My husband and I arrived at the gate and we greeted by a guard. A little up the street you can see a beautiful church, a coffee shop and a little restaurant as well as a self serve gas station. A few miles up the road, at the house we were greeted by a beautiful little 2 year old Pomeranian, named Orbit , Craig and Tom Bash.
A Celestron 14” classic on a state of the art CGEPRO mount was sitting right on the drive way with an Ethos 17 in the diagonal. The Observatory was tucked away to the right of the house. The weather was an absolute heavenly 78 degrees.
Right behind the garage there is an entry way to heaven. The breath taking view of the valley was all in front of you. To your east you can see the entire Southern Sierras and to your west, the view of the Tehachapi farms is out of this world . Right across you have an emerald view of the green mountains beyond a little sleepy town. Bear Valley has very strict light rules. The lights are out at 10:00 O’clock at night and there are no city lights.
We had a little barbeque and great conversation at the dinner table. Tom is already day dreaming about having his 20” planewave brought up to mount on his Mattis 500 and set up his remote observatory.
Around 8:30 Craig and I got in to his roll off roof observatory with a full size Sofa and the 17” Planwave mounted on his AP1200 a brand new shiny Apogee 16803 with Astrodon OAG and an SBIG STI that was securely mounted in the back with all the wires nicely tucked away in a master pipe going to the lap top sitting in the corner of the observatory.
I was expecting to go dizzy with different Instruction and pull out my hair in about an hour and walk out. To my surprise, all we had to do is to Open the Maxum DL software and all of the instructions were in front of us.
With a simple stroke the mount was turned on and another single mouse click and the fans were on.
The primary and secondary mirrors were only about a couple of degrees apart, and since the roll off roof was open the scope was already acclimated, with another mouse click the camera fans were on and you can see on the screen when they are 20 to 30 degrees below the outside temperature and camera and t scope fan are shut down.
Along the side of the Maxum DL Craig has the Sky Six software that navigates the scope to your favorite subject. We simply picked Lagoon nebula and the scope started moving over. in no time we were right on top of the lagoon with a suggested guiding star that was suggested by the software. All we had to do was to click on the guiding star to make sure we are right on it and the software informs you when your Guiding camera is locked on the star.
Then on the screen you see the filter wheels on and off switch which is also up with a click.
The software is amazingly user friendly. On a simple grid you see all of your filters from Luminance to Red Green, Blue and H alpha.
To bring down our exposure time, Craig had shot three 7 minutes H alpha the night before(see below):
So all we had to do was to set the camera to give us three each 7 minutes shots in LRGB. So once we filled the grid with the time exposure of each color(7 minutes) and the number of the exposures(3 ) we were done. We had an hour and a half to go to the 14” scope with a Pelican case full of Televue Ethos, Delos and Naglers to see the heavens.
While we were working in the observatory Tom had turned on the CGEPRO and was shooting Saturn with his luminaira camera. By the time we got there the view of Saturn out of the 17mm Ethos was spectacular. You can easily distinct the rings. the image was stable and tack sharp. The stability of the atmosphere was incomparable. We had a great time viewing M13 and Back on Saturn again. I have looked through many scopes but I do not remember being able to view Saturn this sharp and clear ever before.
We had a cup of coffee and in no time it was time to bring in the lap top and stack the images along with with flats, darks and byes.
To my surprise the process of staking was not so complicated either.
- We stacked all the reds with flats and Darks and byes
- We stacked all the green with flats and darks and byes
- We stacked all Blue with the flats and Darks and byes
- And of course you can not forget the luminance
At every stage you play with the contrast which is another simple lever, so you do not lose the detail in the center of the lagoon but pick up the colors on the edges.
At the end we added the H alpha to the mix and Voilà:
This is the most fun I have had both viewing and imaging ever.
It was about 12.30 and I was fast sleep in the bunk bed down below on the first floor were My husband had already passed out.
In the morning we were up at 7.00AM and out the window was this beautiful doe with her baby lurking around trying to get food off the trees. It is real cool how friendly they are since they are protected wild life. There it was again the beautiful valley under your feet on the Deck.
The hospitality was great! Honest I can not wait till i go back…………….
Thank you Craig, Tom and Orbit