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
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
This picture represents my first ever prime focus digital astrophotograph of a deep sky object. It is a stack of exposures shot with my Canon 1000d at ISO 1600 with about 15 - 2 minute exposures and stacked with Deep Sky Stacker, processed for levels and curves in PhotoShop CS5.
But getting here has been an experience. When I was looking for a scope, I looked at many. I knew I wanted to do astrophotography, so I eventually settled on the SN6 on the LXD75 mount. I wanted a light scope on this mount so that I could add some things to it because I know that things never stay stagnant. You can trace back in this blog and see the path I have taken to get here.
The first thing I added to it was an accessory bracket which I had custom made. This rail was used to piggyback a camera and later was to allow me to mount my guidescope on this OTA. I went on to purchase a dew shield, and built a home made power tank for it. I then purchased a DSLR, an LPI, an ST-80, a second counterweight, a motorfocus, and later a DSI for guiding. I added a red dot finder to assist in aligning it.
After being frustrated with the weight of the assembly, I purchased the Orion mini finder-guider and removed the ST-80. This helped a lot. In the process of learning this I damaged a RA motor assembly and had to replace that as well. I purchased BackYardEOS for camera control, and later, a laptop and 12 volt charger for it. And only recently after learning the hard lessons of proper balance, proper polar alignment, and even finding my focus points for my guide camera and imaging camera on daylight targets have I reached the point where I can begin to do some imaging. I still have to learn processing techniques so I can enhance my data. But I am slowly getting there with it. On my last run, I had PHD guiding this system perfectly and everything seemed to be right on track.
The hard lessons on this are the simple ones. There is no easy road. If you are patient and meticulous, and can follow procedures and are tedious about how you do things, you stand a chance of getting results. There are a lot of things that can go wrong, but I can't stress enough that this is not an easy process and there is no quick way to learn it. You need to read lots of advice and listen to others, and you need to get out an practice with your own gear and find the limits of what it can do. All in all I am pleased with this image of M27. Down the road I hope to get far better images, but just getting this far has put me in the ballpark to do this with at least some success. And that in itself is a milestone accomplishment to me.