ATM & other do it yourself projects

Ha Solar Observing – Quark First Light 17/6/17

Have been umming and ahing for months (years!) over one of these Hydrogen Alpha ‘eyepieces’… Andy has been saying I should get one as well for ages…. but I was put off by the increasing price (they’ve gone from £650 at launch to £1099 now) and the reports of quality control issues and the response from the manufacturers to sort the problems… Whilst I’m sure there are issues, it doesn’t take many to make a lot of noise on the web…

So, when one came up on AB&S just over a week ago, including a 32mm Televue Plossl eyepiece I decided to take the plunge (despite the decent price giving me slight worries that something may be amiss).

I’d made contact with the seller in the week, exchanged contact details and all appeared OK – he sounded like a decent chap. He duly delivered it by hand on the Friday evening and we spent an hour having an ‘astro’ chat over a cuppa!

It seems that he just could “not get on with the Quark” (perhaps he thought it wasn’t a ‘good’ one, hence the inclusion of the eyepiece..?) In hindsight, I wonder if the actual issue was his scope – a Celestron 102ST, or more likely the focuser not being ‘true’. It wouldn’t take much droop for the incoming light to loose its parallelism and make the Quark go off-band…?

Anyway, surprise, surprise the wife was away over the weekend AND Saturday was clear – perhaps ‘new equipment syndrome’ doesn’t affect solar gear!?

Looking at the various ‘Solar Imaging/Observing’ threads on the forums you get better views first or last thing in the day… by the time though I’d done my chores, finished the Club’s Solargraphs and set the scope up, it was lunchtime (I’d even got up early just so I could make a new sun-shield for the scope – where does the time go?!)

With some trepidation I placed the Quark in the 2″ Televue Everbright diagonal (fitted with a 2″ extension tube sitting inside the focuser end and a Baader 2″ UV/IR cut filter) and waited for the Quark to come up to temperature before taking a peak…

No full disk solar views here (as expected – done the homework you see)!

With the Quark’s inbuilt Barlow, the 816mm f/8 Takahashi TSA-102s is effectively running at F/32 and 3264mm focal length (Daystar recommend between f/27-32 for the best performance). The Televue 32mm Plossl included in the sale giving a hefty 102x mag.

Thankfully the Quark appears to be a good one with a fairly tight bandpass (Angstrom). No apparent ‘sweet spot’ – just an evenly illuminated and focused view across the field, no ‘banding’ either… loads of surface detail – boiling in and out of focus.

The Quark came initially from The Widescreen Centre who had stuck a note to the box: “Dimmer image, good prominence views and EXCELLENT surface details. Would be good for imaging with CCD.”

Once that was out of the way I took a picture with the iPhone6 held up to the eyepiece (which I’ve always found REALLY difficult to do), to send to Andy (who was coming over for an afternoon of solar observing/imaging with his Equinox 80 and Quark).

Then we **enjoyed a good few hours observing, trying out some different eyepieces (Andy’s 17mm Vixen is too much for my set-up at 192x), experimenting with our DMK cameras and I got the sketch pad out as well.

**Plus having to help Andy sort his usual issues – looking for the correct size Allen key to tighten his scope to it’s mounting(!), finding the Baader solar film so he could make a filter for his ‘standard finder’, trying to rub the scratch off the back door he kindly added, etc, etc !     😉

Can you spot his helper…?

No, the guinea pig isn’t real !


Very pleased with the purchase and I think that really does complete the astro purchases…well the ‘big’ ones anyway…

Already purchased this morning a S/H 40mm Televue Plossl for a less magnified view when conditions don’t allow more (81x) and now looking for a 25mm TV Plossl (130x) to complete the solar set-up!

Even better, it gives the old Tak refractor a new purpose after it had become somewhat redundant after importing the TEC140 ED APO. It becomes the ‘solar scope’ with the Quark for Ha and white light views with the Baader Cool Ceramic Herschel Wedge.


Images taken over the space of 3-4 minutes with iPhone6


Sketches: white pencil on black art card. All with 32mm Plossl @ 102x

Prominence – only a single frame from a (second hand) old ‘Firewire’ DMK41 (it’s first light as well), captured at 2.41pm – the same one as that drawn first at 2pm above. Controlled via OACapture on my 2016/17 MacBook Pro.

‘Controlled’ in the loosest of terms(!)’, no idea what I was really doing with webcam imaging and trying to MANUALLY guide the mount at f/32… perhaps one day I’ll get the hand tracking control unit from the States that was promised 2+ years ago….  ;-(






Settings for Andy’s All Sky Camera 16/6/2017

For future reference for myself and also as a reference for others, the settings on my All Sky Camera can be accessed via links below. This is the camera I build at Ed Mann’s workshop. I have also included again another copy of Ed’s original instructions from which these settings were ascertained for my Dell Precision M4800 laptop and Dell Precision M6800 laptops – using the same All Sky Camera the settings are the same on both laptops. I am using VLC media player to play back recordings.


Settings on iSpy 64 on Dell Precision M6800 160617 (PDF version)

Settings on iSpy 64 on Dell Precision M6800 160617 (Word version)

Web settings for All Sky Camera 160617 (PDF version)

All-Sky-Camera-workshop-v2 (Powerpoint version)


iSpy software – Very useful tips

  1. Look at the iSpy help pages – they are very comprehensive and helpful
  2. If you are using a mouse with the centre roller (most of them are like this now), when the mouse is on the main camera screen, you can use the centre roller to zoom in and out. It zooms the picture AT THE POINT where the cursor is. Try it – you’ll see what I mean. This is very handy for focusing
  3. To get into the camera settings URL in your browser there are two ways:-
    1. Right click on the main camera screen and select the first option Open Web Interface
    2. Open your browser and type in the URL (assuming you haven’t changed the default IP address)
  4. At the bottom of the main iSpy screen, cliick on Performance Tips to get some very useful info about how to reduce the CPU loading and probably speed things up. This includes a major step like changing the video file type from MP4 to AVI on the Recording tab under Profile
  5. When I am adjusting  the camera settings, I reduce the size ot the camera settings screen to about half of the screen and then you can see iSpy behind it to see the effect of your changes

More to follow……



All Sky Camera information

HI Folks

Andy has created a new category for all All Sky Camera information under Equipment for astronomy – All Sky camera

As you have probably from the workshops, we are only scratching the surface of the ablilities of both the the iSpy software and the camera modules. I still have have a load of information and helpful tips to pass on, so over the next few days I’ll be adding more blogs in that category.

It’s probably worth checking what’s there




Power options for All Sky Cameras made in Ed Mann’s workshops

We have found that some 12 volt power supplies do not work well with these cameras. Lead-acid and lithium-ion 12 volt batteries do work well (central positive). The following power supplies also work – Damian has had success with ZOZO™Universal 12W 3V 4.5V 5V…

Also the following Maplin power supply works well