Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Now I'm hooked!

After my first weekend out with the new rig it was two weeks later before the weather cooperated and allowed some imaging. It was mid-October now and the weather had briefly turned cold, but at the same time brought much clearer skies. I actually didn't intend to start any DSO imaging yet, I wanted to keep getting familiar with all the equipment and polar alignment techniques. However, the first time I looked at M31 through the William Optics Zenithstar 80 FD, I couldn't help but run back inside and grab the camera. It was too beautiful NOT to photograph. I only snapped about 10 exposures at 90 seconds each, with the camera set at ISO 1600.
I could tell from the exposures being downloaded to my laptop that this would turn out pretty good. I also took some 120 second exposures, but my lack of good polar alignment created too much star trailing to use these images. Next, I moved over to M45 and again took only 10 exposures at 90 seconds each. I then moved over to the Double Cluster (NGC 884 & NGC 869) to try my hand at the monthly imaging contest on the Cloudy Nights website, where I spend much of my time on the forums. I finished the night by taking a few exposures of M42 in Orion, although it was still low in the sky and a streetlight was shining almost directly in my scope. Later I took some dark & bias frames before tearing down for the night. The next day I took some flat frames using a simple technique of holding two layers of a t-shirt over my telescope with a rubber band and taking some exposures in Av mode. I then used ImagesPlus software to calibrate, align, and stack all my images. I love this software and consider it one of the best investments I made for the entire setup. Without it I truly would be lost, or at least not enjoying things as much! These images posted here represent almost no processing, but I was excited about my initial results. At this point, I knew I was completely hooked!

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