One night 3 weeks ago my CCD camera produced a dud frame. Just noise. But the rest of the night’s observations went normally.
The following night it was all noise. Yes, some stars could be seen, but mostly it was ugly. I tried again the following night, in the hope the problem might clear with a restart. Nope.
Emails to the SBIG service man, Bill Lynch, were discouraging. The ST-8XME is obsolete and spare parts are virtually non-existent. The last time I sent it back for repair Bill had said the board he put in was the last one he had. SBIG also do a ‘sensor transplant‘ service, moving a used sensor (the most expensive bit of a camera) to a new body. But even the body that my old sensor could be moved to is already obsolete.
So I have to accept that my camera is dead. It is fitting though that I give it a name. PEST will now have a succession of cameras and I will need to distinguish between them. So Audacious Ant it is. These pests (yes, that’s the link) besiege the house in summer and are persistent in the face of repeated poisonings. And this camera has been audacious, achieving things I had not thought possible. Lots of science has been done with it – 60+ planets and 80+ papers.
PEST has to keep going, and in response to my call for help Craig Bowers (Perth Observatory) has loaned me his ST-8XME. An identical camera so there has been minimal disruption – thanks Craig! Welcome the Bowers Beetle!
In the longer term, a member of the TESS collaboration has offered me the long term loan of an ST-10XME. That camera is being checked out at the moment. It will have to be shipped from the US, so it may take some time.
In parallel, I am investigating the suitability of CMOS cameras for photometry. Both ON Semiconductor and Sony have discontinued CCD manufacture so it is clear the technology baton has been passed. But although CMOS is now common in astrophotography, there is still little reported experience for high precision photometry.
I will be documenting these investigations as I go along…