Archive for April, 2015

After 3 days I have now finished all the metalwork, drilling and tapping, and reconfiguring the top plate of the mini-WASP array.

The top plate will now accommodate 2 x Canon 200mm prime lenses, each with a Starlight Xpress M26C Trius OSC CCD + an Altair finder scope with a Philips web cam attached.

I’ve said it before but this time I think that’s really it as I simply cannot bolt anything else onto the frame.

With this final incarnation I think a name change is also in order – so what was the mini-WASP array is now officially titled the mega-WASP array.

The array can be run as two separate imaging systems (the limitation of the dome aperture means I cannot run all cameras at the same time, which is a great shame).

System 1:  The very wide field imager.  This is the 2 Canon lenses with M26C Trius cameras.  Both lenses/cameras image the SAME object, so I am getting data down at a rate that is 2x the actual imaging time.  The FOV of the system is 4.46 x 6.64 degrees with a sampling of 6 arcseconds per pixel.  The M26C Trius cameras are 10-megapixel resolution.  The Canon lenses are run with their apertures wide open and I use a 52mm UV/IR cut filter on the front which doubles as both a filter and an aperture giving f#3.8 operation and good quality stars across the whole of the M26C chip.  The bonus of aperturing the lens in this way is that you don’t get the 8-spiked star spikes which I personally find pretty unattractive.  You get no spikes at all with the Canon lenses used in this way, just as with a refractor.

System 2:  The Sky 90 array.  This system comprises 3 x Sky 90 imaging refractors each with an M26C (non-Trius) OSC CCD.  Two of the three refractors have a filter-wheel attached with IDAS, H-alpha, H-Beta, OIII and SII filters.  Again, each imager images the same object which gives me a data rate of 3x the actual imaging time.  The FOV of a Sky 90/M26C is 3.33 x 2.22 degrees at a sampling of 3 arcseconds per pixel.  All three Sky 90s have the Takahashi reducer/corrector fitted so the f# of a Sky 90 is f4.5.  The fourth slot in the main frame houses the Megrez 80mm William Optics guide scope with a Starlight Xpress guide camera (driven from one of the M26C cameras).  This guider also acts as a guider for the 2 Canon lenses on the top plate.

O.K. so we are never going to get enough clear Moonless skies to justify all this lot – but at least for those short opportunities, when they finally do come along, I can make the best of the time given to me by the weather Gods.

Pics will follow when everything has been set up. tuned in, and running 🙂 🙂


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I composited some 4-hours of Hyperstar III data and some 6-hours of Sky 90 data to give the following deep image of NGC281 – the Pac Man nebula.

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Got today’s Earth Science Picture of the Day (EPOD) with an image of Aldebaran and the Hyades (which coincidentally also makes an appearance in the May 2015 issue of Astronomy Now magazine).  Taken with the Canon 200mm lens at f#4 I had to “overdo” the 4-pointed artificial star spikes to try and cover up the 8-spikes generated by the lens aperture – I don’t like 8-pointed bright stars.  Thank you Jim at EPOD for continuing to publish work from the New Forest Observatory 🙂

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A clear Moonless night last night so I put the mini-WASP array on Polaris.

A total of 36 x 5-minute subs gave the result below which I’m pretty pleased with.

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Last night I got the left hand frame in this Canon 200mm/M26C Trius 2-framer.  Bagged 13 Messier objects in one image with this one 🙂  The Virgo/Coma cluster of galaxies.  If the weather allows – I will go back and take a couple more frames of this one just to get the noise down a little more.


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The first of 2-frames taken with the Canon 200mm lens and Starlight Xpress M26C Trius OSC CCD.

Bit of a story to this one.  Had some strange streaks across the image which I thought had wrecked the whole imaging session.  Bit of a shame really as this had 12 x 15-minute (3-hours worth) of subs in it.  Noel Carboni came to the rescue and processed this one, successfully removing the streaks as he did so 🙂  Also, Terry Platt very quickly sorted out the camera problem for me via Skype – all that was required was a firmware reload – problem gone!!

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Has anybody imaged the Polaris region recently?  Seems to have been a bit of mega-engineering going on out there courtesy of some highly advanced alien civilisation!

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I was just reading some very interesting observers’ comments on viewing the unbelievably faint Leo II dwarf galaxy.  Their attempts at visual observation of this elusive object brought back the memory that kicked off my imaging obsession, and relegated my beautiful eyepiece collection (and Binoviewers) to the storage cupboard.

When I first got my Celestron Nexstar GPS C11 scope back around early 2002 I only had visual observation in mind – I really didn’t see me moving into the imaging business – what’s the point?  So I spent 2 years with this fine scope just observing, and it was great, except I found myself going back time and again to the handful of objects that look great visually.  But I now remember what the real cruncher was that turned me to the dark side.  Like any beginner, of course, I wanted to see the Horsehead nebula.  I spent a long time convincing myself I was in the right area (which I now know I was) – but there was nothing to be seen.  No matter, there were various filters advertised that promised to help see this difficult object – none worked for me 🙁  So for 2 years in succession, when Orion was well placed I looked in vain for the Horsehead nebula – no joy.

I must have had imaging back in the subconscious however as when I bought the scope, I also bought the original Hyperstar to go with it – for two years it had sat in the bottom drawer unused.  But now its time had come.  I bought a Starlight Xpress H9C one shot colour CCD camera in the Autumn of 2004 and was set up for imaging around November-December 2004 with the scope in Alt-Az mode (I knew nothing about needing an equatorial mounting at this point).  So I was taking subs up to around 30-seconds (before trailing was apparent) and of course I went to the Horsehead nebula as one of the first objects to image.  When the Horsehead was clearly visible with just a single 15-second exposure – that was it.  The eyepiece never went back on, and I have only imaged ever since that fateful evening 🙂


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Here’s another very deep image that will make a stunning desktop/screensaver.

This time it’s the Rosette nebula in Monoceros.  An RGB Hyperstar image with added H-alpha and OIII data 🙂

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Would you like to own an image from the New Forest Observatory but cannot afford to purchase a numbered print?

Then how about your very own custom desktop/screensaver of your favourite NFO image 🙂

Just send me your desktop size in pixels and I will prepare for you a JPEG image of your choice to fit your screen.

For only £5 paid into PayPal – you will receive your stunning desktop image which you can choose from the huge selection available on here:

My own current desktop is the Horsehead nebula image shown below.

And if you are not particularly interested in deep-sky images yourself, then how about a really unique Birthday present for friends or family?

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