Here are 3 images from last night and a cropped enlarged one as well along with an image of the current configuration of Temple 28. After a meeting which was abruptly ended by a house burning a block away and lots of police and firemen milling around I got home to start the scope. The ST-8E is heavy enough (3.3 pounds) that you have to have a spring on it so the Moonlite can move it into focus against gravity. Got the spring installed and thought it would be good.
However, the real test last night was plate solving. It worked! CCDCommander slewed to each target and Maxim DL 5 plate solved without a hitch. Not quite in the center of the frame but close. This discrepancy is probably caused by the incomplete T-Point model. I just centered 6 bright stars in 6 different parts of the sky on the CCD and that is the T-Point model. Since a good model usually has to have 30-100 or more actual plate solved points this accuracy is pretty remarkable with just 6!
You can see in the images that the focus went soft. Turns out the heavy cabling to the camera was causing a bind to the focuser. I attached the cables to the back of the tube assembly by a cable tie so that the tube itself will bear the weight. This eliminated the bind in the focuser and fixed a potential issue with increased drag due to cold in the winter months. Because of the scopes balance point the cables are near that pivot point, thus reducing drag caused by the lever effect. This should also take care of the cables causing a focus shift by pulling down on the camera and straining the focuser. . Moonlite Focusers are good quality so I knew it probably wasn’t a mechanical flaw.
The conditions were atrocious! It was clear, but beset with high thin clouds and upper level high winds all night. Moon and bright stars had halo’s around them. The M 109 image was 50X120 seconds in Sloan g filter. This made the haze even worse but you needed the extra time to get through the thin clouds. Trade off! The Cluster is 30×60 seconds in Sloan g. M 57 really has a soft focus but still shows some detail. It is 40×60 seconds in Sloan g and it looks like the clouds cleared a bit by then.
Overall I am pleased! All of these images would have yielded a good enough signal to noise ratio to do some photometry, though I would have not attempted any really dim stars. It is supposed to cloud over with a chance of rain Saturday and Sunday but at least no snow is predicted. Will work on auto-focus next so that I can get Temple 28 up and running then turn my attention to Temple 20 (8″ LX200) and bring it up to speed!