I finally got my deep space object rig up and running. I’ve been putting this together for the past month. I don’t think I’ve ever spent this much time and effort on research and viewing reviews on YouTube.
It is an Explore Scientific ED80CF on a Celestron CGEM II mount. It has a ZWO 60mm Guidescope and a QHY Polemaster for polar alignment. I opted to go all-in with the cameras, so I bought a ZWO ASI294MC Pro for imaging and a ZWO ASI290MM-MINI for guiding. I live in a light-polluted area, so I bought a couple of Optolong light pollution filters as well. I’m using a Pegasus Astro Pocket Powerbox to power everything and controlling the whole thing via a laptop.
Putting it all together was one thing but then actually trying to get it all to work was a pain. It took a couple of frustrating tries to get the focus right on both cameras. I had to keep swapping spacers and moving things around. I recommend you do this during the day and focus on a faraway object. It is much easier than trying to focus at night.
Once I got all the hardware pieces working, I had to fight with the software next. I tried different ways to control the mount using the guide cam and connecting directly to the computer. I had multiple hours of trial and error, which then translated to multiple nights since clouds kept rolling in right after I figured out that nights obstacle.
I thought I had everything working once used the mounts GoTo option to look at the moon. It centered the moon correctly and started to track it. I then told the mount to point at the Great Hercules Cluster, and it ended up pointing at some random stars. Plate solving the image revealed that it was way off.
After more tweaking, I was able to get it to move close enough to see the cluster in the corner of the image. I used the handset to center the cluster and started to take pictures. I configured SharpCap to take 30 2-minute exposure images and went back inside to celebrate my “victory.”
I came back out to check progress after 30 minutes and noticed that a branch from my magnolia tree was now in the way, sigh. At least the mount was tracking correctly.
I still ended up with 18 usable images and after some more trial and error with AstroPixelProcessor ended up with this:
I still had about an hour left before clouds were supposed to engulf the sky so I pointed the telescope to the Andromeda Galaxy, and it got lost again. I have to figure out what I’m doing wrong with the GoTo software I’m using. I plate solved the image to figure out where it was pointing at, did some math to figure out the offset, and entered that manually into the GoTo software to find Andromeda.
I only captured eight images since the clouds were coming but managed to get this, after more trial and error with AstroPixelProcessor:
I was rushing, so I did not realize that the edge of Andromeda was out of the frame. It is not perfect, but I’m still happy with the results given that this was my first deep space object session.
I’m going to try to capture a better image of the Andromeda Galaxy this weekend. I think I figured out most of my issues other than the GoTo problem. Now I can focus on capturing more frames and creating better final images.