Astrophoto: M31, The Andromeda Galaxy

Photography, Science Tech


This is by no means the best photo of the Andromeda Galaxy (Messier 31), but this is pretty significant to me as this is my first good shot  of a galaxy. It is easily visible to the naked eye at magnitude 3.4. In this photo, I had my lens at 55mm. In the below photo, it is seen at 18mm.Cassiopeia, M31 8/12/12

I tracked both photos manually on my German equatorial mount; the 55mm focal length was a little more challenging, since little errors show up more with more focal length. M31 is the brightest galaxy, and is probably the most photographed one, but I still like my first.

Visit my Flickr photostream for more photographs.

Visit my Astrophotography Gallery.


Perseid Meteor Shower: Photo

Photography, Science Tech

Meteor 8/11/12

I didn’t come away with many meteor photos, but this one (to me) stands out! This was taken on a tripod, a thirty second exposure with the aperture wide open and ISO 1600. To the upper left of the meteor is Cassiopeia. See the fuzzy blob at the right? That’s M31, the Andromeda Galaxy. COOL!!

A Review of the Orion AstroView 6EQ

Science Tech

Orion AstroView 6

The Orion AstroView 6EQ is a great amateur telescope, especially for a beginner amateur astronomer who is moving up from a smaller, beginner telescope. The 6-inch (150mm) aperture is large enough to show a host of deep sky objects, especially the Messier list. It comes on a German equatorial mount, which is great for someone who wants to learn how to use a GEM (German Equatorial Mount).

The optical quality is good, and the collimation cap can be used to collimate the mirrors to maximize quality. It is an F/5 scope, and it has a focal length of 750mm. The AstroView 6 is great for low power views (with the included two eyepieces, I can get 30x and 75x), but a shorter focal length ocular is needed for higher power viewing, or a barlow lens is needed. It is excellent for visual use, but for astrophotography with a DSLR it suffers from an all-to-common Newtonian problem: it doesn’t have enough down focus to come into focus properly. This means a barlow is a must for a focused astrophoto.

The GEM is also of excellent quality. It has worm gears and slow motion control cables. It is rated online for 12 pounds capacity, but the counter weights still aren’t heavy enough when doing astrophotography with my setup; the OTA at 9.1 pounds (weight from the Orion website), and my DSLR, adapter, and barlow at about 2 pounds; only 11 pounds. It is steady though, with not much vibration. The basic rack-and-pinion focuser seems to hold the load quite well.

Imaging Setup

Also, this mount is not computerized or motorized. There is an available clock drive, but the mount has no autoguiding capabilities, making it unsuitable for long exposure photography  of DSOs (Deep Sky Objects) through the scope. However, it is capable of lunar photography:


(Above: Crescent Moon. Orion AstroView6, Nikon D3100). It is capable of some planetary photography: (Saturn, Venus. Orion AstroView6, Nikon D3100)








And the AstroView 6EQ setup is capable of “piggyback” style photography. What I did is I “piggybacked” my DSLR on top of my telescope on the GEM. Then, after finding a reasonably bright star in the area I wanted to photograph, I would open the shutter and keep the star in the center of the field of view, thus manually tracking the sky. With this method, it can produce extra-long exposure photographs such as below:

Milky Way

(Above: Milky Way. Nikon D3100, 139 second exposure, F/5.3, ISO 1600)

One thing I didn’t like was the mirror-mirror cell attachment. I have owned this for about 8 months, and it is normal to have to clean the mirrors if they are dirty after about a year. So, finding my mirrors pretty dirty, I took them out to clean. Everything went well until it came to taking out the mirror from the mirror cell. Orion used foam “clamps” that screwed into the cell. They put the screws in so tight that it was nearly impossible to get them out. In fact, I could only get two of three out and had to slip the mirror out of the third clamp because the screws would not come out. While I was screwing them in, the screwdriver slipped and put a small scratch in the primary mirror because of the difficulty of the screws. I am pretty sure it won’t affect the telescope, but it was frustrating.

I added a primary mirror cooling acceleration fan on the back of the primary mirror cell to speed the cooling. I used a computer fan temporarily attached with rubber bands.

Mirror Fan

Overall: A good visual intermediate scope with beginning astrophotography capabilities, but nearly impossible to remove the mirror.



Heads Up, Skywatchers! Lyra Meteors

Journal, Science Tech


In the night sky tonight is the annual  Lyrid meteor shower. Although it peaks tonight, you can still see meteors from a meteor shower a day or two before and after the peak. The image above (from StarryNight software, I added the point where the shower is) shows where to look. To see it, it is best to go out sometime after midnight, as it is darkest then. Look up and eastward. The bright star Vega in the constellation makes it easier to spot. Don’t worry if you can’t find it, meteors can come from anywhere in the sky. It will be enough to just look eastward. This year it should be easier to spot even the fainter meteors this year, having no moon to contend with. The Lryids come from the dust and rock of Comet Thatcher. Also in the night sky is our own galaxy, the beautiful Milky Way, declaring the Creator’s glory (Ps. 19:1). If you have dark enough skies, it is quite as sight!

Dress warmly (if it is cold in your area) and clear skies!