Monday, September 1, 2014

Kicking Off Andromeda Season with First Successful Motorized EQ-1 Run

I haven't done a good Andromeda attempt since 'Andromeda Season' kicked off last year in September. At that point, I made incremental baby steps to finally visualize some dark dust trails in the spiral arms of our galactic neighbor. Last year I was reaching the upper limit of what I could do with a fixed tripod - which limits me to 1.3 sec exposures at 300mm.

I got the Orion EQ-1 mount last Christmas, but I didn't really get to USE it, I did try setting it up once on my balcony but I was nervous about dropping screws through the floorboards.

I was trying to figure out how to slew the camera to the right position in the sky without unhooking and re-attaching the motor. It is delicate and uses a tiny hex screw to attach to the gear wormscrew attachment thinggy. Was I seriously expected to slew to the right spot, and then unhook the manual knob and replace it with the motor out in the field??

I avoided using it until I had my own place to really sit down and figure it out. While I was setting up last night, I noticed the thumb screws on the mount - and I tried loosening them to slew without unhooking the motor. It worked! This might seem obvious, but to a self-taught amateur this was the secret that made the setup a lot more user-friendly... I'm much more likely to use the EQ-1 mount now that I know I can leave the motor attached while I slew to the approximate location.

Canon DSLR camera on motorized EQ mount
Canon T5i on Orion 9011 EQ-1 Equatorial Telescope Mount

EQ motor and wormscrew
Orion 7826 EQ-1M Electronic Telescope Drive attached to the wormscrew
camera adapter for Orion EQ 1 mount
Camera attaches with the Orion 10103 1/4-Inch-20 Adapter for EQ1 Telescope Mount

Orion EQ thumb screw
Thumbscrew that loosens the ascension axis

Orion EQ-1M motor
EQ-1 motor driving the declination axis

EQ-1 thumb screw
Thumb screw that loosens the declination axis so you don't have to unhook the motor
I set up on the front walkway with a kitchen chair. I did a rough polar alignment - I still need to figure out a good way to align correctly with a camera since I don't have a finder scope (and really good alignment was never important before with just observing manually).

After aligning to Polaris, I loosened the thumbscrews and slewed toward Andromeda. I found it easy enough because I've been observing it for a couple years now. I did a test shot of 15 seconds at ISO 1600 and found that not only was I getting some small trails but the light pollution was washing out the photo. I pulled back to 13 seconds and the trails were insignificant. This is a pretty crappy polar alignment but WAY more light gathering potential compared to 1.3 second frames!

I took a quick stack and then noticed clouds getting in the way. I waited a little bit and then played with ISO 800 for 13 sec to see what that would look like. I took some dark and bias frames and stacked in Deep Sky Stacker this morning.

andromeda m31 with canon T5i on EQ-1 mount
Canon T5i on EQ-1 mount, 9 subs at ISO 1600, 14 subs at ISO 800, all 13 sec, f/5.6, 300mm, 21 dark frames, 21 bias frames

improvement in andromeda photo
Incremental improvement in the past year, particularly the longer exposure time reduces the grain... e.g. more 'real photo' and less computer manipulation of noise to extract the signal

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely incredible !!
    Thanks for sharing !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!