So I had really high hopes for this one. It was the first clear day after the weeks of fires here. I had a 4 hour window before an entire week of cloud. Of course we had (in our COVID bubble) guests suddenly arrive so all my prep time got eaten up.
It was actually crystal clear even before Clear Outside said it ought to be so I got setup and a really good polar alignment pretty rapidly (at least as good as you can get on a skyguider pro without a guide cam)
Used plate-solving to get onto the target, this worked REALLY well (once I remembered to update my focal length from 200mm to 300mm in APT since I changed lenses)
I was stunned when after three solves, Stellarium confirmed I had Pac-man in frame (took a few more shots to get it centered). Did have a few issues with the camera hitting the mount so I had to go back to the non-optimal ballhead instead of mounting direct on the declination arm with the Skyguider
Took some ISO3200 / 30 sec exposures and stretched in APT and saw a faint fuzz of PacMan
Focus was ... once again one of the hard parts. I have Bahtinov mask (finally) but ... wow, adding that to the lens really cut the exposure down. I used APT's Bahtinov helper, but wow, just a sub-mm turn of the focus ring make a huge difference (really glad I got the internal focus version of the lens so touching the lens wont move the focus). I was getting pretty low FWHM values but could not get a Bahtinov score of better than -5 or something
Eventually I had to go with the best focus I had since I was running out of imaging time (for reference, Pixinsight during stacking had FWHM of >15 for my subs )
I figured that since at f5.6, ISO 3200, 30 seconds I could see the target (stretched), then 120 seconds, ISO 1600, f5.6 would work (f4.5 is wide open for this lens)
Started a sequence in APT-- couldn't see the target even stretched but my friend who was imaging the same target sent me a screen grab (he has a GOTO) and my star pattern matched exactly
Had to go inside for a bit to referee a fight between the kids "But no matter, APT is just taking shots ..."
Got back out (40 mins later) and I had stupidly set the sequence to ISO 159 instead of 1600 and 5 shots not 30. Ugh (I REALLY hate the APT input boxes -- I make so many mistakes)
Restarted and things looked good. My final 8 or so subs were ruined by dew (need a heater) but I had (what I thought was 70 good subs. Unfortunately this included the 10 or so ISO150 ones)
Spent the whole day stacking and stretching yesterday in various apps and conclusions
1. Focus is NOT good enough
2. As far as I can tell my stars are "round enough" at 120 seconds
3. Thank goodness the neighbors garage gas external 110V power as my laptop was about to die
4. Need a power adapter for the Nikon D5300 as I had to change battery and that jiggled the mount
5. I still suck at flats. Tried the T-shirt method. T-shirt was covered in dew. It was 2am so I gave up and took them the next day with an iPad through T-shirt. They look "OK" and seem to help but I dont know how to evaluate them
6. Aperture ring appeared to be between f5.6 and f8 on the lens I must have nudged it
Sadly I don't think my exposure was enough to get a signal against the background (my friend was guiding and dod 180 seconds at ISO800 on a 71mm William optics, and actually got a decent image)
Looks like this data is useless (except the lessons learned). If i stretch it to insanity, I can JUST pull out a vague pac-man like shape but nothing close to workable
Now it's cloudy for an entire week so I can't even go out and practice ...
On the other hand, things are getting easier all the time but definitely a LOT here still to learn