For two years now, I have been taking astrophotographs using a HyperStar lens. I have not done much observing through my 14-inch Celestron telescope. As a matter of fact, I have not even seen Saturn or Jupiter. So I decided to enter a new field of astronomy with the equipment that I have.
I did some experimentation recently viewing the sun through a solar filter. I could see sun spots using a diagonal and a 40 MM 2-inch eyepiece. I tried to take some images using the diagonal and my starlight express 25 C one shot CCD camera. The sun was huge because the field of view enlarged dramatically without using a HyperStar lens. I decided to use a focal reducer and take astrophotographs straight through the telescope without using the diagonal.
Basically what a f6.5 focal reducer does is reduce the optics of my scope from an f10 to a smaller focal length, thus making imaging a little faster. Using this setup I will not be able to go deep, but I thought it would help me get some planetary, lunar, and solar images.
My first target was a star … Vega. It is the brightest star in the constellation Lyra, which, at about 7:30 PM, is in the western sky. Vega is a relatively close star at only 25 light-years from earth. Interestingly enough the star was the Northstar about 12,000 BC, and will be so again in another 12,000 years or so. Vega is one of three stars forming the summer triangle. The other two stars are Altair and Deneb.
I was curious to see if Vega had any color. It does. It’s a blue-tinged white star which has a life span 1/10 that of our sun. Below is a 100th of a second image.
My next target was Jupiter. Jupiter rises around 7:30 PM and will be a great target all winter long. I left the focal reducer in place and took a 1000th of a second image. Manipulating the picture in Photoshop, I was able to get a fairly decent picture showing two of Jupiter’s bands. No red spot though.
While several of the moons of Jupiter were visible with a longer exposure, they fade into the darkness because Jupiter is so bright. (Click on both images for a larger view.)
Wintertime in Northern Michigan is an extremely difficult season to do much viewing or imaging because of all the cold fronts that come across Lake Michigan. However, I will be experimenting with lunar and planetary imaging when the nights are clear, crisp, and cold.