Adrian Stanyer's Sculptor Galaxy

9 October 2019

This is the best time of year for NGC 253, the Sculptor Galaxy. Here’s a terrific image taken by our mate Adrian up at the ASV’s dark sky site a couple of weeks back. I was up there on the same night.

Adrian uses a saxon 200DS Newtonian, which he got from Optics Central about a year back. It has a pretty fast focal ratio of 5, which means it’s good for photography. It’s on a saxon NEQ6 mount he got at the same time. You can see it below. This alone is a great setup. But he's upgraded it.

Adrian has a ZWO ASI294MC, a colour camera with a “four-thirds” size sensor, similar to a DSLR but more sensitive to near-infrared colours. The large sensor combines with the scope's 1000mm focal length to give a nice wide field - which is good for large nebulas. On top of this an IR cut filter helps with that awful “star bloat”.

Since buying the mount and scope, Adrian has added a laptop computer, which can replace the mount’s hand controller. Having the computer also means Adrian can use the main camera to find the target. If the mount slews to a wrong part of the sky, the computer recognises it and moves to the right area. Simple!

He also uses autoguiding, where the computer can detect any tracking errors in the mount and correct them before they ruin the image.

More recently, Adrian has automated the focusing (using a motorised Moonlite Crawford focuser).

He ties all this together using a program called Voyager. I'm not familiar with this program, but it moves the telescope, makes sure it’s on the target, chills the camera, takes all the exposures and even refocuses every hour. Adrian says this allows him to get some shut eye.

I was wondering why I could hear snoring coming from his direction that night.

This image was made up of 195 two-minute subexposures, which Adrian stacked and processed using Astro Pixel Processor, and before then finishing off in Photoshop.

It shows you don’t need to use monochrome cameras and filters to get amazing images. Nice work Adrian!