Friday 21.09 18

Opened at 7.55pm but had to leave 8.15pm leaving Paul and Elaine to deal with further arrivals.Thanks.

Monday 18/09/2018

I opened up the big dome at around 21:30, got plate solving to work successfully, did a manual meridian flip without incident although plate solving would not center on the target, I think that I know the solution now though. 100% cloud cover in a short space of time stopped me at around 03:30 so I packed everything away, then on the way to the car at 04:00 it was totally clear again. I tried to find the 21P Giacobani/Zinner Comet visually but did not locate it. Observed M42 and a few other targets and left at 04:45, when it had clouded over again.


Friday 14/09/2018

Rhys and I opened up the big dome at 21:30, I got plate solving to work except that the target was off center a little, but tweaking settings should sort this out. Nevertheless both of us were impressed how quickly and well it worked.

We then did some visual observations of a few Messier objects, cloud was intermittent. We left at around midnight.


Wednesday 12/09/2018

I opened up the big dome at around 20:30 and trialling the excellent Sequence Generator Pro I got an hour each for the RGB filters on my target. I also managed to get my laptop to communicate directly with the mount so hopefully I shall be able to use plate solving next time and get a close alignment with the previous session on the same target for the Narrow band filters. Focusing and flats were the time consuming part of the session, but I am looking into ways of speeding these processes up. I closed up at around 02:00 due to tiredness and I had what I set out to get.


Thursday 06/09/2018

I opened up the big dome at 21:30 in order to further test my new imaging equipment, I had success in what I set out to do, also identified issues with software that need to be overcome. Cloud was intermittent, I closed up at midnight due to most of the sky clouding over.


Friday 31.08.18

I opened the large dome at 9.00 p.m.,was shortly afterwards joined by Jonathan and a little later by Paul and Elaine.Although not quite night we were able to see M57,the Ring Nebula in Lyra.Later as the sky darkened globular clusters M13 and M92 in Hercules became very clear.We looked at the Owl Cluster , open cluster M34, Albireo and the Andromeda galaxy M31.Elaine demonstrated the Coat Hanger asterism through her binoculars.About 10.00 Paul and Elaine left to allow Jonathan to set up his recently acquired ZWO kit to image the Crescent Nebula.In the meantime we were joined once more by a family of 2 adults and 3 children who were looking forward to seeing the moon through a large telescope.Unfortunately for them the moon had not fully risen but they appeared to be quite content to look at Mars through Geraldine, once she had settled down.They left and I closed the small dome, I trust correctly.I went home about 1.00 a.m. leaving Jonathan to complete his imaging.

Wednesday 22.08.18

I opened up the small dome at 00:45 with a view to imaging Neptune.  Geraldine had not been parked correctly after her last use so I had to put her back manually before I could hope for good GOTO.  The dome had also not really been secured correctly.

Initial goto Neptune appeared to be good but I was unable to identify the planet for certain.  I moved to Sadalmelik, a third magnitude star not too far away, and synced the 'scope there.  Returning to Neptune, I was still uncertain I had found it so moved to Lambda Aquarii, which I was pleased to find in Geraldine's data base and less than 4 degrees from Neptune.  I synced again there and returned to Neptune.  A bright object appeared on my camera and I imaged it in the hope it was Neptune.  However I'm not so sure as it didn't look blue, so may have been a nearby star.

The Pleiades were clearly visible in the east so I told Geraldine to go there but she set off in completely the wrong direction.  I had to stop her manually, moved her to M45 manually and re-synced.  A splendid sight through the 80ED with a 25mm eyepiece.

Finally she parked correctly.  I closed up and left at 0245 BST.


Thursday 16/08/2018

Rhys and I had a look at cleaning the front element of the Tak, we used a hand-blower to blow off some dust, although stopped at that after reading about the potential for damaging the glass coating. Will investigate cleaning methods further, Rhys also adjusted the finder scope so that it is aligned with the ODK. We looked at aligning the Tak with the ODK, but this would require unmounting both scopes, disassembling the mount and drilling a hole in it, which we felt was not worth the marginal benefit.

Initially it was fairly clear around 9pm, then clouded over heavily around 10pm but then cleared up nicely for 11pm. I had brought my D750 just in case and I stayed until 3:15am to image M31 The Andromeda Galaxy.


Friday 10/8/2018

I opened up both domes at 10pm, we had a good turn out for the Perseid Meteor Shower (the prime night would be Saturday, however the forecast was not very good), myself, Elaine, Paul, John, Neil, Peter and Rhys. A family visited and we were able to show them Saturn through the visual dome and M31 through the Tak in the big dome, all were suitably impressed and hoped to attend future meetings.

I set up on the Tak to image M33 The Triangulum Galaxy and John was set up on the Meade (Geraldine) in the visual dome for the planets. I also set up my other camera behind the domes pointing south east with a wide angle lens to capture the perseids after John and I witnessed a huge fireball just after 1am. From my images the Perseids seemed the most active towards 3am just as i was finishing. We both left around 3:30am.


Saturday 4.8.18

I opened up at 21:00 in order the check out Geraldine after her wrong behaviour last time.  She booted up normally and went to Jupiter with reasonable accuracy.  She parked in the correct place and generally behaved impeccably.
I waited until 21:30 for the sky to darken, and managed some good captures of Saturn.  I was then joined by John Cox and we put his camera on and he spent time imaging Saturn too.
About 12:00 Mars emerged from behind the trees, and I was able to capture images in colour and in infra-red.  We then put John's camera on and he too obtained images in colour.  Finally John wanted to try to see M31, but was unsuccessful both with Garaldine (focal length far too long) and with the ST80.
Finally parked Geraldine as normal, and closed up at 01:30 leaving John with Rhys in the big dome.


Tuesday 31st July 2018

I opened up the small dome at about 22:40 BST and used Geraldine to image Mars (at its closest to us this year) and Saturn.  Geraldine behaved impeccably with all GOTOs putting the object well within the view with a 28mm eyepiece.  However at close-down she insisted in going to 90° Dec when she should go to 0°.  I tried rebooting to no avail.  Not feeling like troubleshooting at 01:00 I switched her off and manually put her back where she should have been.  However I expect her to misbehave next time.  The obvious indication was that on power up she displayed 'Align' instead of 'Daylight Saving?'.
I will investigate this when I am able.  I finally closed up and departed at 01:30.

Saturday 28.07.18

I met Paul D'Silva and Mick Collinson from MSAS at the observatory at 9.00 p.m.The sky was clearer than forecasts predicted so we set about pointing Geraldine towards Jupiter in the setting sunlight.Peter joined us shortly afterwards and added his expertise. Jonathan arrived without camera so we opened the larger dome for observations with Mick while the others engaged in planetary imaging.The sky being very milky from the bright full moon, even open and globular clusters were not readily discerned but we were able to see Jupiter and Saturn.Eventually Mars appeared from behind the trees and Paul was able to capture a series of frames.We left about 1.00am leaving Peter to continue imaging.We all enjoyed the shared experience despite the less than ideal conditions.

Friday 20/07/18

We were host to an exploratory group from MSAS with a view to a further visit next week to observe and image Mars and perhaps a Lunar eclipse,while their own observatory is undergoing structural work.Thanks to Peter who demonstrated that both domes are now operational, we should be able to entertain a larger party from their society.Jonathan Paul and Elaine were also present and helped to load the van for the Potteric Carr event.It was an interesting meeting for both societies.I hope they enjoyed it as much as we did.

Manual Opener for the large dome 18.7.18

I have completed a manual controller for the shutters on the large dome, and installed it on Saturday 14th July 2018.  It completely replaces the automatic controller which is faulty.   Final adjustments made today mean that:
1.  Both shutters stop automatically when they reach the limit of their travel.
2.  I have removed the interlock which prevented the lower shutter opening or closing if the upper shutter is closed.  It is now the operator's responsibility to implement Upper Shutter Open First, Close Last.
3.  The lower shutter now closes properly.

Peter Lloyd

Thursday 5.7.18

Jonathan and I took it upon ourselves to investigate the solar filter system and attached it to the Skywatcher 80ED in the smaller dome.Most carefully following the instructions we were able to assemble the apparatus and point it to the Sun for observation and photography,with Jonathan's DSLR and Smartphone.Apart from a small prominence there was little visible activity on the surface but we were pleased that the system functioned properly.Peter attended the large dome to take current measurements.
There were lots of children about, We left at about 2.00pm

Wednesday 4.7.18

This morning Dave,Jonathan,Peter and I gathered in the large dome to fix the shutters.Even though we replaced the faulty switches at the top,the bottom shutter stubbornly would not open.We considered a simpler method for controlling the shutters and Peter agreed to investigate this option.Max and Wendy popped in to see what we were doing and added to the company.

Saturday 30.6.18

With the help of Peter I was able to familiarize myself with the workings of the Meade, aka Geraldine in the small dome between 10.30pm.and 1.30am.last night. Peter imaged Jupiter and Saturn.With persisting clear skies I used my ZWO camera to image Saturn with and without a x2 Barlow.The waning gibbous moon had just risen as we left.

Thursday-Friday 28-29 June 2018

The focuser on Geraldine has been sticking, so I removed it on Thursday and took it home, and opened it up on the bench.  I couldn't work out how to remove the friction bearing to see if that was worn but I did manage to remove two of the four pressure rollers, one of which was slightly corroded.  I cleaned this up and ensured that both rotated freely.
I couldn't remove the other two, but with the slide lose I could ensure that they rotated easily.  One has a gap in the roller surface and I made sure that that would not contact the slide during normal use.  Fortunately they only turn about half a turn in normal operation.  On reassembly all seems to work well.  I can only assume dirt had got into those roller bearings causing the sticking.

I returned the unit to Garaldine on Friday night and it performed well with the diagonal/eyepiece or camera installed.

Imaged Jupiter mainly to check focus, then Saturn.  Very low in the sky but just clearing the trees to the south.  Again I got a few images before clouds rolled in at midnight.

Closed up about 12:15.

Peter Lloyd.

Wednesday 27.06.18

I met Dave at the large dome this morning. He found fault with one of the shutter sensors and will order replacements.

Monday 25.6.18

I opened the big dome to check whether the ODK would go where it was told.It did.but the dome shutter seriously missbehaved and needs attention.

Sunday 24.6.18

I met Peter at the observatory 11.00pm.He had the intention of photographing the transit of Io over Jupiter with the Meade and I wanted to image Saturn with the ODK.Both targets were low in the sky and the atmosphere unstable so I am not too optimistic for a good outcome from my point of view.Mars became visible later that night and the waxing gibbous moon further brightened the sky. The pointing of the ODK was not so good and later became absolutely haywire.I parked the scope at about 2.30am and closed the dome.I hope to return later this week to have another look at the system.
I need to know who has access to the domes and the record of visits has to be kept up to date.
Driving home there were noctilucent clouds.

8th May 2018

I opened up around 23:00 and stayed until 03:15, imaging M27 and the very faint (I haven't been able to identify it yet) comet 21P/Giacobini–Zinner with the Tak. I have had problems with my D5300 so used the D750 instead. If it transpires that the comet is too faint and not visible in the images it should be considerably brighter in a few months. Good conditions although a lot cooler than the previous 2 nights.

7th May 2018

I opened up the large dome around 23:00, imaged M27 with the ODK (continuing from the night before). Once it was settled I set up my Star Adventurer behind the small dome pointed towards Cygnus then took my D5300 off the ODK and put it onto the SA for some experimental wide field shots. I had hoped to then continue imaging M27 with the ODK however the Cygnus wide field shots took longer than I anticipated and there was a bit of haze in the air so decided to close down around 03:00.

7.05.18 Monday

11.30 to 4.00pm Open day at Austerfield Study Centre so we opened the observatory to the general public for solar observing using the Coronado PST no sunspots on view but a small prominence for most of the day.
Busy day lots of visitors lots of questions assisted by Lesley, Jonathan,Paul, Elaine.
Dave and Lesley

5th May 2018

I opened up the small dome at 22:30.  GOTO Jupiter got the planet in view with a 26 mm eyepiece─it didn't have far to move but nevertheless I feel that the GOTO system is now operating well.
A transit with shadow of Europa started just after 23:00 and I have a series of pictures starting just before the transit started and going on until half way.  It didn't end until 01:20 and I felt disinclined to wait that long for a complete set.  Preliminary processing indicates excellent images, so I am very pleased.  Finally closed down about 01:00.

2nd May 2018

I opened up the small dome around 22:00.  The GOTO on the LX200 performed quite well.  I did an imaging session on Jupiter using my DFK camera and ADC (Atmospheric Dispersion Corrector).  Jupiter was still low in the sky and conditions were not good.  I have some images but don't hold out too much hope that they are good.  Weariness closed me down about 01:00 just before Jupiter reached culmination....

02/05/18 Wednesday

10pm opened with Jonathan in order to collimate the ODK.I think we achieved a positive result and learnt a lot in the process.There is more work to be done but we have a better idea on how to do it.Jonathan checked the result of our intervention on M13 which showed slight distortion of stars at the periphery still.We used the opportunity to try off axis guiding with an Advanced off axis guiding system which I abandoned years ago and failed again to make it work this time.Before we left I had a shot of Jupiter with a ZWO camera.Peter was working in the meantime on the Meade.He left about 2.00 am shortly followed by us overtaken by tiredness,the moon and cloud.


19 April 2018

I powered up the LX200 and the GOTO was way out.  Reset on the Moon and then reset the Park position.  GOTO the Moon was then much better.  Aligned on a suitable star in the south and completed two rounds of PEC training using a guide camera.  The guide log indicated that the RA drive is extremely good.  GOTO Jupiter was about 2 degrees out, so resynced on Jupiter and completed four captures using a DFK camera.  Jupiter was very low in the sky at 16°.  Couldn't use an atmospheric-dispersion corrector as I had omitted to take the adaptor needed to attach it.  However RegiStax can correct the colour registration and an acceptable image resulted.  Three of the Galilean satellites were visible (Europa was occulted at the time), but only Io was close enough to get in the same frame as the planet.
Closed down at 01:30.
Peter Lloyd.

Wednesday 18/4/18

Jonathan and I opened the observatory at 9.30 pm in order to test his newly acquired and self modified Nikon dslr camera.Initially murky skies cleared and we settled on M82 as a suitable target,
hoping that the modifications would enhance the starburst activity of the galaxy.I left a 1.30am leaving Jonathan with another hour or so of astronomical darkness.

General Maintenance on the LX200

Over the last month or so I have been giving the LX200 a general going over.  It hadn't been used for several months (and the dust cover had not been replaced) so needed a general clean, and I ejected a number of hibernating insects.
28 March:  I managed to get the GOTO working but the accuracy was poor.  Fitted a camera and managed to adjust the focus, but I'm concerned the focus lock has been disabled but the focus seems smooth and precise.  Two photos of the Moon, just to prove viability.
30 March:  Graticule illumination is intermittent, so took the Autostar controller home, fitted a replacement LED so now it works as it should.
18 April:  I tried to retrain the drives but was unsuccessful.  I have now had advice from the LX200GPS Yahoo group and know where I was going wrong.  I will repeat that as soon as a suitable opportunity arises.  Then I shall repeat the PEC training and we should be ready to go.  I hope to try for Jupiter in the next few days.


Sunday 15/04/2018

Paul, Elaine and I were joined by Jonathan this afternoon to spend two hours or so removing S. Yorkshire grime from the domes.Sue popped by with cute pooch to see how we were coping.
Thank you folks for helping.

Friday 23.03.18

I have a group of scouts booked in tonight for stargazing badge so will have to use to dome and scope manually.I reset the mount handset to handset only instead of both handset and pc and that worked ok went back to both and went through the scope (mount) settings on ascom changed the scope from sky6 control to AP  and the mount  connected ok and then changed back because the sky6 software didn't run when under AP control and the **** worked as it should rebooted the pc several times and all worked OK.
Went back 7.00pm to 16 scouts did the usual talk then into the dome but complete cloud cover closed down 9.00pm.

Wednesday 21.03.18

Went down to Austerfield to have a look at the mount Rhys said it disconnected half way through a photographic session sure enough when clicking connect on the ascom control panel the dome connects but not the scope (mount).
First thing I did was exchange the hard drive (easiest) but to no avail resat the serial card in the pc still no connection ran out of time will have to come back tomorrow'
Next day tried to fire up the pc but unable to mount master disc that  turned out to be the ide connector wasn't fitted properly from the day before unable to go any further so will have to take advise.

Tuesday 20.03.18

I opened at 10pm on an unexpected clear night, joined by Jonathan with his camera.We looked at M64 as a potential target but settled for M101 which remained available for the next 2 hours or so.At about 2 am we were too cold to continue so had a final look at Jupiter before closing down.Cygnus was rising in the East, heralding Summer none too soon.At some point the mount lost contact with the computer,I will need to speak to Dave about re-educating me and the mount.

08.03.18 Thursday

After Dr.Inskip's very interesting presentation on the exploration of Mars, Jonathan and I opened the observatory at anticipation of clear skies.By 11pm clouds had dispersed and we were able to start imaging.The target was M51 again,concentrating on focussing and the use of the Tak. to guide the O.D.K. Later we saw Jupiter rising so Jonathan tested his Nikon for planetary imaging.After a brief look at M5 we shut down at about 2 am.

Wednesday 07.03.18

Jonathan and I made use of unexpected clear skies in order to photograph M51 and the Leo Trio group of galaxies using Jonathan's kit.The evening was uneventful apart from my triggering the burglar alarm in the main block and so having to talk to some very pleasant  policemen on my way home.

09.02.18 -- Friday

Arrived at 7:30pm to find Rhys, Elaine and Paul already there.  Shortly joined by Jonathan.

Exceptionally clear night, best we have had for months. Started with M42 followed by the Rossette Nebulae NGC2244. We then went on to to look at M35, M37 and M38.

Dave saw two sporadic meteors and Rhys and Lesley saw a fantastic fireball straight through Cassiopeia, We all looked at Mizar and Alcor and finished with M31. Which was the best we have seen at Austerfield for some time.

The absence of street lights made a great difference and the seeing was exceptional. It became really cold so closed down at 9:30pm.


08.12.17 -- Friday

Opened up at 7.30 Brian had arrived just before myself, bitterly cold temperature in observatory 0 deg with wind blowing from the North.
Joined by a family with two small children Lesley showed then around the sky then a look at Capella but to cold for the children so they didn't stay long.
Neil and Jonathan arrived soon after followed by Phil ,the sky looked very good.

Managed to see M36,M37 Uranus and Neptune.By this time Orion has risen so had a look at M42 and finally managed to see M1 then round to NGC2392 and NGC869. In the meantime Jonathan had a go at setting up his new mount with camera only to find batteries don't like the cold but a standby power pack soon cured that
A very good nights viewing but becoming very humid and cold so closed down 9.30.
Dave and Lesley

4.12.17 -- Monday

The plan for tonight was to meet David Moore from the council's highways department to discuss the street lights near the observatory. This was planned for 5:00pm.
All went well from getting out of my house to getting into the car. It all went wrong from then as the car wouldn't start. It did all sorts of electronic tricks but wouldn't start. Fortunately my next door neighbour was watching and cheering, and offered to take me to the observatory. He did and we met Paul there, who was to pick me up if I fell over. I didn't but realised I'd left the keys in my car, so we couldn't get in. They're always there in the car so I never got down to the dome leaving them at home. It worked for 12 years faultlessly, till tonight when they were still in the car but I'd left the car at home!
Fortunately I'd also emailed Dave of the meeting. He was on the east coast in his van and didn't know I'd emailed him till he got home and found his house overheated having had a powercut while he was away and the automatic heating system had cut out, then restarted on full on when the power came on again giving his house several days of permanently full on heating. He read his emails (in his underwear (?)), and luckily, felt he needed to be at the observatory, so hurried down.
He'd had the forethought to bring his keys so could open up, to Paul's, my neighbour's and my great relief.
At the appointed time David Moore turned up. It transpired he'd been before, with Jim Blaik, some years ago, when Jim got the same street lights changed from the normal, at that time, to flat lights.
The three of us looked at the lights and David took notes of the lights concerned and what could be done, finally suggesting it might take some time to get the screens that Jim Blaik had had fitted for us to be redesigned and extended to suit our needs, but said he'd keep us informed of progress.
I'll have to see how friendly the Green Flag folk are tomorrow.

24.11.17 -- Friday

Opened up 7.30 shortly joined by Rhys and a couple of visitors, Kerry with her 6 year old son and Leon a visitor who came last week.
Brian came about 8.00pm followed by Elaine and Paul.Max and Wendy then a new member Paul with a friend.
We started with the moon just before it set,then onto M45 and Aldebran but the clouds came with vengeance eventually completely obliterating the sky all together.
We gave up by 9.15 closed the dome down as the clouds peeled away !!! by the time I locked up we had a shower of rain.
Dave and Lesley

18.11.17 -- Saturday

Lesley and I had a stargazing booking for 30 brownies and for once its a clear night
Started with the usual talk, a very good group lots of sensible questions then into the dome, no moon so a look at a few stars then into the field to point out some of the constellations.Closed down 9.00pm.

17.11.17 -- Friday

A clear Friday, getting more plentiful. Dave opened at 7:30pm I joined at 8, Rhys was there having set up the whole thing professionally. We were joined soon after that by Jonathan Lodge, new member, and later by a visitor, Neil Gutteridge from Hatfield, who also brought his telescope, a Skywatcher Newtonian he wanted collimating. It was close enough in general terms as far as I could do it in my state and in the dark. He was more knowledgeable on astronomy and the use of his telescope than usual, and sought more detailed help and advice, which we were able to provide. Jonathan and he and Rhys got to talking and exchanging experiences and looking round the sky, they were getting on so well together I left them to it. The sky deteriorated from the north from about 10pm and slowly developed into a full covering of thin debilitating cloud cover. Dave had already gone home by about 10pm, Neil about an hour later. Jonathan and I left at midnight with Rhys who closed it all down.

16.11.17 -- Thursday

A clear sky at last opened up 7.30
M57 looked good but no sign of M27 round to Alberio, mount behaving well so stayed around Cygnus for a hour or so.
A quick hop across to Taurus M45 looked good but to early for Orion.No one else turned up so closed down 9.30.

14.11.17 -- Friday

A school group of 11 children  asked if they could have a look in the observatories so I opened up 10.30am.
Fortunately the moon was visible so they all had a look then a quick talk about the Planets.Closed down 11.15

27.10.17 -- Friday

Unusually, the sky was clear, so I opened up at 8:00pm and was joined, preceded actually, by Rhys, and an hour later by Phil. Rhys had come down to photograph the Moon with his webcam and for a look round. Phil, to compare what he saw in his binoculars with that seen in the ODK. A good evening with few problems, but the trees are shedding their leaves and I'll have to contact the street lighting department to seek their help with shielding their new lights.
Finally closed down when the clouds started to spread, about 12:15am