Diary of a nature photographer
Study, monitoring, research and photography about the Nature


IC434 also known as Horse nebulae, is really hard to take, mostly inside a town where the light pollution cut much light coming from stars, galaxies and, of course, nebulas. I should buy a light-filter-pollution to prevent this problem, but it's quite expensive, so I'll wait until I'll have enough money.

In this last work, I should have learned some important things. First of all, don't change the ASI Air guide parameters so strongly. Using these settings:


I got this guide-graph:


that is pretty good for that night, where sometimes it was slightly windy and with a Bortle scale of 8. After a couple of hours of work, getting a lot of cold, I caught this image:

that is the sum of 49 light frames, 10 bias frames and 9 dark frames. For the image stacking and elaboration, I've used Pixinsight, in a trial version for now, but I hope to buy it really soon, making the last final retouch with Adobe Photoshop. I know that the final image isn't so good. I know there's some problem with the stars in the left up and right low corners, but I can't figure out why. Then there's always the moisture problem that I hope to solve with my home-made dew heating band, that I'll try it next time.

As always write to me if you want for some advice or anything.


Finally after a long time I put the telescope back to work.
The problems I had complained about in the past relating to driving were certainly due to the incorrect configuration of the ASI Air following a firmware update. Yesterday after another update I checked everything again, reset the parameter on the tracking and started the session without any other problems. I quietly made 120 second exposures in which everything remained stable.
But, as often happens, there was a hitch.
Damn dampness that clouded the correcting plate of the telescope and the lenses of the guide-scope and the finder.
Yes, of course, it's also my fault that I didn't put the protection on (I made one myself, but it works more or less), but I didn't think it would also mist up inside the plate.
Moral ... I had to stop shooting the light-frames and turn everything off.
I think the best solution is a nice anti-condensation band, those that work on 12V and I don't think about it anymore. But now that I think about it I will also need a power supply for the band, which is not the classic lead-acid battery because it doesn't last me much.

ZWO ASI Air and iOptron GEM45

Astrophotography has always been a dream for me, until I bought a camera and, of course, a telescope.
But the first times was really difficult taking some pictures due to many problems: how to connect the camera to the telescope, how to focus properly, the right exposition, well balance the telescope, the right post-production of the photos, and so on.
In astrophotography there're two things really important: the first one is the mount, and the second one is the guide.

The mount

IOptron is an American company that makes astronomy products, as complete telescopes and mounts, but they're most well known for their mounts. One of the most recent mount model is the GEM45, an evolution of previous iEQ45 Pro, with some CEM's features derived.

Now I don't want to describe the GEM45 characteristics, because you can find it on this link, even though I think I'll do a review of it really soon.
How as I've written before, the mount in astrophotography is fundamental, because it has to be solid and precise. Solid because it has to support the OTA with every item, as the main camera, guide scope and guide camera, a viewfinder, cables and so on. Precise because it has to allow following the sky in the right way and with the less error possible. And the new GEM45, despite the dimension and the category works very well. Comparing with my old Meade LXD75 mount, the iOptron is another planet, better in every aspect, the management software as well.


This small box is a Raspberry system that allows controlling different devices as a mount, a camera, a guide-camera and other accessories.
As the iOptron mount, I won't do a review of the ASI Air (on the net you can find plenty of reviews about it), but how to connect the ASI Air to the mount.
When I bought the ASI Air I started to study different things, like how to connect the different cameras, how to look for the celestial objects in the sky, or what accessories I'd need. But there were two aspects that worried me: the first one was how to connect the ASI Air for guiding the GEM45, and the second one how to configure the ASI Air knowing that the software didn't include this new model of mount.

Connecting the mount

After having read many web pages, forum threads I found out that is really simple to connect the GEM45 to the ASI Air: with a USB cable

You only need to connect the USB cable to the USB port beside the iPORT on the right side of the mount and, finally, in any USB port of the ASI Air.

That's all. Forget to use the USB-serial port cable to connect the hand controller Go2Nova, because is not necessary. Now with one only cable, you can do the works.

Configuring ASI Air

Yes, it's true, ZWO hasn't still updated the ASI Air firmware for include the new iOptron GEM45 mount, but when I wrote them asking for the trouble, they answered me that they'd have made the update really soon. So we can only wait. But in the meantime, we can enjoy using the CEM40/CEM40EC model!! So you have only to choose this model and everything will works.
Really simple!!


The first light

Yes, finally something has moved!! The first light from my setup has arrived:

First of all, I know, there're many issues in this image: it isn't in focus, the stars aren't a point and if you click the thumbnail you'll see the shadow of the secondary mirror in the centre of the stars. Then the core of M42, the Orion nebula, is over-exposed and the post-production is really hasty, but it's my first real astronomy photo. I was forgetting that I haven't take any dark or bias frame, flat frame as well, so I can't complain to myself.

But We start from the beginning. I've always loved astronomy since I was a child. I remember looking the sky at night, out of the window studying some astronomy map to learn the constellations. I was, maybe, twelve years old, but I knew many names of stars and many constellations. But I hadn't got a telescope, so I had to look at the sky only using my eyes, and for me was incredible. After a couple of years, I was able to buy a small telescope, it was more a toy but it works pretty well with its mini-tripod. But during the time I read everything about astronomy. Sometimes I was able to buy a book or a magazine in order to watch the stunning photo of the magazine, or to learn some new aspect of the space: galaxies, nebulas, star clusters, neutron stars, black hole.

At that time I was still living in Milan, so the sky wasn't so good and light pollution didn't permit to see many stars in the sky. But when I went to Sardinia I had more opportunities to admire a more beautiful sky during the night. Here there are some areas where the sky is really dark, and they aren't so far from cities. After some year I bought my first real telescope, a classic item: a 100/1000 Newton telescope, with a small equatorial mount. But it was fantastic. With that telescope I saw for the first time Jupiter with its moons, the rings of Saturn and a lot of galaxies and nebulas, until its mount broke down. Then, after the marriage, I lost a bit of interest in astronomy, and I began with photography and, mostly, nature photography, as you can see in this web site. In the meanwhile I had bought a new telescope, a Meade LXD75 with a Schmidt-Newton 8" (203mm x 812mm):

with the Autostar computer, that it's been a huge leap in my astronomy life. The Meade has allowed me to see better many celestial objects, and more easily, due to the Autostar. But the worst issue of the Meade was the mount! During the time the LXD75 had shown some backslash problem, despite my fix it didn't allow me to take a decent photo with my setup, apart some short exposure like this one:

Of course without a camera guide, I knew, it was hard achieving a result as a many photos that I saw on Internet or on some magazines. So I had to change something if I wanted to get some good astrophoto. And now we get to today. I've changed the LXD75 with an iOptron GEM45 mount, that should permit a 22kg's payload, but even give some useful feature like a better cables management when you use a proper camera for taking a photo, or the GPS unit that permits a more precise localization. So now the final setup that I'll use for the future is this one:

And precisely:

  • OTA Meade Schmidt-Newton 8" with Moonlite focuser and the original viewfinder 8x50
  • Guidescope Technosky 60mm x 240mm used with an ASI 290 camera
  • ASI 294MC used as main camera
  • ASI Air
  • Mount iOptron GEM45 with 17.5 Kg of counterweight

Balancing this setup has been quite tricky because I couldn't find the right position of the OTA, but finally I could. Here some others photo (I'm sorry for the pour quality but I was using my phone).


Of course, I accept any advice of any kind, so if you want to write me about the post-production, or about the setup, or about the stacking-photo, I'm all ears.



I've updated the gallery adding some new species, like the Asio otus ... Read More
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Haliaeetus albicilla

Haliaeetus albicilla
Haliaeetus albicilla
A couple of white-tailed sea eagles. Lofoten, Norway. July 2018