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My first tentative steps into the light


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I've had my Altair Astro Hershel Solar Wedge since last November but only did first light today on it - in between rain and the clouds. We actually had "sunny spells".

I had broken down my mini deep sky rig centred around the William Optics Zenithstar 73, removing the flattener/reducer and reinstating the M63 2" eyepiece/camera adapter.

Into it's place I put the very nicely made Altair Astro solar wedge. I finished it off with the ZWO ASI183MC Pro into the other side of the wedge inserting into the 2" adapter.


So I then mounted it onto the HEQ5Pro which I had roughly aligned to the north and set it level. I decided to use Kstars/EKOS/Indi to control the mount and plugged the USB3 camera cable into a WIndows PC running the paid for version of Sharpcap. Then I simply told KStars to point the scope at the sun and just had to loosen off the RA slightly to get an image of the sun projected into the translucent screen on the back of the wedge. I found I had to also slightly adjust the DEC too but was soon in the centre.


The next thing was focusing. The scope has a Lakeside focuser and I didn't know what focus I should be looking at. So manually running the focuser inwards in steps of a 1000 and then out again soon got me roughly in focus. I found that with this setup the WO focuser was at 32mm projection. Then setting the Lakeside software to a finer number I was able to nail it.


When I looked in Sharpcap I noticed the camera had connected as a USB2 device. I have had this before with Windows PCs and no amount of unplugging it and reinserting it helped this time. So I resigned myself to USB2 only for this session.


Looking on the screen I saw the suns full disk and what appeared to be a bug or fly on the screen. Then I realized it was actually a sunspot!. I've never seen one live before so it added a bit of excitement during these strange pandemic times. So I then changed the region of interest down to around 640 x 480 pixels and played around with exposure a little. Then I made a few videos in SER format. The clouds stopped play so I packed up and went to see what I had got. 


I processed the 4 videos I took in the Autostackkert 64bit software and pushed the tif files into Photoshop and had a play around - it is false colour tritone . To my surprise I had also picked up some granulation and the sunspot.

The picture below was a stack of a 200 frame video choosing 50% of the images. So not very long. I think the frame rate was around 160 frames/s if I remember correctly. If I had the camera connected at USB3 I'm sure it would have been much quicker.


So here is my first, but not last, picture of the sun. The sunspot looks a bit overdone to me but hey ho. No doubt I will get better with practice.


Scope: William Optics ZS73

Solar: Altair Astro Herschel Solar Wedge

Camera: ZWO ASI183MM Pro OSC

Mount: HEQ5 Pro

Observatory Control: Astroberry running KStars/EKOS/Indi for mount control only

Capture Software:  Sharpcap

Process Software: Photoshop CC 2021




Edited by TerryMcK
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I’ve just ordered a Baader Continuum filter and a Baader UV/IR blocking filter. So looking forward to enhancing some more solar bits.

I also have a Explore Scientific 3x Barlow for the close ups. I used to use that on my Dob but have tested it with the camera in the solar rig and it works well.

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Not much activity on the big star today as I thought the sunspot AR2812 had gone off the disk. However once the scope got higher in the sky looking through less atmosphere (I think) I picked it up again.



There seem to be two smaller spots here

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I put the scope in a different area of the garden today and have a live view of it from a surveillance camera. This area is facing East but is not very good for deep sky objects due to trees. Not bad for the sun though.



I can keep tabs on the sun on the translucent screen on the back of the Altair Astro Hershel Wedge. Sharpcap is streaming video from a laptop in a box under the scope through my gigabit Ethernet network via RDP into my office while I work. Shhhhh don't tell anybody!




The mount is being controlled using Kstars/EKOS/Indi from the Raspberry Pi4 also in the box under the scope. I've found that the video utilities in the PI are not as good as Sharpcap so I'm doing a hybrid approach today.



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35 minutes ago, MarkAR said:

Well done Terry, you've made a good start. Now you'll just have to prepare for 24 hour imaging sessions 😂

I think I'll set up the rig in the "Deep Sky" part of the garden for tonight's continued session. It may well be 24 hours of imaging LOL.

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Yesterday I received a couple of filters, both Baader the main one being the solar continuum filter and the other an IR/UV cut filter. After installing the filters obviously the main thing was only seeing light in 540nm which makes colour images green. I'm using a ZWOASI183MC colour camera for the solar work and you do see that green hue.


However that said after running my last ser video through AutoStakkert and into RegiStax the finer granulation was more apparent than whitelight unfiltered. No doubt my image processing techniques of the sun will improve in time and I'll look back on these in the future as "I did I like that?"


On this image you can see faculae just rotating away from view. I suspect the image is upside down as I didn't take note of where the camera was orientated. There is another fainter facular to the right of the main one.



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I was also playing around in white light with a 3x Barlow on Tuesday 30/03/2021 and got a couple of more zoomed in images.

This one below shows a facula which I believe was the same one as in above post




The other below shows a tiny dark spot. Not sure if it is a sunspot for sure as nothing else has been reported on the various solar weather websites.






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