Saw two good talks Monday. Kevin Quin gave a talk on two software tools for planetary imaging, Fire Capture and Autostakkert. He covered the nitty gritty details of settings, workflow, and approach for both programs. I’m excited about Autostakkert, because it appears to be far easier to use than Registax (which I have always found incomprehensibly complicated).
Then Ken Tatum gave a talk on planning and preparing for astro imaging. It was targeted towards beginners or less experienced astrophotographers, but there were many good tips. His main emphasis was on how to manage your time. Finding ways to cut down how long it takes to do a task will make you more successful. Take notes, and create a list of stuff to pack, as well as your workflow sequence (what you need to do, and in what order). If you create a reliable, repeatable packing and workflow sequence, you’ll produce more reliable results.
If you can use a CCD with regulated cooling, you can dispense with taking darks at night, you can just create a darks library and literally double your imaging time. He also suggests buying a cheap laptop dedicated to imaging, so you don’t have to worry about software compatibility or hard drive space. Most of the software works best on Windows 7 64 bit, while there is much less available for Mac OS X. Also, you won’t cry if your $400 laptop gets ruined by dew, but you would if it were your $2000 MacBook.
Figure out an efficient way to pack all your stuff, to decrease the likelihood you’ll forget something. And for stuff that isn’t fragile or valuable (counter weights, observing table and chair, etc.), just leave them in your car all the time. Some people even leave the big 12V batteries in the car.
The CSC indicated skies were supposed to clear around 6 pm, so after Ken’s talk, I setup my batteries to charge. Clouds actually started clearing around 4:30, so I even got a little bit of solar observing in before dinner. After dinner, the skies just kept getting clearer, and at the zenith, the sky is a nice deep blue right now. Looks like it going to be an awesome night!