The CEM70 Observatory grade, high capacity and sleek. I was surprised and extremely excited when First Light Optics offered me the iOptron CEM70 mount to review. With great jubilee I agreed and for a few months now I’ve been enjoying this heavyweight Centre-Balanced Equatorial Mount.
In this article I’m going to share my thoughts and feelings on this mount.
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Having been given a nice wide SharpStar 61EDPH2 telescope to review, as well as a ZWO ASI183mm Pro – a cooled mono camera – I thought I’d love to try a SHO image again. After having a browse about in Stellarium, I decided I was able to frame up the Tadpoles, Spider and Fly nebula. So with clear nights being in short supply, I set to work.
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Well, what a year 2020 has been. Aside from the state of the world, the year has been a bit up and down with astrophotography also. From a nice beginning with the 533mc Pro, a scorching summer and an abysmal winter. In this post I think I’ll take some time to recap, to look back over the year, and my images. So feel free to tag along for a trip down this year’s lane as we bid farewell to 2020, and welcome in another year of opportunities, targets, and incessant cloud cover.
2020 In Review
At the beginning of the year I was still using the ZWO ASI 533mc Pro that was on loan from First Light Optics. It was actually the first piece of equipment they had loaned me. I also had the Astronomik 12nm Hydrogen Alpha filter that was loaned to me from the Widescreen centre. It was certainly strange getting items sent to me, and definitely took some getting used to. The relationship with Widescreen Centre didn’t go anywhere, however I did get on board with First Light Optics as a reviewer and I couldn’t be more thankful for such an opportunity.
The key images I took early on in the year included the Rosette Nebula, Comet Atlas and M81 & M82. These were exclusively shot with the 533mc Pro and then I was able to make my review. Which was my first camera review. I think it came out well.
2020 also included a house move from one town in Northamptonshire to another. I also moved in with my partner so I actually missed a couple clear nights during that transition period. Trying to move house, sort internet out, unpack and image deep space was too much to do at the same time really.
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Flat Frames are a special type of calibration frame that are used to correct vignetting, gradients and dust in your astrophotography. In essence, a flat frame is a evenly illuminated photo of a blank light source. I, myself, left it the longest time before I began taking flat frames and when I did, it changed my entire workflow and made editing a lot easier. If I put them off the longest time, then I bet you might be putting it off as well. In this post I’ll explain to you how to take flat frames.
Fantastic Flat Frames
Once you learn the art of flat frames – as well as a hack to make life easier – you’ll quickly be able to take consistent and effective flat frames. I’ll be showing you how to take flat frames with both DSLR cameras as well as dedicated astronomy cameras. Dedicated astronomy cameras are a bit more complicated, it isn’t as intuitive as using a DSLR. I’ll begin with DSLRs as I suspect if you’re reading how to shoot flats, you’re towards the beginning of your journey and may not have yet moved on towards a dedicated astronomy camera.
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The Equatorial Home Position (EQ Home) is an important parking position to place your mount in. It’s the basis where your Go-To works from. Having an accurate EQ Home will make your life easier. It will improve your Go-To accuracy, make it easier to use finder-scopes to align as well as speeding up plate-Solving.
In this post I’m going to show you how to set the equatorial home position. In this example I’ll be using my Sky-Watcher EQ6-R Pro, but the instructions here will apply to any EQ mount. For this recipe you’ll need your EQ Mount and a Spirit Level.
With that said, let’s begin.
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So I changed the focus tube on my 80ED for the uprated Crayford type, finished in glossy black. But was it worth the monetary investment? Let’s find out. Glossy black finish, smooth plastic, a fine looking aesthetic complete with additional goodies over the stock focus tube fitted to most Skywatcher series refractors; this uprated focuser looks to have everything you want.
But it isn’t that straight forward.
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The Optolong L-eXtreme Filter
The Optolong L-eXtreme filter is the bigger brother to the hugely popular and widely well received Optolong L-eNhance filter. The L-eXtreme is a duo-narrowband filter that lets through Hydrogen-Alpha and Oxygen-III wavelenghts.
The filter is used best on emission nebula and supernova remnants. I’ve had this filter for a while and used it between a DSLR and a dedicated astronomy camera. In this article I’ll be sharing my thoughts about this narrowband filter that was designed for use mainly with one-shot colour (OSC) cameras.
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The Andromeda Galaxy
The Andromeda Galaxy is a widely popular, huge and gorgeous galaxy located in the constellation of Andromeda (no surprises there). I’ve imaged this galaxy three times now with a camera and a telescope, each time slowly improving. Admittedly there has been equipment improvements as well but also my own skills and abilities have improved alongside. In this post I’m going to describe the process of photographing a sensational Deep Sky Object.
The image contains 4.7 hours of 2 minute exposures using a Light Pollution Suppression Filter. A modest refracting telescope. An excellent astrophotography mount and a dedicated One Shot Colour (OSC) camera. There is certainly some expensive equipment in this rig and I had high hopes for being able to do this target justice.
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Using A Remote Telescope With Telescope Live
There’s been a particularly bad run of weather currently in Britain. I know that we’re famous for it, but it’s really been taking the cake right now. So when I was approached by Telescope Live to use some of their kit for a bit I couldn’t say no.
I was aware of remote telescope services already. I had even looked into one before but was quickly dissuaded by the price tag. Alex, from the Telescope Live team, made himself known, we had a call. Long story short you’re now reading a blog post about that experience. In this article I’m going to try and convey what to expect when you sign up to and begin using remote telescopes. Some of the best gear we can have access to, in some of the most pristine and darkest skies going. A way to access horizons and hemispheres we don’t usually get the chance to see.
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Reduce star sizes in GIMP! This is a definite way to immediately add punch to your image. By reducing the star sizes you can remove distractions. To me, the stars – whilst pretty – can detract from some images by blanketing them with hundreds of points of light which takes your eyes from the deep sky object. Which is the main focal point of the image, right?
So in this tutorial I will be showing you a way you can use the free image processor GIMP to reduce the star sizes.
If you’re new to editing in GIMP anyway, I have a full tutorial that can be found at the bottom of this page.
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