Detailed setup page 1
My Equipment and software
Preperations and planning
Observation and photographing
Ending the session
Unpacking equipment and drying
In autumn 2021 I bought a Skywatcher 200PDS Newtonian with a Heq5 equatorial mount inclusive tripods. This telescope is ideal for observing galaxies and planets. For photographing nebules I needed a smaller telescope, I chose the William Optics Zenithstar 61 II APO.
Software installation on the Laptop
Pegasus Astro- Pocket Powerbox
Software for controlling and monitoring the USB and power box that connects camera, guide camera, electric focuser, dew heater etc.
ASCOM Platform 6.6 with ASCOM drivers for hardware devices
ASCOM stands for AStronomy Common Object Model which is open software to provide a standard interface to a range of astronomy equipment including mounts, focusers and imaging devices for Microsoft Windows.
EQMOD, this is a ASCOM driver based software utility that can configure and control my Skywatcher HEQ- Equatorial mount and other Equtorial mounts.
I use this software primarily for polar-alignment although it can be used for many other astronomy tasks. NB.- In N.I.N.A. imaging software there is also a polar alignment tool.
PHD2 Guiding 2.6
PHD2 is telescope guiding software that simplifies the process of tracking a guide star, letting you concentrate on other aspects of deep-sky imaging or spectroscopy. Easy-to-use, “push here dummy” guiding for beginners. Sophisticated guiding and analysis tools for experienced users.
Stellarium is a free open source planetarium for your computer. It shows a realistic sky in 3D, just like what you see with the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope.
N.I.N.A. Nighttime Imaging ‘N’ Astronomy 2.2
N.I.N.A. is a open-source software astrophotography suite for deep sky imaging. This software connects all your hardware and can capture data in manual mode with single exposures or run automatically in full sequences with multiply exposures.
Firecapture is a planetary image capture software for planetary cameras.
Platesolver software/Blind solver, ASTAP, All Sky Plate Solver, PlateSolve v2 and v3 with Database and catalog
Preparations and planning
When the time has come and the night finally indicates clear weather and calm winds, you should be 100 percent ready to shoot some objects in the night sky. First of all, you should plan witch target you want to picture. I have created a list containing the most interesting targets (Galaxies, Nebula, planets, comets etc.)in advance, covering the hole year. You should also take into account if the moon is visible for that particularly night. The moon light can be extremely dominant and reduce the picture quality when shooting nearby Deep sky objects. It is possible though, to add special filters in front of the camera that blocks the wavelengths from the reflecting light of the moon and other unwanted light.
Thorough planning is more vital if you need to set your equipment up on a remote location versus in your own backyard. I use a nearby location so every time I have to set up all of my equipment. It is crucial to remember to charge the batteries needed to power the telescope mount, laptops, head lamp etc.
Also remember to #collimate the telescope if you are using a Newtonian reflector like I am. The Refractor type does not need this adjustment.
When arriving on the spot I find a place with the best View and if possible shielded from any wind. I also make sure that I have a clear view to my targets with no obstructions in the path. With the headlamp turned on I begin to unpack my equipment, at this point I stick to my normal workflow.
Final assembly and Calibrations
The first thing you need to do is ensure that the tripods is facing true north, I use the compass in my iPhone. When all the telescope equipment are assembled and ready, the telescope needs to be in balance on the mount, this ensure smooth movement in all axis and reduce load on the gears and motors.