Here are some pics of my second observatory which is an HEQ5 Pro mounted on a small table outside my garage. The control cables run into the office in the garage corner and are stored coiled in the empty gas meter cabinet on the wall. The hardest part of making this was drilling a 55mm hole thru the wall for the cables. It only takes a minute to remove the cover bag, install the scope and connect the wires. The mount is on the south-east corner of the garage so it can cover the whole sky except the north-west quadrant. Perfect for solar, lunar and planetary work.
The next eclipse of the Sun will occur on March 20th this year and here are some tips on how to use DSSR to guide your scope during it. First, here is a white light simulation of what the eclipse will look like from Inverness, Scotland. Note that this was created in CdC and is an alt-az view, which is why the Sun is rotating and the Moon follows a curved track.
If your camera is in auto exposure mode the sky brightness will vary during the eclipse which is maybe what you want. I intend to use a fixed manual exposure which I think will look better in the time-lapse animation.
Do a dry run on the Sun before the 20th.
Use new or recharged batteries and have spares ready.
Use a remote release cable or intervalometer as a backup to DSLR usb capture.
Use DSSR’s recticle to centre the Sun before you start guiding.
I have tried to get DSSR to do a virtual guide on this animation but it breaks down near the point of maximum cover. What I suggest for WL is that you guide for as long as you can on a sunspot and then stop guiding. Then, right-click on the 6 or 12 o’clock position to begin monitoring. Stop monitoring and then right-click on the picture in the guider window to show the monitor box in the main video window. Then use your HC buttons to keep the monitor position lined up with the red box. You can start guiding again when a surface feature reappears (remember to click in the guider picture to hide the monitor box).
You might be luckier in h-alpha if there is a prominence or surface feature in the uncovered portion of the Sun. DSSR should be able to guide right thru the eclipse on it. If there is no feature then follow the procedure for white light above.
Poor Man’s Guider
I don’t have a full disk video camera so I can’t use DSSR for the eclipse. My plan is to use a Canon 1100D DSLR connected to a NexStar 4SE and use Canon’s utility app to capture a full-disk WL still every 5 seconds. My guider will be a sheet of cling film over my monitor on which I will draw the dotted outline of the Sun in the Canon preview window. I can use this with the HC buttons to keep the Sun aligned.
Construct Time-Lapse Animation
Coming soon – how to use DSV to create a time-lapse animation with your results.
DSSR version 4.10 adds support for cameras from ZWO Company as shown in this screen shot.
I don’t have a ZWO camera myself which is why the video screen is black, but several users have confirmed that their ZWOs display and capture fine.
This was only possible thanks to the support offered by Sam of ZWO Company and the generous help given by Robin (author of SharpCap) who even donated some SharpCap code for DSSR. A big thanks to both of them.
DSSR started displaying error messages and even refusing to load on some PCs in December 2014. Even my garden observatory PC was affected even though no code had changed. I can only surmise that some Windows update had upset DSSR. Most errors were easy to fix and DSSR 4.10 now has a debug mode and improved error logging that help me fix any future errors.
First off, check that your Windows text size in your Windows display settings is set to the default 100%. DSSR may not start and will certainly not autoguide if it is not 100%.
Next, start DSSR and click the I Agree (debug) button. You will then see a series of boxes with a letter code like A, B etc. Click on the OK buttons and remember the last code displayed before DSSR crashed. If you get as far as the main DSSR window make sure logging is running and then write down exactly what you are trying when you see the error. Close DSSR.
You can then use my software support group to post your results together with the relevant log which should be in your capture folder. I will get back to you in a matter of minutes (or days) with a fix.
We just had some problems with new users which was tracked down to the Windows text size which can be altered in Control Panel>Appearance and Personalization>Display.
Any setting other that 100% may prevent DSSR from starting and will certainly prevent it from autoguiding.
Apparently, a lot of laptops are now shipped with 125% text size out of the box and these need to be changed to 100% before running DSSR. This will also solve problems in other software with text not displaying correctly.
If you have trouble reading text at 100% then use a lower screen resolution which will not affect DSSR.
DSSR 4.9 is now available on the Downloads page.
This version fixed a problem where the WinTrak window was not showing for some users. It also has improved error logging and the expiry date has been removed. This version should see you out.
I also uploaded new versions of DVS and DFM where the only change was to remove the expiry date.
Enjoy and clear skies,
I was imaging Orion when I captured this shot. Still trying to work out what it was. It was taken from Inverness, Scotland on 16th February, 2015 at 21.04UT.
Below are some other shots I took the same night.
All images taken with Canon 1100D, stacked in DeepSkyStacker and processed in StarTools and Krita.
I got a book on astrophotography for xmas and one of the things it said was that you can’t do deep sky imaging with an alt-az mount. I thought I would try it out and left my NexStar 4SE tracking M42 un-guided while I watched the football. My Canon 1100D recorded around 50x good 30sec exposures which were stacked in DeepSky Stacker and processed in StarTools and Krita to give the result below.
Microsoft have just released an update to their Image Composite Editor (ICE). I gave it a quick try on my last set of lunar mosaic tiles and it looks like a much nicer package. In particular, the export to disk is now almost instantaneous. Download the 64bit version here.