It was a disheveled piece of human flotsam that crawled out of the mountains that morning. I had spent a night fighting a losing battle again sleep, and had, in terms of results, very little to show for it. I know I thought to myself, look the night might have been one long concatenated mess, but at least I can haul my carcuss down to town and get a thousand calorie breakfast from mcdonalds, and Im sure you will start to get a grip once you have a full stomach. Regrettably, by the time I got down to town Mcdonalds had JUST finished breakfast. The moment was a cross between ‘Falling Down’ and that moment in ‘Evil Dead, Army of Darkness’ in the alternative ending where he oversleeps. Oh yeah it was one of those ‘the world conspires against me’ type moments. After a long deep sigh, the eyes snap open with regained focus: time to go on the offense! Online I soon discovered that the reason the Orion Deepspace Video camera wasn’t working up to expectation is it has an integration function in the menus! I laughed, when all else fails: READ THE INSTRUCTIONS. Spent a few hours rendering and uploading what I had. Now the next problem, that damn screw! I need a replacement for that damn screw. Turns out Ridgecrest has a Home Depot, and I figured that was the logical place to try for a bizarre screw. I was wrong- they had nothing! Arse, thousands of bux worth of telescope crippled by a tiny screw. Then it dawned on me, I could just drill and tap a hole myself for any screw I wanted. Deep in my mind there was a spark, I had a drill and tap and a load of screws that would fit in the car, they were part of the stuff for the airplanes.
Picked up some supplies and headed back up into the mountains, same place at last night. This time I was more seasoned on that grinding hill though and got up all the way without even a hint of overheating.
Up at the top of mountains, I sorted out firstly the backend of the telescope,
Then the webcam.
Come the test of first light, both performed admirably. The sky wasn’t still enough for planets, but it was wonderfully clear.
The Deepsky video camera worked as expected! (~500 bux)
The stripped MS webcam worked admirably (~50 bux)
The video of the planets shot on by eyepiece projection onto the sensor of the D60 (~900 bux) was okay, but not as good as channeling it straight into a video camera.
The 60d I have to admit is a heinous machine for astro! I got it primarily as I needed 2 DSLRS to do some of the projects I want to get done on this trip, to work with the 40D. The 60D just idles circles around the 40D. I think a lot of it is simply a better sensor. More pixels, if they are not being used for resolution, mean faster light gathering, and lower noise. The bottom line is the 60D goes up to iso ~6000, at least 2x what the 40D will do. The 60D will also do video, which I thought might be useful, although thus far it hasn’t panned out, although this might just be teething troubles with the camera. Just for an example, crank the ISO up to about 5000 and do a 1min exposure (unguided, bar the telescope tracking) on M51, and this is what you get:
After that, all you need is an intervalometer and deepskystacker. In many ways it’s such a cheat. When I was young, I improvised all sorts of devices for the tracking, and there was none of this ‘cap a test frame to see if it’s centered’. You took the pictures, and after minutes of painstaking guiding, you had to wait till at least the next day to see how well you did when you got the film processed. Many a time I chuckle at night as to how what used to be hours of work, and a day or two to see the results from can now be effortlessly superseeded by a minute of scope time.
Later in the night, after visiting many a deep sky object, I turned the scope to Jupiter, then Mars, then the very late moon, all using the same magnification, just so I could give folks the scale of these things, all on the same magnfication. The seeing was abysmal! Mars was a swimming ball! However all on the same magnification I got Saturn, Jupiter, Mars and the moon!
So yeah, I guess its like sex, in the dark, the first time is always a fumbled and inept experience. However, having seen things in the broad light of day, and having had time to ponder on what went wrong and why, the second time can be more of the ‘tour de force!’