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.


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♫ 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!


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Data acquisition live stream

Happening now!  🙂


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NGC 2237 – The Rosette Nebula in Narrowband

Presented here is a 4-panel narrowband mosaic of NGC2237, the Rosette Nebula.  From Wikipedia :

The Rosette Nebula (also known as Caldwell 49) is a large spherical H II region (circular in appearance) located near one end of a giant molecular cloud in the Monoceros region of the Milky Way Galaxy. The open clusterNGC 2244 (Caldwell 50) is closely associated with the nebulosity, the stars of the cluster having been formed from the nebula’s matter.

The cluster and nebula lie at a distance of some 5,000 light-years from Earth[3]) and measure roughly 130 light years in diameter. The radiation from the young stars excites the atoms in the nebula, causing them to emit radiation themselves producing the emission nebula we see. The mass of the nebula is estimated to be around 10,000 solar masses.

Over 55 hours of total integration is shown here, in the traditional Hubble SHO Palette, as well as a “natural” blend.

R : .5 * NGC2237_Ha + .5 * NGC2237_SII
G : .25 * NGC2237_SII + .75 * NGC2237_OIII
B : .8 * NGC2237_OIII + .2 * NGC2237_Ha
Posted in AstroImages, DSOs | 2 Comments

That post about solar stuff

Been meeting to get around to “a post about all the solar stuff” and just keep…not.  Had occasion to take/send a few pics the other day (more on the recipient in a moment) and am finally prompted to put something together.  This post will be part rant, part philosophy, part informative, and part “ooo look at the cool stuff”…in no particular order, I’m afraid.  There’s no TL;DR…either read or don’t. 🙂


Before anything else, if you’re even exploring the idea of maybe making a simple/small/casual solar project, I strongly urge you to get to know Handy Bob.  He’s a grumpy, cantankerous, bitter old man (And I consider the man a good friend!)…and has forgotten more in the last 5 minutes about how to actually make solar work than any 5 “big installers” have ever known.  You won’t learn how to finance your whole-house grid-tie system (though you might learn…if you bother to read…why grid-tie suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks), and you won’t learn who the “best installers” are (there aren’t any).

But you WILL learn how small (a telescope observatory) to large (he runs his whole home) solar actually works, and what the “magic sauce” is (spoiler alert : There isn’t one.  It’s called using your noodle) to maximizing your solar system, and actually getting out of it what it’s capable of.


With that in mind…

We start with a pair of Renogy 100W Monocrystaline panels.  These are, for my money, about the best bang for the buck for simple, small, shed/trailer-sized projects.  Yes, there are more efficient, lower $/W panels out there, with better warranties and so on.  BUT, the Renogy 100W panels are simple, readily available, mountable in a wide variety of configurations, and most importantly…make the power they claim to.  All for $129/100W retail, with deals/coupons/discounts frequently available to get them down to $119 or even less at times.  (Well…probably not now that the President has decided to punish others for building better products for less money…but we’ll leave that go for now.)

The output from the panels heads inside to the “power center”, where it’s fed into a Bogart Engineering SC2030 charge controller (More on them in a moment) and then out to a pair of Crown CR-235 batteries.  This provides 235 Ah total capacity, and the legendary reliability and toughness of the Crowns (Really…not kidding.  There’s 2 kinds of batteries in the world for this stuff, gang.  Crowns, and the crappy ones) means I’ll continue to get that capacity for many years to come.

Realistically, like any deep cycle battery, a 50% discharge cycle is about as aggressive as I want to be…and i’d prefer to stay at 25-30% in most cases.  This leaves me with a very comfortable ~1400 WHr of reliable use in any situation.  Given that the obs uses 400-500 WHr on an extreme night of imaging, and I can realistically expect a solid 400Whr of generation even on bad days, I can run indefinitely, and even get 2-3 nights of imaging done if the solar generation fails completely for some reason.

Of course, NONE of this is possible…at all…without knowing what the hell is actually going on with your power system.  Handy Bob’s number 1 golden rule is an absolute inarguable truth :  You must have a real meter to live successfully on battery power.  He then goes on to say :

Buy a Trimetric.  Period.

The TriMetric TM2030 is the heart and soul of the system.

First, it monitors power coming in and going out.   That sounds simple, but it’s probably the most critical part of your whole system.  You simply can not know the health of your batteries, whether your system is performing to its designed criteria, or, most importantly, whether or not you can safely power the items you want to use, without knowing this key bit of information.  How much have you used, and how much have you replaced?

The TriMetric goes beyond that, however, and truly manages your battery system.  It communicates with several charge controllers (in my case Bogart’s SC2030) and will apply a charging profile tailored to your specific brand, model, and type of battery.  Meaning, if the manufacturer recommends your batteries be charged at a certain rate, for a certain time, under certain conditions…the TriMetric will see to it that that happens.  If knowing how MUCH power went in and out is the most important data for preserving and maximizing the health of your batteries, then making sure it comes out and goes back in correctly is a close second.

I would be remiss at this point if I didn’t say something about the incredible folks at Bogart Engineering.  I’ve had the good fortune to make the acquaintance of the “new” owner, Kedar.  He is an uber-geek after my own heart, and is committed to maintaining both the high technical standards and exceptional customer service established by Bogart’s founder, Ralph Hiesey.  Indeed, there’s a new toy on the way from him soon, which I will be posting more about soon, that I suspect will blow our collective minds.

Of course you’re all probably wondering about the “bottom line”.  Does it work, how well does it work, and what did it cost?

Yes.  It works.  It works superbly.   I can walk outside every single morning, and find my batteries right at the charge percentage I expect.  I can, without fail, test them with a hydrometer and see the specific gravity the TriMetric’s SOC meter suggests I should have.  I can, without failure, find all 3 cells in both batteries in sync with each other.

In other words : The system does exactly what it was designed to do, does it reliably, and does it right.

Total cost was in the $600-$700 range.  That took a bit of shopping, aggressive research, and wheeling and dealing, along with installing everything myself.  At full retail, total cost would be in the $900 range.  The numbers start going down from there, however, since expanding the system (were I to want to do so) happens for “less money”…that is to say, another panel or more batteries would increase capacity by a larger percentage than increased cost.

All the lessons learned here will be put to use this spring, as I begin adding solar capability to our RV.  That project will have its own posts, I’m sure. 🙂


Posted in Astroimaging Gear, Random Sciency Stuffs, ROR Obs 2.0 | 1 Comment