new mount

I got a new mount! Despite my intentions to not go overboard and spend a ton of money, I decided to go ahead and go overboard and spend a ton of money. I got a Skywatcher EQ6-R Pro mount. Why? In the pantheon of Things You Can Buy For Astrophotography (which I am learning every day is bigger than I thought), the mount you use seems to be what everyone recommends to start with. In addition to equatorial tracking, it can also do go-to navigation for telling it what to point at (after some alignment/calibration), and allows for fairly heavy loads (with a capacity far exceeding anything I’ll be using short-term with my camera or Onesky 130). The EQ6-R Pro is a newer and very well-regarded mount that comes highly recommended – and if I get bored of the hobby, it should hold its value and be pretty easy to sell. “Mount first” is a mantra I hear from a lot of people, because I think stability and tracking are paramount over anything else, so I decided to get the mount and learn how to use it before deciding if/how I want to proceed upgrading the telescope and other parts of the optical train.

Tonight I did a test-run of the setup/teardown and polar alignment on my deck (seen above along with my assistant Emma The Dog). It was not easy (more on that later), but it worked. I was able to point my telescope at Saturn and leave it tracking as long as I needed. I took some shots and stacked – probably the best result I’ve had for Saturn so far:

You can see the cassini division in this one, at least! At this point, the limiting factor for planetary photos is clearly optical – the collimation of my telescope and the tilt (the weight of my camera pulls it and the focusing ring away from the focal plane a bit) combined are reducing my ability to get shots with better focus. This may be improved if I collimate better, but probably it’s not going to get much better without a different telescope better suited to photography. I did also manage to point the telescope at Andromeda, M15 and a few other things, but I won’t humiliate myself from posting the photos I attempted from the city, since the sodium vapor lamps near my house mostly stole the show.