My New Remote Setup in Spain

 Deep Sky, Equipment, General Astronomy, Observatory, Remote Imaging  Comments Off on My New Remote Setup in Spain
Oct 232021

I’m very excited about this! I have finally taken the plunge and now have (or will have in early November) a remote imaging rig in Southern Spain. It is located at the PixelSkies remote hosting facility near Castilléjar in the province of Granada, Andalucia.

The imaging rig itself was originally built in 2020 and owned by First Light Optics, and it was used to capture images for a monthly image processing competition. I learned from Ian King that it was for sale and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to buy this, already proven, setup. Normally, one has to buy the kit and ship it out to the hosting location, all of which takes time, planning and money.

Here’s a picture of the whole system located in one of the roll-off roof sheds. More details and pictures are below.

The telescope itself is a StellaMira 104mm ED2 Triplet f/6.25 APO Refractor (with field flattener) and this rides on an amazing 10Micron GM 1000 HPS mount which has absolute encoders. The detector is a Starlight XPress TRIUS PRO 694 mono CCD camera which has 2750×2200 pixels in a medium format Sony chip. The resulting field of view is 66 x 53 arcminutes at a resolution of 1.44 arcseconds per pixel. To give an idea of what this means, the Moon would fit twice across the resulting images. The picture below shows the CCD camera connected to the telescope.

Also visible in the picture above is the 7-position filter wheel containing Optolong 1.25″ filters. The filters are the usual set of LRGB filters and the three 7nm narrowband filters for HA, OIII and SII. Notice also the Off-Axis Guider (OAG) with the Starlight Xpress LoadStar V2 guide camera siticking out to the right of the filter wheel. The pick-off prism for the OAG is in front of the filters so that unfiltered light always hits the CCD sensor of the LoadStar.

The picture below shows the 10Micron mount more clearly and also the Lakeside Astro motorised focuser. It is, of course, vital to be able to accurately focus remotely and the focus point will vary with temperature during the night, and is also different for each filter.

Also shown above is the mounting plate on top of the telescope cradles which has the red Hitec Astro Mount Hub Pro V4 control box. This has a full USB hub along with software controllable power ports and dew heater controller. This hub allows the cabling to be kept shorter and neater. Without a control hub like this, all the cabling would have to travel down to the PC on the floor and would create potential cable snagging issues as the telescope slews around. Here is a close up of the hub:

Another fantastic feature of this setup is the built-on flat panel. This Alnitak Flip-Flat will allow me to take my own flat-field images without asking anyone to arrange for a flat panel to be balanced on the telescope. This device can be seen at the front end of the telescope and it also acts as a lid for the telescope to prevent dust getting on to the objective lens. The opening and closing of the panel is software controlled as is the brightness of the flat panel. During cloudy nights I can also take bias and dark frames when the panel is in the closed position, but turned off. See the picture below which also shows the wide angle video camera (the red device below the flip-flat). This sensitive camera provides a wide view of the sky, useful for spotting clouds or generally admiring the constellations and the Milky Way.

Mounted on the mount pillar is a small MBox device. This is a small, self-contained weather sensing device that delivers barometric pressure, temperature, humidity and dew point information with high accuracy. There are other bits and pieces (including the main Windows 10 control PC), but I have described the main components.

In due course I’ll share more information about how I get on with this fantastic system, and hopefully, lots of great images from this dark-sky site.

Finally, watch this video to see the system being assembled a year or so ago.

 Posted by at 2:18 pm

The Eta Carina Nebula from down-under

 Deep Sky, Remote Imaging  Comments Off on The Eta Carina Nebula from down-under
Jun 102013

I’ve posted before about my exploits in using remote telescopes on the Light Buckets system from France, but I have recently been using the iTelescope network of telescopes which have observatories in New Mexico USA, Spain and also down-under in Siding Spring, Australia. The Australian setup, which is in New South Wales, is located at a latitude of about 31 degrees South, and allows access to those magnificent objects in the Southern sky that I have dreamed of imaging for a long time.

The Eta Carina Nebula is a huge, bright nebula that is roughly 4 times the angular size of the Orion nebula, but is imaged much less due to its southerly latitude (also, the Orion Nebula is perhaps the most imaged object in the night sky). The nebula is some 7500 light-years from Earth and hosts some of the most massive and luminous stars in our Galaxy, including the double-star system Eta Carinae, which weighs in at over 100 times the mass of our Sun.

The particular telescope I used has a very wide field of view and the full Moon would fit across this image nearly 8 times. To see the full-sized 3960 x 2612 image click here:  Full Size Image


So, what about the odd colours? Well, this is a narrowband image, meaning that I used 3 narrowband filters; In this case Ha, OIII and SII and combined them to make a false colour RGB image. Here’s a cropped version showing the central region at higher resolution (or see the full size image and pan around the whole thing)  Full Size Image

 Posted by at 9:38 am

Remote Imaging – M33 in Colour

 Deep Sky, Remote Imaging  Comments Off on Remote Imaging – M33 in Colour
Nov 192012

It seems I’ve caught the remote-imaging bug! I couldn’t resist having a go at M33 with a bigger ‘scope, so I used the LightBuckets LB-0005 setup which is a lovely ASA 300mm f/3.6 Newtonian and a Finger Lakes CCD camera. This is an hour of Luminance data taken one night followed by an hour total of RGB data two nights later. Wonderful quality from this fine telescope.

 Posted by at 11:30 am

Messing about with Remote Imaging

 Deep Sky, Remote Imaging  Comments Off on Messing about with Remote Imaging
Nov 162012

Since the weather here in the UK has been pretty bad (for astronomy) recently I decided to have a go at remote imaging. I used the smallest (and cheapest!) remote telescope at the ‘Light Buckets’ facility. This is a high quality 110mm APO refractor based in the Southern part of the Rhone Alps in France. The camera is an SBIG ST-8 non-antibloming CCD , but the main thing was that it was clear! I set up 5 exposures with a Luminance (clear) filter and waited. The next morning, I had an email telling me the run was complete and I downloaded the ‘light’ images along with the calibration frames (Dark, Flat and Bias). The result after a few minutes in Maxim DL and Photoshop CS3 is show below. (click to see the full-sized image).

Oh, by the way this is M33 in Triangulum.


 Posted by at 1:56 pm