Out until 3:00 a.m. last night – the joy of astrophotography.

Well last night was an extremely rare, beautiful clear and Moonless night. I had 2 main things to get on with, one get the array in the North Dome polar aligned and all the cameras/scopes set up ready for imaging, and two, get some imaging in with the HS4.

I started off with trying to polar align the array and after 2 and a half hours I gave up, shut down shop, and went over to Hyperstar imaging the Pleiades. Once the HS4 got itself underway, I pulled myself together and went back in the North Dome to try yet again to get the mount polar aligned using Sharpcap. What has been the problem? At times Sharpcap plate solves and stays plate solving – no problem. Then at times the plate solving becomes very erratic. And yet still at other times Sharpcap will not plate solve at all. What the Hell is going on here? Well it was only going out for the second time that I finally twigged, it was not TIMES but ANGLES that were the issue. How come?

To the north of the North Dome I have 2 apple trees planted way too close to the dome. I wasn’t bothered cos that’s north innit – but it does become an issue when Sharpcap needs to see Polaris. O.K. well that’s still not too much of a problem, Polaris is well above the roof of the house so all I need to do is chop the top off the apple trees so I can clearly see the house roof. And that’s what I thought I’d done a couple of weeks back. However taking a close look in the daytime I see I didn’t quite do a good enough job – still more needs to be taken off. Fortunately, last night I could “work between the angles” and managed to get “Excellent” polar alignment sorted out. Checking out a few other bits of the rig and I left the North Dome all set up and ready for its first imaging session of the season.

Meanwhile, in the South Dome, I am imaging the Pleiades with 3-minute subs (equivalent to 15-minute subs on the Sky90s), 27 subs later and you get the image shown at the top of this post. Now that doesn’t go particularly deep, it doesn’t show the Taurus molecular clouds, but it DOES go exactly as deep as I’d expect for 15-minute subs from the Sky90s – so that hangs together well. To start pulling out the Taurus molecular clouds I was using 1-hour subs on the Sky90s which translates to 12-minute subs on the HS4. So the FINAL part of this (seemingly lifelong) experiment will be to take 5, 10 and 15-minute subs with the HS4. I know I can take 10-minute subs with the HS4 as that’s what I used for the Pelican nebula images. 15-minutes I won’t know until I try.

Oh yes – and there is a mega bonus with this HS4, can you see it? Or rather can you not see it? No sign of ghost flaring from the bright stars in the Pleidaes – yipeeeeeee!!!!!

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