Tom Bredin Grey's Saturn
Friend of the store, Tom, recently took this brilliant shot of Saturn near opposition with his new saxon ED80DS. This is a scope with a 600mm focal length, which – to be honest – isn't normally thought to be in the "planetary specialist" category.
Tom's been into astrophotography for just a year, and has recently upgraded from a Jones-Bird reflector (which is an odd variant of a Newtonian). He got the ED80DS to concentrate on deep sky photography, but Saturn at opposition was clearly too good a target to pass on.
Tom’s mount is an HEQ5, which has a capacity of 13.7kg, so the ED80DS sits very securely on the top. On the ED80DS, Tom put a Barlow lens, and hung an astronomical camera (a ZWO ASI224MC) to the end.
Saturn is very bright, so Tom used the "lucky imaging" technique. This is when the camera sends a large number of images to the computer, which processes them later, rejecting those of lower quality and then combining the rest to form the final image.
Tom says he got about 24,000 frames over 120 seconds using FireCapture. He rejected some bad frames using PIPP, then Autostakkert rejected more and stacked the image. Further sharpening was done in Registax. All these programs are free. For the final touches, Tom used Photoshop.
Tom says that he's working on technical aspects of image processing such as colour alignment, which can get very complicated. Apart from planets, though, he wants to move more into deep sky objects like nebulas and galaxies. Now this is where Tom and I speak the same language.
Deep sky objects have their own challenges, of course, ranging from the light pollution found in Brunswick, to learning complicated new software systems such as Astrophotography Tools (APT). I think it's really worth the effort though.
All this really means that I'm going to have to re-evaluate my ideas of the saxon ED80DS. In capable hands, the scope can clearly produce excellent results for planets.
Congratulations on a fantastic image, Tom!