Well, I decided to upgrade my equipment. As I have some weird fascination with Newtonians, I got the mountable Quattro 300P. The focal length is a little more useful on it at 1200mm. It also has a better focuser on it than my Dobsonian did. I paired the focuser with the ZWO EAF. But to top it all off, I got the best mount I could barely afford, the EQ8-R Pro.
The mount is everything I could have wished for. It has a USB port to completely control it from a computer using EQMOD. I can use plate solving to exactly frame targets as I desire. The tracking is impeccable, especially once I did the PEC training in EQMOD and combined that with predictive PEC in PHD2. The guiding was great all night, averaging around 0.6 to 0.8 arcseconds. Occasional gusts of wind moved it a second or two, but it quickly recovered. All of my images from the first night were pretty much perfect.
I started off the night by imaging a cluster of galaxies near 1 Ari. It was already past the meridian by the time I got everything set up and figured out, but I mostly just wanted to make sure all the software played nicely together. I used Stellarium to move the scope to the areas of interest. The plate solving and GoTo++ in APT is pure magic. I was able to frame the image exactly how I wanted.
After my first target went over the trees, I moved on to Bode’s galaxy. It was getting late, and I decided to try my luck with letting it image overnight. I set APT to take five hours of exposures. In the middle of the night, I woke up to check on it, and APT had successfully performed the meridian flip, exactly reframed the target, and got guiding back on track without any problems. I am surprised and greatly pleased with how everything is working together.
All of my subs were excellent for both targets, with FWHM being around 4-6 in most subs. I integrated every sub I took with no problems. The equatorial platform could be so hit or miss, with usually less than half of my subs being usable. I love the consistency I am getting with my tracking and guiding now.
After just one night, I can tell that this setup is going to work excellently! I can’t wait for galaxy season this spring, as well as the many nebulae I can successfully frame and image. Being able to take hours and hours of exposures now really help reduce noise from the light pollution, leaving my images more natural looking.