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Saturday, September 10, 2016


The Lagooon Nebula with a Point and Shoot Camera (7 September 2016)

 The Lagoon Nebula imaged with taken with a Canon IXUS mounted on 8" Newtonian with infinity to infinity focus, 25 mm eyepiece. 800 ASA,  10 x 15 seconds exposures stacked in Deep Sky Stacker.  Click to embiggenMoon taken with the same Canon IXUS, mounted on 8" Newtonian with infinity to infinity focus as before, 25 mm eyepiece, 400 ASA, single 1 second exposure. Click to embiggen.

I am a bit of a planetary astronomy tragic. While I am happy to cast my eye and occasionally my telescope over galaxies and nebula, I am not so interested in photographing them, reserving my imaging efforts through my own scopes for eclipses and the bright planets, and my time on the iTelescopes for comets.

However, when I was trying to image Mars close to the globular cluster M19, I decided to set up my point and shoot camera on the Don the 8" Newtonian, with the motor drive. Because Don weights a ton, and is a pain to move further tan from the garage to my back yard. I typically reserve it for planetary imaging with the CCD cam. I use the 4" with the "point and shoot" because I can literally toss it in the nback of the care at a moment notiice zoom off and set it up anywhere, and move it at the drop of a hat if the tarhet stars to go behind a tree or roof line (so many eclipses have done that).

Taking astrophotographs of bright planetary bodies such as the Moon and bright planets can be as simple as holding a  mobile phonesor cameras up to a telescope eyepiece. I use a special adapter that holds my camera in place. There are also adapters for iPhones (not, it seems for android phones). These are a bit pricey (nearly $100 for astro-optical stores), but I use mine so often it has repaid my investment. I typically use the adaptor for eclipse photography. I show the setup for my 4" Newtonian without time drive below, but the principle for a time drive telescope is the same.

Point and shoot camera, telescope adapter and 20mm telescope lens. Low power lenses are best for eclipse photographyLens inserted in telescope, tightened in (important, having the lens-camera fall out can ruin your camera) and adapter attached to lens.camera screwed onto platform, some adjusting is needed to centre the image.

The setup for the camera adapter is a tad complex, as you need to juggle the lens to get it aligned with the telescope lens, all while the Moon (or whatever object you want to set up on) is drifting out of the telescope field of view if you are using an a scope without a motor dive. Once aligned you will need to constantly adjust the telescope position to keep the Moon centred for a non-motor drive scope, although if you are using a low power eyepiece this is not that often.

For lunar and solar eclipses, bright star or planet occultations etc this is not a problem, the occasional adjustment is a mild annoyance. But for faint fuzzies you definitely need a motor drive.

Anyway, the Mars M19 conjunction turned out so well with a single 15 second exposure, thar I decide to try out the lagoon nebula. This is not as easy as it souunds as the caurs and fine controls on Don were designed by a sadist , but I finally got a chunk of the nebula into the field of view and did a run of 10 15 second exposures at 800 ASA. 15 seconds is the longest I can do with the Canon IXUS, I could have done multiple runs but it was getting late and I had had to get ready for work the next.

The results are far from spectacular, but not bad for a first go. The main nebula is not centred, the camera is not properly aligned with the lens, so there is weird brightness variations, and the edge stars are distorted, but with a bit of practise (and better focus), I can do a bit of bright nebula cluster photography that I thought I would never be able to do, all with quite low cost eqipment.

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