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To Infinity - and beyond?

Posted: Sun Oct 25, 2015 12:13 pm
by rwilkinson
I'm pleased to announce that the Society has just purchased one of the latest Atik Infinity colour CCD cameras: ... -infinity/

This device has novel features which will make it particularly useful at our star-parties, school visits and other "outreach" events: as well as having a particularly sensitive sensor, its software does "live-stacking", so the image builds up on the screen in real-time. This will allow the view from any 'scope (or camera-lens) to be shared with any number of observers, either from a laptop beside the telescope, a projector in a nearby meeting-room, or even web-cast!
:idea: And its ability to show colour from some of the "faint grey fuzzy blob" deep-sky objects (and comets!) will add to the wow-factor too.

I seized the first opportunity to star-test this camera during the gaps between the clouds (and rain-shower!) last night, but as I could only run it from my Win7 desktop computer, I was limited to using it from indoors, looking through a double-glazed window!
The Infinity camera (the red box) fitted with a Pentax 135mm lens, running on a Celestron LCM mount clamped to the windowsill!
infinity_windowsill2.jpg (126.34 KiB) Viewed 6438 times
Through my NE-facing window I could just see Andromeda rising above the trees, so thought that M31 and its companion galaxies would make a good target.
I first used 4x4 binning mode to locate the target, then 2x2 mode for focusing (the large on-screen display of the FHWM metric did help with this), and finally switched to full-resolution colour to capture the image:
Live capturing the Andromeda galaxies. This is the view after 11x 30-sec exposures.
infinity_m31.jpg (127.66 KiB) Viewed 6438 times
I wanted to see how successful the software was at stacking a set of images which suffered from the tracking errors and field-rotation from this unconventional set-up of an alt-azimuth mount. It did extremely well, even coping with a 10-minute interval when I had to stop the captures as the clouds came over.
The Andromeda galaxies after 39x 30-sec images had been stacked.
I was shooting right over the centre of Bolton, hence the light-polution in the bottom half of the frame.
The original image was 1392 x 1040 pixels, so I've resized it to fit on this Forum!
m31_resized.png (368.93 KiB) Viewed 6438 times
You can see that the alignment and stacking of all the images has been effective, as the edges of the image show the effects of the drift and field-rotation (and a single green "hot-pixel" can be seen tracking across the high-resolution original).

I'm now sorting out a focal-reducer and adaptors to allow the camera to fit onto various 'scopes, and meanwhile Carl and Bill are installing the Atik software onto a couple of laptops, so that we can set it up outdoors.

:idea: This new system should be in action in time for our visit to the Sacred Heart Primary School next month...

Re: To Infinity - and beyond?

Posted: Sun Oct 25, 2015 7:33 pm
by dean_kos
Is the smudge bottom centre part of the camera or your lens Ross ?

Re: To Infinity - and beyond?

Posted: Sun Oct 25, 2015 7:43 pm
by rwilkinson
dean_kos wrote:Is the smudge bottom centre part of the camera or your lens Ross ?
It's probably just a mark or reflection on the double-glazed window, as it looks to be trailed along the same line that the mount was tracking.

Later last night (after the rain cleared) I managed to try my 200mm lens, aiming at the Double Cluster:
15x 20-sec of the Double Cluster, using 200mm lens.
double.jpg (172.83 KiB) Viewed 6425 times
I've had a look at the high-resolution original, and there's no sign of that smudge on this image (which was aimed through a different part of the window, and at a different angle).

By the way, this colour camera does seem to bring out the red stars quite nicely.

Re: To Infinity - and beyond?

Posted: Mon Oct 26, 2015 10:44 am
by Amartin
Well done Ross, you've saved us all a fortune - by adding double glazing into the image train you've showed me how I can turn my humble doublet into a quad apo :lol:

Re: To Infinity - and beyond?

Posted: Thu Dec 24, 2015 8:43 am
by rwilkinson
After several weeks of waiting for a gap in the weather, last night I finally got a chance to try our Infinity camera on a comet (my only other chance had been stymied by problems with the software).

Taking advantage of the clear sky in the early evening, I had my mount set up and aligned by 5:30pm. I used my StarWave 80ED refractor, initially with a focal-reducer fitted to the camera, but this gave too much distortion around the edges of the image, so I went back to the 'scope's "native" f/6.9 focal-ratio.

The new "version 1.2 Beta" of the software gave no trouble at all, and I aligned and focused on Kochab and then slewed to comet C/2014 S2 PanSTARRS in Draco, and managed to collect 23x 90-sec images before the clouds started to roll in.

The great feature of the Infinity software is that it aligns and stacks the images "live" on the screen, so I could see the image building up step by step, and then (after fiddling with the thresholds and colour-balance) I could save this result:
C/2014 S2 on 23-Dec. 23x 90-sec with 80ED at f/6.9. Live-stacked with Infinity software (and resized in IrfanView).
c2014s2_23dec_Infinity.png (39.59 KiB) Viewed 6266 times
This was the first time I'd used this software, so it's probably capable of getting an even better result, with practice?

As the clouds had set in for the evening, I packed away and went indoors to process the same data-set in IRIS - this time using offset & dark-frame calibrations (and omitting the frame with the airplane-trail from the stack). It took over an hour to get to this result:
C/2014 S2 on 23-Dec. 23x 90-sec with 80ED at f/6.9. Processed in IRIS (and resized in IrfanView).
c2014s2_23dec_IRIS.png (800.52 KiB) Viewed 6266 times

Flipping 'eck!

Posted: Fri Dec 25, 2015 8:35 am
by rwilkinson
On Christmas Eve there was another clear spell in the early evening, which gave me the opportunity to try our Infinity camera on my C8 SCT.
My first test was with the focal reducer taking it down from f/10 to f/4.2: this gave a bright wide image, but at the cost of severe vignetting:
Comet C/2013 X1 on 24-Dec, with C8 operated at f/4.2
C8_f4.jpg (120.6 KiB) Viewed 6255 times
Next I tried a focal-ratio of f/5.6, aiming at comet C/2013 X1 PanSTARRS high up in Pegasus. As the Infinity software live-stacked the images on the background star-field, the comet's relative movement soon became apparent:
Comet C/2013 X1 on 24-Dec. 40x 60-sec using C8 at f/5.6. Live-stacked by Infinity software then resized in IrfanView.
c2013x1_24dec_Infinity.png (100.07 KiB) Viewed 6255 times
I left the system running like this whilst I went indoors for some dinner, popping out to check on it from time to time. All was well for 40 minutes, but then (unbeknown to me) my EQ mount's drive stopped tracking (when my target had passed so far West of the meridian that it had reached its safety-limit).
But this situtation was not apparent from the Infinity program display, which was still blithely showing its stack of the first 40 images. It was only when I spotted that the frame-count was not incrementing from 40 that I realised that something was amiss, and on switching to a live display from the camera, found stars trailing across the frame. :o
But after doing a quick meridian-flip, I was able to carry on imaging for another 20 minutes before the clouds came over.

Then later in the evening I processed both sets of images (from either side of the meridian) in IRIS, and combined them into a single image registered on the comet:
Comet C/2013 X1 on 24-Dec. 61x 60-sec (including meridian-filp) using C8 at f/5.6 (cropped & resized).
c2013x1_24dec.png (89.02 KiB) Viewed 6249 times
Actually this is the first time I've tracked any target through a meridian-flip. 8-)