Tristar Observatory Obs Tour : Part 3 – Putting It All Together

Part 3 of the Obs Tour series is coming (hopefully!) on Saturday, November 10th, at 1745 CST/2345 UTC, as a LIVSTREAM!

I’ll be livestreaming a data acquisition session, showing the software that runs and monitors the obs, how a session is put together and configured, and answering questions.

Join me Saturday night!

Posted in Astroimaging Gear, HowTo and Tutorials, ROR Obs 2.0 | Leave a comment

TriStar Observatory Obs Tour : Part 2 – The Observatory

Part 2 of the Observatory Tour Video Series has been up for a while now.  I just suck, and forgot to blog it. 🙂

Posted in Astroimaging Gear, ROR Obs 2.0 | Leave a comment

LDN 1153, 1160, 1164, and 1165 in Cephus

Acquired 2018-09-29 to 2018-10-12 from TriStar Observatory

* Stellarvue SV80ST
* Astro-Physics Mach1 GTO
* Atik 414ex
* Orion 1.25" LRGB filters
* QHY5L-II guidcam in a Starlight XPress mini filter wheel w/ OAG
* Sequence Generator Pro for capture session management
* PHD2 for guiding
* PixInsight for post processing

This is LDN 1153, 1160, 1164, and 1165 in Cephus, taken from TriStar Observatory from 2018-09-29 to 2018-10-12.

First saw this target imaged a couple of years ago, and was really struck by LDN 1165 and 1164 in particular…always looked like a seahorse to me. Made a note to image it at some point. When I began looking at framing option, I saw 1160 and 1153 could add some interest to the field if I framed it so “the seahorse” was off to the left, so that became my goal.

Pretty happy with the end result on this. LRGB becomes more difficult to do well here every year, particularly when it’s as warm as it was early this month. Our 25C overnight lows made it difficult at best to get the sensor down to a reasonable temp.

Original integrations may be downloaded here by anyone who wishes to have a go.

Acquisition Details :

  • Data Acquisition
    • Acquired 2018-09-29 to 2018-10-12 from TriStar Observatory
    • After frame rejection
      • Lum : 205 x 300s
      • Red : 109 x 120s
      • Green : 109 x 120s
      • Blue : 108 * 120s
      • Total Integration Time : 33h 23m
  • Equipment
    • Stellarvue SV80ST
    • Astro-Physics Mach1 GTO
    • Atik 414ex
    • Orion 1.25″ LRGB filters
    • QHY5L-II guidcam in a Starlight XPress mini filter wheel w/ OAG
  • Software
    • Sequence Generator Pro for capture session management
    • PHD2 for guiding
    • PixInsight for post processing
  • Plate Solve
    Referentiation Matrix (Gnomonic projection = Matrix * Coords[x,y]):
               -0.000380617        +2.71178e-06           +0.505464
               -2.85559e-06        -0.000380646           +0.377226
                         +0                  +0                  +1
    Projection origin.. [1335.001819 981.000515]px -> [RA:22 04 25.257 Dec:+59 03 10.27]
    Resolution ........ 1.370 arcsec/px
    Rotation .......... -0.421 deg
    Focal ............. 484.69 mm
    Pixel size ........ 3.22 um
    Field of view ..... 1d 0' 58.7" x 44' 48.5"
    Image center ...... RA: 22 04 25.257  Dec: +59 03 10.27
    Image bounds:
       top-left ....... RA: 22 08 23.753  Dec: +59 25 34.68
       top-right ...... RA: 22 00 24.306  Dec: +59 25 06.95
       bottom-left .... RA: 22 08 21.080  Dec: +58 40 46.25
       bottom-right ... RA: 22 00 31.941  Dec: +58 40 19.09

Processing Details :

  • Calibration and preparation
    • All subs calibrated in BPP using 50-frame dark and flat masters, 200-frame bias master.
    • Blink used to reject bad subs for tracking/clouds/etc.
    • SFS used to weight subs with weighting formula
    • Each filter’s subframes drizzled and aligned on highest weighted sub using StarAlignment
    • Filter masters integrated using DrizzleIntegration
    • Masters cropped for processing.
  • Masters processed
    • Lum
      • DynamicBackgroundExtraction
      • MMT Noise Reduction through heavily stretched inverted lum clone mask.
      • HistogramTranformation stretched
      • Chose to forgo Deconvolution on this image. The ratio of stars:nebulosity made it more or less a wash.
    • RGB
      • Masters stretched to roughly equal levels.
      • LRGBCombination to combine RGB masters.
      • PhotometricColorCalibration using “Average Spiral Galaxy” as white reference
      • DynamicBackgroundExtraction
      • ACDNR noise reduction applied with no mask.
      • LRGBCombination to combine with Lum
    • Combined LRGB
      • CurvesTransformation to boost saturation
      • AutomaticBackgroundExtraction to remove lingering LP haze
      • SCNR to remove green
      • MorphologicalTransformation to reduce star size, amount .2 using + and X elements
      • Range mask created to isolate dark structures.
      • HistogramTranformation stretches applied through range mask to highlight dark structures
      • Final histogram and color tweaks
      • ICCProfileTransformation to convert to AdobeRGB
      • Solved, annotated
Posted in AstroImages, DSOs | Leave a comment


Finished a 4-panel mosaic of LDN889 over the weekend.  ~48 hours of total integration time in this image.

  • Stellarvue SV80ST
  • Astro-Physics Mach1 GTO
  • Atik 414ex
  • Astrodon 1.25″ 3nm NB filters
  • QHY5L-II guidcam in a Starlight XPress mini filter wheel w/ OAG

SHO Hubble Palette

LDN - Lynds Catalog of Dark Nebulae - 889, a dark nebula region in Cygnus.

Acquired 2018-08-12 through 2018-09-21 from TriStar Observatory.

* Stellarvue SV80ST
* Astro-Physics Mach1 GTO
* Atik 414ex
* Astrodon 1.25" 3nm NB filters
* QHY5L-II guidcam in a Starlight XPress mini filter wheel w/ OAG

“Natural” Palette

LDN889 processed with a "natural" palette.

Annotated version

Master integrations

Posted in AstroImages, DSOs | Leave a comment

A Pox Upon Weather Underground

So…I’ve pretty much had it with Weather Underground.

  • Pages are frequently unavailable, or contain no data.
  • Sometimes, the discussion board for one station shows up for another…or several others.
  • Settings like F or C, Station Statuses, etc are difficult if not impossible to update.  The page claims to have saved the new setting…but clearly hasn’t.
  • The star system is crap…and doesn’t work as they describe anyway.
  • The API will actively refuse uploaded data from a station…and then blame the station for failing to send data.
  • Webcams will periodically just claim to no longer be available…until you go to the page for webcams and amazingly, it’s still there.
  • They’re discontinuing their API effective 2018-12-31 because wahh…it’s hard to support an API…or something.

So, yeah…in short…fuck Weather Underground.

  • Currently working on some code to pull all my historical wx data down from Wunderground to my own DB.
    • ONE
    • DAY
    • AT
    • A
    • TIME
    • because their API’s history endpoint sucks canal water.
  • Have disassembled the old Ambient Weather 2902 sensor array (the one Ambient FINALLY replaced for me) and have an arduino reading most of the sensors.
  • Will be building my own wx station, logging to my own storage, with my own pretty charts and graphs and shit.
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New video : Observatory Tour Part 1 – The Rig

Got a request a while back for an obs tour video. Figured I’d chop the tour up into sections, each featuring a different component or system. Here is the first of those segments, covering the main imaging rig itself.


Posted in Astroimaging Gear | Leave a comment

♫ Back in the saddle again ♪

What a back and forth summer it’s been.

June’s trip to Marathon was fraught with gear issues, most notably my AP Mach1 GTO literally grinding itself to bits, thanks to some seized bearings.

Upon returning, the mount immediately went back to Astro-Physics, who thankfully did their usual terrific job of diagnosing, repairing, and returning the mount to me in tip top shape.

The Lunt LS50THa also got a long-needed trip back home, where the fine folks at Lunt Solar Systems diagnosed a clouded blue glass filter causing an inability to achieve any sharp images.

The sharpest results possible with my Lunt LS50THa prior to repair

Lunt’s repair and turnaround was lightning fast, and they even installed a new Feather Touch Focuser for me while there.

Solar minimum has made things pretty "tame" on the Sun, but every so often we still get a bit of activity. 2719 started making its way across the face earlier this week, and I finally had some clear skies (and better than average seeing to boot!) to take advantage of.

The AP gods weren’t done though!  Earlier this month, a limit switch failed on the obs roof that resulted in the roof always reporting closed…bit of an issue, that.  A new set of limit switches from Amazon resolved that issue.

One upcoming event of note : On September 9, 2018 at 7:30 AM CDT/12:30 PM UTC I’ll be livestreaming an ISS transit of the Sun, hopefully through both the Lunt and the SV80.  The transit itself should occur shortly after 7:50 AM CDT.  Fingers crossed for good weather!

Techy data from Transit Finder

Sunday 2018-09-09 07:50:08.39  •  Solar transit

ISS angular size: 24.62″; distance: 1122.23 km
Angular separation: 0.0′; azimuth: 95.6°; altitude: 16.5°
Center line distance: 0.04 km; visibility path width: 16.33 km
Transit duration: 2.20 s; transit chord length: 31.8′

R.A.: 11h 11m; Dec: +05° 12′; parallactic angle: 46.3°
ISS velocity: 14.4 ′/s (angular); 4.70 km/s (transverse)
ISS velocity: 5.68 km/s (radial); 7.37 km/s (total);
Direction of motion relative to zenith: -134.1°
Sun angular size: 31.8′77.4 times larger than the ISS

Posted in AstroImages, Astroimaging Gear, Oops, ROR Obs 2.0, Solar System | Leave a comment


It has been a busy busy busy few weeks…both in and out of the Obs.  Of course, you don’t care about out of the obs, so….

The power and obs monitoring project is more or less complete.  There may still be a few bugs/tweaks to deal with over the next few weeks, but things seem to be pretty stable and happy and correct now. 🙂

It starts with grabbing serial data from the TriMetric 2030 battery system monitor.  Can’t stress enough how amazing the gang at Bogart Engineering was helping me work through issues and answering questions.  They not only make great products, but offer great support and service!

That little device is then read by a little data collection app, which pulls the TriMetric’s serial data, along with a JSON feed from Sequence Generator Pro‘s API, and an XML feed from the RigRunner 4005i, and Dweets everything with a separate thing ID for each device.  Finally, it drops some of the data into a MySQL DB as well, via Maurits van der Schee’s very slick single-file CRUD API.

So that’s the data collection. 🙂

From there, a locally hosted installation of FreeBoard pulls all the latest dweets for each device, and gives us our current status page.

Finally, the Google Charts API is put to use talking to the DB, for some historical charting.

SOMEWHERE in all of this, I actually managed to get a few clear nights as well, and finish data acquisition on M51, and begin acquisition on M58 and the Siamese Twins.  Those will be coming along soon, I hope. 🙂

Posted in Astroimaging Gear, ROR Obs 2.0 | Leave a comment

Reading Serial Data from the TriMetric

So I LOVE the Bogart Engineering TriMetric TM-2030 and SC-2030 monitor and charge controller.  A match made in heaven, for sure.

Now, according to the TriMetric’s Technical Manual :

Serial data output: For extreme techies only: The TM-2030 also has a serial 0-5V output with streaming “real
time” serial (ASCII) data that could be used to control other electronics.

Oooooo!  I’m an extreme techie!  (Well…I wish I was anyway)  I could get power system data to put on the obs status page I haven’t built yet!

This is where things went bad.  *lol*

Well..ok..not bad.  But like any good “maker project”, nothing’s as it seems, nothing’s complete, there’s no reliable thorough documentation…you know the drill. 🙂

SO!  Over the weekend of the 17th, I was able to at least make headway, and start getting streams of data from the TriMetric!

Since there’s much to lead one astray, and I can’t POSSIBLY be the only one wanting to do this, I’m going to try to document what i find and learn along the way.

Code, pics, and diagrams can be found on GitHub (always check Dev Branch first!)

Posted in Astroimaging Gear, HowTo and Tutorials | Leave a comment

Another livestream :)

Livestream tonight, NGC 2174 data acquisition.

6:15pm CST

Come watch the robots do their thing!

Posted in AstroImages, Astroimaging Gear, DSOs, ROR Obs 2.0 | Leave a comment