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Old 12-07-2019, 08:09 AM
Placidus (Mike and Trish)
Narrowing the band

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At last, light

Good news.

Back last Spring, the Apogee camera died. Repair under warranty took a punitive and cynical 3 months door to door for an afternoon's work.

A couple weeks after it came back, the camera died permanently. We ordered another one and paid a 100% deposit. Three weeks later, they said they couldn't build it. Can I have my money back, please, sir? Never have anything to do with Andor Scientific.

Bought an FLI 16803. It arrived in March.

Meanwhile, I'd completely redesigned all our electronics to use 4 Arduino Due microcontrollers (for Ra, Dec, dome rotation, and focus), and one Arduino Mega to work the roof shutters. Learned how to program the Arduinos to do the motor servo-control. All worked on the bench.

Also, I rewrote all the tired old Borland C++ code (star maps and catalogues, pointing model, sidereal time, go to, camera control, guiding, synch, the lot) in Visual Studio C#, with a view to future proofing.

Bought a Hewlett Packard industrial computer - a small "brick" with an I7 processor that ran Windows 10 on 50 watts. A thing of beauty. Feeling good, But now the Gotcha's started to arrive. My Visual Studio 2017 was no longer available, not even for ready money, let alone cucumber sandwiches, and I had to learn to use VS 2019 which is painfully different. Then the big one: the drivers for the Apogee guide cameras and filter wheel would not load onto the "brick". Never figured out why, as Andor no longer supports them, and I've had a gutful of their smug and nasty unhelpfulness.

So learrned to talk in C# to ASCOM level 6, and will buy all-new filter wheel and guide cameras in due course, that use ASCOM.

For the time being, my desktop computer is up in the observatory.

In testing out the new hardware, I plugged something into the wrong hole on the focuser H-bridge, and in a tenth of a second, did US$1000 worth of damage. A new one is on the way. ETA 6 weeks. Meanwhile, manual focusing. All very character building.

Last night, we fired up the Grand Catastrophe (new hardware, new electronics, new firmware, new software, new cabling, all designed and built by me), with the new FLI camera, new computer, new operating system, new computing language).

The dome had a tendency to spin round continuously at about one revolution per minute, but otherwise, IT ALL WORKED.

We took a 10 minute shot of the Hamburger. No darks, no flats, manually focused, so it is a secret, but it looked wonderful. Cool clear water to one lost in the desert.

Still a lot of work to do between now and when the new focuser arrives: periodic error, scripting, fixing the gyro-dome, but we're on firm ground now.

I have promised myself that I'll never, ever attempt a project as big as this again. Next time, it's rent-a-scope somewhere high and dry.


Back home, it was champagne time.

Last edited by Placidus; 12-07-2019 at 08:32 AM.
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  #2  
Old 12-07-2019, 08:28 AM
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multiweb (Marc)
ze frogginator

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Time for some wine and a movie.
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  #3  
Old 12-07-2019, 08:47 AM
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Atmos (Colin)
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Glad to hear you’re finally back in action! Although a spinning dome could have been interesting to watch from the outside it is not overly productive.

You’ve put a lot of work into this project and it’ll be great to see how it is performing
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Old 12-07-2019, 09:39 AM
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Andy01 (Andy)
My God it's full of stars

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Well done M&T - looking forward to new images soon!
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Old 12-07-2019, 09:52 AM
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Camelopardalis (Dunk)
Drifting from the pole

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M&T, a little laser light on the spinning dome at night and you got a party or maybe a movie theatre...or perhaps, planetarium

Love the bit about cucumber sandwiches

Look forward to your new era of imaging soon!
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  #6  
Old 12-07-2019, 09:59 AM
Placidus (Mike and Trish)
Narrowing the band

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Thanks muchly Mark, Colin, Andy, Dunk. There was a time there when the closer we got, the more and thicker walls were appearing in front of us.

The Apogee guide camera (1/3 inch 1200 pixel CMOS cooled to -10C) was actually pretty good. We never had to search for a guide star, even round Cetus for example, and we could usually get multiple guide stars. For example, last night on the Hamburger, we had ten guide stars, and we can average across them.

Does anyone have a recommendation for a low noise, probably CMOS, possibly cooled 1/3 inch chip x about 1200 pixel guide camera with a robust ASCOM driver that can handle at least 2 metres of USB cable? We're vaguely thinking ZWO or something like it, but don't know where to begin.

The cucumber sandwiches were from Oscar Wilde.
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Old 12-07-2019, 10:24 AM
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Atmos (Colin)
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QHY290 might be worth the look if you’re wanting something cooled.

QHY290 Product Page
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Old 12-07-2019, 10:46 AM
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Camelopardalis (Dunk)
Drifting from the pole

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Yeah I’d suggest something based on the IMX290 too. I use a ZWO ASI290MM and it has this uncanny ability to guide through clouds
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Old 12-07-2019, 06:06 PM
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Slawomir (Suavi)
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Wow, what an adventure Mike and Trish! After reading about your recent endeavours, I shall never ever complain about my Astro rig playing up.

I do admire your ability to code everything and build from scratch such a complex imaging system.

I will keep all of my fingers crossed for a successful completion of your project and for a trouble free night after night imaging sessions for the next 10 years!
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  #10  
Old 12-07-2019, 07:19 PM
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muletopia (Chris)
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well done

A vast project,congratulations.
Like you my C++ journey began with Borland.
Then Visual C++, not a nice environment, and on Windows.
Then GCC in Ubuntu, much nicer and much better associated` tools. Just need to be careful that the code compiles/runs on Windows for clients.




Some GCC , posix threads, are just too hard to transport to Visual C++ so that client has agreed to run a dedicated Linux computer.


I am putting off learning C# for as long as possible, my head hurts already with my current projects so I am in awe of your multiple advances.


With admiration
Chris
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Old 12-07-2019, 10:58 PM
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DavidTrap (David)
Really just a beginner

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And I thought my trip to the school observatory to replace an RA motor and adjust an encoder was an achievement - pales into insignificance compared to your issues.

I do have to recalibrate guiding, test limit settings, setup flats for capture, redo darks, setup auto calibration, work out priority settings for ACP scheduler - fingers crossed I don't get called into work this weekend...

Why do we get involved with this hobby again?

DT
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Old 12-07-2019, 11:29 PM
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RobF (Rob)
Mostly harmless...

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Yes, there was supposed to be some fun in there.
Hopefully you'll get compounding "fun returns" from now on...
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  #13  
Old 13-07-2019, 07:34 AM
Placidus (Mike and Trish)
Narrowing the band

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Atmos View Post
QHY290 might be worth the look if youre wanting something cooled.

QHY290 Product Page
Quote:
Originally Posted by Camelopardalis View Post
Yeah Id suggest something based on the IMX290 too. I use a ZWO ASI290MM and it has this uncanny ability to guide through clouds
Thanks, that's helpful. It's nice to know that the 290 has worked well. And yes, a guider with superman vision would be useful!
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Old 13-07-2019, 07:48 AM
Placidus (Mike and Trish)
Narrowing the band

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Rob, David, Chris, Suavi,

Thanks for the moral support there. Spent yesterday working on the spinning dome. The more stuff I put in to catch what's doing it, the less it does it. I think it must be something involving cats and quanta, or small shy gnomes.

Programming: I have a lifelong good mate who's very into Unix and the world of gnu's and hartebeests and won't touch MicroSoft. He keeps saying, "You want this ... don't you", but it too late for me to embrace the Dark Side. Unloading the real time stuff into the microcontrollers (bare metal) meant the PC could concentrate on the user interface, so the problem went away.

Best,
Mike
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Old 14-07-2019, 11:48 AM
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SimmoW (SIMON)
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Wow, amazing work Mike, you must be such a genius to program all this from scratch, my mind boggles. So it makes your beautiful images that much deeper to me. Kind of like Da Vinci making his own paints.

Well done and one day we will make it up to see it in person
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  #16  
Old 14-07-2019, 12:22 PM
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gregbradley
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Wow Mike, you don't do things half arsed eh? Amazing effort.

I have been using SBIG STi autoguiders now for sveral years. I like it. It has a shutter, most don't, so it can do auto dark subtract which I found was important to not confuse software with interference artifacts.

I had trouble with a Starlight Express Lodestar that way.

There probably are more sensitive autoguiders on the market these days but I have not had it let me down so no need to go looking for alternatives.

I run a 2 metre cable on mine at my dark site. No troubles.

FLI was also bought out so I hope they continue their good service although I sent 3 emails to their service department a few months ago to get replacement fans for my Proline and there was no response. The email address was the one on their website. Normally I'd get a response in a day or so.

My Proline has needed to replace fans twice now but the camera is over 11 years old. It also now needs a desiccant replacement (simply small packs of desiccant packed under the sensor board) and a sensor clean and top up of the Argon (I am able to do all that myself). I was able to source the fans on ebay.

My ML16 has started to frost and its 2 years old so I'll do the desiccant and argon on it and probably will only take me less than an hour.

Desiccant packs are on ebay and are very very cheap.

Greg.
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  #17  
Old 14-07-2019, 01:43 PM
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strongmanmike (Michael)
Woohoo it's clear

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Good to hear you guys are nearly up and running properly again, with lot's of time and amazing skill involved, I see, to get there Be good to see you guys posting images again, IIS is not quite the same without you

Mike
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Old 14-07-2019, 03:07 PM
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LewisM
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Fantastic news!

It really hits home to me the simplicity of my rig. I would not have the patience, experience/nous or funds from the Home Office to do such grand ventures.

Here's to a trillion photons captured soon
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Old 14-07-2019, 04:07 PM
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Slawomir (Suavi)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LewisM View Post
Fantastic news!

It really hits home to me the simplicity of my rig. I would not have the patience, experience/nous or funds from the Home Office to do such grand ventures.

Here's to a trillion photons captured soon
That would only require about 5000 luminance subs taken with my 105mm guide scope equipped with tiny ICX-814 when pointing at NGC4945

Now, with the same 105mm guide scope and KAF 16803 we would only require about 460 10-minute subs to capture a trillion photons. But since M&T are not using a guide scope but a proper telescope to collect space photons, it could only take one night to collect a trillion photons from a bright DSO. Unless my maths is wrong
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  #20  
Old 15-07-2019, 08:04 AM
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Retrograde (Pete)
a.k.a. @AstroscapePete

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Character building - that's one way of putting it.

Sorry to hear about your tale of woe but hopefully you'll soon have put all the gremlins behind you permanently. So glad to hear it's finally all coming together & looking forward to seeing some of your new images.
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