astrophotography – Orion Sirius mount, unguided (september)

We had good weather in September – way better than what we had in June (pretty unexpected, isn’t it?).

Sep 21st is gone and now the night time is longer than day time. Although I actually prefer summer  opposed to winter, at least I get the option to observe the heavens earlier.

During the last 3 months, I continued my quest to learn and practice astrophotography. It’s a difficult hobby and takes a lot of patience.

We all see those awe inspiring pictures taken by Hubble or other spacecrafts. But we also know that it’s not an easy task to observe faint deep space objects from light polluted skies. Many of us are a bit disapointed when we look through a telescope and don’t see the colorful images realized by NASA. However, it’s a matter of expectations. Some people will still be impressed to see a far away galaxy with their own eyes. Observing a galaxy through a telescope means that you observs billions of stars as they looked like millions of years ago. Some other people will prefer colorful artist representations of galaxies, and spend their time in the front of the TV (in best case watching Discovery Channel or something similar).

For amateur astronomers, it’s a real challenge (and pleasure) to take pictures of the skies and share them. The fact is, we need to deal with very long exposure pictures. In order to avoid noise in the pictures, we need to stack multiple shots together. Also, the post-processing is really important, too. And finally and most importantly, we need to have good tracking (to compansate for the rather fast Earth rotation). It’s definetly not a “point and shoot” experience.

There are many books talking about astrophotography. But the consensus is that the mount is the key to get good astro-photographies, we need a good telescope mount.

I struggled for a while with an AltAz mount and got all kind of troubles (inacurate tracking, field rotation, mount thrown out of alignment, etc). It was probably a good learning experience but I eventually wanted to move on and save my time on the process of AP (astrophotography).

So, now, I’m using a EQ Orion Sirius mount and I’m pretty happy with it. Well, there are better mounts out there (supporting a heavier load, like Orion Atlas), but they cost more.

Without further ado, here are some pictures I took during the last 2 months (Orion Sirius mount, Canon t2i piggyback or prime focus, multiple shots stacked and processed later):

Andromeda Galaxy (M31)
Andromeda Galaxy (M31)

Andromeda galaxy is big. So I just shoot wide field (camera piggybacked on telescope – using cheap and old Sigma 75-300mm lens at 300mm). It’s a pleasure to image it during fall time.

I ended up taking a lot of shots of this target. Too bad I live in a light poluted location. Otherwise, I could’ve got even better results.

NGC884
NGC884
NGC869
NGC869
Dobule Cluster (NGC869 & NGC884)
Dobule Cluster (NGC869 & NGC884)

The double cluster in Perseus constellation. This was the first DSO (deep space object) I’ve seen with a telescope. I remember looking at it and not being really impressed. Well, I didn’t understand the theory about the clusters and what they represent. Eventually a few weeks later, open clusters were my favorite targets.

The images above show both clusters frames together and then individual close ups.

Triangulum Galaxy (M33)
Triangulum Galaxy (M33)

Triangulum galaxy is one of our neighbors. It’s not as famous as Andromeda galaxy, but it’s still close (only a few millions of light years away :)). This picture is done through the telescope. Opposed to Andromeda, M33 (Triangulum galaxy) is face on.

M34 open cluster
M34 open cluster
M35 open cluster
M35 open cluster
M37 open cluster
M37 open cluster
M38 open cluster
M38 open cluster

More open clusters. Which one do you like best?

M34 is in Perseus, M35 in Gemeni, M37 and M38 are in Auriga. M35, M37 and M38 are good beginner amateur astronomers targets. They are bright and relatively easy to find. Again, some of my favorites. Not too spectacular but quite beautiful.

M76 nebula
M76 nebula

M76 – Little Dumbbell nebula. It looks indeed like the “real” Dumbbell nebula and it’s indeed smaller 🙂

Great Orion Nebula (M42)
Great Orion Nebula (M42)

And finally Great Orion Nebula (M42).

The first picture (the back and white one – flipped right to left) is not recent. It was shot in March (and included in a previous post). It’s here to see my progress – a kind of before and after. Well, I hope you agree with me that I improved a bit 🙂 What do you think? Don’t be shy and leave me some comments…

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Ed says:

    It looks like you’re really getting there. Having a good mount is really key to good imaging, but after that is guiding. If you can afford to get the equipment to have your images autoguided, it allows you to take 5-10 minute (or more) exposures with pinpoint stars. It’s just such a different world than imaging unguided. I remember spending an hour doing drift alignment only to fail, but now that I autoguide, I just need “good enough” alignment – not perfect. I’d make autoguiding your next goal. By the way, what scope are you using when imaging?

    Anyway, great job and keep up the good work!

    1. ciprianb says:

      Thanks, Ed.
      I use a Nexstar 6SE OTA.
      I agree about autoguiding. I’ve tested it in the past and got good results (used Meade DSI II camera as guider and got some piggyback shots). But I need to find a way (probably some rings) to attach my refractor (a Meade 2080) to the main OTA (and shoot prime focus).
      Meanwhile, I still have room for improvement in the “unguided” configuration. I finally got some permanent marks in the ground to get the mount every time in the same position, got my polar scope aligned, performed my first drift alignment (in aprox 10 minutes) and balanced properly the mount…

  2. Wow! what an idea ! What a concept ! Beautiful .. Amazing …

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