For me, it seems hard to believe how far I have gone in the 5 ½ years since I bought my first telescope. It was a Meade ETX 125PE. It was small but good enough to wet my appetite for the much bigger things ahead.
2009 marked my 3rd year as an Astrophotographer yet I still consider myself a beginner.
While I still enjoy looking through the eyepiece I am mostly obsessed with astrophotography now. Some of my astronomer friends think that you’d have to be insane to sit in the cold and damp for the many, many hours that are needed to capture the few photons given off by those faint and distant objects of beauty. Guilty as charged! My patient wife can attest to the number of times I crawled into bed after the Sun had already risen.
Good News: Winter offers many hours of uninterrupted darkness. Bad News: Winter is very, very cold
No equipment list would be complete without the gear that will keep you from freezing to death. In addition to the standard snowmobile clothing, I wear an electrically heated vest and take a large tarp to use as a simple “tent” and fire up my Coleman catalytic propane heater.
My collection of equipment has evolved over the past year and I am now well equipped to the point where my photos will hopefully be as good as is possible using a portable rig (I have to leave the city for dark skies). Perhaps one day I will have a small observatory under clear, dark skies where I can simply open the roof and save myself the 1 ½ hours of set-up and tear-down at the end of each night.
While I do have what I would consider “good” equipment now, improving my skills may take considerably longer. Capturing the image, while physically and technically demanding, has now become the “easy” part. Processing those images will be a craft that will continue to evolve as I gain more experience. At some point I expect the technical expertise to become the beginning of the artistic phase of this hobby that I dearly love.
New equipment added in 2009 include : - AstroTech AT8RC (the poor man’s Ritchey-Chrétien) - Televue NP-101is refractor (oh, so very nice) - 2 Moonlite Focusers with high-res stepper motors (autofocus) - QHY8 CCD Camera
2010 Plans include a remote, roboctic observatory located on a friend's property 250 miles North East of Toronto. This location sports the darkest skies in Ontario!
The idea is to connect to the observatory via internet. A push of the button on my home computer opens the observatory roof 250 miles away and the telescope and camera are at my command. Stay tuned!