After a long hiatus (9 years), I am back to imaging again. One of the reasons I withdrew from collecting photons electronically was that I found I was missing one of my primary joys of amateur astronomy and that is visual observing. Visually extracting faint puffs of light in a galaxy cluster is thrilling for me. When I imaged, I was spending too much time fiddling with the various interconnections and components to get a shaky imaging rig to fulfill my desire to be the next Rob Gendler. Thinking if I buy just one more device to get me there, I slowly began to realize that I was slipping down into a money pit. I decided in 2006 to sell my gear and get back to visual astronomy. This was about the time I started to get interested in telescope making. Some of my earlier work:
Today, I am finding my ability (and motivation) to get to darker skies is somewhat hampered for various reasons (i.e. getting older) so I need to find locations that are more convenient and unfortunately afflicted by light pollution. Since I am a deep sky enthusiast, this can hinder my ability to visually probe deeper into the cosmos with my telescope. Don’t get me wrong, I still try to get out to darker skies when I can, but those times seem to be more an exception than before. Remembering the fun (and conveniently forgetting the frustrations) of imaging, I decided to get back into it again, albeit slowly.
My previous imaging rig was modest, and it took some care and understanding to get through the quirks of the mount and drive, but I was able to get some nice images out of my Ultima 2000 and ST7E. About two years ago, I started acquiring items that I knew would make it easier to image with such as shorter focal length refractors. So I picked up a Stellarvue SV80ED at a star party. I already had a 66mm Zenithstar so I was thinking that could be used for a guide scope. I bought a used Advanced GT mount that was supercharged by a previous owner which should be adequate for a shorter focal length telescope. I have a Meade DSI that I could either start with, or use it as a guide camera in the future.
In keeping with the spirit of easing back into it to save my sanity and my bank account (oh yeah, and my marriage) I bought a smaller, lower cost, camera: An Orion G3 monochrome. I debated whether or not I should get a one-shot color camera, but I decided on the monochrome for maximum flexibility and the ability to do some potential science (I like variable stars). I set the rig up and started capturing photons.
After some tweaking (and the awkward first two sessions) I was able to get some fairly decent images. Here are a couple of examples from the lawn of Perkins Observatory at the April society meeting:
As you can see, I still have a ways to go as I am getting to know a new imaging processing workflow and I need to start making flat fields. My previous workflow included acquiring the images in Maxim/DL, calibrating, aligning, and stacking the images in ImagesPlus, and do final processing in Photoshop. However, I went ahead and picked up Pixinsight for processing and Sequence Generator Pro for acquisition. I still use Maxim/DL to stack and calibrate, but that will change once I get more experienced with Pixinsight.
Getting semi-good results early has encouraged me to take the next steps. I picked up a Nautilus filter wheel (I already had some filters from the DSI) and have set my sights on an Atik 314L+.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein
I stand precariously on sloped ground.