Tag Archives: EQ8

SharpStar 15028HNT

After months of trying to get my trusty Sky-Watcher Quattro F4 to work with the ASA 0.73x reducer I decided to go all in on an F2.8 astrograph. After doing some research I stumbled across the SharpStar 15028HNT F2.8 Hyperboloid Newtonian Reflector from my local supplier 365Astronomy.

After toying with the idea and speaking to my good friend Nick from Altair Astro and with the idea of going back to a refractor, I decided that I could not go back to slower than F4 and I wanted something that in essence would work with a bigger sensor than my QHY183M, and the Sharpstar looked like it could work for me, so I placed my order with Zoltan from 365Astronomy and collected it the following day.

Unboxing the scope, I was like a young child at christmas, the scope came with a very sturdy protective hard case and removing the scope out of the case you could immediately feel that a lot of time and effort had gone into producing the 15028HNT.

Aperture: 150mm
Focal Length: 420mm
Focal Ratio: F2.8
Weight: 6kg
Tube Material: Carbon Fiber

With the scope unboxed I started to fit my equipment onto the scope. In order to fit my Sesto Senso I had to rotate the focuser 90 degrees clockwise due to the telescope mounting rings, this is when I noticed an isue that one of the grub screws on the focuser would not tighten and I needed to stop the backlash, fortunately there’s another grub screw on the other side that tightened and stopped the backlash.

Before I attached my imaging equipment, I had to ensure that the telescope was collimated, so I stumbled across the collimation guide which after speaking with my good friend Terry Hancock over at Grand Mesa Observatory who was also evaluating the same scope, we both agreed that the colimation guide wasn’t very well written as it mentioned nothing about collimating the primary. One thing that it mentioned is to remove the corrector, Sharpstar include a tool for you to remove the mounting plate and corrector, but here is a word of advice……..remove this when the telescope is cold, take that advice from someone who tried to remove it whilst it was warm!

I performed a laser collimation with my Concenter Eyepiece to check the secondary, and then a laser to check the primary, now the collimation guide says to remove the corrector, I have done validation with both the corrector removed and the corrector in place, and it made no difference whatsoever, so my opinion is to leave the corrector in place.

With the scope closely collimated, I mounted my StarlightXpress Filterwheel and Camera which with the 15028HNT is an M48 thread for the gear to screw onto.

I will post some images as soon as I have completed some, the weather has been pretty poor (probably because I bought a new scope), but the frames I have got so far are very sharp, pinpoint and I can honestly say I have never seen images come directly off the camera so sharp.

My field of view with the QHY183M is around 1.21 Arcsec/Pixel which gives me a FOV or around 1.81°x1.2° and I love the difraction spikes being at 45 degrees compared to the 90 degrees on the skywatcher and I already have a pretty full target list for this scope ready to go this season.

Apart from the couple of product issues I have experienced (Grub screw on focuser and tube clamp thumbscrew being threaded) I am extremely happy with the scope, it is performing really well and here are a couple of work in progress images that I have started

Dark Shark Nebula Moscaic Panel 1 – 51x300S in Red, 25x300S in Green and Blue
Elephant’s Trunk – 51x300S in 6nm Ha
M45 – Mosaic Panel 1 – 12x150S in R, G and B

After a few weeks, the telescope has held collimation very well, I have not had to perform any re-collimation, I will re-evaluate this in the much colder months of winter.

I am so happy with the scope that I am actually considering a second one for an OSC Camera with a bigger sensor.

StarlightXpress Lodestar X2

I was lucky enough that Terry from StarlightXpress sent me a Lodestar X2 for me to test to see how well it performed against my existing guider camera, so it only seemed fair that I provide my feedback via an equipment review. Many who know me know I have been using a QHY5L-II camera as a guide camera for a few years now but after seeing a few of my fellow astrophotographers using the Lodestar cameras it seemed silly not to try one out.

In comparison to the QHY5L-II the Lodestar X2 is a true CCD camera and not a CMOS camera, so immediately this would yield some higher sensitivity in what stars can be selected. One thing that is immediately noticable between the cameras is the Lodestar X2 is longer than the length of the QHY5L-II.

Just to add some more comparisons:

QHY5L-IILodestar X2
SensorAptima MT9M034Sony ICX829
Sensor TypeCMOSCCD
Sensor Size6.66mmx5.32mm6.47mmx4.81mm
Pixel Size3.75um8.2umx8.4um
MPX1.2mpx0.4mpx
QE74%77%
Length54mm85mm
Weight45g50g
Cost (27 Aug 2019)£175£378

The first time I used the Lodestar X2, I was shocked at how many stars were in the field of view, for the same 2 second exposure I usually guide at there was a lot of stars to choose from, far more than I could see with the QHY5L-II, there is probably a number of reasons for this, higher sensitivity of the CCD Sensor, slightly higher QE, but also the FOV, with the QHY5L-II on my 8″ Quattro with a 0.73x reducer it would yield a field of view of 0.47°x0.35°, the Lodestar X2 on the other hand would yield a field of view of around 0.6°x0.48°.

Since I use PHD2 for guiding one thing that was immediately apparent was the built in driver for StarlightXpress cameras, I asked Terry which would be the best to use, he said either, it makes no difference, so I tested this and he was right, the in built driver and ASCOM driver produced the exact same result, I remember specifically with the QHY5L-II that QHY recommend you do not use the in built driver and always use the ASCOM driver. When firing up the Lodestar X2 in PHD2 I built my dark frame library in order for me to see how good the ICX829 was for noise, so I compared the 2 second exposures and there was very little difference between using a dark frame library versus not using one, the QHY5L-II definitely requires a dark frame library in PHD2 that’s for sure!

My first night of guider testing seen a little bit of odd behavoiur with the Lodestar X2, since I am using the Pegasus Astro Ultimate USB Hub, I had everything connected in there, including the QHY183M which is a USB3.0 camera albeit connected to a USB 2.0 hub. When the camera was downloading the image the Lodestar would display an array of dots on the screen. Terry confirmed that it was an indication that it was dropping down to USB 1.0 speed. It turns out that when I did the same thing with the QHY5L-II as the guider camera, the QHY5L-II would actually go unresponsive according to PHD2, so I moved the imaging camera to a dedicated USB 3.0 port on the Intel NUC and never had a repeat of the issue on either camera.

PHD2 has no issues picking up and selecting a guide star, there’s plenty of stars to choose from

Conclusion
The Lodestar X2 is awesome as a guide camera, it works extremely well, very sensitive, the only drawback in my opinion is price, at over double the price of the QHY5L-II camera maybe a tad out of some folks price range.

IC5146 / Cocoon Nebula in HaRGB

This is my first time ever imaging this target, and like the Crescent Nebula and Pelican Nebula I am limited to a 2.5 hour window per night to acquire data due to trees / house getting in the way, luckily I managed to get a lot of Ha data on this subject to blend this into the RGB image which smoothed out the lack of data for RGB somewhat, I would have liked to have got more RGB Data and I may re-image this with longer exposures on RGB next time also

Cocoon Nebula in HaRGB
Cocoon Nebula in HaRGB with PIxInsight 2x Drizzle

Image Details:
56x150S in R
56x150S in G
66x150S in B
101x300S in Ha

Acquisition Dates: Sept. 25, 2018, Sept. 27, 2018, Sept. 29, 2018, Oct. 20, 2018, Oct. 22, 2018, Oct. 26, 2018, Oct. 28, 2018, Oct. 29, 2018, Nov. 14, 2018, Nov. 17, 2018, Nov. 18, 2018, Nov. 30, 2018, Dec. 7, 2018, Dec. 9, 2018, Dec. 12, 2018, Dec. 13, 2018, Dec. 27, 2018, Jan. 4, 2019

All frames had 101 Darks and Flats applied, the Ha layer was blended using the new NBRGB Script in PixInsight 1.8.6, the more zoomed in picture is of the same data but with a 2x drizzle applied then cropped

Equipment Details:
Imaging Camera: Qhyccd 183M Mono ColdMOS Camera at -20C
Imaging Scope: Sky-Watcher Quattro 8″ F4 Imaging Newtonian
Guide Camera: Qhyccd QHY5L-II
Guide Scope: Sky-Watcher Finder Scope
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ8 Pro
Focuser: Primalucelab ROBO Focuser
FIlterwheel: Starlight Xpress Ltd 7x36mm EFW
Filters: Baader Planetarium RGB and Ha
Power and USB Control: Pegasus Astro USB Ultimate Hub Pro
Acquisition Software: Main-Sequence Software Inc. Sequence Generator Pro
Processing Software: PixInsight 1.8.6

Flickr Link: https://www.flickr.com/…/465843…/in/album-72157688487449350/

AstroBin Link: https://www.astrobin.com/384658/

Pegasus Astro Ultimate PowerBox

I spent a lot of time looking at PowerBoxes/USB Controllers, the late Per Frejvall had developed a very nice Remote USB Hub but of course with the passing of Per, these are no longer available. I looked at two hubs, the HitechAstro Mount Hub Pro abnd the one I settled for was the Pegasus Astro Ultimate PowerBox.

Unboxing the PowerBox I was pleased with the build quality, they even ship mounting brackets for you to be able to mount it onto your setup, here’s an image of mine mounted on top of my Sky-Watcher Quattro:

Pegasus Astro Ultimate PowerBox on Imaging Setup

I loaded up the software onto the observatory PC and again pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get started and configure the names of the powered devices connected as well as names for each of the dew heaters, in the following image you can see my power connected devices and my dew heater for my guider camera:

Screenshot of Control Software

I configured the software to automatically power my devices the moment the unit is switched on, so what do I have connected to the PowerBox?

  • QHY5L-II Guide Camera
  • StarlightXpress USB Filterwheel
  • PrimaluceLabs ROBO Focuser
  • EQ8 Pro Mount PC-Direct Cable

I didn’t connect my QHY183M at the moment as I discovered that during image download it seemed to cause a timeout on the QHY5L-II Camera, I have raised a ticket with Pegasus Astro on this one. From a Power perspective, I only have my QHY183M and my Rear Fan assembly/heater connected as I currently do not have the power cable to connect directly to the hub for the EQ8 Pro (On Order). There is also a temperature sensor for the ultimate version, which works well as an interface for Sequence Generator Pro and my Auto Focuser routines.

I have been using the Hub now for a good few months, I am pretty happy with it, am I totally happy you might ask, well to be honest there’s a couple of niggly things that I have emailed Pegasus Astro about (awaiting a response):

  • Voltage. I am running 13.8V regulated bench power supply capable of delivering up to 15A which is powering the hub, however when devices such as the camera, dew heater, fan assembly are all running, the voltage level drops down to around 12V according to the software, I would not expect this to do so, I would expect it to remain 13.8V. My EQ8 Pro mount is powered by the same supply (but not through the hub currently) and during slew the voltage in the software does not change, so it’s obviously something being caluclated within the hub somewhere.
  • Issue with USB3 Camera (QHY183M) is still outstanding
  • When you set the power to the dew heater for example I always run it at 170, however when the software restarts you have to manually go and set this again
  • Ability to reboot or “Disconnect” a specific USB Port remotely would have been nice.

The main reason I wanted something like this was the ability to reboot the hub remotely, with standard USB Hubs this is not possible, as above, I would love to have a bit more granularity on this and have it on a per USB port but it works well for me right now.


M51 – Whirlpool Galaxy in LRGB

Another Image that I have previously imaged with the Atik Camera, again demonstrating a different resolution obviously showing off a bit more detail, here’s the image previously:

Equipment Used:
Imaging Scope: Sky-Watcher Quattro 8″ F4 Imaging Newtonian
Imaging Camera: Qhyccd 183M 20mpx ColdMOS Camera at -20C
Guide Scope: Sky-Watcher Finder Scope
Guide Camera: Qhyccd QHY5L-II
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ8-Pro GEM Goto Mount
Filterwheel: Starlight Xpress Ltd 7x36mm EFW
Filters: Baader Planetarium 36mm LRGB Filters

Software:
Image Acquisition: Main Sequence Software SGPro 3
Guiding: PHD2
Image Processing: PixInsight

Target Details:
Name: M51 / NGC5194 / Whirlpool Galaxy
Constellation:Canes Venatici
RA: 13h 29m 53.00s
Dec: 47° 11′ 51.10″
Distance from Earth: >23 Million Light Years

Image Details:
Luminance: 101×150 Second Exposures
Red: 85×150 Second Exposures
Green: 85×150 Second Exposures
Blue: 85×150 Second Exposures
Total Exposure Time: 14.83 Hours

Acquisition Dates: 6 Apr 2018, 19/20/21 Apr 2018, 5/6/7/8/9 May 2018

 

 

 

Leo Triplet in LRGB

This is not the first time I have imaged this trio of trespassers, I have imaged them before on the same scope but with my previous Atik 383L+ CCD Imager, so again similar to M81 and M82, you can clearly see the difference in resolution the new camera offers, here’s the previous image taken from my previous post here:

Equipment Used:
Imaging Scope: Sky-Watcher Quattro 8″ F4 Imaging Newtonian
Imaging Camera: Qhyccd 183M 20mpx ColdMOS Camera at -20C
Guide Scope: Sky-Watcher Finder Scope
Guide Camera: Qhyccd QHY5L-II
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ8-Pro GEM Goto Mount
Filterwheel: Starlight Xpress Ltd 7x36mm EFW
Filters: Baader Planetarium 36mm LRGB Filters

Software:
Image Acquisition: Main Sequence Software SGPro 3
Guiding: PHD2
Image Processing: PixInsight

Image Details:
Luminance: 101×150 Second Exposures
Red: 101×150 Second Exposures
Green: 101×150 Second Exposures
Blue: 101×150 Second Exposures
Acquisition Dates: 18/19/20/21 Apr 2018,  4/5/6/7/8/9 May 2018

Total Exposure Time: 16.83 Hours

Target Details: Leo Triplet
Constellation: Leo
RA: 11h 19m 36.15s
Dec: 13° 17′ 2.90″
Distance from Earth: 35 Million Light Years
Galaxies: M65 (Top Right), M66 (Bottom Right) and NGC3628 (Bottom Left) also known as The Hamburger Galaxy or Sarah’s Galaxy

M81 and M82 Bodes Galaxy and Cigar Galaxy in LHaRGB

After much waiting, I finally have the RGB Data to go with the luminance layer, a new learning curve was the HDR Compose process in PixInsight, I used this to include the 300S Exposures I had previously that were burning out the core.

Equipment Used:
Imaging Camera: Qhyccd 183M Back Illuminated ColdMOS Camera at -20C
Imaging Scope: Sky-Watcher 8″ Quattro F4
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ8 Pro
Guide Camera: Qhyccd QHY5L-II
Guide Scope: Sky-Watcher 90×50 Finder
Filter Wheel: Starlight Xpress Ltd 7x36mm EFW
Filters: Baader Planetarium LRGB + 7nm Ha
Image Acquisition: Main Sequence Software SGPro
Image Processing: PixInsight

Image Details:
101x150S in LRGB, Total 16.83 Hours
25x300S in LRGB, Total 8.33 Hours
25x600S in Ha, Total 4.16 Hours
Total exposure time: 29.32 Hours
BIAS, Darks and Flats subtracted
Target: M81 and M82 in Ursa Major
Acquisition Dates: Feb. 11, 2018,  Feb. 12, 2018,  Feb. 16, 2018,  Feb. 23, 2018,  Feb. 24, 2018,  March 13, 2018,  March 14, 2018,  March 15, 2018,  March 16, 2018,  March 19, 2018,  March 20, 2018

M97 / NGC3587 – Owl Nebula in LHaRGB

I have imaged this before in the same frame as the Surfboard Galaxy, however the 0.62 Arcseconds Per Pixel the Qhyccd 183M gives me on my Sky-Watcher Quattro 8″ F4 gives me a much higher resolution image, so here it is, the Owl Nebula in the constellation of Ursa Major at a distance of 2030 Light years from Earth

Gear:
Imaging Scope: Sky-Watcher Quattro 8″ F4 Imaging Newtonian
Imaging Camera: Qhyccd 183M 20mpx ColdMOS Camera at -20C and DSO Gain
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ8 Pro
Guide Camera: Qhyccd QHY5L-II Mono
Guide Scope: Sky-Watcher 50×90 Finder Scope
Filter Wheel: Starlight Xpress Ltd 7x36mm EFW
Filters: Baader Planetarium 36mm RGB
Coma Corrector: Sky-Watcher Aplanatic Coma Corrector
Image Acquisition: Main Sequence Software SGPro
Image Processing: PixInsight

Image Details:
Target: M97/NGC3587 – Owl Nebula
Constelation: Ursa Major
Red: 27x300S
Green: 27x300S
Blue: 27x300S
Ha: 25x600S
Darks: 51x300S
Flats: 101
Bias: 251 converted to SuperBIAS and deducted from Flats
Imaging Dates: Feb. 12, 2018,  Feb. 16, 2018,  Feb. 24, 2018,  Feb. 25, 2018

PixInsight Image processing workflow:
1. Calibrated against darks and Bias Subtracted Flats
2. Star Alignment for all RGB and Ha Frames
3. Least noise frame from each colour chosen as Normalization Frame and Dynamic Background Extraction Performed
4. Normalization of all frames
5. Stacking of frames and generation of drizle data (for larger quality image in future)
6. Performed LinearFit using Red stacked image as reference for RGB Frames
7. Performed DynamicCrop on all channels and Ha
8. Performed MultiMedianTransformation to reduce background noise
9. Performed SCNR to remove excessive green in image
10. Stretched the image using HistogramTransformation
11. Performed an Unsharp Mask on RGB and HA Data
12. Performed an ATWT on the Background
11. Merged the Ha Data using the HaRVB-AIP Script in PixInsight
12. Performed a CurvesTransformation to bring out the star colour

IC434 – Horsehead Nebula in LRGB

My first RGB Image from the Qhyccd 183M 20mpx Back Illuminated ColdMOS Camera, so here’s what I hope is one of many images taken with this awesome camera

Gear:
Imaging Scope: Sky-Watcher Quattro 8″ F4 Imaging Newtonian
Imaging Camera: Qhyccd 183M 20mpx ColdMOS Camera at -20C and DSO Gain
Mount: Sky-Watcher EQ8 Pro
Guide Camera: Qhyccd QHY5L-II Mono
Guide Scope: Sky-Watcher 50×90 Finder Scope
Filter Wheel: Starlight Xpress Ltd 7x36mm EFW
Filters: Baader Planetarium 36mm RGB
Coma Corrector: Sky-Watcher Aplanatic Coma Corrector
Image Acquisition: Main Sequence Software SGPro
Image Processing: PixInsight

Image Details:
Target: IC434 – Horsehead Nebula
Constelation: Orion
Red: 19x300S
Green: 19x300S
Blue: 19x300S
Darks: 51x300S
Flats: 101
Bias: 251 converted to SuperBIAS and deducted from Flats

Data acquired on: Feb. 9, 2018,  Feb. 11, 2018,  Feb. 15, 2018

PixInsight Image processing workflow:
1. Calibrated against darks and Bias Subtracted Flats
2. Star Alignment
3. Least noise frame from each colour chosen as Normalization Frame and Dynamic Background Extraction Performed
4. Normalization of all frames
5. Stacking of frames and generation of drizle data (for larger quality image in future)
6. Performed LinearFit using Red stacked image as reference
7. Performed MultiMedianTransformation to reduce background noise
8. Performed SCNR to remove excessive green in image
9. Stretched the image using HistogramTransformation
10. Performed a CurvesTransformation to bring out the star colour

Right now I have not performed any Sharpening of the image, nor have I added the Ha data to this image, I’ll post an updated image when I get round to doing that

QHY183M Review – Part 2

As promised, now that I have done some imaging with my new QHYCCD 183M Mono ColdMOS Back Illuminated camera here’s the second part of my review on the camera.

Pixel size:- The pixel size on the 183M is 2.4um which I absolutely love, on my Sky-Watcher 8 Inch Quattro F4 the camera gives me a field of view of 0.62 Arcseconds/Pixel, which is a fantastic resolution, I remember when I had my Atik 383L+ and my Astro-Tech AT8RC F8, that offered me a resolution of around 0.63 Arcseconds/Pixel, so I am now imaging at almost the same field of view but at F4 and at 20mpx, but let’s just put that into comparison on the same scope, the first image below is IC434 taken with the Atik 383L+ on the Quattro, and the second image below is taken with the QHY183M on the same telescope, you can see what impact it has on the field of view:

FOV on Atik 383L+ with 8″ Quattro F4

FOV on QHY183M with 8″ Quattro F4

As you can see from the above two images the difference in the field of view due to the chip size.

Camera Sensitivity:- Since moving to the QHY183M I have had to make changes to how I image, having owned the Atik 383L+ for a good few years, I got used to imaging with it, so when I moved to the QHY183M I suddenly noticed that this camera was quite a bit more sensitive, the first image above consists of 300 second frames for the LRGB whereas the second image consists of just 150 second frames, yes 150 second frames!!!

When I first started imaging M81/M82 with the QHY183M, I immediately started with 300 Second frames, I ended up with the same amount of 300 second frames that I had with the Atik 383L+ but I just could not process it, after further analysis I noticed then that the lights were severely clipped, to put this into perspective, below is the Sequence Generator Pro Histogram for both the 300 second exposure (left) and the 150 second exposure (right)

As you can see the histogram on the left for the 300 second exposure is severly clipped on the right side of the histogram indicating that the exposure was too long, the histogram on the right for the 150 second exposure is a lot better, there is still some slight clipping happening but this was a luminance frame, this clearly indicates that the 183M is much more sensitive than my previous CCD imager.

The following two images were produced with the 183M, firstly IC434 consists of 19×300 Second Exposures in RGB and the Second Image of The Owl Nebula consists of 27×300 second exposures in RGB + 25x600S in Ha

Software Integration:- As you probably know already, I use Sequence Generator Pro for my image acquisition and the integration with the camera has been pretty seemless, the ASCOM platform driver works pretty well, and I have the camera set to the default gain and offset setting that QHY have provided which is 16 of Gain and 76 for offset:

UV/IR Sensitivity:- I have read online that the 183M is a little bit sensitive to UV/IR Light, so I asked the guys at QHYCCD about this abd they informed be that the window on the senor is straight clear glass, so it also lets in UV/IR Light, which for me is not an issue as all of my Baader filters are UV/IR Blocked anyway, but it is something to consider if I ever change filters.

Conclusion
The camera has performed way beyond my expectations, had to change some of my approaches to image acquisition but that was to be expected, I am extremely happy with the camera and look forward to getting more data to compliment the Luminance for M81/M82 in the not so distant future.

If you are considering the QHY183M as an imaging camera, and would like to discuss, then feel free to reach out to me.

Clear Skies