I use a smartphone app called Star Chart, but there are tons of other similar apps available. Basically, it's a start map that shows you what you are pointing at. Then, you need to use your eyes to find the object in the sky (if it's visible), or nearby stars to guess where it is (for non visible objects). Usually I take a few test shots to center as much as possible the object in the photo.
For the ballhead, I was using the one from my Sirui tripod, but I feared it would drift, indeed. So I bought a video "ballhead", that is also easier for astrophotography (https://www.amazon.de/gp/product/B0711J4YFV/). If I need a little push on the left, for instance, it's far more precise than a classic ballhead, since you can control both directions independently.
I'm glad you enjoyed it! It's a fascinating world, indeed, but you need motivation... Right now, I don't have any, it's way to cold in Bavaria at night!
But a couple nights ago, I noticed Orion was out, in front of my balcony. I thought it could be worth a try, so I just got my tripod out, set up my X-T1 and the Samyang 135/2 on it, aimed around the belt or Orion and wow! A wonderful purple nebula (M42), clearly visible on the liveview. So I took a few shots, and I'm pleased with the result! It's a very basic setup, only a tripod, and I'll definitely try again with slower lenses. Luckily, the Samyang is a very fast lens (f/2), so that helped a lot, but I wonder what the other can do.
Of course, it's a bit blurry, very noisy and slightly out of focus. But considering I did it with just a tripod, in a big city, on my balcony with a major street below, I'm quite surprised it's not that bad! I'm sure you can find some objects out there to photograph as well. Orion is very easy to find, and even with crappy conditions, you can get something nice
I finally had a chance to make some pictures of the sky. Munich's weather is often challenging, and the Moon isn't very helpful in this regard either!
I bought the iOptron tracker, as well as a cheap and yet excellent lens, the Super-Takumar 200mm f/4 from Pentax. This is an old school lens from the 70', I think, which is often recommended as an affordable quality astro lens.
Here is one of my first test, the Andromeda galaxy. It's far from being perfect, but as a first try it's really rewarding to get just a little glimpse of something so big and far away! When you think of all the things that are in this pictures: billions of stars, planets and, perhaps, lives... And when you think that the light that hit my camera's sensor traveled about 24,000,000,000,000,000,000 km during 2.5 million years... Wow.
This 20 minutes long exposure is a stack of 40 "light" photos (as well as some "dark" frames used to diminish noise) taken with an equatorial mount (iOptron Sky Tracker Pro) and aligned together in DeepSkyStacker software. Single exposures were 30 seconds long, at ISO 1600 and f/4.
The big bright halo in the center is the core of the galaxy. You can see a bit of the arms of the galaxy around the core, as well as 2 satellite galaxies: Messier 32 (the brightest halo at the left of Andromeda's core) and Messier 110 (the faint halo at the bottom right). Andromeda is the closest galaxy to the Milky Way, and will collide with our galaxy in about 4.5 billion years... we have time to prepare!
Unfortunately, I'm still a beginner and did several mistakes:
- The tracking of Polaris was not accurate enough, and we can see a bit of star trailing. For those who are not familiar with tracking mounts, it consists of a motor aimed at the Polaris star, and rotating at the speed of the Earth, in order to eliminate the movement of our planet and make long exposures of the night sky.
- The stacking: I probably failed something, because there is a weird fabric-like pattern in the picture. Someone told me it might be due to the de-bayering of the picture, but I have no idea what it means! I'll look into that later
- The exposure: the exposure, 20 minutes, is not enough to bring all the details out of the galaxy. 1 hour would have been better! Not to mention that Munich is a light polluted area, even in the city park, and that the moon was quite bright that night.
- The aperture I used, F/4, produced quite a lot of vignetting. In astrophotography, it can be removed quite easily, but I need to spend some time on this. Perhaps next time I'll use an aperture of f/5.6, which seemed to produce better results on my test shots.
But on the other hand, I think it's a good start and I have a lot to learn, both in the setup itself and the post-production.
The version I posted on Instagram is a bit different, the enhanced filters I used brought some of the details in the arms back:
As a comparison, here is a picture taken by Hubble, NASA's space camera. You will notice that their picture is infinitely better than mine, but hey, I can't afford to send my Fuji into space
I recently got into astrophotography and really enjoy seeing things for the first time with my eye's/camera.
The Andromeda Galaxy. A mere 2.5 million light years from earth.
This was taken from my backyard this past week using my X-Pro3 and Astro-Tech AT65EDQ Quadruplet telescope on a Sky-Watcher EQM-35 Equatorial mount. This is 33 galaxy images, 20 dark frames, 15 flat frames and 15 bias frames all stacked using Deep Sky Stacker. Settings were: 30 sec. exp. @ iso 1600 for all 33 images.