FocusMax Downloads

21st Jan, 2015
by Daniel

Over the years I have kept a few copies of Focusmax on my computer. So because Focusmax is not free anymore and v3 is no longer supported I decided to put them available for download onto this blog.

Focusmax Downloads – a few old v3 files

Comet Lovejoy Video C/2014 Q2

14th Jan, 2015
by Daniel

This a short Comet Lovejoy video that I have looped a few times. It was taken from stills I took on 10th January 2015. These are about 18 Luminance frames of 4 minutes each taken with an Atik 460EX Mono Camera with an Altair Astro 80mm triplet telescope on an EQ8 mount.

Comet Lovejoy Images – C/2014 Q2

14th Jan, 2015
by Daniel

These are my processed Comet Lovejoy images. I don’t think they are that great, I found them really tricky to process. The 1st time I have had the joy (no pun intended) of imaging a comet that moves so fast.

I gave up trying to process the RGB frames, as I tried imaging the comet unguided for 4 minutes, which seemed to work OK, no star trails and a sharp comet. But then I also tried guiding on a background star and guiding on the comet itself.

The problem I found with guiding on a star is that as the red, green and blue are taken in a row that the comet has moved so you cannot align the sky background and get the comet aligned at the same time, the same is true if you guide on the comet, then you get multi-coloured star trails of RGB.

I think in future I will try my DSLR on the 80mm scope for imaging comets at a high ISO, then at least you are capturing colour data in every shot.

These were taken using an Atik 460EX Mono Camera, with an Altair Astro 80mm triplet telescope on an EQ8 Mount. 4 minute frames, about 15 stacked.

Comet Lovejoy in RGB

Comet Lovejoy in Mono

Comet Lovejoy Image

Comet Lovejoy 2014 Data for TheSky 6

8th Jan, 2015
by Daniel

Here is some data I used for getting the comet to appear on my copy of TheSky 6, as the import from web feature no longer seems to work. I am sure this data would work in other planetarium programs as well.

comet lovejoy data

Eccentricity, Perihelion Distance, Orbital Inclination, Argument of perihelion etc.

Horsehead Nebula and Flame Nebula

7th Jan, 2015
by Daniel

Horsehead Nebula and Flame Nebula taken on 6th January 2015. Taken in Ha, 14x5min frames, on an Altair Astro 80mm Triplet telescope with Televue x0.8 reducer, Atik 460 mono camera and EQ8 mount.

Horsehead Nebula and Flame Nebula

Well I just got my ASI120MM S USB3.0 camera through via DHL. Ordered it direct from ZWO Optical on AliExpress and paid £250, then had to pay an extra £19 on import duty etc. But still a bit cheaper than buying from 365Astronomy – they were also out of stock at time of ordering.

The video shows below me unboxing it, and what it looks like.

This is a still image of my desk at 1280×960 on the ASI120MM S with the CCTV lens attached.

ASI120MM S USB3 Camera

I used the default capture software AMCap to get this still. Remember to install the correct drivers from the CD or from the ZWO website before you plug the camera into the PC.

ASI120MM S CMOS Camera

The CD is quite good it comes with ASCOM, PC drivers and ST4 software, as well as all the different ZWO camera driver versions. There is also some PC and Mac software on the disc. PHD2 and oaCapture for the Apple Mac and FireCapture and SharpCap as well as PHD2 for the PC.

I have now installed the camera on my observatory PC. The install was easy. I also installed the ASCOM drivers as well FireCapture and SharpCap 2.

I began with SharpCap 2, but found the best fps I could get was around 70fps at 640×480 (it was 30fps at 1280×960). Other people had reported around 100fps. So I loaded FireCapture – which I must say seems to have a lot more functionality than SharpCap.

I tried my tests again in FireCapture and at 640×480 I was now getting 106fps-116fps. So it seems which software you use makes a difference, unless some other settings were different.

It appears that the ASI120MM S is a very sharp camera and so far I am very impressed with it.

QHY5 vs DMK21 for Guiding

4th Nov, 2014
by Daniel

I have always used my QHY5 for guiding, most of the time attached to a Skywatcher 9×50 finderscope and it has worked quite well.

But while at Kelling Heath this year I purchased an Altair Astro 80mm guidescope. Did I need to? I don’t know, may be a 60mm would have been a good upgrade as opposed to going for the larger 80mm. But anyway, I have now started to realise that the original QHY5 does suffer from some image degradation in the form of banding. (I do already use simple dark frames with the QHY5 camera).

Now instead of purchasing a QHY5 II Mono, I have been thinking about using my DMK21 AU618 camera instead.

I know the DMK21 sensor is half the size of the QHY5, so finding a guide star may be harder – but I bet the quality of the image will be a lot better. Plus it would mean I would not need to purchase a new camera but use the DMK21 that I already own.

So on the next clear night I shall try out the DMK21 for autoguiding and see what happens and report back.

UPDATE: 11th November 2014

Well last night I went out and tried the DMK21 for guiding. It worked OK, in Maxim DL the guiding calibrated OK. But the actual guiding itself was not that smooth, certainly not as smooth as when I use the QHY5.

I don’t think the small sensor and field of view is a major problem, as I found lots of stars in the field of view. But it could be because the DMK21 is only 640×480 – the sensor is so small you can’t bin the camera, so it lacks the sensitivity that you can get with the QHY5 camera when you bin the images as it’s 1280×1024 pixels.

Colourful Harvest Moon Image

10th Sep, 2014
by Daniel

Harvest Moon

Here is a very colourful harvest moon taken on 10th September 2014.

I took it on a tripod with my Canon 550d on a 300mm lens.

Well that was a short life for Vista on my observatory PC. I only upgraded from Windows XP Pro to Vista Business in January, but I wanted to add an SSD (Solid State Drive) to my observatory PC to speed things up, so now was a good time to install Windows 7 Professional.

Why Professional? Well, so I can control the observatory PC from the house using the in-built Remote Desktop Connection software.

I have already installed SSD’s in both my laptops and the speed increase is amazing, no more noisy spinning hard drives for me. The price of  SSD’s has also decreased. I bought a Samsung SSD 240GB for my home desktop PC and a Samsung SSD 120GB version for the observatory PC. They cost (in 2014) £85 for the 240GB and about £50 for the 120GB version.

I have decided to keep the previously used hard drives inside the PC but use them for storage of the images and video when they are being recorded by the telescopes, so leaving the SSD drives with just Windows and my astronomy programs on.


CAA Webcam Imaging Talks

23rd Jul, 2014
by Daniel

If anyone missed the talks that Mick and I gave at the Cambridge Astronomical Association on 16th July 2014, then you can download them in PDF format below:

Webcam and Lunar Imaging Talk

Solar Webcam Imaging Talk

They cover the basics of webcam imaging and the webcams that I have used together with some tips on lunar and solar imaging.

M81 Galaxy Image

20th Mar, 2014
by Daniel

This M81 image was actually taken in April 2013, just processed it in March 2014.

Taken on my Altair Astro 8″ RC Telescope on an EQ6 mount. Used my Atik 314L+ CCD camera and took LRGB frames with exposures of 5 minutes each. The scope had a x0.67 reducer fitted.

The focus could have been sharper, but at the time I had not really trained my FocusMax profile for this telescope very well.

Click on the image to see the full size version:


EQ8 EQMOD and EQDIR Cables on Vista

10th Feb, 2014
by Daniel

My new EQ8 mount was delivered the other day and I noticed straightaway the handset port has changed since the EQ6 version which was a 9 pin serial RS232 type connection.

The new EQ8 handset connector is a standard Ethernet type connection. So this meant I needed a new EQDIR connection cable. Yes I know, I could have taken apart the EQ6 one and made my own cable. But this time I could not be bothered.

So anyway, I bought a HitecAstro EQDIR cable, the newer ones where there is no box of tricks, just a cable. These cables also work with the EQ5 and EQ6-AZ GT.

I started off installing the Prolific USB to Serial drivers, which I got from the HitecAstro support pages, and then I plugged in the cable into the PC and into the EQ8 mount. The cable was recognised by Vista and given a COM port number. Great so far!

I then fired up EQMOD Toolbox and tried to get the toolbox to find the COM port for me. But it could not find the COM port the computer had given the cable. This always worked for me, when on XP. So immediately I thought there was something wrong with the cable, had I bought the wrong one etc.

So I emailed HitecAstro and David Jackson replied nearly straight away, he then offered to phone me back and walk me through the set-up. That’s brilliant customer service. Well once I had provided my phone number to David and he phoned up I had sorted it out.

The problem was that the auto COM port selection just did not seem to work anymore – it must be Vista. I decided to choose my COM port and then just connect to EQMOD – and it worked!

So if the auto searching for the COM port does not find your mount port, then don’t worry straight away. Just select the one it should be and try it out.