Astrophotography – M31 – Andromeda

I’m getting back into astronomy after a very long hiatus. I really want to do some astrophotography, something I didn’t really achieve before.

My previous attempts at imaging the sky though a telescope were with a self-guided Az-El mount crap-scope and a self-made 110 film camera. The results were underwhelming to say the least.

I’ve now got a much nicer telescope – a Skywatcher 102 mm Acromat Refractor on a decent guiding mount – an EQ5 Pro. For a camera I’m using either a Nikon D50 with the IR and Beyer filters removed, or a Nikon D7000 unmodified.

I took a couple of evenings to familiarize myself with the telescope and mount and to get a feel for the night sky again. This Friday was a good clear night, so I thought I’d attach a camera, point the scope at Andromeda and see what happened.

I aimed to collect 150 x 30 sec exposures at ISO 1600. I was relying on the built-in intervalometer in the camera to control the capture, this was my first mistake. I’d not used this feature of the camera before, and I managed to set it up incorrectly. I only managed to collect half the number of images I thought. I also forgot to set the ISO correctly.

I’m also pretty sure the focus wasn’t spot on. It’s hard to see the camera live view when it’s upside down.

Andromeda M31 A pretty poor photo, but my first attempt
Andromeda M31
A pretty poor photo, but my first attempt

The resulting image isn’t great, but it does hint at there being some structure in the fuzzy glow. Ok, some of that is probably JPEG artifacts in the version I’ve embedded here, there’s probably also some banding from the processing.

Things to do for next time:

  • Check the camera settings
  • Check the camera settings
  • Learn to use the intervalometer
  • Focus the scope on a object I can see in the live view more easily.
  • (probably) Use a computer to control the camera so I can sit in the warm with a cup of Tea.

Big Ben Bongs its last

An advantage to knowing someone that works at Parliament is that you can get some behind the scenes tours that are not usually available to the public. Today, I got to visit the House of Lords archives and conservation studios.

Today’s visit coincided with the last(-ish) chimes from Big Ben, the bell being taken out of action to protect the hearing of the workers repairing the Elizabeth Tower. At 12pm everybody was outside with their cameras pointing up.

I was no different.

Perseids meteor shower

I watched the meteor shower from the field at the Secret Nuclear Bunker where a group of us were camped doing radio stuff including bouncing signals off the ionized gas trail left by burned up meteors (meteor scatter).

I captured this time-lapse video which does include a few meteors as well as a pass by the ISS. The bright blob moving in from the left is the moon.

The circular trails are the stars moving across the sky around the pole star (not quite in frame)

A pretty visitor to the garden

Garden Tiger (Artica caja)

A nice Garden Tiger (Artica caja) spotted this morning on the grass in the garden.
It’s a widespread moth, strikingly colored and patterned.
I’ve not seen the larval form on any of its likely food plants, so have no idea if there will be more appearing soon.

Garden Tiger (Artica caja)