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There’s a certain difference between going back to see my old playgrounds up North, or returning my DNA to mountains of Greece(family did a bit research up to samples for university labs) or putting up a train of optics to see our much more ancestral home in the stars.

Aged a little over ten, my curious eyes dug through UFO’s, paranormal and ended to admire the huge paradises of books about the Universe. Thus began my less fast-paced interest on the colorful void. I had a little gizmo plastic table telescope from the cover package of a magazine. A little later it changed to more sturdy refractor whose retailer spammed me years with gym equipment ads with posing upcoming ‘Terminator’. That is, it was not exactly from astronomy store and had horrible light absorption.

Jupiter

Jupiter taken with ISO200, f5.6 and 8s(a bit stretching). Provided correct information from web, the small duo left should be Callisto and Ganymede moons.

Mid-eighties I invested at last to a Newtonian(4.5in mirror) and it’s still with me. Now that I at last invested into bigger camera, an entry level Canon DSLR with basic 18-55mm lens, I noticed that  little work is required if I ever intend to use DSLR as part of that telescope due to its non standard ocular train, that is, no camera adapter is fitting. Not to mention that despite the equatorial mount the tripod is rather unsteady. But that handwork actually is the part of astronomy; provided enough money and less time, one can walk into (web) store and negotiate the whole package from camera along the telescope down to the tracking pedestal, remote control and everything happens a bit easier. It’s not forbidden, DIY folks out there are not massing with torches. It scares a bit to read how much dedicated people build their own equipment if not compatible, or just for modding and tuning. There certainly will be the rewarding part, though not instant.

I left my old Newtonian in the package and just took the basic DSLR for little testing. Though I’ve been through engineering jobs, I still lack systematic patience, but research through the web helps much starting the whole new branch of astronomy.

I add some images taken as vanilla out-of -the package DSLR. No tracking and el cheapo camera mount. I have played with astrophoto software(in a case you did not know, ‘photoshopping’ of astroimages is not only legitimized, it is recommended!) that have been developed to process images and demand calibration photos dark and white, taken to tell the software about camera’s own ‘faults’ and reduce them from the way of true stellar images. The images added are just resized and converted from RAW images(very much a ‘must’ in deeper astrophotography), not further processed. Also worth mentioning is that according the city light emissions in horizon the weather was not clear.

Nether Orion

Three images of Orion constellation lower region, from ISO800 through 6400, f5.6, 2.5-5s exposures. In last image the ‘sand paper’ static is eminent, as is the M42 nebula and a tree.

And there’s still a bunch of settings to be tried before I start pondering my three alternatives: Shall I modify my old reflector telescope to admit DSLR(with or without lens), or shall I buy new one with standard adapter or shall I just invest to more effective lenses? All of those of course require a sturdy and tracking(motored) mount. And camera/telescope needs filters to get all that invisible light through to image. One good point of cheap entry-levels is that you can modify it(remove built in IR/UV blocks etc.) without losing a fortune, or let someone more experienced do that. All that mean loong exposures and perhaps better images than those I fell in love decades ago.

And to people who ponder if doing this in freezing environment, the CCD or CMOS cell inside camera is happier in cold. Warm just produces more static and some people have actually built camera boxes from car fridges to keep static in minimum. As for the possible moist, I just have a tight bag as ‘compression chamber’ when I take equipment back inside. The images here are taken at about -20C.

So, after freezing my fingers with manual focusing(long live Live View!) a little more sharp image drawn to screen is pure joy. And less sharp means going out again.

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