Author Archives: Ed Mann

Consolation Prize??


After finding out the other day that my ZWO 174 camera doesn’t seem to work anymore, I decided to hang my Canon EOD 450D onto the back of my 8″ Celestron SCT to grab some snaps of Orion while the weather was good (yes, that day really did happen!!)


I was quite pleased with this one although I can’t remember how to get a resizable image onto the blog


My camera’s gone back to 365 Astronomy and they are sending it back to ZWO for replacement (I hope)



All Sky Camera update – Long exposure/ Frame integration

Hi Folks

I’ve been experimenting with the All Sky camera setup to try and extend the total exposure time for an exposure. One limiting factor is the camera firmware which limits exposure to 1 second.

The way that iSpy gets the images from the camera is using a combination of RTSP (Real Time Streaming Protocol). The command line for that is the funny string of characters you entered when first setting up the camera (rtsp://admin:@

This is then passed into iSpy via FFMPEG software, which is basically a communications interface. Here’s where I’ve made a discovery. I can change the command line to allow frame integration of 2,4 or 16 frames i.e. 2s, 4s, 16s exposure.

I still have a little more playing about to do before I release the command line but it looks promising. The FFMPEG documentation is a nightmare but it’s incredibly powerful

Watch this space……………….

Be afraid, be very afraid!!! – Baader 8-24 Zoom lens stripdown

Hi folks

Some of you may remember that I picked up a Baader 8-24 zoom lens from Astrofest a couple of years ago for £60. It was complete but the mechanism was a bit crunchy and sticking. Eventually it packed up completely. This left me with two choices, abandon it, or to attempt a very complicated and almost impossible rebuild.

Anyone who knows me would guess that I went for the second option!! So, heart in mouth, I went for it

I would immediately stress that, unless you are very technical, or completely mad (like me), **** DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS ****. There are lots of tiny screws, lenses and spacers and plenty of grease.

The problem I found was that there are three rollers/ guides that run in a helical groove. See the screwhead to the left of the 20 in the first picture. If you look at the second picture you can see there is no roller. The screw of that, and the third roller , had sheared. These screws are tiny M1.8 x 4mm screws.

This is where the fun part/ insanity started, as I had to either extract the sheared screws or drill them out with a 1.3mm drill. It wasn’t possible to extract them so I had do some very nervous and careful drilling. This also involved a complete stripdown to clean everything. I mentioned plenty of grease … it was everywhere!!!

I gave everything a good clean and (eventually) got it all back together, and IT WORKED!! Yayyyy . I now have two working zoom lenses

Manual HDR post-processing of astro images

HI Folks,

At IAS this year, Paddy Gilliand gave a fantastic talk on picture processing. He showed an example where the original image looks virtually washed out. By careful splitting of the image into different exposures, he managed to recreate something that I think is pretty damn good.

Look at the section on Manual HDR. It looks like a good process, and very effective. The link to the slides is below:-

IAS 2017 V1.2


RAG First informal Star Party 23-25th September 2017

Hi Folks

Last weekend, Dave Jones, Pete Simkins, Paul Simkin and I went to the Brow Farm campsite near Church Stretton to try out an informal Star Weekend. Heather and Doreen were also there for the Friday night. The second photo shows the view from SE to SW  from the higher part of the site

Pete and Paul arrived on Thursday and had quite a good night’s observing. Unfortunately the rest of the weekend was pretty cloudy and rained some of the time. At least my tent didn’t leak this time as it did at Solarsphere.

Saturday brightened up quite a bit and we all got out our solar setups for a while, until hazy cloud made us give up again. At least we all saw a very nice sunspot for a while

On the Friday night, we all met up with Roy and Peter from the Shropshire Astronomy Society and all had a very pleasant meal and a few pints at the local pub. They invited us to go and see a talk by Pete Williamson at their meeting on Saturday night. It was a very interesting evening and the talk was excellent

Brow Farm is potentially a very good venue with minimal light pollution. There is a flat area with electric hook-ups and a hillside with 3 camping pods. There is also a separate field that is usually used by parties. If we wanted to set up a larger gathering it would be ideal as it is flat and has good visibility all round. It also has an empty caravan that could potentially be used as a presentation room/ meeting place if the owner allowed it

The campsite is less than an hour and a half from most of the RAG members and is very cheap, at £6 per head (plus £5 for electric if required) per night

Great weekend in all and I thoroughly enjoyed it