I've been telling people for a while now that the Paramount WiSky board is really intended for visual observers who want to have their mounts serve dual purposes. You know, to occasionally set it up in the drive way or something so you can look through an eyepiece. The rough polar alignment routine gets you close enough for "visual" you know... When imaging you need a computer... and maybe TPoint, right? Or at least guide. Right?
It seems I've proved myself to be just a tad presumptuous in this stance. I've spoiled myself and perhaps become creatively just a little too reliant on the computer and all the tools I now have at my disposal (and assuming deep sky is the only kind of interesting astrophotography!). Necessity is the mother of invention they say, and just the other night I decided to give "old school" a shot. The event was the big Venus/Jupiter conjunction on the evening of June 30th. Lately we are in the rinse cycle in central Florida and every day at sunset we have thunderstorms and it's usually overcast or hazy all night. There is an old adage that the likelyhood of the weather being good is inversely proportional to the magnitude of some once in a lifetime or rare astronomical event that is occurring that night.
Well as it turns out, some minor or major weather deity somewhere took pity on me and we had a window of clear weather from just before sunset to right before Jupiter and Venus sank below my neighbor's roof line. I usually image from my backyard, but the trees near my home block almost all the way to the meridian to the west so I had to setup in the driveway.
So, in my driveway I setup a Paramount ME II, and brought out a big scope and guider and CCD camera and a laptop, and ran some power cables, and... wait. No I didn't do any of that (although I DO know people who do....).
Right as the sun set, I setup a Paramount MYT on its tripod and leveled it carefully. I put on a big refractor (Sky-Watcher Esprit 150), and got my trusty Canon T3i for the back end. I used TheSkyHD on my iPad and connected to the WiSky Wi-Fi being broadcast by the mount and I did a "Rough Polar Alignment" by sighting Jupiter down the versa-plate. That was it. Done.
Jupiter and Venus just fit inside the field of view with a 1000mm focal length optic and the DSLR APS-C sized chip. I could see the two planets through the view finder and they tracked very well, with only the occasional nudge needed from the mount control buttons in TheSky HD app to keep them framed up. To shoot, I turned on mirror lock on the camera, and used the self timer 10-second delay. I focused using live view on the back of the camera and took a variety of different length exposures and different ISO settings. My best shot was at 1/30th of a second at ISO 400. I then processed the resulting image in Adobe RAW.
No FITS. No guiding. No stacking. I've done the same thing on the moon several times (great for eclipse shooting too), and some nightscapes. This event was just the perfect opportunity for short exposures through an actual telescope that could be processed with more or less "regular" photography techniques. I was very happy with my image as you could see the crescent Venus and the entire Jovian system. I had to resort to Gas Giants to label the moons, as when I saw Europa and Io in the camera viewfinder so close together I thought the camera had shook. As an added bonus, I totally lucked out and the Great Red Spot was visible too.
A larger version is available on my gallery web site here: http://www.eveningshow.com/luna/venusjupiter2015.png.php and I've attached a bit more of a super large version as an attachment so you can see it more closely.
I've seen better when it comes to the capture of both planets in a single frame; for example today's APOD shows the planets much better than I did (hey, he stacked!<g>), but I'm pretty happy with the result none-the-less. Using the MYT "computer-less" with just the iPad may just be something I have to try more often.
P.S. Next stop is the Nebraska Star Party... see you there!
07-02-2015 9:35 PM