Still in lockdown and not allowed to go out at night (curfew). My balcony has only limited views to the south, so there’s not much choice in objects to image. And with unusual amounts of snow on the ground the skies are even worse than the usual Bortle 8/9, but the Optolong L-eXtreme filter is a powerful tool.
I tried something new. I drilled holes in the wooden deck of my balcony so that the legs of a photo tripod stand stable on the underlying concrete. The Rainbow Astro RST-135 mount with a William Optics WhiteCat telescope placed on the photo tripod. The polar-alignment routine of the Staraid autoguider used to align the mount (the balcony is positioned on the south side of the building). I could only see the planet Mars (thanks to Bortle 9 scale and a lot of direct illumination) but through plate solving (also via the Staraid) the California nebula could be found. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate and after only 5 shots it started to rain.
Comet C/2020 M3 (ATLAS) near the Flaming Star Nebula (IC 405) and the Starfish Cluster (M38). Just 18 minutes of exposures before fog took over.
Shot the North America nebula from the city center (Bortle scale 8/9) despite high clouds and humidity. I used a Borg 125 SD (f=480mm) combined with a STC astro duo narrow band filter. Camera was a Canon EOS Ra, 10x5min at ISO1600, Rainbow Astro RST135 mount, guiding through Staraid. Due to the terrible seeiing the stars are a bit bigger than usual.
Another visit to Tivoli Southern Guest farm. This year I decided to go for the New Moon period of april/may coinciding with the maximum of the Eta Aquarid meteor shower.
My friend Hendrik joined me for a week and brought along his newly developed standalone guiding camera Staraid Revolution. This guide camera does not require a laptop or pc, but can be controlled via a smartphone or tablet. It starts up and calibrates in seconds, tracks up to twenty stars multiple times per second and is very accurate and foolproof. Besides guiding, this camera also contains a simple to use polar alignment procedure and does plate solving. Very impressed with this little camera!
I also got the opportunity to test and use a new ASA 10″ F=900mm Hypergraph with 3″ Wynne corrector. It came equipped with a Canon EF adapter, so I used my Canon 6D mark for a number of nights. The focuser is Ascom compliant but I used the simple focus program ASA provided, side-by-side with the live view utility of Canon. However, focus remained very stable during the night, even with a temperature drop of 10 degrees.
A lot of photos have been processed, with more to come.
The first indication of winter; a strong easterly wind bringing clear skies. Mark-Jaap and myself headed for the observatory for some astrophotography. First object was comet C/2014 S2 (PanSTARRS) very close the Polaris. Piggybacked my William Optics Star 71 on the observatories’ AP 1100GTO for some unguided 1 minute shots. Next tried to locate comets Lovejoy and Jacques, but these seem to have gone out of reach for my setup. Ended the session with a couple of 2 minute shots of NGC7000, the North America nebula.
Finally started processing some of the photos shot during my last summer holiday (2013) at the Tivoli Southern Sky guest farm. Just for fun I made a quick stack of M31. Although M31 was only at 15 degrees altitude, this stack of 5 x 3 min. at ISO1250 shows some real potential.
After months of mild and wet weather the temperature dropped below zero and the skies cleared. Koen and I wanted to check the modifications we made to our equipment so we headed for Public Observatory Bussloo. I made an adapter plate in order for the Vixen Polarie travel mount to be mounted on an AstroTrac wedge. The Manfrotto geared head 410 that I was using before, shows a considerable amount of flexture making precise polar alignment difficult. Bolted 2 pieces of aluminium together and mounted it on the Astrotrac wedge. Less flexture now, but still room for improvement. Comet C/2012 K5 (LINEAR) was shot with a Canon EOS60D, EF 135mm/2L @ 2.8, ISO1250, stack of 6 x 1min. Guided with the Vixen Polarie.
M45 was used for the first test sequence. Same equipment as above; stack of 22x1min.