It certainly wasn't an ideal night for Astrophotography. The moon was nearly full but it was clear skies. I had just received a new 4.5lb weight from iOptron. My plan for a while has been to shoot M31 the Andromeda Galaxy. While I had shot this before on the first night as I said I wasn’t pleased with it. It’s just too big at almost 3 degrees wide to fit in a 1500mm focal length telescope that sees just over 0.5 degrees. The plan was to use the kit lens that came with the camera at 135mm in order to shoot the Galaxy.
Unfortunately the moon truly was a star party pooper. It made things very difficult to see nighttime objects and ruined both images I shot. Both images had very large moon glow aberration on the images. I should have known better than to try shooting anywhere near the moon with a new very wide lens like that and no moon glow filter at all.
However even though it was a failure there was some success to be had. Firstly the concept worked. I was able to frame up the entire Andromeda Galaxy and you can clearly see both M32 and M110 in the image. I believe this will work excellently on a clear night.
The second success came in the form of learning how to plate solve with Astrophotography Tool. While I have had great success aligning the telescope and getting objects farmed up pretty well it hasn’t been perfect. This was most apparent with an attempt I made shooting the Helix nebula. In one set of photos the object was in the bottom of the frame while the other it was at the top. Plate solving solved that issue. Plate solving allowed me to take a short exposure and then solve that plate with a known sky catalog and then sync with the mount with that location and recenter the target perfectly in the center of the frame.
Now I imagine that some of you would consider this to be a form of cheating since I don’t have to actually know the night sky. I would say that this isn’t true at all. I have learned a great deal about the night sky, stars objects and constellations in a short time. I can locate constellation and really see where the object should be that I am trying to shoot. As an example of this a new member of the SAS joined, he brought his scope to the DHO to try for the first time. We were looking at a few deep sky objects such as M27, and M57, we switched to M31. His scope wasn't perfectly aligned and did not go to directly to it on that side of the meridian. I successfully located the object in the scope and he also asked where it was. I was able to direct him using the constellation of Pegasus and the stars in Andromeda to point to it's location. Three months ago on my second visit to DHO It was the director of the observatory pointing out the andromeda and I was completely lost. Plate solving saves the hassle of framing. If I want to take exposures over multiple nights it's important that they be shoot in the exact same spot so they stack without rotating or clipping the edges. Just being close isn't good enough. My very first attempt had the helix nebula either in the top of the frame or the bottom of the frame. That would not be sutible for stacking.