Every amateur astronomer knows that the clouds will roll in as the delivery man’s van leaves your front door. This happened to me again these last two weeks.
I treated myself to a new ZWO ASI224MC camera with a Canon lens adapter, all purchased online from Bintel. Very small and compact and it is intended to help me with my polar alignment, guiding and some planetary imaging. It’s main advantage is its very low read noise which means that you can take many short images and add the individual image frames in post processing to form a longer duration image without adding significant noise in the process. I’m not planning any huge expansion into planetary astrophotography but it would be nice to have something to do when the moon is up and I cannot do long exposure, deep sky stuff.
Last night was clear with the Moon and Jupiter right overhead and I started everything up; EQ6-R mount with the ZWO ASI224MC camera on a Canon 60mm EFS lens. For the software I used Sharpcap Pro, it will cost you 10 pounds annually to get the Pro version that lets you do polar alignment. This works very well and will work with any camera that is recognized by Sharpcap. Also read one of my previous posts about SparkoCam.
You just follow instructions and move the mount az and alt adjustments to get the polar axis of the mount perfectly on the celestial pole. No guessing or frustration and a perfect result. That’s worth more than 10 pounds!
My first attempts at using the ASI224MC camera with an Orion EON 80ED on the moon and Jupiter was not great, I have a lot of learning to do and I did not spend a lot of time trying. Just a quick picture of the moon…
I then took a number of images of the Milky Way with my modified Canon 600D with a Canon 60mm EFS lens directly on the mount and took a series of 60 images of (quite short) 30 seconds exposures at f3.2 and 400ASA as well as a number of dark frames of whatever was directly overhead at the time. It happened to be the center of our galaxy. As usual, combined with Deep Sky Stacker and processed with LR4. I was sitting inside on the sofa nice and warm, watching a movie while Magic Lantern was managing the camera outside in the cold. Did I mention that it was cold?
I may have just found a great solution for achieving very good polar alignment with any telescope mount.
There is this little piece of software called “SharpCap” ( http://www.sharpcap.co.uk/ ). It’s a very clever piece of software that uses a webcam or an astronomy camera to assist with focusing, stacking, polar alignment and much more. Unfortunately SharpCap does not support DSLR cameras as a video source. It supports some of the available astronomy cameras such as ZWO, QHY, etc. If you want to use SharpCap you have to have a camera that is supported. I was on my way to purchase a ZWO camera to do this when I read a forum post on Cloudy Nights ( https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/545643-sharpcap-polar-alignment-experiences/ ) where someone mentioned that they are using another piece of software to allow them to use a DSLR as a webcam and that SharpCap actually processes the DSLR image seamlessly.
“SparkoCam” ( http://sparkosoft.com/sparkocam ) is providing the capability to use your Canon or Nikon DSLR as a regular webcam. When installed, SharpCap will recognise SparkoCam as a virtual webcam and process the DSLR live view images directly. No need to purchase a separate camera to work with SharpCap.
The process is quite simple, install the DSLR on your mount pointing towards the celestial pole. You would obviously do a basic mount alignment to get the camera view close to the pole, at least to within about 5 degrees. Now activate SharpCap and follow the instructions to get to an accurate alignment. This process will work with a tracking mount as well as a manual equatorial mount.
I have everything installed now and will test under the stars as soon as possible. It is raining outside at the moment, as can be expected….
I tried again last night (or was it this morning…) to capture the Carina Nebula from my verandah. I have a very limited sky available from my house and at this time of year it’s Carina that is the obvious easy target. I will try to catch other objects in the same area, I can think of a globular cluster and maybe a bright galaxy.
The following image is made up of 18 x 2 minute exposures with a a Canon 600D (Modified), Canon EF-S 55-250mm lens at 250mm and f/5.6, ISO-100. I also used 7 dark frames. Processed with DeepSkyStacker, Photoshop CS2 and Lightroom 4.
The EQ6-R has arrived on Thursday and I unpacked it that night. No surprises there….
Here are some photos of the process:
The handle makes it easy to lift the mount head with one hand.The adjustments bolts look quite solid, at least 15mm on the main altitude bolt and 12mm on the other three.Saddle takes Vixen and Losmandy. Probably not many changes visible here on the cable panel except for the power connector that is now a solid screw on type.Synscan loaded with version 04.37.03.
Waiting for the weekend now and a mounting plate for my Orion ED 80mm EON and also a Losmandy DM8 dovetail plate for my Meade 8″ SCT.
I am thinking of making some more worm wheels soon. My new lathe will be set up soon and it will allow me to make the worm wheels much quicker and hopefully more accurate.
If anybody is interested in ordering a specific worm wheel, please let me know and I will see what I can do. Send me your requirements ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) with the size of the wheel (or the number of teeth. I suggest that you use an ACME thread as it does not bind as easily as a metric thread. I could also make the worm from an ACME threaded rod (10mm diameter with a 2mm pitch) as shown in my blog.
I will look at your requirements and let you know if I can make it and then we can discuss a price that suits us both.
Updated 19 June 2016: I have found that nothing is easy. The lathe is not quicker, if anything its harder to get it right. I will have to fine tune the production process before I can go into the business of selling worm gears. 🙂