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M13. First AutoGuiding attempt and why the difference is so obvious!

Updated: Jun 19


Yes, have a look at the image above. Ok, it's not great. Just an unguided attempt using a crap mount. Still, it does highlight that even with just unguided 29 second exposures you can get a pleasing image that would at least possibly satisfy most beginners. In fact, some might say if you were not bothered about getting better results, and let's face it, this kind of image from your back garden was impossible not too long ago, then this kind of photo may very well suffice, especially if you are short of money, because the modern mounts today are very expensive. After all, is autoguiding that much better, especially when you factor in the horrible conditions weather wise and light pollution prevalent in the UK?


Of course, there is another option open for debate and this involves so called lucky imaging, a term that has come around with the modern CMOS cameras. This method simplified means that you take 10 exposures of 5 seconds and stack them altogether and this somehow equates to 1 exposure of 50 seconds and so this method does not require autoguiding and why bother if it gets the same results? I have tried this method many times, taking up to 1000 exposures at 5 seconds each. What was the outcome? DeepSkyStacker recognized 2 images after stacking and asked if I really wanted to proceed! Pixinsight was great until the star alignment routine where it failed to recognize a single image due to no star matching. Other astro imagers may have had more success with this than I have, I can only speak of my experiences.


The trouble with this approach is that you are attempting to take photos of an object that is thousands or millions of light years away through light polluted skies and you are dealing with additional problems of seeing through the Earth's atmosphere, high cloud formations etc, etc.. To put it simply, how is 5 seconds exposure going to capture any detail in a distant galaxy? No, there is no substitute for longer exposures, and here is the proof!


The above image is my first attempt at autoguiding. Not pushing any limits, just going for 2 minute exposures. Clouds rolling in limited the time to 42 exposures. Wow, what a difference!! Tiny stars, no blurring, no fuzziness, just beautiful detail, even with poor conditions. Note the propeller feature in the core, three dark lanes. Outstanding! Also, note the 11.6 magnitude galaxy NGC 6207 off to the right of the cluster. Superb!!


So, am I sold on autoguiding with this incredible mount? The answer is a definite yes! But have a good look and compare the images. Tell me what you think about this and let me know if it has convinced you. All comments good and bad are very welcome. Thanks for reading and all the best to you all. KGB.

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