One of the things I enjoy about Colorado is the night sky, and at 8500 feet we do have stars. Here’s an unguided, tripod mounted shot using a Canon 5D Mk2, 30 seconds at ISO 800, of the Milky Way ‘north’ of Sagittarius, using an EF-L 80-200 2.8 last summer on the back deck.
If you sit out on the deck with all the lights off for about a half hour, the naked eye picks up maybe half this detail. Still, pretty neat. Below, this is my imaging rig. The red box on the end of the scope is an SBIG astro-cam with a motorized filter wheel attached. Eight filters in there, very specialized things like hydrogen-beta and O-III.
And here’s another shot of the set-up, with a bud from the local Astronomy Club helping me set up some of the electronics.
The scope is sitting on a Software Bisque Paramount MX+, this on a Pier-Tech electric pier, so height can be adjusted to image targets close to the horizon. Other scopes used for different types of targets are stored in the dome, including two used for solar imaging, seen below the chap’s hand. The mount is controlled by a separate laptop PC, and you click on a target in a program called The Sky X – and the scope slews (moves) to the target, and a device in the camera, called an auto-guider, locks onto a guide star in the frame and the mount then tracks along, everything neatly centered, for hours at a time. We’ve managed to make a few 3-4 hour long exposures, but most often long exposures are divided into 15-20 minute long chunks of time, each chunk using a different type of filter. Incidentally, the camera has built-in two-stage cooling, so in summer the chip is cooled to -60C. The resulting images are stacked, or combined, in 2-3 different programs (Pix-insight and Photoshop, by and large).
Here’s a calibration run from last summer, at a nebula in Sagittarius, using a Takahashi FS-60C. Stars aren’t quite pinpoint yet, but this was an early run before we nailed polar alignment. Colorful, though, and the different filters allow different gases in nebulae to render ‘accurately,’ though this is somewhat of an artistic choice too.
Anyway, this is what I do what I’m not writing, kind of like Gee, what did you do over your summer vacation…