Here we are with my latest astrophotography session, Christmas 2017! This year I have added some more gear to my 200 mm Newtonian, which made life much better but not necessarily easier. I finally completed the auto-guide system for my SkyWatcher HEQ5 mount (the old model, not the SynScan version….). I have used the great Arduino AstroControl project by Guy Webb. I have used a small Arduino Nano in my version, which reduces dimensions and works great! First I had some troubles setting up PHD2 Auto-guide software, then I realised that two wires were inverted in the circuit… After fixing that, it was great! Very stable guiding and finally the ability to take shoots with my Nikon D7000 up to 5min long!!!
Unfortunately the nights in my town (Tagliacozzo, Italy) were not great over Christmas, very humid with lots of low fog which reflected light from the street lamps. Furthermore, there was the moon this year, but luckily I had a good night of shooting on Christmas eve, which gave me the three pics you see below.
M42 – The Orion Nebula
Each year I test my new gear on the best object there is in the sky! This time I also tried for the first time to use a 40 nm H-alpha filter (from SkyIsTheLimit). Compared to the results of 2016, I am improving, slowly but surely. The picture below is the sum of 31 exposures each 2:30 min long (ISO 2000), while the H-alpha is a stack of 6 of the same duration.
M51 – The Whirlpool galaxy
First attempt to take a picture of this stunning galaxy, need some more work especially on the flat frames production, which created the halo seen in the photo. Next step will be to build a flat-frame box so I can take my flats in the same session. The image below is the sum of 18 exposures each 5:00 min long (ISO 2000).