Finally – round stars!

This was my telescope’s first outing since I fixed up its mirror cell. A quick glance at a bright star in the city seemed to indicate that the problem was fixed, but there’s no way of knowing for sure without trying some proper photography. Recently the three circles in this Venn diagram have been conspiring against me, but last night it was clear, moonless, and I had a free evening. A friend came along to have a peek through the telescope at my dark site in Somerset.

Astronomy Venn diagram
Astronomy Venn diagram

The good news is that the triangular stars have been completely cured, so I’m extremely happy. We proceeded to take pictures of several of the brighter Messier objects. As I had company I didn’t want it to be too “boring” by taking hours of exposures, so instead we visited quite a few of the brighter Messier objects and took a relatively small number of exposures of each.

All of these pictures are composed of 45-second exposures, which is about the longest I can manage unguided. That should change when I get hold of an autoguider and guide scope. For now, these stacks were shot at very high ISO and with not many frames, so they are quite noisy. However, you can clearly see that the optics are good.

M42 Orion nebula
M42 Orion nebula
M31 Andromeda galaxy
M31 Andromeda galaxy
M45 Pleiades cluster
M45 Pleiades cluster
M33 Triangulum galaxy
M33 Triangulum galaxy

Last but not least, this is the first occasion that I have observed the Horsehead nebula in IC434. The horse’s head is towards the right hand edge. The image is very noisy, but not bad considering this is just six frames.

IC434 Horse's head nebula
IC434 Horse’s head nebula

Now I’ve proved that the telescope works, and I can use it reasonably well. I still need more practice with polar-aligning the mount, which will in turn let me do longer unguided exposures and be able to turn the ISO down, resulting in less noise. I’ll also capture more frames and be able to produce a better stack.  One thing is clear: I need to learn proper techniques for image processing!

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