Last night I tried to resolve some of the problems I had on Saturday night. The first task was to recollimate the scope and make sure everything was OK in that department. Kathy helped me out, turning the screws while I watched through the collimation eyepiece. It turns out that everything was lined up so I can scratch that off the list of potential problems. I also spent a few minutes getting my finderscope aligned more accurately so when I switched eyepieces or inserted the camera I would be able to reacquire quickly. This was a really important step and definitely paid off.
I had turned to a couple Yahoo Groups I belong to for answers and got some good advice. As far as the barlow lens goes, it turns out that the Celestron “shorty” barlow is not compatible with my scope. Doh. I had researched that before but either I misunderstood what I read or the info was faulty. In any case, I need a full-size barlow to work with this scope.
In the NexImage group, someone gave me some hints about settings to use to get something more than a white blob. The results (the teeny Saturn you see here) were better, but not great. The camera image is still quite washed out, while with my eye I could see the Cassini division in the rings.
The problem with doing astrophotography with a dob (which everyone told me all along) is that without a tracking mount, it’s tougher to keep the object in view while you’re doing it. I just didn’t realize how fast the objects would move! I’d say it’s approximately 7-10 seconds from entering the frame to exiting it. Combine that with some trial-and-error on the capture settings and here’s how I ended up last night: working the mouse with my right hand, reaching across myself with my left to the tiller of the scope, trying to keep Saturn in view while adjusting the gain and saturation controls. The image will improve once I get a barlow that I can use with this scope – but then the planets will be moving twice as fast in the viewfinder!
Once I finished my photography attempt I took a look at Mars. It was sort of disappointing, looking pretty much like a star. With the 9mm eyepiece it was juuuust starting to resolve into a disk. Again, once I have a working barlow this will change.
Before I put the scope away I just sort of wandered around the sky. Near Saturn I saw M44, the Beehive Cluster (so I can cross another Messier object off the list). Right at the end of the night I got a nice surprise. I split my first double star: Regulus in Leo, which I didn’t even know was a double!