Arwen's meanderings

Hi everyone and welcome to my dinghy cruising blog about my John Welsford designed 'navigator' named Arwen. Built over three years, Arwen was launched in August 2007. She is a standing lug yawl 14' 6" in length. This blog records our dinghy cruising voyages together around the coastal waters of SW England.
Arwen has an associated YouTube channel so visit to find our most recent cruises and click subscribe.
On this blog you will find posts about dinghy cruising locations, accounts of our voyages, maintenance tips and 'How to's' ranging from rigging standing lug sails and building galley boxes to using 'anchor buddies' and creating 'pilotage notes'. I hope you find something that inspires you to get out on the water in your boat. Drop us a comment and happy sailing.
Steve and Arwen

Tuesday 1 June 2021

The arrival of my new telescope , the Skywatcher Discovery 150 i GOTO

 My new telescope finally arrived last week.  

Skywatcher Discovery 150i GOTO newtonian telescope
with SynScan app on smartphone to control its movement and access the database

Regular readers will know that I have taken up astrophotography and astronomy. My intention is to do them both when out on overnight up-river voyages in Arwen. There are one or two lovely, relatively dark sky, spots up the Lynher and Tamar and on gentle breeze days I might take either the Ioptron skytracker pro or the telescope with me. I am just working on how to safely keep them waterproofed and securely stored out of harm's way in Arwen. There again I might only take the skytracker as that is lightweight, small and portable.  (You can read about that by referring back a couple of posts). 

So, over the last few nights of clear skies I have been down to a local beach spot where the light pollution from the city is less. I can sit in the boot of the car, with the boot door raised above me and have telescope and ioptron tracker set up on tripods outside. 

It has, putting it mildly, been an interesting learning curve these last few nights. A good job I am a life time learning fan! Thus far, I have made some simple basic errors but had lots of fun and some good learning experiences:

  • tripping over the tripods or knocking them when moving around - I am innately clumsy
  • not getting the tripods level at the start
  • not adjusting and calibrating my phone correctly so that the GOTO mount was out in its own tracking of stars and galaxies - that was a frustrating hour and a half trying to work out why the telescope pointed 90 degrees away from the object I had commanded it to GOTO 😕
  • forgetting to set my phone to a red night setting, so every time I referred to one of the apps - it lit up bright white and ruined my night vision, which I had spent the last 30 minutes building up
  • not calibrating the skytracker correctly so that the 200 x 2 minute photos I took were all out with elongated stars - that's over two hours of my life I won't get back again 😭
  • watching the power cable from the powertank to the GOTO mount, wrap itself around the tripod as I made the telescope change various directions - that was a cable knot that took some sorting!
  • not being able to set the camera and lens to the correct orientation because the first ball head mount I used was too small and unbeknown to me, kept slipping during the three hours that I tried to take photos with an intervalometer 😩. That was 400 photos into the digital waste bin! 
  • trying to get my head around the various eyepieces and how to use them in conjunction with Barlow lenses
  • trying to remember and recognise the key constellations and marker stars 
The skies above my back garden are too light polluted and also give restricted views of the night sky. Plenty of open skies facing north and nothing facing south due to the steeply wooded garden slope. 

Moon rise around 01.30 am over the river Yealm estuary

Last night my neighbours in the car park proved entertaining. For several hours they had a small BBQ between their two converted campervans. It was full of dancing orange flames and they sat around it singing, playing sitar music and the bongos and chanting. It got fairly wacky but chilled around 12.20am when one of them continually tried to get into their van without opening a door. When she passed out, I wasn't sure whether it was due to drink, concussion or the copious amounts of weed consumed. Either way, her companions carried her into the van and all seemed well. They put out the BBQ fire and everything was quiet for the rest of the night. 

Millennials eh? Such lightweights! In bed by 1.00 am!

So, one of the key things I am learning is that it is easier to get the images on the night and a damn sight harder to then process them in the software the next day! I am trying to master PIPP, Sequator, AutoStarkkert, Deep Sky Stacker and Affinity Photo. 

HUGE learning curve! 

No, seriously HUGE!!

So here are my first images using the ioptron skytracker pro. I haven't quite yet mastered how to use the DSLR on the telescope. That is next week's learning! 

120 lights Canon 800d with 24mm lens  Exposure 55s each at ISO 800 and F/2.8
and then x25 dark frames followed by x 25 bias frames 
It is supposed to be the North America Nebula! 

same camera - 50 exposures at 1/250 with 200mm lens at F/10 and ISO 100

This is the top photograph after my first attempt at processing
The red cloud is hydrogen gas 

The Ioptron Skywatcher Pro

So, later this month, I will set out with the skytracker above and head up the local rivers for some sailing fun. I will beach each night and dry out and from above the high tide mark I will set up the new tripod, ioptron and camera and try to get some night sky shots. Hopefully some of the milky way above Arwen on a remote beach. But that involves taking two separate photographs, one of Arwen and the landscape and then a series of shots of the milky way, before creating a composite image.

And that is a whole new skill set to master! 
Its hard work this astrophotography malarkey!