ISS-TRACKING with Emmanuel Rietsch tracking system                  2012



2014 2013 2012 INFOS & SETUPS


Catching a plane coming from about the same direction as the forecasted ISS pass, is a good way to adjust main scope focus
especially when it is rather early and stars are not yet visible ! Right click on image to download part of the original AVI...
This shows also that the Canon 1100D is interesting with this kind of setup : ISO 3200-6400 allows to work at exposures
1/1600s - 1/2000s which freezes nicely the target.


FIRST EXPERIENCE of the system - August 19, 2012
Note: as for everything there is a learning curve, for the results shown, remember that I am just a newby user of this tracking system !

Pass from Calsky (time is always Winter time is account created during Winter)

Important infos for the system :
Culmination ... az: 8.5 h: 52.7 then
- the mount base (a bit loose on the tripod) is rotated az +180 clockwise from original polar direction (here about 190°).
- the DEC axis is set to 90°-h (here 37°).

This done, setting DEC 90° on the mount, when moving in AD, the scope points to the planned ISS trajectory ! *
* If the ISS does not appear in ligne with the scope due to approximate forecast, it should remain possible to rotate the mount live to correct ... and this happened during the pass about 15° northwards !

ISS aiming :
VS is parametered and force to catch (as soon as the ISS enters anywhere in the FOV, it will start to track)
I have used what I have now at hand, a simple red spot ...
Waiting for a XBOX-360 USB paddle, as soon as I saw the ISS, I rotated the mount as said above, then with the brake loose, aimed with the red spot towards the ISS.
As soon as I was close the PC said Tzooing! and I fasten the mount's brakes. BTW there is no necessity to look at VS window !

ISS Tracking :
Just one word : fantastic !

ISS acquisition :
Here too (waiting for a DMK41 moded into a Skynix2) I used my Canon 40D at high ISO and recorded the Liveview stream with Eosmovrec software from Chernov Aleksey on a second portable PC for easiness. Should soon be replaced for color by a DBK and / or movie capable Canon 1100D.
The unmoded (for the time being ... miror blocking as in the Edge C8 versions is better) Orange C8 was equipped with a 2.5 Powermate (resulting FL = 5m).

Results :

All the path was correctly tracked !!!

The results are what you can expect with no experience at all ! The exposures where overexposed (except for the panels), too long, and focus was not very good as done by hand then moreover shaking the mount ... I will add a focusing motor (in stock) asap.

Now a couple of original cropped pictures selected from the ~3000 frames from near start to near end (roof !) of pass ...

More interesting here is part of the acquired movie as it was recorded (5m FL, near culmination, also not during manual focusing!, all the frames shown none deleted) to see the quality of tracking and the RegiStax6 aligned version :

in .MOV Original Aligned in DIVX AVIOriginal Aligned

Missed but instructing August 22-23, 2012 passes...
I will have to wait until mid-September (morning passes) or mid October (evening passes) for the ISS to reappear at night in my french location.

Too difficult to catch this South pass without padlle (I will have the XB360 one soon)... I had to pass my arm above the mount to try to reach the brakes and it was way too late at each attempt. I did not know that I could turn 180° the side of those beforehand by loosing a few screws ! Anyhow next and last one until a month is North again but because the Sun elevation is only -6° it is likely that I will not see the ISS at all ...

As there were menacing clouds I did not setup things ... nevertheless finally the sky was mostly clear and I saw that even with an élévation of the Sun of -6° only, I would have been able to catch this long South pass easily ... Well, too bad !

Missed pass Fev 17, 2013 ...

17 Feb Mag -2.8 20:00:52 10° WNW 20:04:08 49° N 20:04:33 46° NNE
No practice from a few monthes ! Setup to renew & many practical details forgotten...

ISS aiming :

ISS northern pass !
VS is parametered normally ready to catch when ISS centered with red spot ...
As soon as I saw the ISS, I had to rotate a bit mount.
Start with XBOX-360 USB paddle.

ISS Tracking :
DMK31. Exp 0.005s Gain max 30fps / No INV DEC or AD checked. Foc: 180mm.
tracking was just fine.

ISS acquisition :
color DBKAU618AS
Focusing on Jupiter satellites
The unmoded Orange C8 was equipped with a 1.6x barlow (resulting FL = 3.6m).
30fps, BY8 color, Gain Max (1023), 0.0014s exposure (tried up to 0.0054s when seeing nothing ... NOTE : Jupiter Mag -1.97 was enough exposed @0.01s), 480s total duration (that was Ok doing 3 1GB AVIs),
ISS did not appear in the recording camera ... the reason I guess wrong final centering on the main optic FOV probably because I was unable to track a small star at West just before ISS pass
(centering was done before on jupiter very high near meridian and must have changed sligthly).
To be verified too ... perfect collimation facing West & due presence ?
Doing the centering for tomorrow pass and leaving averything in place ...


First ALT-AZ ISS Tracking experiments !

Working in equatorial with low passes of the ISS or planes is very difficult because you have to tilt a lot the tripod (up to 35° !!) which is all but secure ... Well you can attach a battery as shown earlier but ...
ALTAZ is the solution!
Well the EQ-G is not usable readily except if you consider AD to be change into DEC and DEC into AD !
I have done it as shown below ...

Inversed AD / DEC
Leveled !

Dial setting (not very accurate position !)
See how to avoid counterweight problems with tripod
Aspect of final pseudo AltAz setup

I works no bad even if the software is not yet optimized for this as the tracking uses the small size of the sensor

Flip Mirror setup (20130616)

Planes tracking tests in kind of Altaz mode
Click on picture below to see a lot of planes in flight pictures and AVIs !
Be aware that I used Xvid compression and that the quality of the original movies is much better ...

Morning Pass Sep. 21, 2012 04:UT (EQ-G in AltAz mode)
Culmination : SSE h=71° Mag -3.3
Simple animation (no frame selection) :

Best quality ...
MOV format : Full Pass / 2D / 3D-ANA / 3D-X / 3D-Par /
DIVX format : Full Pass / 2D / 3D-ANA / 3D-X / 3D-Par /

ISS aiming :
No special preparation of the mount in this mode :)
As soon as I saw the ISS, I rotated the mount as said above, then with the brake slightly unthighten, aimed with the red spot towards the ISS.
Catching is started with the XBox 360 handle

ISS Tracking :
Celestron finder (~200mm focal length)

Videos Sky Pro
30 fps, exp : 5ms Gain 100%
Unattended under clear skies !
All the path until the roof of the house was nicely tracked and kept the ISS image inside the small chip of the acquisition camera !!!

ISS acquisition :
Orange C8, AC555 1.6x Magni-Max (resulting FL = 3.2m).
DMK21AF04.AS moded ALA618 (on another PC) + N°12 Yellow filter
60 fps 8bits Exp 0.0007s (1/1400s) Gain 800
Started 1 min in advance ! Focus adjusted on a star before the pass.

Result & post-processing :
AVI is open in VirtualDub. Black parts before and after are removed and gamma is increased. Saved uncompressed.
RegiStax5 to select best frames at start showing the nicest part of the pass, here showing many best frames starting at 1300.
47 frames selected in VD are saved after gamma 1.3 in a new AVI

RegiStax6 is then use to make the image shown above ...

Animations :
The AVI of the pass is saved with VD in 30 frm segments (2692 frm --> 89 segments). RegiStax6 is used in batch mode to make 1 PNG of each 30 frm AVI and apply Wavelets.
VD then make a final AVI from those PNGs.
3D simulation is done in StereoMovie Maker by translating the second copy of 3 frames.


Morning Pass Sep. 30, 2012 04:47UT (EQ-G in AltAz mode)

The ISS and Jupiter a few moments before (04:39) and with same optics

ISS aiming & tracking : same as above
ISS acquisition :
Orange C8, Meade Serie 4000 Barlow lens (resulting FL = 4m).
DMK21AF04.AS moded ALA618 (on another PC) + N°12 Yellow filter
60 fps 8bits Exp 0.0005s (1/2000s) Gain 800
Started 1 min in advance ! Focus adjusted on Io (see it at right of Jupiter, diam ~= 43") before the pass.
Result & post-processing :
RegiStax6 on less than 50 frames, drizzle 2x.

Note : Focusing on Jupiter (satellite) was a very very bad idea ! Jupiter was high in the SE sky and I was tempted - as a planetary fan - to image it but
when I latter moved towards SW to wait for the ISS , the mirror flopped and I was (I should have) not aware of that :(
I saw at once that something was not good at all but as the acquisition PC is a few meter from the scope*, I could not adjust focus correctly.
I then only got a few frames in rather good focus during my slowly focusing attempts ...

* that is because FTTB I have only a FW acquisition camera which is supported only by my desktop PC ...

Testing solar HAlpha 04h47UT (EQ-G in AltAz mode)

Evening Pass Oct 21, 2012 18:55UT (EQ-G in AltAz mode)

Rather short because quick disparition of the ISS in the Earth shadow...
ISS aiming & tracking : same as above. Sky very foggy as Arcturus all but visible with the naked eye ...
ISS acquisition :
To take into account the sky conditions :
Orange C8, AC555 1.6x Magni-Max (resulting FL = 3.2m).
DMK21AF04.AS moded ALA618 (on another PC)
60 fps 8bits Exp 0.001s (1/1000s) Gain maxi
Started 1 min in advance ! Focus adjusted on Arcturus. Use of a JMI !
RegiStax6 (CG mode) + VirtualDub

This pass was caracterized by the visibility for a rather long time of a very bright and tiny dot in the center of the ISS as shown below !

Evening Pass Oct 23, 2012 18:50UT (EQ-G in AltAz mode)

Half of sky ... Max magnitude -2.7 (this is a problem. Mag to small to give good frames. Mag-3 min needed at this FL)
ISS aiming & tracking : same as above. Sky clear. Good tracking.
ISS acquisition :
sky conditions : Very bad seeing
Orange C8, Meade Apo Barlow 2X (resulting FL = 4m).
DMK21AF04.AS moded ALA618 (on another PC)
60 fps 8bits Exp 0.0021s (1/500s) Gain 804
Focus adjusted on Arcturus. Use of a JMI !
RegiStax6 (CG mode) + VirtualDub
(3x 100frm )