First Light, 6-27-11

First light for my new observatory was on the night of June 26th/27th 2011. After a long day working on the warm room and the electrical hookups/conduit to the pier I was fortunate enough to have a fairly clear moonless night that evening. Well it didn't really clear up until 11pm or so, but I peeked between the clouds before then to see Saturn, the Ring Nebula, and the Dumbell Nebula. Then I got my customized DSI II Pro out of it's case. I built this camera quite a while ago but I've been so deeply involved in the observatory construction that I haven't had a chance to use it much. Since there's a supernova in M51 and it was well placed in the sky I took an image of it to inaugurate the observatories opening. Well the 10" scope's optics aren't very well collimated since it took a bump a while back. And the LXD75 mount is just roughly polar aligned, drift alignment will have to wait until I get the pier extension properly painted. Then also, the camera's desiccant has been sitting around in there for about a year and I didn't want to deep cool the CCD too much for fear of condensation. To compensate for some of the above, I kept the sub-exposures at only 11.6 seconds and the CCD temperature at -1.5°C. Even with all of that, everything worked as effortlessly as one could hope for, and this is one of the best images I've ever taken. This image took about six minutes to aquire. The supernova is the bright "star" embeded in the outer spiral arm to the left of M51's core...

Needless to say, I'm very excited about what a little drift alignment and optical collimation will do for the quality of my images.