Altair Hypercam 183C First Light

Recently an option came up to purchase the Altair Hypercam 183C Pro camera at a bargain price (NOT the price in the link, that’s information only.) Still massively out of my price range I sold my ZWO ASI183MC to fund it (which had the added benefit of leaving me a little left over as well.)

Better than the clouds we usually get with an astro purchase!

So it was not a small amount of excitement when the package arrived. This is very much an upgrade as far as cameras are concerned over what I previously had, even though it’s the same sensor. The difference? It’s fan cooled. The other difference is that this one comes with built in UV-IR blocking which results in smaller, less bloated stars, something I’ve always struggled with.

Why go with something that’s fan cooled over one that isn’t? The answer is simple – noise. As astrophotographers we usually take long exposures and this brings in a lot of thermal noise to the images. The longer the image, the more noise. Introducing fan cooling mitigates that noise. It doesn’t totally get rid of it, but it helps. It also makes the actual processing easier to carry out as well.

First Light

Thankfully, the day after it arrived, the usually temperamental UK weather gods decided to cut me a break and grant me a full night’s imaging, so I was able to get 5 hours in dual narrowband on NGC 281, the Pacman Nebula in Cassiopeia.

Loving the purple! Kinda looks like the Borg with all those cables though.

It almost didn’t happen though. As soon as the mount started to slew the Dec axis went off the rails and decided it didn’t want to move. It was an easily traceable issue though. I have to say that removing the Dec securing bolt and replacing it and then remeshing the gears and solving the backlash in the dark ISN’T fun, but it’s sometimes what we need to do. I’m guessing the bolt worked loose from all the transporting my rig about that I do.

The other issue was that I forgot to adjust for a new unity gain, leaving it set to the 111/10 of the ASI183MC I previously had. Lesson learned, I set it the following morning to 398/70 and have to say that the incoming images looked better on the second night, although the dynamic range from the first night was pretty decent.

Stacked in Astropixel Processor, just extracting the hydrogen and oxygen bandwidths, I then used the Combine RGB tool and used the oxygen bandwidth for the sulphur as well to create a faux SHO palette image. I also had a crack at using the workflow that Astrobloke goes through in this video, which I must say I do much prefer over previous workflows I’ve attempted. I then brought the final iteration into Lightroom and Photoshop for final adjustments.

In all I obtained 7 hours in total across two nights using this camera and filter, and I’m looking forward to getting a lot more time in with it. Thanks for reading, and I’ll leave you with my final first light on the Pacman Nebula. Clear skies all.

NGC 281 Pacman Nebula. 7hrs with the Altair Hypercam 183C

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