After the summer hiatus we are now back on it! (Not that we were ever off it, but you get my meaning!).
During the summer months I had decided to upgrade my mount to give me the full go-to experience. Essentially the CG-4 head is the same as the EQ3-2 and to this end I purchased the Skywatcher EQ3-2 GoTo upgrade kit and boy was it worth it.
So, not only do I get to find my objects around the sky more easily and quickly I also have a superb platform on which to base my Astro photography and get a fully motorized mount to boot.
It must be noted here though that there is a very steep learning curve with this equipment. It is essential that the mount has a Polar Scope and that this is properly set-up. This in turn enables you to align with the North Celestial Pole (near Polaris) - essential for any decent Astro photography.
I also purchased an Orion ST80. I had read good things about this scope and even though it is simply an achromat, the optics are superb for the money with little to no chromatic aberation. I will use this as my prime photography scope for the time being and later if I have the money I will use it as my guide scope. But that's for the future...
With all these tools at my disposal I decided to choose M81/M82 as my first targets. This was kind-of forced upon me as the nearly full moon was in the south at this point. I know that any seasoned Astro photographer would not even venture out on such a night, but I was keen to try out all the equipment and put to work what I had read.
And here it is:
Taken with a Canon EOS 300D at prime focus, a total of four 60 second exposures at ISO 800, stacked in Deep Sky Stacker with 1 dark frame and processed in GIMP.
M82 (Cigar Galaxy) at top, M81 (Bode's Galaxy) at bottom and also NGC3077 to the lower left.
It can only get better from here and can't wait for those clear dark skies.