Taking advantage of a couple of strings of clear nights, I set up my telescope — now more usable than ever — and did a bit of imaging. I’m pleased to report that the telescope is more usable than ever thanks primarily to two things:
- Automatic GPS time/date/location via a GPS module
- PoleMaster — a device and software that makes polar alignment easier and more accurate than I’ve ever managed before.
I made some efforts at photographing Mars during its 2020 opposition — close approach — and managed “okay” pictures. That is to say, the resulting images were the best I’ve ever done but still short of what I’d like. I’m still working on technique and technologies and this may be the best I could manage given the relatively short 1,800mm focal length of my scope!
Around the same time I turned the telescope to try imaging bright star cluster Messier 2. There was a slight but noticeable improvement there over what I’d managed before.
In early November I set up the scope at night, using the polar alignment system, so that I would be ready for solar photography the next day. Of course I observed other objects that night but then I noticed Orion rising through the bare trees. I stayed up much later than I’d planned but when Orion’s Sword came into the clear I captured what turned out to be the very best images that I have ever made of the Orion Nebula! The brilliant Trapezium star cluster at the heart of the nebula got overexposed but I was thrilled how much of the area’s nebular cloud showed.
I’m also very pleased with my efforts to image the Sun where a huge sunspot group (Active Region 2781) had appeared. The results were very good, using my telescope with Canon EOS 6D Mark 2 camera body attached for full-disk images. To protect camera (and eyesight) I used an AstroZap brand full-aperture white light film filter. Then I switched over to the little ASI178MC planetary camera; its smaller sensor providing a much-magnified effect. While not the best I’ve seen, I’m pretty pleased with this batch of solar images.
So, even under our light-polluted skies, I’m able to manage some decent astrophotography. I’m sure that with time, practice, and clear winter skies I’ll get many more amazing views.