This is where we'll keep you up to date as the project progresses. There is a lot ahead, so stay tuned.
Wow, time flies! I am always amazed at how much time has passed since I go to update the news here. Life with the 24 has been great even though I have not gotten to use it nearly as much as I would have liked. Our club has gotten out a few times, and like last night, in typical fashion I’ll drive an hour to dark skies on the promise of a clear sky by the weather forecast only to watch it get demolished as I arrive there.
The trailer has lived up it the theory I had when I built it. The shelving and internal office make getting out onsite easy. Quick to unpack and setup the scope, and no gear to shuffle around. I wish I could find an easy way to do that also with my CCD Gear when going mobile. But that will come some day in the future, bigger house, Bigger garage, bigger trailer, more ear!
My remote observatory project turned out to be a failure. Be it poor leadership on my part or simply the timing. It is one of those things that I feel had the technology been ready a few years back that the interest would have been there. Now that technology can make it real, the interest is waning here for amateur science.
I am thinking selling off the AP8 and going with a more economical camera. I think reducing the investment will make me more comfortable about less usage. I worked so hard to get everything working, it sort of broke my spirit for it a bit. I think I just need to log some hours at the EP and relax a bit.
Well, that about brings you up to date other than I got my Astro Caddy! If you are not familiar with these, its a hand made wooden EP case. They are absolutely a must if you have a lot of EP’s or a StarMaster scope. Steve Carroll makes these and he is a master wood craftsman! Treat yourself to one, you wont be disappointed
In typical dramatic fashion, everything changed in the blink of an eye and we are now happy owners of a StarMaster 24” GOTO scope. Rick Singmaster came to the rescue and sold me his personal scope. I picked it up last night and took it for a test drive. These scopes are so simple to setup and within 15 minutes (My first time setting it up) I had it setup and slewing to objects with uncanny accuracy.
Rick has thought out all the details that one could imagine that make setting up and transporting the scope a breeze.
More to come and some pics soon!
Heart breaking news for our 25” scope future dreams. It appears the 25” project will start over again as a combination of bad luck has delayed the scope delivery. After the GPSP I will try to find a new suitable way to pursue this.
The way this turned out, we will be financially strained as the prices of similar scopes have increased by over $1000 and I will likely have to mount my own GOTO system, which to be honest, I am not sure how it will turn out. Stay Tuned for more news.
My, how things change and how time flies! I lost the site and had to rebuild, so there was actually more news here, and I get to try and redo it. Long story short we ended up with a AP8P for the main camera and an ST5c as the autoguider. We have a 4” Celestron refractor Atop the 12” as a guide scope. We also purchased a Finger Lakes Instruments Color Filter Wheel. It all matches up nicely and we are running the scope at about F9.4 for a whopping 30” x 30” Field of View.
There was much tuning to this setup to make it all work right, including putting the 6.3 reducer in and then deciding to take it back out. FLI made me a custom fitting to mount their CFW up to the AP8 and it locks up the CFW to the SCT with a Counter lock threaded ring. Its a premium solution!
It appears I have a moisture problem with the AP8P and it will go back to Apogee fro a checkup this week.
We have done some really nice images which you can see in the gallery. The site has been updated a bit, especially in the gallery and in the Tech Info page.
Wow, Exciting times at EverStar! Tonight a new 12" went online. The 10" is being packed up and put it up for sale. We are going to get a new camera also. Much thought has gone into the process and it looks like it will be an AP8EP with Lisaa Autoguider and a new 2" Filter Wheel. Its a a tremendous investment but it should do wonders for our program here. The camera was chosen to work on both the new 12" and the 25" that is being built.
This will likely result in some down time while the new camera is being built by Apogee, but the wait will be worth it and the skies have been terrible this year anyways. We'll keep you posted!
The skies continue to remain hazy and the thin cloud layer high in the atmosphere never seems to end. Surely it's the curse of a new ready easy to use observatory
Used a Lens Pen to clean optics last night. What a nice tool!! Planning for the 25 continues which has now evolved to an GOTO Equatorial Fork design. This will make imaging easier. I have been working on the specs for a new CCD Camera which will match both scopes so that I might sell the old one. I have been doing a lot of research to try and Find a CCD Chip which will meet the demands of the 25" optics and provide a nice wide field of view.
EverStaR has ordered a Johnson V type filter to start getting involved with Gamma Ray Burst work and has also joined the American Association of Variable Star Observers. This will represent a new expanded focus for the types of work EverStaR will be engaged in.
It is so nice when a plan all comes together. The shelter has improved things here immensely. Opening and closing are non-events each only taking a minute or two. This has added significantly to my observing time making even short jaunts of cloudless sky easy prey. I can now open on nights that I would have never thought to before.
EverStar got two asteroids numbered, 1999VJ22 and 1999YT8 are now respectively 18873 & 18883. Last night we observed 1999 TS11 which should aid it in also being numbered soon.
After over a year I am still thrilled and my appetite for clear skies is still strong. This years has not been very productive in terms of numers of observations. The weather combined with the construction project and a particularly busy period of work hasn't left me all the time I would have liked to have had.
Winter projects will focus on data operations here as the amount of it is starting to rack up pretty quick
At long last the observatory is complete! You can see the pictures in the Site Info section of the site. Much thanks must go to Mark (Grolleg on IRC) for the awesome rail kit he made for us. The roof slides so smooth its hard to believe that over 200 lb. sits on top it.
The rolling roof scope shelter will offer the operators here much greater flexibility in observing by reducing setup time and allowing a broader range of automated activities.
EverWeather goes on line. EverStaR purchased an Oregon Scientific Professional Wireless Weather Station and installed it. The Observatory now has its own weather station which is primarily used to measure weather conditions and correlate historical data with those seeing conditions to predict optimal imaging conditions. Its a lot of fun and as all know, weather is a huge part of astronomy. Pictures of the weather station can be found under Site Info.
My how things develop! EverStaR has placed a small 25" GOTO DOB on order. It will be CCD capable and should provide much enjoyment to us. It may drive a Camera upgrade if it works well for CCD. We have also gotten a small trailer to be able to go Mobil. Its a Cargo trailer and not fancy but it will make life easier in terms of packing things up etc. I'll keep you posted!
So much has happened since I last checked in. I wont make it to capture it all however perhaps I can focus on the highlights. The Weather has been fairly horrible! The fires in the west possible are impacting the weather this year. It never really clears and consequently little imaging has been done.
We have purchased several software packages, all really cool and worthy of the expense. MPO connections for automated scope/camera control. We are working to get this package productive. The skies are so polluted here that I must guide to get the 360 - 600 second exposures I need to be productive. While the package offers automated guided images it is pretty much impossible to know if there will be a adequate guide star available and consequently the script can break pretty easy.
Maxim DL, what can be said other than totally awesome! It has taken my imaging to a new level. While not noted for Camera control I find its camera control very nice. It will allow you to take series of guided images. I have quite frequently set off a series of 20 or more images and walked away. Very nice for color work as it turns the filter, snaps the images and you pick them up later.
Its batch image processing capabilities are quite nice also allowing users to dark, flat and align images with speed and ease.
Lastly there is Prism. Wow, hard to get more for your money on this one. $75.00 buys you a very comprehensive package capable of controlling both the scope and the camera. The only downside to this package so far is that all the help files are in French. There is a web based translator though that you can plug in the URL and it interprets on the fly recreating the sites pages in English as you cruise through. I will talk more about this package as I learn more.
Mother's Day 2000:
Still smiling about last night, as it marked a new milestone in the evolution of EverStaR. After buying a new car battery, 600 Watt inverter and battery recharger, we packed up the LX200, ST7e and our 16" DOB and headed out to Powell Observatory for a night of fun.
All went reasonably well, except for the initial polar alignment. which seemed to want more Amps than the huge honking battery I bought had. It seems like the LX200's have a hard time cranking all the way around for polar alignment. It managed, though, after two tries and all went extremely well afterwards.
Polar alignment, while difficult, was exceptionally good, as 70 second unguided images with perfect round stars were easy work for our mobile operation. The sky conditions were less than optimal, but the setup ran for 5 1/2 hours without incident. We would have stayed longer, but clouds rolled in blocking our view.
In summary, the 975 Cranker Amp battery and 600 watt inverter ran the scope, camera and dew zapper without problems. We ran the laptop off the trucks battery.
Gina and I were very pleased with our mobile effort and cant wait to do it again. You can see some of the fruits of our labor in the gallery. Look for the Lagoon and Omega Nebulas.
Its been a while since I have checked in, and things are going just great at EverStaR. In fact, today members from our club ASKC came and installed a pier for me. Two weeks and, weather permitting, we will be able to deploy it into action.
Asteroid work has been coming along great. We started a new Mailing List called MPFU (Minor Planet Follow Up) that allows astronomers from all over the world to request follow-up help. At last check there were probably 20 Observatories represented from all over the US and abroad. In just a short time it has already served to help solidify 3 discoveries. If you are interested in signing up for the MPFU feel free to send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have dropped from 7 to 6 asteroids twice now due to links, but we're not really focused on discoveries anymore, and are truly enjoying follow-up work and helping others. 1999 VE21 got linked to a Trojan Survey asteroid some 25 years back.
If you had to take my temperature on what it is like to have installed an observatory, I would still tell you that it is as exciting as the first day. Since it went in, few clear nights have passed where we didn't set up. Even with an hour of setup, I am compelled to do it and feel no regrets. Soon, when the building gets constructed, setup will take just a few minutes, thanks to my friends.
The Asteroid Sectionof the site has been revamped with more information on our asteroids. This will continue to be updated as the information becomes available.
Also, we have a seventh asteroid, 2000 AU4.
EverStaR is also thinking about an EQ mount for the 16" Starfinder. The purchase likely won't occur until late in the year. This will enable Ever star to hit 20th magnitude to help it recover those really faint asteroids. It should also provide some interesting images, since it would have a 18 x 27 FOV.
EverStaR continues to train those wishing to learn more about Asteroids. Mark wrote a manual which is available for download on the www.askcasteroids.com web site. It covers the basic principals of asteroid search and reporting.
When the weather clears EverStaR will resume its search activities and see if it can make another discovery.
More asteroids! 1999 VT8, 1999 YL5 bringing the total at ever star to 6. Two have been linked, TS11 and VJ22 both have 9 year arcs and with good followup, possibly ready for naming in a few years. These last two designations came right at the end of the year to wrap up 1999.
The observatory is coming along well, the pier has arrived and will likely be planted in the spring. The inside of Ever star is mostly complete and pictures can be found in the ESO Info Center under Site Pictures.
New droids! Hoping they won't get linked or lost. 1999 VT19, 1999 VJ22, 1999 VE21. They are all pretty bright! Found the latter two in one evening. I think I am beginning to love droid chasing more than I imagined I would. I think that those with a CCD camera should give it a try. Its a real thrill!
My latest Horse Head in the gallery will demonstrate that we are beginning to understand color just a little bit better. We have a long long way to go and so little time to do it. The next time you look at one of those pretty pictures, know that the person who took it probably labored to get it right! May your skies be dark and your target be bright!
For those of you that have been following we realize communications have been thin lately. We have been hard at work debugging the setup, fighting issues and tuning our setup and observing process. I believe we have finally reached a milestone in the process.
The setup is starting to run without many surprises. In fact the last few evenings have been incredible! We have been running through Critical Lists and logging observations.
I began to wonder about the capabilities of our setup in its ability to reach what I deem a reasonable magnitude. We are able to hit the mid 18's on a good night and this seems right for the equipment we have purchased. I can not tell you how important proper focus is in achieving this goal.
I'll be updating the tech sections over the next week or so to reflect the learning we have experienced. We hope you will find this of value in your own endeavors.
On October 10th, while following up on ASKC's 1999TP7, Gina spotted another asteroid in the picture while blinking. After submissions to the MPC and analysis, the MPC determined it was linked to 1990OG2 discovered back in 1990; however, it was then lost and now with EverStaR astrometrics has a designation with a nine year arc. Click here for more information.
Another night of imaging. Things are starting to settle in for EverStaR. We have stopped fighting the equipment and started cranking out work. On a follow up of ASKC's asteroid our large field of view netted another asteroid. It has a designation but is almost certain to be linked. Ever star will wait awhile before getting more excited about it. Its a rather large bright rock and for now is designated as 1999T11S. We are baby sitting it nightly as weather permits, but it is a hard rock to loose track of for the time being. We are really quite satisfied at the prospect of having recovered one.
Guiding is working just great, 6 and 7 minutes exposures are not a problem. Played with Gina's CFW8 for the first time. Had some vingetting problems but we have come to a comfortable medium on this.
Gina and David Hudgins take some nice pictures of NGC galaxies. See the tech info section on guiding! They also get guiding calibration working per Larry Robinson's advice.
Gina finds out that a CFW8 color wheel is on the way as an anniversary gift! She's really excited and can't wait to take it out for a spin. We need to get guiding secured first for this tool to be effective. The weather looks like its going to be unfriendly for a while, though. Check back in about a week for more info.
In the midst of working on focal reduction I have also been working on guiding. I am tempted to make a section on it on the site as I have only successfully guided on 6 minute image since I started playing with it. See the Tech Info page on guiding.
Finally came to the conclusion that the JMI motofocuser is not going to work at an acceptable level of performance with our Meade F 3.3 Focal reducer. For those who follow in our path, two things might be worth of consideration. Perhaps start with an LX200 at f 6.3 if you are really going to be doing more CCD than visual work. Second, perhaps an Optech focal reducer would be better if buying a JMI motofocuser, or use the JMI autofocuser with a Meade 6.3 Focal reducer, which is how the club has theirs set up on the LX200 12" Powell; or, if on a tighter budget, then buy the Meade motofocuser. The Meade motofocuser moves the mirror, though, so you will want to consider this carefully prior to making a final decision. Read more about this issue on the Tech Info page on focal reduction.
Working on vignetting problems. Our setup is plagued by it. Found some good information on the Internet that indicates that the relationship in distance between the camera and the focal reducer is critical. We will be experimenting with this to see what can be done to reduce the effect as much as possible.
We obtained our observatory code, 849. Very exciting, especially for Gina!
We submitted our two nights' observations to the MPC to obtain an observatory code. The MPC site explains everything you have to do to start this process and work with asteroids. Of course, Larry was very helpful, as always.
Took some flats (images of a somewhat even surface, such as the evening sky after sundown, but before stars come out) in order to combine them with the images to reduce the vignetting effect. It worked rather well. We also took 20 asteroid images.
Unfortunately, the CCD camera came loose and began to rotate at a certain point, and ruined the first 5 images... Well, not necessarily ruined, but at a different angle than the others, which made it hard to blink. Larry Robinson told us how to get around the wrong angle problem in CAA, but in any case, you really want to keep them straight: it's much easier to work with them.
We brought the scope back home from the shop, fired it up right away and started imaging asteroids. Got the focal reducer to work with the autofocuser, too. Everything worked great! Only problem to be worked out is the annoying vignetting (a round "frame" of light around the borders of the images) from the focal reducer.
It arrived! It broke! Or so we thought. The serial ports of two different computers were causing problems, so it looked like the LX200 motherboard didn't work. Luckily the scope works just fine. Before the problem, though, Larry Robinson was kind enough to come over and help me get it all setup. We imaged a few large known asteroids. The balance was very rough and the polar alignment was very rough. We did not have guiding setup so the longest exposure we could get was about 20-30 seconds without getting oval stars.
Two nights later I spent a few hours working on balance and alignment and with the motofocuser and borrowed focal reducer. I learned that so far, I am unable to get the motofocuser to work with the 3.3 focal reducer.
When I finally was ready to image I tried linking to the scope and discovered that the RS232 port did not want to respond. I tried it with another computer, checked the cables, still no dice. Fortunately I bought it from a local dealer and they are looking at it.
Hopefully I can be back in biz within 30 days. So far my experience has educated me about the benefits of a peer. ;-)
New Driftscans. David Hudgins and I worked together to produce a nice driftscan. I am going to try and target some galaxies at my next opportunity. With patience you can really get some nice results!
Got word that the scope won't be here until mid next month. Looks like an opportunity for more Driftscans.
Ever star Observatory takes it's first CCD images. The irony is that they weren't at all taken the way I thought they would be. I ended up using my Dob as my new scope is late. As it turns out though it was fun. I used a program called Scane.exe that allows you to driftscan. See the link from the main menu.
Security System was upgraded to cover observatory.
The camera arrived! If we only had the telescope!
Installed a waterproof cable access box outside and ran the cables into it. Purchased some 25 foot pass through cables. We only need to build a cable to interface from a standard serial to the RJ 11 socket on the scope.
We bought a little kit from the electronics store which has a normal serial connector on one end and a 6 pin socket on the other. This will allow us to wire the pins in the connector to match the correct pinouts on the scope and use a simple telephone cord to hook to the scope without having to solder on it. We'll probably build it tomorrow.
Installed the remote PC in the basement. Ran the network wiring from the third to the bottom floor. Did more testing: works great!
Purchased PC Anywhere and tested some astronomy software with it between the PC's. Works OK and should be fine. Food for thought for those who follow: buy or use the fastest PC you can for the remote machine. We observed that the host PC's speed made a bigger difference that the LAN speed for this application.
Made the decision to change our setup plans. Decided to install a computer in the basement and use PC Anywhere to run it from the top floor. This will allow us to have a computer near the scope for setup each night. Very glad we thought of this before it was too late.
This will require us to run a network connection to the basement. One could also choose a network card that uses your wall outlets if you didn't want to physically run wire.
At this point we are projecting an early September arrival date for all the equipment. We bought the breaker box for the serial cables. We will be looking into cables and connectors after we collect more information.