Astrophotography – equipment

V5 synscan hand controller issue

I was setting up for a clear night today and came across this issue with my hand controller. This is the first time it’s done this. All my setup is exactly the same with power coming from mains. I’ve read something about low voltage or current, but it worked perfectly before with the same cable! I tried connecting it to my other mount with another cable and the same issue occurred. This has led me to believe my hand controller has been damaged in some way? Has anyone experienced this before?

Invasion of the spiders

HI folks


As you saw last night, my 8″ SCT has been invaded by a couple of spiders which explains why I couldn’t see anything clearly. Andy asked last night how much effect that would have, given the size of the scope mirror

I think the flat in the second photo says it all. It was taken using en electroluminescent panel , which gave the even illumination as mentioned last night



Comet NEOWISE from Hartshorne, Swadlincote

The night sky was predicted to be clear so it was time to find out what all the fuss was about with the new comet NEOWISE. I had researched its predicted position below the Plough and to the west of Capella but despite searching with 15×70 bins could not find it. I now realize it has dimmed considerably since it was last visible in early July. Frustrated, I called on back-up, the WhatsApp group of astrophotographers who quickly pointed me in the right direction (many thanks to all who responded), vertically below Dubhe, brightest star in the Plough.  Through the bins it was unmistakeable, a bluish blob with a faint whitish tail. It was still quite light to the west but showed better as the sky darkened. It was then easy to find in the Dob-mounted Sky-Watcher 250 PDS with a 32mm eyepiece. To record the occasion of my first comet viewing I used a Canon 60D with ISO 1600 and 3.2 seconds, longer exposures gave star trails.

I tried to allow plenty of space in the frame for the tail but it still extends out of view. Not perfect, but I am pleased with my first comet photos.

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)

Paul McKay


Tracker Tester

Ages ago I wrote a simple BBC Basic for Windows program that slowly moves a single, white pixel across a blank computer screen. It uses the resolution, width and distance away of the screen to move the pixel more or less at sidereal rate, allowing it to be used to test tracking in daylight, even indoors!

I did post a link on SGL a couple of times then forgot about it, but I’ve just been asked if it’s OK to share it on a Facebook astronomy page.

The reminder made me think I ought to post the link here:

I’ll try and remember to bring it along to a mid-month meeting to do a demo!

tracker tester screenshot
tracker tester screenshot

Filtering the Crescent

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been imaging the Crescent using different focal lengths and filters

Widefield 135mm

I was working out that this is the fourth time I’ve been imaging in or around the Sadr nebula. On this occasion it was because I’d already started on the data for 900mm shots of the Crescent and I thought it’d be nice to have a wider shot of the general area, putting it into context. I was inspired by Neil’s recent results with his Triband filter to see if the same (or similar) technology in a clip filter would help with wide frame nebula images and acquired a Skytech Quadband (that transmits 2 35nm bands around Ha, Hb, Oiii and Sii – hence the name) . I must say I’m quite impressed- I got this from a sequence of 20x 150 second captures on Sunday night under a 99% moon using the Russian made 135mm vintage lens I’ve posted about previously. Normally I’d only attempt proper Narrowband under these sorts of conditions, but I thought it coped pretty well under the strong moonlight. The only slight concern is the halo around Sadr itself.

The photo picks out how prominent the Crescent is (below and to the right in this picture), but also shows how “busy” this bit of sky is- the Butterfly nebula pops out, with its prominent dark lane, but the fainter cloud that it’s a part of extends beyond the frame. There are also clusters aplenty- my favourite is M29 – the Space Invader cluster just below and to the left of the centre. Probably my eighties upbringing…

Hydrogen Alpha

These are taken using a Baader 7nm Ha Filter on a modded Canon 550d in a Skywatcher 200p- altogether I got 12 10 minute subs before clouds stopped me. I think this is the best of the shots for showing the structure of the object and the shockwaves that form its shape; the monochrome also highlights the cloud of the larger surrounding nebula.


This came from the same setup and 10 more subs, this time with an 8.5nm Oiii filter, and a 99% moon on 13th October. The only Oiii visible in this shot is around the nebula itself. The signal was quite a bit weaker than the Ha; this picture was created by discarding the Red Channel and then combining equally the Blue and Green using Pixelmath in Pixinsight.


Finally, it’s all brought together using the same process- this time feeding the Hydrogen into the Red channel and the Oxygen into the Blue and Green. I spent quite a bit of time playing with this one. Just feeding the data in, the red was total dominant and I progressively multiplied the Blue and Green until it was more prominent (the eventual multiplier used was 2). I also experimented with trying to change the balance to bring a little more colour into it, but that also artificially unbalanced the star colour so I decided to leave it even, which makes the Oxygen mostly white when combining with the Hydrogen.

I’ve really enjoyed taking these different views of the same object and learning about it. The nebula itself, 5,000 light years away, is 25 light years across and is caused by fast stellar winds erupting from the Wolf-Rayet star visible at the centre of the nebula. It’s thought the star will imminently (in astronomical terms) become a supernova.

20/9/19 Part 2 – Imaging

Here are my images from Friday night. First up is my effort on Roger’s Hickson Challenge using an 8 inch scope and cooled 550d. In this frame are the 2 clusters from Pegasus- the Deer Lick group and Stephan’s Quintet. Guiding was really ropey whilst I was doing this (it was a bit breezy) and I had to abandon about a third of the subs- so this is 90 minutes worth of 4 minute subs:

This is a crop with the Deer Lick group:

And here’s Stephan’s Quintet. I’ve had a bit of an obsession with this object. I’ve tried and failed to observe it at least half a dozen times- it just seems to be right on the edge of what the 14inch can grasp. Looking at these photos I can see why- the camera really hasn’t been able to put much shape or definition on them:

This shot took until 11:45pm- when the mount was coming up to the Meridian.

Rather than continue to gather data I moved across onto the Eastern Veil. I really love observing this object- but this is the first time I’ve tried to image any of it- this is 32 4 minute subs. Quite pleased with the outcome:

Finally, I’ve been ebay-ing again and have picked up another vintage Russian lens- 300mm this time. See picture below- it’s not lightweight!!! I’ve found that using this one is much more like using a telescope: it’s harder to aim, it needs a counterweight and was too heavy for a ball mount, so I had to fix it onto the SA and therefore can’t rotate the camera at all (unless I start trying to engineer something myself). I have to say, though, for anyone wanting to experiment with wider fields of view- these old prime lenses are pretty good- and compared with other astro gear quite cheap. I think this is the longest focal length I’d try- I was initially doing 2 minute subs but was getting some trailing so dropped to 1 min 20. I could (and may) add guiding- but at the moment I want to keep it simple. This is 17x 2 min subs and 80x 1 min 20 subs (I just left it running whilst I was observing) on the North American and Pelican nebulae.