April 2-3 2020

Sprint weather is back: clear skies for two days and temperature is around 45deg F. Moon is over half phase. Bright, but I managed to capture these two images of it on April 2nd and M37 on the 3rd. No filters. The first image of the moon is a little over processed – sharpened. Exposure: 1/125 sec. ISO 100. Imaged with a Canon T3 and Celestron C6 on Skywatcher EQ6-r mount.

M37 is a stack of 10 images during this moon – lights only. It is not a good image, but this was a quick take with no filter during Moon. Messier 37 is the richest open cluster in the constellation Auriga. It is the brightest of three open clusters in Auriga and was discovered by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Battista Hodierna before 1654 (Wiki, 2020).

Picture saved with settings embedded.

By Steve J Posted in Main

Return of the Refractor

Tinkering in the basement with the Explore Scientific AR152: I had installed it on the older Meade LXD75 mount. I am currently calibrating the telescope, as it has severe astigmatism.

The AR152 will be used for visual use only as the optics (a doublet) have not passed my tests for astrophotography – Stars have blue edge and are just not sharp.

In the background is the next project: a restore of a vintage Meade 6600 – a 1986 6″ Newtonian reflector with original stained wood tripod. The mount has no drive; just adjustment knobs. There are plenty of dents and scratches on this one – I have used it over the decades in the field and it shows.



By Steve J Posted in Main

C6 Setup and changes

Made some changes on the C6; it is ready for first light. At the time of this writing, it is in the middle of winter in Northern Ohio – cold and grey skies. I usually take a break from astronomy at this time of year; as the older I get the less I like standing out in the cold. The tinkering is done and this rig is ready for work. I have been thinking about setting up an observatory for it, using a shed from Home Depot: modified, of course.

I have just set up the alignment of the finder, autoguider, and the main OTA with the help of an artificial star.

By Steve J Posted in Main

Early Winter project

Turning into winter again with turbulent cloudy skies; so it is a good time for changes and building the new. I have just acquired another EQ6-r Pro mount and have set it up with my Celestron C6. I have just added an electronic focuser to the C6 with the Orion mini autoguider. A new BeeLink mini PC manages it all.

This rig will be used primarily for DSLR and close-up imaging, as the C6 is at f/10 with a focal length of 1500mm as compared to the LXD75 sn-10 at f/4 and 1016mm. I have been wanting to get a good close-up image of Neptune: December is a good time for that.

Equipment update

Equipment update: out with the new, in with the old (yes, that’s right).


I had disassembled the 10″ Schmidt-Newtonian and cleaned it: there were small spider webs in it, and the mirrors needed cleaning. It was Collimated and mounted again on the main Skywatcher EQ6-r mount. Another EQ6-r is going to be purchased soon for alternating use by the Explore Scientific AR152 (for optical use) and the Celestron C6. The C6 is being used for DSLR. It is currently sitting on an old Meade LXD75 mount but the Orion autoguider cannot be used with this mount – I prefer to get another EQ6 to resolve this.

Starhopper.orgThe Explore Scientific AR152: Let’s just say I am replacing it with my 6″ Celestron SCT…Explore Scientific does make quality products, but it seems in my experience and opinion that sometimes defective things can slip through quality control.

When I had received it, the light shroud and entire objective lens assembly was loose and I could move it from side to side. I called Explore Scientific and told them the model was an AR152 and the support person said that this was normal and that the light shroud was designed to move up and down the tube – he was wrong; as this cannot be done on the AR152: the technician was thinking about another model.

I had found that the objective lens assembly was held in by only one screw – the other two were stripped (probably on assembly by too much torque) and laying within the tube; and fell out when I removed the objective assembly. I had to replace the screws and it is now on the tube is on solid.

I have tried laser collimation, but this did not eliminate the chromatic aberration but it still persists.

This is the first and the last Explore Scientific product I will own. I will fix the issues with this AR152 and use it for visual observing only – as it is a telescope for basic visual use only and not for any kind of advanced imaging.

The C6 – prepped and ready DSLR imager:


Celestron C6 with right-angle finder w/illuminated eyepiece, Orion StarShoot AutoGuider Pro & 30mm Ultra Mini Guide Scope, and and old trusty Cannon T3. The old Meade LCD75 mount that this is currenly on will soon be replaced with a second Skywatcher EQ6-r.

By Steve J Posted in Main

APT v3.80 released

I use APT for image capture. Here is the release email customers have received:

APT 3.80 arrived! It brings the highly requested native support for ZWO cameras as well as support for Pegasus Astro and ArteSky flat panels, support for more Canon models, support for the latest CR3 and NEF raw files, GoTo++ improvements, mosaics import from HNSKY or CdC and more.

Update your APT and be ready for the New Moon 🙂

The usual list of the changes is available here:

Clear skies,
Ivo & Maria

By Steve J Posted in Main


This image was taken in 2016 from Elyria, Ohio USA. Notice that the great red spot is in the center. Telescope: 10″ Schmidt Newtonian. Canon T3 DSLR image. Software: Backyard EOS.

By Steve J Posted in Main


Getting a little better at that post processing. Using Gimp. Image is 180s ISO800, 20img. Stacked with subs, bias, darks. I still need some practice to bring out the luminosity.


Picture saved with settings embedded.

By Steve J Posted in Main


Dumbbell nebula in Cygnus. 45sec, ISO1600, 20exp. Deep Sky Stacker, post processing in Gimp. No darks, bias or flat frames yet. Zhumell UHC filter. A second edit is below.

GIMP edit 2

By Steve J Posted in Main

New rig

In July-October I had obtained a new refractor from Adorama camera out of New York for around $870. It has been decades since I possessed a good refractor so I could put the larger (and heavier) Schmidt Newtonian on the shelf for a while. The SN was very sensitive to collimation issues and I was tired of dealing with it. This refractor is an Explore Scientific AR152 6″ doublet. These are hard to find – they are selling out everywhere. I also ordered a new autoguider from Orion: Orion StarShoot AutoGuider Pro & 30mm Ultra Mini Guide and I am testing it out. Added a Rigelsys Explore Scientific Focus Motor and nFOCUS. In addition, I have purchased a field flattener. I am currently shooting with my old Cannon Rebel T3: the ZWO ASI178MC works well, and I do image with that intermittently, but I have always had better success with DSLR.

Images posting soon – as soon as I learn Nebulosity image processing…



By Steve J Posted in Main