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D850 DSLR + SkyTracker Pro Astrophotography:
M31, M81 & M82 Galaxies

Posted: 9 February 2018

Open: Thursday, 8 February 2018, 1828 MST
Temperature: 78°F
Session: 1199
Conditions: Clear

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


After arriving at the observatory I set up the iOptron SkyTracker Pro on the observatory patio.

1839 MST: LX600 ON, StarLock OFF, High Precision OFF.

1843 MST: High Precision ON. Goto M31 (Andromeda Galaxy). The nucleus of the galaxy was faintly visible against the bright twilight sky, 102X.

Began preparing the D850 DSLR for imaging. Used the Nikon 70-300mm lens, Vello ShutterBoss, ScopeStuff Red Dot Finderscope, and Vello Extension Bar. Here is the setup:


1859 MST: the Andromeda Galaxy was visible to the naked eye from my dark site. Astronomical Twilight would not end until 1927 MST.

1916 MST: returned to the 12" telescope and viewed M31, 102X. Then slewed to M81 (Bode's Galaxy) and viewed it, 102X. Turned High Precision OFF.

Polar aligned the SkyTracker Pro. Spent some time to get it as accurately aligned as possible.

Did several high ISO exposures of M31 as a test of my new Nikon D850 DSLR. This image of M31 (Andromeda Galaxy) was taken with the D850 DSLR at f/5.6, 60 seconds, ISO 51200, White Balance 3570K, FL 300mm:


Its companion galaxies of M32 and M110 are visible in the image close to the main galaxy.

2000 MST: returned to the 12" telescope and viewed M81 (Bode's Galaxy) and M82 (Cigar Galaxy), 102X.

2008 MST: using handheld 12x50 binoculars I viewed M31 (Andromeda Galaxy). M32 and M110 were easily seen in the binoculars. I then viewed M81 and M82 galaxies using the binoculars. That was exciting, as I had never used binoculars before to view these galaxies.

I then resumed imaging with the D850 and SkyTracker Pro, this time of M81 (Bode's Galaxy) and M82 (Cigar Galaxy). This image was cropped from the full frame version and was taken at f/5.6, 60 seconds, ISO 6400, White Balance 3570K, FL 300mm:

Mouseover or tap on image
Mouseover or tap on image for labels

Two other faint galaxies were also captured in the above image. See the labeled version of the image.

2037 MST: ended imaging.

2104 MST: LX600 OFF.

Close: Thursday, 8 February 2018, 2115 MST
Temperature: 59°F
Session Length: 2h 47m
Conditions: Clear

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