A sky full of stars

A sky full of stars isn't normally the description for Austin's Bortle 6-7 urban sky from my home. Ample time indoors in February gave me time to think about making images. I've been excited about the deep sky that I've been able to capture with my 250mm f/4.9 William Optics Redcat telescope. The small Vixen Polarie single axis mount that I've been using has its limitations. I can cut through the urban light pollution at home by using light pollution reduction filters. I decided to supplement my wide band filters with data from additional narrow band filters and try some dimmer targets. This requires being able to reliably find and frame targets that I can't see with my eyes.

The solution was clear; I needed a guided two axis computerized mount. I sorted through information on-line and advice from experienced friends. It was an intimidating process with lots of reports of great and terrible experiences with the same mounts. My weight requirements are modest, 7.25 lbs for my 51mm Redcat setup and 13.5 lbs for a 102mm refractor. I need a mount that I could easily carry and set up and the 25 - 35 lbs capacity class The center balanced iOptron CEM26 and the Synta Orion Sirius Pro and identical Sky-Watcher AZ EQ5 Pro mounts all looked like good possibilities. With the pandemic difficulty of finding astro equipment in stock, I was lucky to find a gently used and already tuned up Sky-Watcher mount locally (thanks Chris Montemayor!).

After a brief visual checkout just before clouds rolled in for a week, I've been setting it up for astrophotography with my scopes and working through the learning curve of getting my telescope and camera control computer, the Raspberry Pi based ZWO ASIAIR Pro, talking to the new mount. After learning that just because two pieces of equipment have standard USB ports, that doesn't mean that they can talk to each other.

This week I've had a couple of successful nights of imaging. The ASIAIR polar alignment is even easier with the computerized mount than it was before. Everything is controlled wirelessly from my iPad (I'm still working on getting this working reliably from inside the house). I can now find targets that are invisible to just my eyes easily and reliably, framed right in the center of my camera's field of view!

The Crab Nebula, M1, is a small, dim target, that I've never been able to see from Austin. The view of M1, at the edge of the Milky Way, through the 250mm RedCat is spectacular! The 50% cropped image below links to a full resolution and FOV image.

Here is the new kit in action:

Content created: 2021-03-05

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