Let's travel through time
Thank you for joining me on my little trip down the memory lane, in celebration of my latest capture. This one is kinda special to me. Take a seat, this may take a while 🙃
It’s December 2020, the Corona virus is holding our world hostile and germany is under lockdown. I’m struggeling mentally and can’t sleep for many nights, so I spend quite some time out in our garden, just watching the night sky and trying to sort my thoughts.
I always was fascinated by the wonders our universe holds, but I never actually did see a lot of it live - until that one night. I knew a few constellations and - of course - Orion is a classic. I knew those four stars around and the belt of three stars, but it was the first time I actually put attention to that bright little smudge below the belt. I googled it and was stunned by what I saw - the great Orion nebula, Messier 42.
At this point, I decided I want to see it live, I need a telescope. I probably wasn’t alone with this idea, as getting a proper one online (and changing my order many times as I read a lot back then) was pretty much impossible. After waiting for a few months, I found a cheap, old and used Revue Optics cathadioptric newton telescope (90/1000) nearby and just had to buy it.
Looking at the moon was amazing, but pointing it to M42, it became very clear that this won’t get me far. Due to the slow focal ratio, I could barely see any structure at all. I needed a bigger scope! Yep, rabbit hole 😉
So in May 2021 I sold the Revue and got myself a ICS Galaxy 10” dobson (200/1250). And wow, what a difference! While it was quite heavy, the view was amazing, and I actually started to take my first moon and planetary images with it - first using just my iPhone through the eyepiece, to later buying a used Canon EOS 1200D and connecting it directly to the focuser.
Without a motorized mount though, imaging was pretty limited. Luckily, I was able to grab a Vixen Super Polaris mount together with a selfmade 50mm refractor. The mount was upgraded with stepper motors and an AstroEQ box to allow controlling it from a PC.
While I tried a lot, I took quite a while to get used to it though. As my frustration grew, I tried alternative ways to capture deep sky objects. I got a 75-300mm lens for my Canon DSLR in November and, doing very short exposures, I was able to capture my very first image of M42:
With just about 30min worth of subs, I was so happy with it. There was nebula and structure! I remember I tried pretty much every stacking software back then, to see if I can get even more out of the data.
In December, I then finally was able to use the Vixen SP and the refractor, to capture this:
I started to improve in processing the data too, stacking in AstroPixelProcessor and developing it in Adobe Photoshop.
The scope however was causing me headaches. There was light leaking in, focussing was pretty complicated. Happily, I had the chance to replace it with a used William Optics ZenithStar 80 ED II (and adding a Skywatcher Reducer shortly after).
This setup stayed with me for quite a while. I later added a guide scope and camera to it (Svbony SV165 and ZWO ASI 224MC), switched my main camera to a Canon EOS 60Da and started to automate my capturing process using a Raspberry Pi and Stellarmate OS.
In February 2022, I targeted M42 again and did my - so far - best capture of it:
While I did quite some more captures with this setup, weather prevented me from getting back to M42 for quite a while. I kept on learning however and improved my skills in processing data. So in January 2023, I went back to the dataset above, processed it using my workflow in PixInsight and created this image out of it:
Fast forward to January 2024, just a few weeks ago. I upgraded my setup quite a bit by now, replacing the Vixen SP with a Skywatcher AZ-EQ5 GT, the ZenithStar with an Askar 102APO, the camera with a modified Canon EOS 6D.
Thank you again, for taking a look back with me. I hope it’s clear by now, why this last image is so special to me. It’s not just showing my favorite object in the night sky - it also stands for three years of continuous learning, spending countless nights out in the dark and many (MANY!) hours improving my processing skills.
So here it is - my latest shot of M42. I really hope, you like it as much as I do.
P.S.: I recently started to offer my images as fine art prints too and trust me, they look amazing! If you’d like to support me on my journey, head over to my print shop and grab a nice poster 🤩