I purchased a Pentax Spotmatic 35mm camera in 1968, which I continued to use until the early 2000s. The D850 will be used for general photography and of course, for astrophotography. I will report when the camera arrives.

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