My astrophotography hobby

My astrophotography hobby started when I got a 90mm f/10 refractor telescope for my 23rd birthday. Initially I really didn’t know how to use it or what cool objects to watch with it. Fortunately a friend of mine gained some experience with telescopes in the Czech Republic and showed me the basics of using a telescope. Apart from occasionally looking at the Moon, Jupiter or Saturn and taking photos with an iPhone hand-held to the eyepiece, I didn’t use the telescope a lot in the first year.

In December 2013 I won a 130mm reflector telescope in Bresser’s Comet Ison sweepstake. Because this telescope’s aperture is twice as big as my first one, this tube would allow me to image much faintier objects like nebula, galaxies and star clusters. Thrilled by the news that I had won a telescope I quickly learned a lot about astrophotography. One of the first things I learned was that capturing Deep Sky Objects (DSO’s) would require a camera capable of taking long exposures. As those are very expensive I decided to focus on planetary imaging for the time being.

My Bresser exos1 mount with a 130mm f/5 reflector and a 90mm f/10 refractor

My Bresser exos1 mount with a 130mm f/5 reflector and a 90mm f/10 refractor

On many astrophotography fora, word was spread about very cheap xbox webcams which would be perfect for planetary imaging. With a price of 9 euros I decided to give it a go and modified the webcam to fit as an eyepiece. This meant glueing a 31mm tube onto the camera and removing the infra red filter glas. Later I completely took the camera apart, added a fan for cooling and gave it a new housing. I also re-fitted the inra red filter, because I felt the infra red light was too chromatically distorted and blurred the image.

Xbox webcam in empty nail box

Xbox webcam in empty nail box

This camera performed reasonably well and gave me my first good images of Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon. I also tried to image Mars, but the results never looked very pleasing. It was with the xbox webcam that I learned how to stack large amounts of frames and how to pull out detail that isn’t apparent at first. I highly recommend the xbox webcam to any beginning astronomer.

After 5 months of toying around with my webcam and iPhone, I finally decided to purchase a DSLR for long exposures. Unfortunately, my mount hasn’t got motorized tracking so the long exposures I can take through my telescope are limited to half a second. I am planning on getting a motorized mount, but even without such a mount I have been able to take some cool photos of planetary nebula, globular clusters, open clusters, the milky way and Saturn. I should note that taking large amounts of half-a-second exposures shortens the dslr shutter lifetime. Therefore, I will limit the amount of large stacks from deep sky objects to a minimum until I have a proper tracking system.

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