Collecting thoughts and ramblings

Trying Astrophotography (part 1)

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Category: Astronomy   
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In late 2019 I acquired a taste for Astronomy. Looking back, If I knew that most of 2020 would have consisted mostly of lockdowns, curfews and so on, I may have waited a bit before buying a telescope... Well.

So back then, after an initiation session at the local astronomy association here in Lyon, I decided to buy a 150/750 Newton telescope on an equatorial mount. I got to use it exactly twice.

The first time was in February, with the other members of the initiation session. To accodomate everyone, the association does its observation session near the city. It's not best because of the light pollution, but enough already to have a look, get to use your gear, and get hooked to the hobby. The humidity was quite high, and even though winter nights are longer, we had to cut the session off around midnight, as all the telescopes began to get soggy because of the dew.

The second time was in the summer, by myself, during the little time where France wasn't under curfew and the weather conditions were actually good for some observation. Getting out of the light pollution created by the Lyon agglomeration is not easy, and requires around a 1 hour long drive to find a spot with a dark enough sky. In comparison with the winter, I was able to see some planets (mostly Jupiter and Saturn, Mars by the end of the night), and it gave me the idea to start doing astrophotography.

Unfortunately since then I've been confined to my appartment in the city, France being either under curfew or in near-complete lockdown. In both cases being out in the night is forbidden if not for exceptional cases. Sometimes I ponder if I should move to the countryback, in the middle of nowhere and abandon the convenience of the city, just for being able to set up my telescope in a garden without being subject to the curfew.

Since I cannot go out and observe whatever the sky offers us at night (and miss this oh so unique conjunction between Saturn and Jupiter back in December), I train myself virtually, using the very useful Stellarium software.

And I decided to have a look at one side of astronomy: astrophotography. Or the art of taking photos of the sky. And, because I own a 3D printer, and a rather inexpensive but hackable camera (a Canon IXUS 230HS equipped with CHDK). I decided to have a go at a DIY solution. The first objective is to take a photo of Jupiter with its system of moons.

As I am the kind of person that rarely goes to the end of its project, by writing this blog post and making it public, I'm trying to make it "more real". And create some sort of expectation from an hypothetical audience, to give me the extra push necessary to do this.

Hopefully at some point, we will be done with this whole pandemic thing and I will be able to get back out there and see more stars by myself.