Well, I am finally home after a week+ down in the Florida Keys for the annual Winter Star Party. This was my 13th consecutive WSP and it's one of my favorite yearly events. Although I've worked for Software Bisque since the very first one, it was originally actually a week of vacation time (I do actually enjoy this stuff), and slowly as I evolved as an imager it became more and more of a work week - but man, what a work week it is! This year too I was an invited speaker and gave a talk on choosing a camera for astrophotography. I was asked for a "real" talk, not a Bisque commercial, so I picked this topic since I've worked with so many cameras working on many of the camera plug-ins. I'll get the slides posted sometime this week, and you can email me off forum if you want a link to them.
This year I had to fly solo as Steve Bisque was too tied up to make it down (the cost in attending these things is considerable... not just in $$'s, but in time away from "work"). He's pressing forward on two important projects that I'm not going to talk about here, but they needed his attention. I did fine though on my own, and actually getting everything down and setup was exciting and didn't seem like work... at least not until it came time to pack everything up and head home. There is still a UHaul cargo van in my drive way that needs to be unloaded as I type this.
I was able to showcase all three of our Paramount Models, from the MyT up to the ME II. I talked to a lot of people all week, and did some on-site tech support and tutorials. One new friend/customer came and watched the entire workflow from setting up the MyT, alignment, calibration of a guider, and finally an imaging run. He's putting in his order for a MyT now. As a long time college teacher (outside job), I enjoy this aspect of imaging too. I have my own dark sky site when I need "me" time, but star parties are all about reaching and talking to customers and fellow imaging enthusiasts.
The weather was among the worst for the star party I recall. Monday night I got just two hours in with a longer focal length scope, and it was either cloudy, raining, or WINDY the rest of the week. With the wind came poor seeing (stability of the atmosphere, not clarity or transparency as some think), and the short focal lengths ruled the night. The night before the imaging contest entries were due, it was clear and windy, but the MyT with an 80mm refractor (Sky-Watcher 80mm Esprit) did exceptionally well all night long. The later half of the night, the longer focal length Veloce even got some great data). I was up all night, processing in a rush outside the campground in the back of the van, while the next two hour set of subs on another object was being collected.
I was very happy with the performance of the 80mm Sky-Watcher on the MyT (400mm focal length), and I used the new Chroma LoGlow light pollution filter to extend my imaging time as objects tend to descend into some of the neighboring light domes rather quickly. I had high hopes for my Witchhead Nebula in the imaging contest, but as it turns out, the first place winner in Deep Sky was my (ONLY) two hour shot of Sharpless 308 with the Veloce on the MX+. F/3 on a Paramount is a dream to image with, and if your mobile you can get a lot of good data very quickly, in one night, or in this case in just a couple hours before the clouds moved in for the rest of the night.
A lot of people coming by were talking about how the mounts held up in the wind. It's true, a good mount helps a lot, but the bigger instruments still flex against the versa-plate itself... plus the seeing just doesn't tolerate long focal lengths. Having all three mounts (and four optics) to choose from really allowed me to optimize my imaging goals each night. I have to say, the MyT is by far my favorite of the three mounts. It's light and easy to transport and setup, and it can handle my smallest short imaging trains, as well as my favorite imager, the larger 8" Veloce RH-200 (which is surprisingly heavy), or the 150mm refractor I have on loan from Sky-Watcher (quite a sight to see this tiny mount with that big thing riding on it).
In March I'm going to take a "real" vacation with the family and go to Alaska to shoot the Aurora (hopefully), so the next big event for me/us will be NEAF/NEAIC April 16-19th and Steve will definitely be there as well. I also really enjoy this event... and usually spend too much money on the show floor! See you there!
Alright now... I guess that van isn't going to unload itself.
02-23-2015 8:23 AM