Tonight there’s a full moon. Normally that’s not a great time for star gazing but it doesn’t matter so much when you use a camera. I’m out at my observatory in northwest Arizona and the weather is fantastic (as usual). The goal for tonight was to setup the entire system and get an inventory of cables or gear that is need to make the systems complete. I also picked up a few ideas for how to better run our systems along with a few lessons learned.
The DVR is going to be a tricky beast to keep under control. It seems that when it’s first turned it immediately begins recording. A nuisance as long as you know about it. There’s also a configuration setting relating to recording length. What this really means is that if you set it for 5 minutes, then after 5 minutes of recording, it will stop recording, save the file and then immediately start another recording. No matter what, you still have to tell it to stop recording. Another issue that’s going to take more study is power. Our DVR has a built-in battery but I haven’t figured how long it’s good for. If we need to power the unit we’ll need some type of power converter. The simplest thing is a DC-AC converter. But, if the battery has a USB connector we might be able to power it from that.
Setting up the camera and IOTA-VTI box does require a few cables, some of which came with the equipment and some not. We’ll need one BNC to RCA video adapter, a couple of DC power cables, and a power splitter cable.
I also had a bit more practice with the telescope. For now I’m using the stock finder but I really don’t like it. I see that it definitely affects the balance of the telescope, making it more tail heavy. Tonight I used the default “Sky Align” option on the telescope. I was able to do this while it was quite bright out, in fact, this is the perfect time to do so since you will certainly get the brightest stars that are needed for the alignment procedure. I did a little bit of testing of the telescope’s ability to find objects. It worked reasonably well but perhaps not as good as what I’m used to on my old telescope. Perhaps that’s just because I know the old one better.
I did look at the power connector issue a bit as well. I got a great suggestion from Dean at Starizona and I tried it out tonight. He said to take the power cord and tie it around one of the forks and then plug it into the base. This way, as the telescope moves, the fork pulls the cable around and it avoids putting stress on the power connector. For me this worked just fine, at least this night.
At the end of my testing I’ve got some video data saved that I can dig into to learn about data quality and timing information. I want to get reasonably good values for the field of view with and without the focal reducer as well as some idea of how faint this camera can get.