This is the first of a series of articles. As I'm always experimenting and tuning my setup, I'm not sure how many more articles I'll be writing.
A few years ago I began to introduce myself to astrophotography. I had some fairly nice equipment back then: a SkyWatcher HEQ5 mount, a Meade ACF 8", guide scope and camera, a borrowed reflex, laptop, 12v car battery.
Although this is pretty much entry level equipment, barely sufficient to getting started, it had been already quite expensive (almost 2000€ just for scope and mount, even though the scope was second hand), bulky and heavy. I ended up barely using it, both because of a relatively steep learning curve and because I honestly was getting tired of carrying around 20/30KG of equipment with barely any tangible result.
Then a few things happened: the mount was stolen, I sold the optical tube, and ended up moving to London, where I embraced a new "astronomical philosophy": the lighter, the better.
Last saturday, after lots of garden testing and software checks, I've finally been able to drive to a dark place for a few deep sky shots.
The driving part itself was the most "scary", as I'm still new to driving in the "wrong side" of the road... Getting the hang of it, though..
I chose to go observing with the HantsAstro stargazing group.. they met in a quite dark site (at least for being not too far from London), and their website and facebook pages really did inspire me. I'm really glad I joined them, as it was a really pleasant evening, with lots of nice people.
My target for the evening was the center of the Cygnus constellation, between Deneb and Sadr. It's an area full of nebulae, perfect for a wide field lens. Technical data, together with stars and object names, can be found in the astrobin technical page.
This sunspot was particularly big, so I waited for the best moment to try and catch it.
Seeing wasn’t great, and my solar filter was a bit damaged, but the final image doesn’t look too bad anyway.
Unfortunately, this will be the last image for a while.
Just a few hours later, someone opened my car, and took away my HEQ5 mount, together with all my eyepieces and the camera I used for all my planetary shots.
I’ll also be relocating in a while, so I’ll wait a few months before buying a new setup.
If someone is interested, I’m selling my current main optical tube here: http://www.astrosell.it/annuncio.php?Id=70007
This was meant to be an improvement to the previous ISS shooting, since I tried to do it with a bigger telescope, but the low altitude and the very bad seeing did actually worsen the quality.
The shape of the Space Station is anyway clearly visible, as it passes in front of the Moon. It is dark, this time, because it already entered in Earth shadow. We could actually see it rising, bright as usual, and then slowly fade until it completely disappeared just a few seconds before crossing the Moon.
Technical details of the shot can be found on the pagina Youtube.
Mars is getting really close to 2016 opposition, the best in the last 10 years, since it’s very close to earth.
Weather in Milan wasn’t great these days, so me and Alessia tried to catch the first night offering a clear sky and a possibly good seeing.
We were pretty much lucky: seeing wasn’t the top, with mars being very low on the horizon, but it was good enough to get a proper look: we were able to distinguish a few major features, particularly when it began to rise a little bit over 20°.
I also took a few pictures, this is the best result, shown here with a Stellarium simulation for that day and hour.
We observed also Saturn, getting close to its own opposition too, although even lower in the horizon than Mars, and Jupiter, still quite high and bright in the sky.
At the eyepiece, it was impressive: the great read spot was particularly evident, and a satellite (we later identified it being Europa) was getting closer and closer to the planet disk.
When I started shooting with my camera it was already over Jupiter, and it’s visible as the bright spot in the left part of the planet.
Although the images are not as good as I was hoping, it was a very nice evening, we could finally have a good couple of hours doing astronomy, and it was a relief after a long time being unable to observe due to bad weather.
Last august I had the chance to see the International Space Station passing in front of the moon right from my home.
The ISS is clearly visible many nights, and depending on the user position on Earth, it might align with some object in the sky.
These days I was reorganizing my gallery, and I found the original video.
So, after reprocessing it a while, I decided to republish it.
The ISS is really fast: the video is slightly slowed down. I remember that during the transit I couldn’t see the station, and I waited a few minutes because I couldn’t know if the transit already happened or not: it was still daylight, and in the original frames is barely visible.
Only after watching the video I could finally notice that tiny dot passing right in front of the moon.
For this shot, I used my old Celestron Astromaster 130, in an alt-azimuth mount, and my QHY5L-IIm as shooting camera. I had to try following manually the moon, since I obviously had no motorized tracking.
I had to use the 130mm scope instead of my main 8″ scope because of the shorter focal length: this way I could shoot almost the whole moon, so I could be sure that I didn’t miss the ISS.
Spring is back, and here in Milan we finally had a few days (and nights) of very nice weather.
I also bought a new lightweight battery for my HEQ5 mount, instead of the usual heavy car battery I’ve been using until now, so I took a minimal setup and placed myself in a local park.
Seeing wasn’t perfect, but it was fine enough to shoot a few nice details of an almost full moon.
More importantly, Jupiter was at opposition a few weeks ago, so it’s still in a very favourable position.
Another couple of high resolution images, taken on the Appennines, with quite a lucky seeing.
Jupiter is now rising earlier, and it was a welcome preview to the observing night.
Firstly I tried shooting on prime focus, using small magnification, and then I used a 2.5 barlow lens. The prime focus shooting should have been just a test, but it proved to be the better one, as I had troubles focusing with the barlow lens (we were already in “night” mode, and I had to darken a lot my monitor, so focusing was really difficult).
This is the prime focus shooting elaboration.
Saturn is starting to rise earlier, and around 4am is starting to be fairly hight for a few shots.
Since we already finished observing I could remove my notebook darkening panel, and focus quite better with the 2.5x barlow.
It was also a very satisfying deep sky stargazing night (which was actually the main purpouse of our trip to the Appennines).
Spring constellations enable us to go really “deep”, with very far and suggestive galaxy clusters.
Another shooting, much improved in quality compared to the previous ones: Jupiter bands are very well defined, rich of details, much more compared to the images of fifteen days ago: probably both because of the better seeing, and of the removal of the IR-pass filter, replaced with a more classical IR-Block, gathering much more light.
The “guest” of the title is the dark dot almost at the center of the planet: it’s not an image artifact, but it’s the shadow of the Io satellite projected on the planet. Basically, a solar eclipse on Jupiter.
The satellite itself is not visible on the picture, submerged in the planet disk. The other two satellites are, from closest to farthest, Europa e Ganimede.
Notice: this article is currently available in italian only.
I will translate it soon. You may contact me via comments if you want me to “prioritize” this article first.
Per una serie di vicissitudini (e per il maltempo che l’ha fatta da padrone) non ho potuto osservare molto Giove, in opposizione proprio nei prossimi giorni, e quindi nel periodo di migliore osservabilità.
Ieri sera comunque sono riuscito ad effettuare qualche osservazione e qualche ripresa, approfittando di un seeing stranamente non cattivo come solitamente da casa mia: purtroppo non ho balconi o terrazzi, e mi tocca riprendere ed osservare dalla finestra aperta, cosa che alza di parecchio la turbolenza per il continuo passaggio d’aria tra interno ed esterno.
In visuale era piuttosto evidente la Grande Macchia Rossa, che nelle riprese invece sembra quasi invisibile. Non è infatti il globulo scuro che si vede nella banda in alto a sinistra. Questo perchè la ripresa è stata effettuata nel vicino infrarosso e non nel visuale, per ridurre l’interferenza atmosferica, quindi i dettagli visibili nella ripresa sono un po’ diversi da quelli che si vedono ad occhio nudo.
Si vedono molto bene anche due dei satelliti galileiani, Io ed Europa.
Ripresa effettuata al fuoco diretto di un Meade ACF 8″, 2000mm di focale, con filtro IR “Planet IR Pro 807“, camera QHY5II-L. Sommati circa 800 frames (di 2000 totali).
Giusto una manciata di giorni dopo ho potuto ripetere il tentativo, con una messa a fuoco un po’ più fortunata.
Non è visibile la macchia rossa, in questo caso, ma sono riuscito a tenere nel campo tutti e quattro i satelliti galileiani.