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DSLR Astrophotography: Mercury & Saturn, Moon, ISS

Posted: 26 November 2017

Open: Saturday, 25 November 2017, 1713 MST
Temperature: 77°F
Session: 1171
Conditions: Mostly clear

Equipment Used:
12" f/8 LX600 w/StarLock
2" 24mm UWA eyepiece

D7200 DSLR

After opening the observatory I SYNCed the observatory clock using WWV time signals.

1718 MST: sunset.

1721 MST: LX600 ON, StarLock OFF, High Precision OFF.

Next, I updated the TLE in the AutoStar for this night's good but short pass of the International Space Station (ISS).

Then viewed the Moon, 102X.

1732 MST: viewed Saturn and then Mercury, both very low in the southwestern sky, 102X. Mercury showed a slightly gibbous phase. Tweaked the finderscope alignment using Saturn in preparation for the upcoming ISS pass.

I then began waiting for Mercury and Saturn to become visible to the naked eye.

1741 MST: viewed Mercury and Saturn, 12x50 binoculars. Both were visible in the same field-of-view.

1750 MST: Mercury and Saturn were now visible with the naked eye. I stepped outside of the observatory to take some photos of the planets using the D7200 DSLR.

1758 MST: Cassiopeia Observatory with Mercury and Saturn, f/4.2, 1/30sec, ISO 1600, FL 38mm:

Click or tap on image for larger version

Returned to the observatory. Mounted the D7200 DSLR at prime focus of the 12" telescope. Took this photo of the Moon, 1/400sec, ISO 400, White Balance Auto:


1812 MST: reoriented the DSLR for the upcoming ISS pass. Slewed to the star Altair, focused using a Bahtinov Mask, and locked the mirror. SYNCed on Altair and did a final tweak of the finderscope alignment. Then waited for the ISS pass to begin at 1853 MST.

For imaging of the ISS I did an HD video recording, 1/2000sec, ISO 2500, WB Auto. During most of the short pass I could see the ISS on the DSLR live view screen. That helped with tracking. This is a frame from the video recording near the end of the pass (just before the ISS went into the Earth's shadow). The inset shows a magnified view of the ISS from the frame.


Returned to the Moon to check focus; it was good. Removed the camera from the telescope.

1905 MST: last look at the Moon, 102X.

1906 MST: LX600 OFF.

Close: Saturday, 25 November 2017, 1913 MST
Temperature: 66°F
Session Length: 2h 00m
Conditions: Clear

I am interviewed in this Southwest Forklife Alliance article "Dark Sky Places: A Bright Idea".

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