All my images below are free to use for anything covered by a Creative Commons CC-BY license, which is pretty much everything, commercial or non-commercial.

If you're looking for my old Astro Journal (more than 5 years ago) with my Equipment and Astro Automation pages: https://SaltwaterWitch.com/astronomy

     AstroBin

Some of my gear:

Posted November 24, 2018

Essential Tools & Products for Astrophotographers

I'm going to start a series of posts on this topic--"essential tools" to showcase a batch of tools, components, and other products and items I use to make this whole astrophotography journey easier. The first three are must-haves in my book--links below.

1. Slip joint pliers with plastic inserts, designed for jewelry making I think. These come in handy when you need to tighten down the knurled metal screws for guide camera rings, or holding the guide cam shoe, or for tightening the tensioner on a rotator. These might work in cases where you want to tighten something just a bit more than you can with your fingers. But you also don't want to scratch the metal, paint, or plastic of whatever you're tightening. Just be careful because these are still regular pliers and you don't want to break anything. 

2. I use nitrile gloves every time I'm changing filters, adjusting spacers or the OAG, and doing just about anything with my cameras. That's an obvious use, but I use these instead of the ring clamp tools I usually see as "must haves". I use these when I need to remove filters and spacers that are stuck, and the gloves allow you to unstick these without applying a lot of pressure, without squeezing one side of a spacer so much that the adjacent sides bow out and make it worse. They're even grippy enough to unstick those pesky super-slim M42 to M48 spacers. 

3. Real gaffer tape, the expensive cloth stuff that will hold things down but won't leave any residue. Get the real thing, not the cheap stuff. I use this to hold cables together, to tape cables to the mount or the side of a camera. It's as permanent as you want it to be, holding whatever you need to hold until it's time to tear down your gear. Then it just peels away, and you can reuse it.

Non-marring Plastic Jaw Soft Touch Pliers
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000ALF5EK

Nitrile Gloves
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GS8VGP6

Gaffer Tape
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ZRYP38I

Posted June 19, 2022

The moon is bright and the clouds are fast

So, I've been goofing around with hardware, updated NINA and plugins, getting ready for the next clear night. It's raining right now. I was looking at some narrowband data for Sharpless 2-199 (Soul Nebula) I captured late last year and reprocessed the Ha data. I am especially fascinated by the differences in depth and darkness between the background and the bands of dust and interstellar gasses that twist in front of the Soul Nebula, between us and the high-energy emission of the towering clouds of hydrogen beyond. Someone commented (I think on AstroBin) on another image of mine with similar properties—that I needed to bring up the black point, that the night sky is black. But why? Who says so? The data says the background isn't as dark as the dust, so why would I want to lose that difference?

Posted June 17, 2022

The Gradual Shift Toward Portable Astrophotography

I've been thinking about portability for a while, but of course that was on hold for a couple years. I'm thinking about it again. We have pretty decent night skies here, somewhere between bortle 4 and 5. On a clear night with good seeing, Andromeda is easily visible, the Milky Way isn't super obvious but you can see it--and it's easily captured with a 10-second exposure on any camera. We have great views of the circumpolar constellations, and there's so much to image in Cepheus, Cassiopeia, and Auriga. Just these three contain some of the most beautiful nebulae in the night sky. So, not bad at all, but being so far north (+43° Lat) we're also missing a lot of great nebulae around the galactic core.

For that,  we will need to go south for some imaging.

Here's a shot of a nearly full moon through the trees. I also wanted to capture the moonlight through the glass insulators on the transmission lines. About a third of the way in from bottom left is the variable double star Antares (α Scorpii) in the constellation Scorpius. Antares is also part of the Rho Ophiuchi Cloud Complex, one of the most colorful and beautiful regions in the night sky. Unfortunately, what you see here, Antares at 20° is about as high as it will get in the sky. We're just too damn north.

Posted June 15, 2022

Selling my Orion Atlas EQ-G

I'm selling my Orion Atlas EQ-G Mount and Tripod. This is a complete astrophotography setup with serial to USB cable as well as the Shoestring Astro BT2EQ6 bluetooth module for connecting wirelessly to the mount from a computer. The mount is in very good condition. There is some minor wear along the saddle where I have clamped on my scopes. Shoestring Astro BT2EQ6 bluetooth module supports ASCOM and INDI for mount control, or use the included USB2EQ6 Interface Cable that will run from the mount's serial port (DB9) to a USB port on your computer or astro controller. Setup manual for the BT2EQ6 here: http://www.store.shoestringastronomy.com/User_Manual_BT2EQ.pdf

Included:

  • Orion Atlas EQ-G mount
  • SynScan Goto Hand Controller
  • Orion Atlas Tripod
  • 2 x 11 lb. counterweights
  • 12v 2amp power adapter
  • Serial to USB cable
  • Shoestring Astro BT2EQ6 bluetooth module
  • Original manuals for the Orion Atlas EQ-G and the SynScan Controller

Local pickup would be great. I can meet you for delivery in the Exeter, New Hampshire area, or in Danvers, Massachusetts (north of Boston).

PayPal $1000 + Buyer pays shipping fees.

Here's the Atlas in action:

Posted June 12, 2022

Messier 16 in Ha with the "Pillars of Creation"

The famous "Pillars of Creation" from the classic Hubble (HST) image are in the core of the Eagle Nebula (Messier 16). It's no Hubble image, but still crazy what I can capture with a 250mm refractor from my backyard in New Hampshire. Here's the famous "Pillars of Creation" Hubble image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/68/Pillars_of_creation_2014_HST_WFC3-UVIS_full-res_denoised.jpg

This is a crop from the larger image with the Swan Nebula from last week. Notes: 36 x 240 second subs stacked in DSS, processed in PS2022. William Optics SpaceCat 51 Apo Refractor 250mm f/4.9, Astronomik 6nm Ha filter, ZWO ASI1600MM-Pro monochrome camera, Sky-Watcher EQ6-R Pro equatorial mount.

Posted June 10, 2022

The Sadr Region (IC 1318) in Hydrogen-alpha

Astronomik 6nm Ha filter, 42 x 240 second subs stacked in DSS. Click the image for the full view

Posted June 7, 2022

What the Hell Happened to Canes Venatici?

<rant-cam ON>
Holy Rutting Poseidon, the pronunciation of the constellation Canes Venatici in English is an abomination (From wikipedia: /ˈkeɪniːz vɪˈnætɪsaɪ/). Seriously, you're telling me the accepted pronunciation is Kay-neez Ven-AT-i-SAI? The old ghost of a classicist in me (although more ancient Greek than Latin) really wants me to go full Latin, something like Kahn-ess Wen-a-teekee, but Venn-ah-TEE-see sounds great, or even Venn-ah-TEE-chee. Canes Venatici is Latin for "hunting dogs". We don't have to go back that far, but why aren't we pronouncing it to something closer to Latin? There is no way in hell it should be pronounced Kayneez Ven-AT-i-SAI. Who is to blame for this barbarous pronunciation? No, seriously, I'm asking? Now I'm thinking "wikipedia" is supposed to be pronounced Why-kuh-pi-DIE-uh. That makes about as much sense.
<rant-cam OFF>

Posted June 6, 2022

It was a night of dodging clouds and narrowband imaging...

In two parts: I spent the first half of the night on IC 1318, the "Sadr Region" at the heart of the constellation Cygnus. IC 1318 is a vast and energetic emission nebula surrounding one of the brightest stars in the night sky, Sadr (γ Cygni).  Click for the full sized image.

And then shifted the whole operation to the south to the constellation Serpens, just out from the Milky Way core, capturing Messier 16 (Eagle Nebula, NGC 6611), the bright nebula on the left side, and M17 (Swan Nebula, NGC 6618) on right.

Notes: William Optics SpaceCat 51 Apo Refractor 250mm f/4.9, Astronomik 6nm Ha filter, ZWO ASI1600MM-Pro monochrome camera, Sky-Watcher EQ6-R Pro equatorial mount. 

Posted June 6, 2022