Astrophotography! The Orion Nebula and More

Photography, Science Tech

I took that! M42- C9.25/CGEM. Nikon D3100, ISO800, single 30 sec. unguided exp.


I had a great night last night. It was clear, cold, and dry. The seeing wasn’t very good, unfortunately. However, that didn’t stop me from having a good night. I setup the C9.25 in late evening with no problems (for the most part). At just over a year of owning this instrument, I’m reaching the point where happy with the entire setup, and it is fast becoming my favorite telescope. I still need to work on some cable management, however. I noted serval other things as well, mainly that the focuser on the scope is very rough and pretty much not worth using, which is unfortunate, since it is a very nice FeatherTouch unit. Fortunately, it’s no fault of the FeatherTouch, but rather a lack of lubrication on the baffle on which the primary mirror rides. That also means that it’s not fixable unless I take the scope all apart again, which I’m not too keen on doing. However, I am planning to get an external crayford focuser eventually, which should eliminate the need of the current focuser, with it’s rough spots and hideous focus shift (which would probably be fixed with better lubrication as well). I also noticed a lot of “slop” in the Right Ascension axis of the CGEM. I don’t like that at all. I may have to get it hypertuned, or do it myself.

After I aligned everything with a 2-star alignment+ 4 calibration stars, and deciding against doing the All-Star Polar Alignment routine, I sent the scope to M42, the Orion’s Nebula. At that point, I thought I might be able to do some photography with my dSLR. I had never photographed any Deep Space Object with the telescope, so my thought was just to get something to fiddle around with. I wasn’t sure how the CGEM would handle 30 seconds of unguided exposure at 2,350mm focal length. It was an experiment. And boy, am I happy with the results now. By no means am I satisfied with it, but the outcome was much better than I anticipated. The presence of the wispy, colorful filaments that lit up my LCD screen after the exposure made me very happy. I was pumped.

After that exciting “success”, I moved over to another great object, M35. Unfortunately, the object didn’t suit the field of view of the equipment (at least, at F/10). A wider FoV would have been better for this star cluster. That image wasn’t as great a success, so I’ll refrain from including it in this post. I’m not exactly pleased with it, but it’s not too bad.

After that, I was anxious to get a shot at M82, and it’s supernova that has had astronomers excited. I had observed it visually before, with my 6″ Newtonian, very soon after it was discovered. It was noticeably dimmer last night, but still noticeably there. I’m not 100% happy with this photograph either, as the stars show some trailing, but it is cool because of the supernova. It is also my first telescopic shot of a galaxy outside our own.


M82. The supernova is the yellow-looking star inside the galaxy.

After that, I put the camera away and did a good bit of visual observing. The seeing remained poor, so I did not do much planetary observing. I observed a lot of DSOs, though. The highlight was probably seeing the spiral arms in the spiral galaxy M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy. That was very cool. Here are some other objects I observed: nebula M42, galaxies M82 (and supernova), M81, M51, M109, M106, M94, M108, planetary nebula M97, galaxies M95, M96, and M105 with NGCs 3384 and 3389. Towards the end, I tried to observe Mars for a little, but the seeing wouldn’t allow for that.

I must say that I tried to photograph Jupiter as well, but I don’t have enough control of the video from my dSLR. It’s just not the right tool for the job.

Overall, I was pleased with how my equipment did, especially the CGEM mount, which did ok with some of the 30 second exposures unguided. However, I know I can do better! These images are encouraging, and motivate me to do better. I hope you enjoyed them.


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