Young moon

As I was getting set up tonight, I noticed a very thin crescent moon lurking low down in the west, and managed to grab this image of it. The moon was about 32 hours old at this point. Canon 400D on ED80.

Autoguiding’s working!

Well, at long last I think I’m finally getting the hang of this autoguiding lark! The picture below is of M44, the Beehive cluster. It’s a stack of 16 x 2min exposures taken with a Canon EOS400D at ISO800 through a 8″ Meade LX200R witha a Meade f/6.3 focal reducer; autoguiding was done using a Starlight Xpress Lodestar guider through an Equinox ED80 refractor. Image acquisition and processing was performed using Images Plus 3.0.
M44 isn’t a particularly interesting subject, but it’s big and it’s bright – good for practising on! While I type this, the same set up is imaging globular cluster M3 in Canes Venatici. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

Well, while M3 was being captured, the optics on both scopes started to dew up. I ended up with 10 x 2min images which were processed to give this image. It’s not as sharp as I’d like – more work on focusing required – but at least the guiding worked 🙂

Copernicus

Well, after a long break where both the weather and life got in the way of doing much astronomy, I got chance to go outside and have a play last night. This time of course, the Moon got in the way!!! Nevertheless, I took this shot of Copernicus (LX200R, ToUcam , Registax).

I also had a go at setting up and using the Starlight Xpress Lodestar autoguider that I recently bought. It’s certainly much more sensitive than the ToUcam for this purpose, but I still didn’t get the system tracking as I would have liked. More experimentation needed!

M35 and Autoguiding

Although we’ve had a few clear nights recently, I haven’t posted any pictures. That’s because I’ve been try to get autoguiding working properly on my system, but I’ve had a lot of problems! The first time I tried a couple of weeks back on M42 (see below) it worked fine, but never since. I won’t go into it all here, but after thinking it was working tonight, I set it going to image open cluster M35 in Gemini. Of course, as soon as I set it going, the guide camera lost the guide star! I ended up with this, which doesn’t look to bad when shrunk down, but the close up shows the degree of trailing I was getting 🙁

The faint smudge visible below and to the right of M35 is another open cluster, NGC 2158.


Equinox ED80, stack of 20 x 30s exposures, ISO800, Canon EOS 400D

Earthshine

I spent a very frustrating evening yesterday trying to get guiding working correctly. Guide Dog, which was fine a few nights ago, refused to do the job properly, and although I got PhD Guiding working OK, the results of the shots I got were rubbish!!

So here’s a quick shot of the moon, overexposed to make the earthshine visible. I always find it fascinating to be a able to see so much detail on the surface of an object that’s lit only by light reflected from the earth.

Saturn and the Flame Nebula

It’s a beautiful night outside, so here’s another go at Saturn. This was taken using just a TouCam through the LX200R, without a Barlow of any sort. I’ve found it difficult to get a good image with a 2x Barlow in place – I just tend to end up with a big fuzzy blob.

Never mind. I also tried to grab a bit of the Flame Nebula before Orion sank behind the trees at the bottom of the garden. Unfortunately there’s only about 15 minutes exposure, and it definitely needs more.

M42, the Orion Nebula

I finally got round to connecting up a dual scope set up – the 8″ LX200R and the Equinox ED80 side by side. This is a shot taken through the ED80 with an unmodified EOS 400D: 12 x 2min at ISO800, captured and processed with ImagesPlus 3, then tweaked in Adobe Lightroom to bring the colour out a bit more. The setup was guided using GuideDog with a ToUcam through the LX. I’m reasonably pleased with how this one came out for a first attempt at using guiding, and I would have done more if a thick layer of dew hadn’t suddenly formed on the LX!

Saturn in the mist

I had chance tonight for my first go of the season at Saturn. Up till now, the house has been getting in the way, so I’ve been biding my time… Although the evening started off fairly dark and clear, by the time I got everything set up it was starting to get a bit hazy, and I struggled to get anything like a decent image. This is the best I could come up with, so I’m looking forward to some dark, clear nights over the next couple of months to get something better!

8″ LX200R, ToUcam, captured with K3CCDTools, processed in Registax 4.

Clouds get in the way…

After a night of clear skies, but very strong winds, I decided to get up early to have a go at getting a shot of the conjunction between Venus and Jupiter. However, the weather decided not to play ball, and I ended up with a band of cloud along the southern horizon. All that was visible was the moon peeking out through the cloud layer.

Orion Nebula

Clear skies again tonight. This is shot taken with my little-used Atik 2C. The final image is a stack of 42 separate exposures of either 2, 5 or 10 seconds duration, taken through the Equinox ED80. The individual frames were then processed in Images Plus v3.
Not a great picture, but I guess it’s maybe not too bad for an 8 bit camera like the Atik.