Sunday, January 08, 2017

Rediscovering Planetary and Lunar

Last year was a bit of a bust. Between the weather, work and family, there weren't too many opportunities to get out under the night skies for me. Part of that involves driving further and further out of Austin, Texas, to escape the growing city lights. After some thought, I decided to plunge back into lunar and planetary astrophotography. You don't need dark skies for this, so I don't have to drive too far to image the moon and planets. My front garden would do just fine.

In that vein, I updated some astronomy equipment. Firstly, I acquired a C8 Celestron OTA second-hand. Came with a finder scope and terrific carrying case. This gives me a dedicated scope for lunar and planetary, and will later allow me to shoot more distant DSOs once I can attach my guiding setup to the scope.

Then, I was able to get a new lunar and planetary imager for Christmas. It's a ZWO ASI120MC camera, quite a step-up from the Philips Toucam I used all those years ago. You can see the full specs here, but the camera can also be used as an autoguider. Hmm. Image acquisition seems rather straightforward, using it with the FireCapture software which I like a lot (freeware!). It has different profiles for different planets and the moon built-in, so takes a lot of guesswork out of the various settings you need to make out in the field.

So, hopefully this new stuff will encourage me to get out more and take photos. Visually, the C8 is great. I needed to collimate it just a little to get it in shooting condition. It's offered great views of various objects so far, and I'm sure it will fir the astrophotography bill! The OTA is FASTAR compatible, so I'll check that out at some stage...

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