Deep Sky Observations with Atik Infinity End of 2017 - 2018

Conditions | Observation Overview | Remarks | References

Since the end of November 2017, I own an Atik Infinity camera for taking photos of deep sky objects. On this page, I collect information about my observations, which might be of interest to other beginners. The photos that were taken during the observations are shown elsewhere on this site, for example on page Atik Infinity Colour Camera - Gallery.

So far, I have visited (and documented...) the following sky objects with the Atik Infinity (the links lead to pages describing the DSOs):

I selected the observation objects primarily on the basis of my literature and experiences (see references).

 

Conditions

Sky Region and Objects

I constrained myself mostly to the sky area in the south and southwest (according to the respective date). I chose those objects, which were "prominent" on the respective date and suitable for a photo (nebulae, open and globular star clusters).

Observation Time

The observations started at the end of November 2017. They typically took place shortly after dusk, when it was sufficiently dark for a successful star alignment for the GoTo mount. Since mid-February, I used the Celestron StarSense module for an automatic alignment.

Observation Location

All observations took place in Mühlhausen/Kraichgau (Germany):

Equipment Used

Camera, Laptop, Focal Extender/Reducer, GoTo Mount, StarSense Module, Power Supply

Of course, the Atik Infinity camera is needed for taking photos. To operate the camera, a laptop on which the control program runs is also required. Depending on the telescope tube used, focal length extenders (Barlow lens, focal extender) or reducers must also be used. This is indicated for the respective observations.

Photo: Atik Infinity camera at Explorer 150PDS (without StarSense module)

In addition, the telescope tube has always to be mounted on my Star Discovery GoTo mount because of the needed tracking of sky objects. At least with the Explorer 150PDS, I will use the StarSense module for an automatic alignment of the GoTo mount in the future. On February 12, 2018 I already used it more or less successfully and later on as well.

And last but not least, you need a 12 V power supply for the camera and GoTo mount (and possibly one for the laptop). By the way, the StarSense module is powered by the mount.

Telescope Tubes

Heritage 100P

This small telescope tube (400 mm, f/4) is designed for visual observation only. With the camera, you can only get into focus when using focal length extenders (Barlow lens, focal extender). Unfortunately, this reduces the light intensity accordingly (by the extension factor). Furthermore, I did not find that the image quality was sufficient (Feb 7, 2018). I therefore will not use this combination in the future.

Explorer 150PDS

The Explorer 150PDStube (750 mm, f/5) indicates already with a "P" in its name that it is designed for astro photography ("DS" = Dual Speed is also helpful when taking astro photos). This means that you can get into focus with the camera. With an aperture ratio of f/5 it is also sufficiently sensitive, and the focal length appears ideal (the Atik Infinity is recommended for focal lengths between 500 mm and 1000 mm).

Skymax-102, Skymax-127

With their long focal lengths, the Maksutov-Cassegrain OTAs Skymax-102 (1300 mm, f/12.7) and Skymax-127 (1500 mm, f/11.8) are less suitable for use with the Atik Infinity camera, and they also require significantly longer exposure times due to their low aperture ratio. This can be compensated for with focal length reducers (analogous to focal length extensions). However, my combination of a 2 x focal length reducer and an extension tube achieves only a factor of 2.3 instead of one of 3 (this results in f/5.1 for the Skymax-127)... The reducer also seems to lead to vignetting. I still have to try out which factor the 2 x focal length reducer alone actually achieves and whether this leads to vignetting or not.

General Conditions

In general, the sky above Mühlhausen/Kraichgau is "light-polluted" and does not invite you to search for deep sky objects. This is certainly one of the reasons why I found some of the deep sky objects that I wanted to observe only sometimes or not at all. For astro photography, however, light pollution is not as disturbing as for visual observations.

 

Observation Overview

Observation Dates

Date Observed Objects Tubes Used Accessories Used Remarks Further Remarks
Nov 26 or 27, 2017   Heritage 100P   My first attempt failed No 2-star alignment possible, because the clouds changed all the time. Seen nothing... Tried the mood at the end, saw a glow, then clouds came...
Nov 29, 2017 GC: M 15
PN: M 57 (Ring Nebula)
Heritage 100P   My second attempt worked in principle, but I could not get the camera into focus with this telescope (it is not suited to photography) This time, the sky was initially clear so that a two-star alignment was possible (Vega, Altair); I selected a star in the vicinity of Altair for initial adjustment and focusing. First, the "spider patterns" of fuzzy stars appeared. But correct focusing was not possible because I was not able to move the eyepiece holder further down as needed. After all, only relatively small "balls" or "rings" remained so that I was able to recognize the deep sky objects that I accessed...

Photos

Dec 7, 2017 GC: M 15, M 56
PN: M 57, M 27
Heritage 100P 2 x Barlow lens, 2 x focal extender In my third attempt, I was able to focus the camera with this telescope thanks to the use of a 2 x Barlow lens and a 2 x focal extender (both allowed me to move the focus point inwards) Seen with 2 x Barlow lens: M 57, M 15, M 56, M 27 > focusing possible, poor image quality

Seen with 2 x focal extender: M 57, M 15, M 56, M 27 > focusing possible, image quality better, but not good

Photos

Dec 12, 2017 --- Explorer 150PDS   I was able to focus the camera with this "photo" telescope I was able to focus the camera with this telescope thanks (verified using a star); before I was able to get started, clouds appeared...
Dec 31, 2017 GC: M 15, M 56, M 71
PN: M 57, M 27
Explorer 150PDS   This time, I was able to test the camera with DSO at the Explorer 150PDS; from now on, the photos seem "useable"... The best results so far...

Photos

Jan 14, 2018 OC: M 45 (Pleiades)
G: M 31/32 (Andromeda Galaxy)
Skymax-127 3 x focal reducer (2 x reducer with extension tube) Tested another telescope tube, because of the long focal width using a focal reducer No 2-star alignment possible, therefore, I accessed two rather large targets manually

Photos

Feb 12, 2018 OC: M 35, M 36, M 37, M 38
GE: M 42/43
Explorer 150PDS StarSense module This time, I aligned the telescope/mount automatically using the StarSense module In my second attempt with the StarSense module, I was successful (the first one was on Feb 8); the photos were OK, particularly those of M 42/43

Photos

Feb 21, 2018 OC: M 35
GE: M 42/43
Moon: Half Moon
Explorer 150PDS StarSense module Again, I aligned the telescope/mount automatically using the StarSense module StarSense alignment was successful; the photos were OK, but those of the moon could have been sharper...

Photos

Mar 14, 2018 OC: M 41, M 45, M 50, M 93
GE: M 42/43
Explorer 150PDS StarSense module Ditto StarSense alignment was successful; the photos of M 45 were OK , those of M 41, M 50, and M 93 missed the target. M 42/43 not really found, no photo...

Photos

Apr 6, 2018 OC: M 41, M 50, NGC 2264
GE: M 1, M 42/43
Explorer 150PDS StarSense module Ditto StarSense alignment was successful; most photos were OK; M 42/43 disturbed, Alnitak disturbed (nebulae around Alnitak not found)

Photos

Apr 8, 2018 OC: M 35, M 36-38, M 47, M 50 Explorer 150PDS StarSense module Ditto StarSense alignment was successful; the photos were OK, but missed the targets; I only found M 36 when I was looking for M 38... (M 1 not found, NGC 2264 not recognized/photographed)

Photos

Bold: First observation during this observation period; G = galaxy, OC = open star cluster, GC = globular star cluster, PN = planetary nebula, GE = galactic emission nebula, P = star pattern

Observed Sky Objects

DSO Details
Name Constellation Type Heritage 100P 150PDS SM-102 SM-127 Remarks
M 56   Perseus GC yes yes     usable and identifiable*
M 57 Ring Nebula Lyra PN yes yes    

amazingly easy to recognize, even with blurred images

M 27 Dumbbell Nebula Vulpecula PN yes yes     very pale, no bright photo achieved yet
M 15   Pegasus GC yes yes     usable and identifiable
M 71   Sagitta GC   yes     usable and identifiable
M 31/32 Andromeda Galaxy Andromeda G       yes

because of M 31's size, I was only able to photograph a part of it; I saw M 32 for the first time.

M 1 Crab Nebula Taurus GE   yes, CS     faint, but identifiable
M 45 Pleiades Taurus OC   yes, CS   yes too large for the image section, but identifiable
M 42/43 Orion Nebula Orion GE   yes, CS     so far the most beautiful deep sky object, but not as colorful as on many photos; the nebula is relatively differentiated on the photos (after post-processing)
M 35   Gemini OC   yes, CS     usable and identifiable; also missed the target once
M 36   Auriga OC   yes, CS     usable and identifiable; once found as "M 38"...
M 37   Auriga OC   yes, CS     usable and identifiable; also missed the target once
M 38   Auriga OC   yes, CS     usable and identifiable; also missed the target once (got M 36 instead...)
M 41   Canis Major OC   yes, CS     missed the target on the first attempt, second attempt OK
M 47   Puppis OC   yes, CS     missed the target...
M 50   Monoceros OC   yes, CS     missed the target on the first attempt, second attempt OK, third one failed again
M 93   Puppis OC   yes, CS     missed the target...
NGC 2264 Christmas Tree Cluster Monoceros OC   yes, CS     find verified
Moon         yes, CS     the photos are not really sharp

G = galaxy, OC = open star cluster, GC = globular star cluster, DS = double star, SP = star pattern; CS = Celestron StarSense module
*) "identifiable" means that I compared the photos with other photos or sketches of the object and that I found features that allowed to identify the object (this applies particularly to open and globular star clusters)

 

Remarks

Preparation

When searching for deep sky objects, a good preparation is obligatory - you read this, and I can confirm it. "Good preparation" means, on the one hand, that you compile a list of objects that you want to observe, including notes on where and how to find them.

On the other hand, even when doing "quick astro photography" with the Atik Infinity camera (a variety of "video astronomy") more technology has to be prepared than for purely visual observation, especially if you just put a small Dobson or Maksutov telescope on the terrace table for this... Above, I describe, what equipment I use and need for taking photos with the Atik Infinity camera.

 

References

Books

On this Website

 

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gerd (at) waloszek (dot) de

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made by walodesign on a mac!
29.10.2018