NGC 2264 taken while forgetting the little things! One night, 30 - ten minute exposures, EON120 scope, Atlas Mount, StarShoot Pro IV Camera, post processing in Photoshop. By Doug Hubbell.
It's been almost three months since my last imaging session. As a seasoned veteran I've been imaging for more than five years. I typically wait for the new moon and hope for clear skies. When first starting my adventure in astrophotography I made meticulous notes. These notes help me get started. Whenever something works for you take notes! It's surprising how fast we forget these little things.
Having spent countless hours under the night skies I don't need stinking notes...right?
The night begins with crystal clear skies. I am in my favorite winter and spring location in Oak Grove California, just north of Palomar Mountain in San Diego county. The sky hasn't been this clear in months! The polar alignment was a little difficult because of the trees, but, I managed to finish this 1st step. My gear is powered by field batteries and I noticed the familiar "charging" icon in the task bar is missing. That's strange — immediately it's time to go into "debug" mode because the entire night requires more power to run the laptop. Reseating and re-plugging the power doesn't seem to help and the "charging" icon isn't coming back. Ok, at this point my frustration is starting to grow, and thoughts of a short night creep inside my head. After swapping the power source still no "charging" icon...jeeeezzzzz. Then I think; "Have you Rebooted your computer?" Yep...after a reboot the "charging" icon appears!
The dark skies are mine! I'm ready! Or am I?
Next on the list is star alignment. I begin by pressing the buttons on the hand controller...about three button pushes into the star alignment the controller locks up! Wow that's Fun — Ok I've learned my lesson with my computer: a simple reboot should fix the problem! Right? Nope. After several reboots and thinking this crystal clear night is about to vanish, a memory returns: I pressed one of the buttons too hard and the button is stuck under the case. Sure enough, that was it! I moved the stuck button a little and I was able to continue my star alignment.
My imaging session started and I had all of my software dialed in...or did I? Well I forgot to set the number of frames (photos) high enough to capture photos all through the night. After taking a little nap I woke up to see my imaging session stopped early!
It's amazing how overlooking the tiny details can stop an imaging session. This brings me back to the importance of taking notes when you image. You should note all of your successful astrophotography accomplishments for reference. When times get tough and you're at your wits end your notes may bring back some sanity. What notes did I make during this session?
- Don't forget to reboot
- Press the hand controller buttons carefully and deliberately
- Set the maximum number of photos high enough
Let's hope we don't forget these little things because next time there will be a different set of challenges!
Doug Hubbell is a Systems Manager by day and an astrophotographer by night. Doug is an avid fan of astrophotography and enjoys creating astrophotography video tutorials. As Doug says, "The great outdoors and astrophotography are perfect for camping trips." He's been an Orion Customer since 10/2007. In 3/2008 Doug started contributing to the Orion Community, and he became an Orion beta tester in 2/2010. Follow Doug Hubbell on Facebook, at Astrophotography Tutorials.