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  • Writer's pictureTracey Snelus

First Light

In January I purchased a William Optics 81GT triplet refractor from a friend. My old trusted WO80mm started to show signs of wear on the Crayford focuser which meant that with the motorised focuser I was getting slippage when drawing the tube back in under load. The offer that I couldn't refuse came at a time when I needed to make a decision on the setup, so it was an easy choice to make. Reluctantly I did decide to sell the WO80mm. It was difficult to part with and there aren't many things that I really get attached too but that scope had seen me through my imaging days up to now. I knew every bit of it, I knew the optics were reliable and the quality was exceptional but, I know it went to a good home where it will be taken care of and used. I'm getting over it.....

Since the purchase I have grown to love the new scope too. I have spent the time carefully setting the scope up, installing the drivers, checking connections, aligning guidescopes and focusing cameras. Making sure everything is just right.

Having everything physically set up, now comes with the task of testing in the field. I needed to check that the focuser is focussing, the filter wheel is changing, connections are not hanging and SGPro is working through everything without fault. One handy function in SGPro is the ability for you to set the focus point for each of the filters used in the system, once it switched to the filter of choice, it will move the focuser to the correct position and then fine focus using the focussing tool. So, my first task was to run through the filters and set the focus point. I had no intention of imaging, just set up check everything and know that on my next outing everything should work.

The perfect opportunity was not to be missed, clear skies were forecast and because of the coronavirus pandemic I was working from home. 4.30PM I logged off and headed straight into the garden to set up. (Now just as a point of interest, in this period since purchasing the scope, we have had nothing but terrible weather with Storm Brendan, Storm Ciara followed swiftly by Storm Dennis and yes we now have a global pandemic, as a Facebook meme aptly put it, it has been "Biblical mate"). I polar aligned with ease, guiding worked straight away and I was ready to crack on. Everything was working so well and I was only approaching 9.30PM. It was still early and I had time to get some data. I pointed to the Bodes and Cigar galaxy just as I wanted to try an object good for RGB.

I imaged 6 x 5 minute subs for each filter, red, green and blue and took 12 x dark frames. SGPro worked through the process with only a couple of issues with the filter wheel hanging the connection at times but all in all data was obtained and the system tested.

Whilst imaging Jonathen and I took chance to try and locate Comet C/2019 Y4 ATLAS, located in Ursa Major. It took some finding but it was observed with averted vision. It is hopeful that this comet will brighten significantly as it approaches nearer to the sun. At the time of writing it is of a distance from the Sun approximately equivalent to Mars.

At the end of the night, I shut down, packed up and headed to bed happy in feeling that I had achieved what I intended and also have some data to play with.

I did have to wait till the next evening to process the data. I stacked and aligned in Pixinsight but then continued to use Photoshop and Lightroom for processing of the image. I do really love this galaxy pair. They beautifully complement each other. Bodes Galaxy (M81) and The Cigar Galaxy (M82) are 12 million light years away. Bodes is half the size of the Milky Way and The cigar galaxy is a starburst galaxy with one of the brightest pulsars yet known.

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