Last night the sky was pretty clear, a little hazy but still the clearest it has been in a good while. I set up the scope in the early afternoon. It seemed like it took forever to get dark, it was after 9 PM before I was able to start with the focus and polar alignment. While I was waiting for the sun to set I shot new darks for the 30 second and 60 second exposure lengths. I capture 20 of each exposure length in the Ekos Capture Module and used SharpCap to create the master darks. I also captured a set of flats, which were ok but my focus was off.
Once it was finally dark enough to see Polaris I did a visual polar alignment. After it was dark enough to see stars I focused the scope, then I ran the Ekos Polar Alignment Routine. Only took a few minutes to get the alignment dialed in near perfect.
I didn’t have much of a plan for the night, just wanted to look around a bit. Figured I would try for a couple of targets on the CloudyNights.com EAA Observing Challenge for May 2023. I also wanted to try out this new Astromania f/6.3 focal reducer to see if it produced the same artifacts at the edges.
My spacing was not quite right with the focal reducer. Plate solving was reporting a focal length of 1193.8 mm (f/5.9), so not optimal. I am spaced a little too far out. This is probably why the stars stretch out closer in towards the center, and not just in the corners. The good news, there does not appear to be any of the arch artifacts with brighter stars that are close to or off the edge which I was getting with the Celestron reducer. I’ll get the spacing dialed in before my next session.
The EAA images in this post were capture with my ZWO ASI294MC Pro cooled to -10 C through my Celestron C8 SCT with a f/6.3 Focal Reducer. For guiding I am using the Orion Starshooter Autoguider (OSSAG) camera attached to my SVBONY SV106 60mm guide scope. All gear is mounted on a Sky Watcher EQ6-R Pro. The mount and cameras are remotely controlled with KStars/Ekos through INDI Server running on a Libre Computer SBC. The images were live stacked using SharpCap Pro. Images have been cropped or resized to the region of interest for file size, but otherwise appear just as I observed them.
NGC 5982, NGC 5985, and NGC 5981, some times called the Draco Triplet, in the constellation of Draco. This group of galaxies is part of the CloudNight’s May 2023 EAA Observing Challenge. This is a live stack of 40 x 30 second exposures at 121 gain, 30 offset, and bin 2×2.
NGC 5982 is the elliptical galaxy in the center, NGC 5985 is the bright spiral galaxy above it, and NGC 5981 is the edge-on galaxy below it.
NGC 5348 is a barred spiral galaxy in the constellation of Virgo. NGC 5348 is a target on the CloudNight’s May 2023 EAA Observing Challenge. This is a live stack of 15 x 60 second exposures at 121 gain, 30 offset, and bin 2×2.
There are a lot of interesting faint fuzzies in this capture. NGC 5348 is in the center. NGC 5356 is up an to the right and NGC 5338 is down and to the left of center. Just to the right of NGC 5348 is a very small smudged dot which is PGC 94688 and just to the right of that is a larger faint fuzzy, CGC045-136. There are also a few others, but these are the brightest.
Messier 104 (M104), the Sombrero Galaxy, in the constellation border of Virgo and Corvus. This is a live stack of 15 x 60 second exposures at 121 gain, 30 offset, and bin 2×2.
Even though the focal reducer spacing is not quite right and the focus may be a little soft, this live stack of M104 was my favorite capture of the night. Not much fine detail but the dark dust lane is very visible. I’ll be back for more time on this one once I have my spacing issues sorted.
Messier 101 (M101), the Pinwheel Galaxy, a face-on spiral galaxy in the constellation of Ursa Major. This is a live stack of 15 x 60 second exposures at 121 gain, 30 offset, and bin 2×2.
Pretty nice shot of M101 to end the night.
Nice night out even though there were some issues with the focal reducer spacing and the flats I shot. I figured out the issue with my spacing. I had the spacers in the incorrect order, this matters due to how the spacers thread into each other. That is fixed now (I think, plate solving during the next session will validate). The flats will need to be redone after I get focus, I’ll work on that at some point.
Since it is a school night I packed up and covered the scope just before 11 PM. Looking forward to the next clear sky.