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Questar Solar Observatory 2022

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#1 mtr1

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Posted 21 May 2022 - 11:48 PM

PK's monumental solar imaging thread has a ton of great images plus guidance regarding how to carry out H-alpha imaging with the Questar 3.5" scope.  Today I incorporated a lot of his guidance with my own experience setting up my portable backyard gear for EAA and remote operation to achieve what I'll call a new "Solar Observatory" capability.  The short version of what I will report here is that despite the beastly hot weather here in NY today (at or near the record for the date, just over 90 degrees), I was able to control my scope and view the sun from inside the air conditioned house.  I had actually intended to run a bunch of configuration tests, but I found the image so satisfying that I was reluctant to end the full face session for several hours.

Here's the processed full face:

Sun_130445_lapl5_ap375sm.jpg

 

This is a screencap from an inside computer, connected to the laptop at the scope running FireCapture

screengrab mono.JPG

 

FireCapture has an autoguide feature which I recently used to track the moon.  The QHY 5iii cameras come with a guide cable which plugs into the guide port on the PG3 hand control.  Full guiding requires a Questar Declination Drive, and I have been very pleased this time around with the Dec drive's performance, compared with my last experiments with deep sky imaging last year.  Configuration was easy; I had taken my time on polar alignment so that the sun was tracking well.  FireCapture kept the sun centered for over three hours, enough time to explore additional capabilities like the screen control settings which allowed me to emphasize the prominences

 

screengrab proms.JPG

 

or fill in false color but with good contrast in the chromosphere.  Bear in mind that unlike the first image above, this is effectively a "live" view on an indoors computer, communicating remotely with the laptop at the scope:

 

screengrab orange.JPG

 

I could also manipulate the display to zoom in on the features of interest, and these views were pretty satisfying as well although I don't have any screengrabs to share. 

 

Here is the scope setup outside.  I kept the handcontrol and the laptop under the Telegizmos reflective shroud, which successfully kept them safe from the direct sunlight. 

Questar Solar Setup May 2022 crop.JPG

 

The gear shown includes a Baader D-ERF energy rejection filter over the objective; a JMI piggyback mount with some rings attached which is just being used here as a counterweight; and from the axial port there's a slip fit adapter holding the DayStar Combo Quark Chromosphere model.  Instead of the Quark's 1.25" port, I've got the DayStar interference tilt adapter to eliminate Newton's Rings, to which I've attached a 1.25" eyepiece port.  In the port is the QHY5iii174 mono camera with two stacked 0.5X 1.25" focal reducers.  The camera USB port is connected to the laptop (under the blanket) and the camera's guide port is connected to the PG3 hand control (also under the blanket).  The PG3 control is cabled to the RA drive in the Questar's base and the dec drive at the base of the fork facing away from the camera.  There's also a USB cable running from the Quark to a 5V battery (also under the blanket). 

 

I can connect to the outside laptop using AnyDesk or the Microsoft Windows Remote Desktop Connection.  I was pleased that the blanket did not block my wifi.  The rechargeable battery in my PG3 controller lasted for 3 hours and was easy to swap out for a fully charged battery.

 

For the full face image, today was first light for my new DayStar FlatCap diffuser which the company started making last year to facilitate taking flats in H-alpha (you may have seen some back and forth banter between myself and PK on this topic in his solar images thread).  It worked well.  I also moved the focus knob out about 1/8th of an inch to enable the scope to focus after checking with Jim Perkins about the safest way to do this.  I was pleasantly surprised that the two cheap focal reducers still allowed me to get a pretty crisp image. 

 

That's enough for now.  I also managed to pull myself away from that nice view to try adding a Powermate and doing some high focal length imaging.  I started late enough that the sun dropped into the trees about 15 minutes after I started, but the autoguiding worked flawlessly during those 15 minutes.   Better movies of active features will come next...

 

To summarize, if you can't tell I'm delighted to report that everything I tried today worked well.  As discussed repeatedly, adding a Quark and ancillary gear to a Questar 3.5 is by no means the only or "best" way to achieve H-alpha viewing and imaging capability.  But it works well, and if you have ever experimented with guided control of the Questar mount and already have a dec drive, then be aware that the Q can be readily configured into a solar observatory for enjoying the amazing show our star is putting on a mere 8 light minutes away. 

 

Regards, Mauri

 

 

 


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#2 RMay

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Posted 22 May 2022 - 05:27 AM

Magnificent effort and results; a great summary and write-up for all, once again showcasing the mighty Q’s abilities with the right equipment and a skilled driver behind the wheel.

Thanks for sharing… very well done. Impressive!

Ron

Edited by RMay, 22 May 2022 - 05:27 AM.

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#3 edhuff

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Posted 22 May 2022 - 06:56 AM

Agree with RMay. Very nice. Photos speak for themselves regarding the effort and planning.



#4 PKH

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Posted 22 May 2022 - 09:35 AM

WOW, this is excellent Mauri both in results and presentation. I believe this is the next step in advancing the Questar’s solar capabilities. Dare I say, you cracked this nut wide open. Well done.

 

The automated tracking is a big deal. Even with good polar alignment the periodic error in the RA drive can cause problems when shooting closeups especially with programed time-lapse recordings. I’ve been manually guiding and exposing for the time-lapse videos. It does take some of the fun out of it after a while. Looks like that issue is solved.

 

Remote operation is truly a bonus for serious imagers or those of us who are not fond of extreme heat or cold. I have found that once stabilized our Questars hold focus very well no real need to constantly refocus. The remote telescope control will make it a breeze to move from one active region to another or one prom to another. Just point and shoot.

 

One quick question, your full disk image shows good contrast, were you using an aperture to increase the focal ratio?

 

Congratulations and thank you for the information.

 

 

PK


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#5 mtr1

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Posted 22 May 2022 - 11:48 AM

Thanks for the kind words, all!

 


One quick question, your full disk image shows good contrast, were you using an aperture to increase the focal ratio?

 

 

No, I did not feel the need to try that.  One technical item is that I did some very informal experimentation with the Quark tuner, and I seemed to get maximum contrast with it turned up to 3 or 4 o'clock.  The difference is subtle enough that I might be fooling myself but a formal comparison would eat a lot of rare cloud free imaging time, thanks to the need to allow a few minutes for etalon temperature stabilization.  This is the sort of exercise I've tried a few times in the past few years only to find that haze or a cloudbank rolls in before I can test all the way around the dial.  I'll just say that the image does not seem any worse than the "on band" position and given everything that has ever been said about Quark variability I can believe that I've found a better setting.  Best, Mauri
 


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#6 mtr1

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Posted 22 May 2022 - 10:36 PM

We had patchy weather today with a few periods of thunderstorms, but the sky was clear for a couple of hours in mid-afternoon.  I continued my Solar Observatory experiment, first bringing all the gear inside during the early rainstorm.  When I brought it out a few hours later, I also set up a different laptop which still needed some configuring.  For today, I wanted to see how well it would support high focal length imaging with a TV Powermate added to the imaging train between the axial port and the Quark.  I used trial and error to home in on a low-drift alignment, then got FireCapture's autoalign working well enough to shoot at the active region for nearly two full hours.  I had FireCapture shoot 100 frames every 60 seconds, so I started processing with 108 videos.  The workflow to get this down to a short movie clip involved handoffs through half a dozen different apps, but each one has nice batch processing capability which is very tolerable when the individual frames are inherently aligned.  Still a project, but not too bad.  There was only moderate action in the region during the two hours I was shooting but you can also see the plasma flowing through the chromosphere between the two sunspot regions.  I have my "proof of concept" now for high quality h-alpha video creation with my rig; I think it will just be a matter of luck and timing for capturing more interesting scenes.  Stay tuned....

 

Here's the 7 second video (spanning 108 minutes of real time) in Flickr https://www.flickr.c...07/52092506421/  Flickr viewing tip -- hitting "L" and F11 gets you a full screen playback. 

 

Regards, Mauri


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#7 PKH

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Posted 26 May 2022 - 11:41 AM

Hi Mauri,

 

Excellent animation. Very stable. Keep up the great work.

 

One technical item is that I did some very informal experimentation with the Quark tuner, and I seemed to get maximum contrast with it turned up to 3 or 4 o'clock.  The difference is subtle enough that I might be fooling myself but a formal comparison would eat a lot of rare cloud free imaging time

Here’s a little more information on the technical side pertaining to Quark temperature settings as focal ratios change, or any mica etalons for that matter. In a recent post, Bob Yoesle compiled some graphs from Christian Viladrich and an explanation of why etalon temperature settings are dependent upon focal ratios. Valery D. has also confirmed lower Quark temps for longer focal ratios, so has Mark Wagner of Solar Spectrum.

 

Screen shot

f-ratio.jpg

 

 

While the change in contrast is subtle with our Questar/Quark setup, you and I have confirmed this as well. Lower f-ratio = higher etalon temp. Adding the telecentric for closeups (higher f-ratio) would benefit from a lower temperature setting.

 

 

PK



#8 mtr1

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Posted 26 May 2022 - 10:08 PM

Thanks, PK -- it's reassuring to see that it's neither imaginary nor the result of variability in product quality. At the moment I think this is the hierarchy for determining quality of a given solar imaging session:

  • Seeing (Marty Wise, who has had long stretches of using mutiple scopes/etalons/cameras daily puts this at the top and I think he's right)
  • Focusing (seeing impacts this but for me personally I am known to run out of patience at the wrong time and start recording when I still haven't dialed it in)
  • Flat quality (sometimes there's a dust bunny in the wrong place which gets over-corrected)
  • Camera speed (faster always better for "freezing" seeing -- but I have never fully eliminated the variability in my camera/laptop connections and settings which can be chirping along at 80 fps and then drop to 20)
  • Quark tuning falls somewhere around here.  I'd rather have the Quark set off the optimum than miss the focus. 

Of course Seeing is the only one that's outside of my control.  Marty has described how he measures seeing and concluded that he should do all his imaging early in the day.  To me this is like swearing off of red meat or bourbon, I'm simply not prepared to make those adjustments....

 

Best,

Mauri


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#9 mtr1

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Posted 29 May 2022 - 07:58 PM

Clear skies today so I took another stab at timelapse imaging with my solar rig.  Although I had a good full face setup, I decided to focus on an active prominence coming over the northeastern limb.  I thought I'd try more frequent exposures (one every 12 seconds) and keep the file size/ processing burden reasonable by only shooting one frame at a time.  For anyone who has ever used "lucky imaging" you know that a short movie will hold many decent frames mixed in with frames messed up by "seeing" / atmospheric turbulence.  In this case you certainly see the turbulence when the frames are strung together into a movie.  I did a lot of experimentation with processing settings to try to recover from this, and the result is a mixed success.  Here (in Instagram, sorry) is the 5 second movie which captures a blast of plasma heading off into space over the course of an hour:

 

https://www.instagra.../p/CeKX2E7luYa/

 

I'm happy to say that now that I've worked out how to configure my Q 3.5 for autoguided tracking using FireCapture, the process of setting up and capturing hours worth of solar data is now a piece of cake (or maybe pie for Memorial Day).  Given the high level of solar activity I expect to reach a decent quality level by the end of the summer... stay tuned! 


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#10 mtr1

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Posted 07 June 2022 - 08:31 PM

Here's one more image from this past weekend; this particular prominence was not very dynamic.  I went through the full process to create a time-lapse from an hour of clear skies, but there was so little movement that I decided to just collapse the session down to a still image.  It's posted here in Flickr

 

https://www.flickr.c.../in/dateposted/ , and at the link there's information about a lecture I'll be giving on Friday night (June 10th) at Westchester Amateur Astronomers.  The Zoom link is available for anyone wishing to join, and I'll be sharing many Questar-based images (not just solar) during the session. 

 

Here's the still image

Prom June4 wm.jpg

 

Regards,

Mauri


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#11 mtr1

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Posted 04 July 2022 - 12:03 PM

Hi

Most of the past month was lost in a haze of bad weather or bad schedules, so I had a break from solar.  The skies have been immaculate here for the holiday weekend though, so I've set up my Q to track the sun and provide a periodic image. 

Here's the view on my laptop from a connected inside computer

FC screengrab.JPG  

 

and here's a buffed up capture from a few minutes ago

Sun todaycap.jpg

 

Questar 3.5"/Baader D-ERF/DayStar Quark/QHY5iii174/ 2X 0.5x 1.25" focal reducers/Firecapture.  False color image processed with AS3/imppg/PI/Topaz DenoiseAI/ACDSee Gemstone.

 

For everyone here in the states, have a great Independence Day!

Mauri


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#12 Jeanineb77

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Posted 25 August 2022 - 08:40 PM

Fantastic images and thanks for taking the time to document all of this.  I use my Questar 3.5 solely for astrophotography for now and am looking for a sturdy tripod and head/mount to  travel with.  The mount I use now is overkill and too heavy. What tripod and head are you using here and if you have a link, I would appreciate it. How stable is it?

 

Thanks, 

Linda



#13 mtr1

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Posted 26 August 2022 - 12:36 PM

Linda --

 

My setup is shown in the first post of this thread.  The tripod is a Manfrotto 55 carbon fiber tripod and the head is an "Acratech Long Lens Head for Large Telephoto Lenses" which holds an Arca Swiss plate I've screwed to the base of my Q.   It's all sturdy enough for my purposes.  Here's a fine point about mounting:  My 50th Anniversary scope circa 2012 has a very solid aluminum baseplate; it's about 6-7 mm thick.  When I did some field testing for the PG3, Questar sent me a very thin plate to simplify switching the cable connection.  That plate was too thin and flexible to mount using the Arca Swiss plate.  The more secure approach I used at that time was to mount a Vixen 9" dovetail bar completely across the base; with the dovetail I could use a Skywatcher Star Adventurer Equatorial wedge.  These are considerably less expensive than the Acratech; I've got three of them and have never felt they were overloaded regardless of the somewhat portable gear combinations I've tried (I keep the load under 20 lbs, the Questar is not the heaviest thing I use).  Anyway, my point is that it's plausible to me that there might be some Questars in circulation with less solid baseplates and if you're in that category this requires some attention. 

 

Visual observers may prefer more solid mounting options with faster recovery after focusing and positioning adjustments.  For astrophotography, once everything is set up nothing is shaking the scope. Lightweight tripods and heads have served me well.  YMMV.

 

And of course there is a very long, frequently refreshed thread on Questar mounting options here in the forum, be sure to flip through it.

 

Regards,

Mauri


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#14 Jeanineb77

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Posted 27 August 2022 - 05:18 PM

Thanks Mauri.

 

I actually have a Manfrotto 55 and the star adventurer wedge.  For travel purposes I may remove the Q base altogether and use the star adventurer to track.  I can attach my removable scope to that.  I hate to go back to full manual to locate objects, but it’s a really light set up, and the tripod can handle it easily, and gives me full access to the night sky without the limitations with the base attached.   Plus I can beef up my camera to a heavier dedicated version than I am currently using. Hmmmm…We’ll see.  I appreciate your ideas. smile.gif


Edited by Jeanineb77, 27 August 2022 - 05:34 PM.


#15 JamesMStephens

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Posted 27 August 2022 - 06:56 PM

Linda,

 

You have a Questar Duplex, then, correct?

 

Jim



#16 Jeanineb77

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Posted 27 August 2022 - 07:22 PM

HI Jim,

 

That is correct.  I originally purchased it with the intention of doing birding photography with it.  Haven’t gotten that far. :)
 

Linda


Edited by Jeanineb77, 27 August 2022 - 07:26 PM.

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#17 mtr1

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Posted 03 November 2022 - 03:12 PM

Back at it after a break -- movie of plasma streaming between prominences

 

https://www.flickr.c...07/52475321049/

 

Here's one frame with a little more finishing

Nov32022promwm.jpg

 

Q3.5"/DayStar Quark Combo/Baader D-ERF/TV 2.5 X PowerMate/QHY 5iii174

 

I continue to be pleased with the way FireCapture autoguiding performs with the PG3.  I wouldn't attempt a movie at this focal length without it.

 

The sun is now low enough that I only have about an hour's worth of possible imaging time from my yard, so I'll likely be hibernating for the next few months...

 

Best,

Mauri


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#18 Les Aperture

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Posted 03 November 2022 - 05:56 PM

Mauri,

 

That is a very nice capture! 

 

"Les"


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#19 mtr1

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Posted 21 March 2023 - 02:25 PM

Well it's Spring, which means the sun is above the trees long enough to set up my Q as a solar observatory.  It has taken me 3 days to get my computers functioning properly (the Q is fine).  The machine is outside, computer plugged in, and I'm connected from inside (out of the glare) looking at this view on my desktop

Capture.JPG

 

I'll tweak a bit when the weather is nice to be able to even out the sun's face and show proms but it seems like a good start for now.

 

Clear skies, Mauri

 


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#20 mtr1

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Posted 07 May 2023 - 02:23 AM

Clear skies and plenty of solar activity today.  I took the time to enjoy some visual observation and I was very pleased with the bright, full face  view through my 32mm Brandon in the simplest configuration (Q 3.5 with Baader D-ERF and DayStar Quark Combo Chromosphere model in the EP port).  I swapped out the EP for my QHY5iii 174 mono camera to shoot at the most active quadrant:

 

2023-05-06-1702_6-U-IR-Sun_Halpha_lapl5_ap1772sharpfixcolor-SharpenAI-Softness.jpg

 

I processed this to resemble the view through the EP.  The prominences were more ethereal visually although by throwing my Telegizmos solar viewing shroud over my head to block the copious daylight, I could certainly make out all the detail shown above.


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