I don't have a permanent setup so I have to assemble my equipment each time I want to image. This includes balancing the telescopes in RA and Dec although I like to maintain a slight imbalance in the RA axis to keep the gears engaged. The cables are all connected and the dew heaters switched on.
CCDSoft and PHD2 are activated. CCDSoft connects to the SBIG camera, filter wheel and Lakeside focuser. The CCD operating temperature is chosen and the set-point cooling switched on. PHD2 connects to the QHY5.
Precise Polar Alignment
Unfortunately the EM-200 has developed a significant amount of declination backlash over the last few years which has manifested as poor declination guide corrections in PHD. Fortunately it has never really affected the imaging itself as I rarely have to discard subframes. I have recently started using PHD2 autoguiding software that has a couple of very useful features; Align assist and guiding assistant. The Align assist functionality has enabled me to achieve <1 arc min polar alignment which has resulted in better declination guiding due to a reduced number of corrections needed. I have also developed some doubts about the accuracy of the EM-200 polar scope due to the adjustments I have needed to make during the Align Assist process.
To locate the deep-sky target for imaging I move the telescope manually to a named star in close proximity. I then use the EM-200 setting circles to locate the target object using the listed coordinates. A test shot binned 3x3 helps to centre the target in preparation for imaging. Once this is complete the mount clamps are locked tight and the handset set to guide speed. Cables are checked for potential tangles and snags.
Once the target is framed appropriately I use the @Focus functionality of CCDSoft to focus the CCD. This is done each time a filter is changed, if I notice a significant temperature change through the evening, or if I notice a change in the appearance of the subframes.
A guidestar is selected and the PHD2 calibration performed. Guiding then proceeds.
Once I note that the autoguiding is stable (1-2 mins) I ensure that all necessary parameters are set and destination folders selected for the saved images. I very often then use Teamviewer to monitor and adjust the activities from inside the house.
Image Reduction and Calibration
All subframes are reduced and calibrated using Bias frames, flats and Darks. They are checked prior to aligning and combining
Stacked/combined images are then converted to 16 bit TIFF files using FITS Liberator Photoshop can then be used to process as needed.