Thursday, February 23, 2012

Autoguider To The Stars

This is my 3rd attempt to use a Celestron NexGuide Autoguider, which I got because it doesn't require a laptop. My first two attempts never made it to the camera stage. And as with most everything made today, the "instructions" were just a half-ass attempt. Even watching Celestron's slick YouTube video about the NexGuide didn't help me much. Now, the results:
                                                     .

This is M53, a globular cluster in the constellation Coma Berenices (Berenice's Hair). The autoguider isn't holding tight enough, so the stars are fuzzy because the scope wobbled. There are about 100 settings in the menu; I've just got to figger which one needs to be set tighter, and how to set it.
                                                      .

This is M64, a spiral galaxy in Coma Berenices. A bit better, but not to my liking. Both of these pictures were taken with a Nikon D3000 (Nikon's cheapest DSLR) using a Celestron C6R refractor (150mm, F/8) as a prime-focus lens. The guidescope is a Celestron 80mm. Both photos used an ISO of 1600 and shutter speed of about 70 seconds.

I'm an early-riser by nature, so I prefer early morning to evening. I had the scope set up this morning by 2 a.m. (takes about 15 minutes to assemble everything.)

Posted by Dave

6 comments:

  1. I'd just like to see a star. Been overcast/foggy/just plain gloomy 'round here...

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  2. Hi Craig,

    Although this winter has been cloudy a lot here, it's normally clear skies day and night. The rare fog here sticks to around the Colorado River.

    I think there's nothing prettier than a clear, starry night.

    Dave

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  3. Very nice pics Dave.
    I'm jealous. Using my 5" Celestron as a prime lens has been an exercise in frustration.

    Regarding instruction books ... Pirsig of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance had a lot to say about it.
    I'm continually amazed at the shoddiness of (some) instruction manuals. Doesn't seem to matter what the price point of the item is. Even expensive goods can come with barely readable manuals.

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  4. Hi Art,

    The really cool thing about astrophotography is that long-exposure pics reveal things you can't see just looking through your scope. Unfortunately, the learning curve is torture. I can't tell you how many nights I've frozen my ass off for 6 hours to get 200 pics, none of which were any good. But I'm almost there. This autoguider is the key to getting Hubble-quality photos.

    Dave

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  5. Expert photographers say you're lucky to get one great pix in 300!

    Like you, I think there's nothing prettier than a clear, starry night. I look up and feel so small and like I'm in a cradle, and yet, also a part of it all. And it's just pretty to be able to be in such darkness that the sky and its little twinkling diamonds provide you a silent movie all night long!

    I don't get to do this often (city lights, y'know), but I do cherish such moments.

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  6. Hi Lisa,

    I take Charlie, our director of security, out to check the perimeter every morning at 2 a.m. Even without a moon, the stars are so bright that I don't need a flashlight. While Charlie, who is never in a hurry, sniffs individual dirt molecules, I look at the sky. I can name about 1/4 of the constellations (such pretty names they are, too), and almost all the planets are visible during the night. I'm blessed to live in the clear, desert air, and away from the light pollution of the city.

    Since I turned off word verification, I get one or two spammers commenting on older posts. Easy to delete. I think I'll keep it this way.

    Dave

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All comments are welcome.