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Images of Galaxies, Nebulae, & Planets with telescope, camera, techniques




Using unguided telescopes on alt/az or casually polar aligned mounts and combining a number of short exposures allows a relatively simple and uninvolved entry into astrophotography. Adding guiding on a polar aligned mount is the next step and allows increased exposure.

Images on this site of galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters were taken mostly with the Starlight Xpress SXV-H9C CCD color camera and the Meade DSI I color camera on either a Alt/Az mounted Celestron 8 inch telescope (Nexstar 8 GPS) or a Celestron 11 inch XLT telescope mounted on an equatorial mount. Some of the more recent images used guiding. At $299 originally (now $95) the Meade camera is the least expensive way to start in astrophotography and still get reasonably pleasing results. The planet photos here were taken mostly with the Philips ToUcam Pro II web cam. This camera or the similar Celestron Nextimage are excellent and inexpensive (~$99-$160) cameras for the planets and the moon. Some of the photos on this site are not "perfect" and the descriptions of the image taking details will point out the problems. Other telescopes used are Meade ETX-90, Orion ED80, and Coronado PST.

Data is collected from the cameras on a Dell laptop computer ($700) and transfered to a Dell desktop for processing. Data can thus be processed on one computer while more data is being collected at the same time on the other. Software used for data collection and image processing is that included with the cameras, the excellent freeware program Registrax 4, and the commercial programs Paint Shop Pro 9 and AstroArt 4.

In the spring of 2006 I purchased a used Starlight Xpress SXV-H9C CCD camera for $2000. This camera has more pixels and a wider field of view than the Meade DSI along with thermoelectric cooling of the CCD chip. I am using AstroArt 4 for data acquisition and processing along with Paint Shop Pro 9. You will be able to compare the results from the two cameras and decide which is a better value.

In the winter of 2006-2007 I got a CGE mount on sale so I could add a piggybacked Meade DSX-90 telescope to the Celestron 11 inch for guiding with a Meade DSI camera. This has allowed exposure times of up to 5 minute per subframe so far.

In the spring of 2007 I purchased a Meade DSI pro for guiding. It also occured to me that it could be used with my Orion ED80 on my CG5 mount (casually polar aligned) for a "Grab and Go" imaging set up. Using the Celestron power tank and my laptop on battery power I could take a few images without needing AC power. These black and white images are listed in a separate catagory above.

In 2010 and 2011 I traded in my C11 CGE mount system and sold my Orion 120ED CG5 mount system due to back problems. I now use a Stellarvue SV105T and Lunt 60HaT solar scope, and still have my C8 but sold the HyperStar lens. These all can be used nicely on an iOptron MiniTower mount. I can take short exposures with the H9C camera on the Stellarvue and C8.

In the fall of 2011 I purchased my first video camera. This allows almost real time (up to 56 second integrations) views on a 9" DVD player. This is a great setup for public star parties. I can also capture images with my computer, now a Toshiba with an Intel Core i7 processor.