I was given the opportunity to test out and review the Apertura 60EDR & its dedicated field flattener from High Point Scientific! I knew that this telescope could be a phenomenal choice for those just diving into the hobby or even the seasoned astrophotographer. I put in extra effort to collect as much data as possible to really see the full potential of the Apertura 60EDR.
Picking a target
Upon receiving this scope, I had some choices to make, the first being “what target am I going to shoot?” I’ve never had access to a focal length of 360mm before, and wanted to take full advantage! After thoroughly looking through Stellarium to plan my shot, the entire Elephant Trunk Cloud Complex was my first thought -- but after putting it through a field of view calculator, I found that my field of view wasn’t wide enough to encompass the entire object. My focal length was about 30mm too long. The best view from my location is to the northeast, so I ultimately decided that NGC 7822 would be the second best object. To my surprise, the object fit rather well into my field of view. NGC 7822 it is!
Choosing the setup & location
The second choice I had to make was where I was going to set up my imaging rig. I had great access to the northeast skies from both my front- and backyard. My house is surrounded by trees and neighbors with some ghastly porch lights. I decided that I may have the best view from my front yard so that’s where I started. Here is a comprehensive list of equipment that I was planning on using for this project:
The first night & solving technical issues
The first night was clear with average transparency and seeing conditions. The smoke from the fires on the West Coast was slowly starting to blow in, so getting as much data as I could that first night was crucial. The initial set up went over well, but I ran into a few problems. First, I had to attach my ZWO electronic automatic focuser to the fine adjustment knob on the 60EDR. This did not bode well for my autofocus routine. I did not want to spend any more time disassembling the focuser so that I could attach the ZWO EAF to the coarse adjustment knob. I decided to manually focus the scope. This scope would work very well with the ZWO EAF once configured properly though.
This led me to my second issue. I didn't have a Bahtinov mask! Luckily I did have a printer in my office. I printed a template of a bahtinov mask, lousily cut it out, and supported it using cardboard from an old box. This worked for the first night and the first night only. The humidity here in Cincinnati likes to sit at around 80%. The homemade Bahtinov mask didn't stand a chance. It practically disintegrated in the wet climate.
I ended up manually adjusting the ZWO EAF until my stars looked as focused as I could get them. Despite those two minor hiccups, setting everything else up was a breeze and I had no connection issues though Sequence Generator Pro despite all of my accessories. Polar alignment with the PoleMaster was also a breeze. I was imaging that first night in about 30 minutes!
Nights 2 & 3: Gathering 15 hours of Ha data
I only gathered four hours of Ha data that first night. I had set up too far under a tree and NGC 7822 was rotating around Polaris in a circle too wide to clear the tree. Tearing down and setting back up in the backyard was going to be necessary if I wanted to collect more than 4 hours of data per night. Now that I knew the path that NGC 7822 took across the sky during the duration of the night, I was able to find a spot in my backyard allowing capture of nearly 8 hours of data per night! Relocating to the backyard was simple. I did it during the day so I wouldn't lose any precious imaging time. Again, all connections through SGPro were secure that night, polar alignment was a cinch and I was off collecting more Ha data by 9pm EST. The skies were still a bit hazy but no worse than the night before. After 4 hours of collecting more Ha data, clouds rolled in and I had to conclude that imaging session. I now had 8 hours of Ha data over two nights.
For the third night in a row, I had clear skies! My telescope was set up and ready to go as I have been controlling my entire system from inside my house using active repeating USB cables. Polar alignment was probably still rather accurate so I didn't even bother to check that. I connected all of the equipment in SGPro and was imaging in about 5 minutes (one of the perks of having a semi-permanent setup). The entire night was clear and after about 7 hours of data collection, my mount parked itself to its home position. I had collected a total of 15 hrs of Ha data over the past three nights. I was finished gathering Ha data!
Nights 4-9: Collecting OIII & SII data
Over the next 5 nights, only three of them were clear (good by most everyone’s standards). I remained setup in my backyard and collected 10 hours of OIII data and 5 hours of SII data over those three nights. Each night went as smooth as the last. The smoke in the air was getting worse and I decided that collecting any more data during these conditions would not bode well for my image. I decided to cut the project off at 30 total hours of exposure time.
After compiling my Ha/OIII/SII data with my calibration frames that I had taken, I applied some new post-processing techniques that I had recently taught myself in PixInsight. Upon inspecting my final Ha, OIII and SII stacks, I noticed that the 15 hours of Ha data was still a tad noisy but this was dealt with via PixInsight noise reduction techniques . I attribute this “noise” to the small 60mm aperture and the “longer” focal length of the scope (F/6). Increasing my camera’s gain settings from unity to about 200 would have helped. I am used to seeing the signal to noise ratio of a 10” F/3.9 Newtonian which provides glassy-smooth images!