Monday, September 24, 2012

MCX2 First Light

Sept. 23, 2012
Picked up my camera at Jack's house around 5 pm after a disappointing Saint's loss. He showed me how to hook it up to my computer and he patiently verified everything was working. He showed me the different tabs of the MC control software and explained most options. I kept up with him for awhile and then my eyes glazed over, being utterly lost. I'm sure I will pick it up in time, but it is a lot to take in at once. Jack showed me his very nice observatory that is under construction and his shop where he stores and tests the cameras. I left around 6:30, eager to get home and set up.

I got home and proudly showed off my new purchase to my wife. After a few minutes I went outside to set up the scope. At 9:09 pm I had it all ready to go and fired up Autostar. I aligned on Denab and Fomalhaut and then went to M57, the Ring Nebula. It came in at 1700 position about 1/3 deg off center. In my 18 EP it is a hard to see gray smudge visible only with AV. I shifted the smudge into the center of the FOV. Still danged hard to see, but it was falling into the heavily light polluted west, about. 50 deg or so in altitude.

Having a good first target in mid-field, I anxiously installed the camera. The unit is small and there are many parts, focal reducer, spacer, 1-1/4" adapters, heat sinks and fans, and the cables. I had some difficulty in getting the S video and control cables to plug into the camera. Would be easier in daylight. I hooked things up to the computer and applied power to the camera. I had no problem with the computer talking to the camera, but I couldn't see an image in the preview window - it was blue. I eventually determined that the problem was a loose S-video cable at the camera. The S video cable is big and heavy. I will need to secure the cables as to provide strain relief on the camera plug. A bit more fidgeting and the ring poped onto the screen! A tweak of the focus and I could easily see red and blue colors in the ring and the hole was nicely contrasted. All in a 2 second image. I bumped the integration up to 7 and the 14 sec and was rewarded with a few more stars and a bit more definition to the ring. Not sure why there are so many stars in green and purple (Mardi Gras colors). At 28 sec integration the screen went white - over loaded by sky glow?? I tried 28 sec a couple of times with no success, but 7 & 14 sec images worked great.

7 sec image, AGC 3, MFR-6 with 5 mm spacer 

While I was playing with the software I lost the video signal to black, unlike the blue screen when I had a bad video connection. I never did get it back. Perhaps the CCD sensor dewed over? Calling it a night as I have to work tomorrow and it takes an hour to tear down the rig. Everything is wet. A quick check of the weather shows 74deg F & 88% humidity, half moon, and high clouds and that is at midnight.

Still for first light I got a couple of 7 sec images of the ring and learned to navigate the software a bit. Also have expanded my to do list to include strain relief for the camera, how best to organize while observing and store the mess of wires, and how best to store the camera. I am thinking I might cut the foam in one of the Orion EP cases to hold it. Also need to remember to store the camera with desiccant. Lots to do and learn but a nice first outing.