Lightweight Astrophotography

M78 to the Horsehead Nebula, 86x30s, Nikon D750, Takahashi FS-60CB, Vixen Polarie.

On December 26th we were invited to christmas dinner at my sisters place. I brought the Vixen Polarie, the Takahashi FS-60CB and the Nikon D750 to do some astrophotgraphy during the evening.

The image above records some faint nebulosity across central Orion. From the horsehead nebula B33 silhouetted against IC434 to the flame nebula NGC 2024. In the upper left, the M78 nebula with its surrounding NGC objects is also visible. In the corner a hint of Barnards loops is discernible

Comet 46P/Wirtanen, 26.12.2018, 89*30s Takahashi FS-60CB, Nikon D750, ISO 3200
Comet 46P/Wirtanen, 26.12.2018, 89*30s Takahashi FS-60CB, Nikon D750, ISO 3200, crop

10 days after its nearest approach to earth, comet Wirtanen is receding fast. It becomes fainter every day. Even with a 44,5 minute exposure I could not record the faint tail.

located at 1000m above sea level Wald am Arlberg provides some very good skies.

This is the first time I used the Tak on the Vixen Polarie. I had some success using a lightweight 300mm f4 telephoto lens on the travel mount, but was not sure if the heavier refractor would still work. The Polarie itself is very stable, the weak link(s) are the ballheads used for polar alignment and positioning of the telescope. I use an old Manfrotto ballhead and an even older Gitzo ballhead both of which are quite stable.

The Vixen Polarie on a Manfrotto ballhead, an old Gitzo ballhead is used to position the telescope.
The small refractor on the Polarie is borderline, here the trail of a passing satellite recorded the vibration after the shutter opened.

Of course the setup is not rock-solid and polar alignment using the Lacerta off-axis polar scope needs a steady hand, and finding the object to photograph without a finder is also quite difficult. The image above shows, that the mount is quite wobbly, but the initial vibrations after the mirror slap do not show up in the final image.