James Paulson's roll off roof observatory at the Sunridge Observatory site, taken in the summer of 1986, housing a 10 inch f/5 Cave Astrola Newtonian reflector telescope

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nights Like Tonight

I've waited all week for this evening, knowing that my clear sky clock was blue through and through. The moon and weather just right, I took the scope out at 4PM. I installed a battery in my homemade powertank, put my mount on the marks, powered it up, did a reset, calibration and train drives, mounted the DSLR piggyback, focused it on Jupiter using the live view, and set out with a pad of paper to do some imaging and viewing. I prepped a pot of chili in the crockpot (good warm up food), brewed a pot of coffee, took the heating pad and a deck chair outside, and at dark I ran my alignment routines and got busy grabbing images.

The first image (above) is M31, shot with 10 lights at 2 minutes, 10 darks, and using a 55mm focal length at f/5.6 ISO 800 - I cropped and resized this image to obtain the best looking scale I could, and did some minimal processing using the Digital Photo Professional software included with the Canon XS.

The second image is the Double Cluster in Perseus shot with all the same information as above, cropped slightly and resized for posting purposes.

Finally I shot a sequence of photos of the Pleiades, again 20 minutes total exposure at f/5.6, 55mm, and I am completely shocked to see that it captured some of the region's blue nebulosity. This is one object that I will return to later and obtain much more frames just to see what I can do with it on a stock camera lens. Simply amazing to me.

It was really neat to sit back and watch it all work, scope performing flawlessly, a mix of viewing and imaging, all the electronics in action, everything doing well as planned, the perfect harmony of technology and beauty in action. I am so pleased with the way this all works and it's not an accident, it is exactly what I wanted and demonstrates the results of my grand plan. I refuse to become equipment laden and top heavy. I know what I like, I know what I don't want, and often simplicity and functionality trump everything, especially on a cold evening of astronomy. It has all come together, and I love it.

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