I haven’t been out under the stars much at all lately due to weather and busy schedules, but I found myself staring up last night at a clear sky. It was too windy, and too late to bring out the whole rig. I dragged out the mount and my daughter’s 70mm f10 toy scope to show her Jupiter. It was windy and seeing was terrible as a cold front had just come through in the afternoon. We had our ten minutes of fun looking at a fuzzy Jupiter and I brought in the scope, Leaving the mount out as there was no chance of rain.
At about 1AM I was tossing and turning, unable to sleep so I checked on the position of the Milky Way. Still being less than a year into astro-imaging and living in such a light-polluted area, I had never really looked into the Milky Way in the southern sky. It was still windy, and way too late to bring out the rig, but the mount was still out and my camera was just sitting there. So I slapped on the 75-300mm kit lens, a lens hood and a CLS filter and headed outside – no computer, no cables, just the mount and the camera.
I had an idea of the general area I wanted to shoot. I was a little off center, but that’s OK. The lens at 100mm looked pretty good. I just set the camera to take ten continuous 20 second exposures at ISO1600. Rinse at repeat. No darks, no flats. Ten minutes of imaging really just to test. I stacked 20 frames with no support files, and received a sloppy, poorly balanced image that got me chomping at the bit to get out under the sky this June.
I knew I wanted to start capturing the Lagoon nebula this month, but instantly added three more targets to my June list – The Eagle, Omega and Trifid nebulae are now obvious must-haves. This messy photo that would embarrass most imagers got me excited again. I’m ready to go, and just hoping the weather cooperates more than it did in the wettest May on record!
Though this image is sloppy and so very flawed, It shows you that you can have plenty of fun with just a camera and lens. Another 10-20 minutes of integration time and some decent supporting files really could produce a great image. Have some fun with it, even if you only have a few minutes.
Clear Skies, Bleary Eyes – KA
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