Sitting here my toes are really quite frozen! The reason is another session outside with the telescope. Having lovely clear skies I decided that despite the cold it would be worth setting it up again and spending some time with it. It’s been a little while since my last attempt and I’ve learned a few useful things since then that made tonight easier.

In automatic align once it has slewed to the vicintity of the star it simply tells you to center the brightest star. This is fine if the star is within view and there is only one it could be, but often there is more than one candidate which makes slewing to the correct star a guess – or so I thought! Pressing the ‘?’ key for a few seconds reveals the name of the star it was looking for. Very handy – but you have to wait until the initial alignment slew is complete before it will do that. Pressing too soon simply moves onto the next alignment star in the same way the arrow keys do! Took me a few attempts to figure that bit out as it wasn’t in the manual!

The initial align went OK and I was all set. Just to be sure I wanted to check that the time had been correctly set as my previous evenings attempts had run foul of the time being set incorrectly. This time all seemed correct, but I redid the alignment just to be sure. One of the hardest parts of the setting up is getting the tripod totally level. I thought I’d done it this time, but wasn’t 100% sure. The second alignment went as well as the first and I was ready to start using the scope.

The moon and Saturn were both hidden by the house (I don’t have the best place to observe from) so I had a look for some of the brighter deep sky objects. The GoTo did it’s job, but some final adjustment was required to center the objects – exactly as it says on the box! M81 and M101 were both visible, which given the relatively bright skies I have here is pretty good. I didn’t want to be too late tonight (work again tomorrow) I decided to have just a quick play with mounting the Nikon D70 and trying to get a photograph of M101. Sadly the camera wouldn’t attach as the forks obstructed it. Not to be deterred I tried a few more bright objects.

Using the D70 with the scope presents some interesting challenges, not the least of which is focussing! I’m very glad that I’ve played with mounting/unmounting the D70 in daylight a few times as it’s a little fiddly and the experience certainly helped me tonight. Pointing the scope at M31, the Hercules Cluster, proved to be suitably placed for the camera to be attached. The GoTo did it’s job and I was able to center the cluster in the viewfinder. Adjusting the focus proved to be a little harder but I thought I had it resonably close and tried a picture. The results are below (478 seconds, single exposure). It’s slightly out of focus and there is some movement evident in the tracking, but overall I was quite pleased for a first attempt at deep sky photography with my D70.

[![M31, the Hercules Cluster](]( "Larger version of this picture")
Another aspect of the D70 that I had forgotten about was the built in noise reduction. After taking a long exposure picture the camera cleans the image using a builtin noise reduction algorithm – which takes the same length of time as the picture! This led to long delays between taking pictures while it processed the long exposure images. The results are certainly better with the NR function enabled, so I guess it’s something I’ll have to learn to live with. By now time was getting on and the council even turned off the street lighting! Jupiter was visible and so I took some pictures using the D70 of that before calling it a night.![Jupiter and moons](

Overall another good evening. The scope continues to impress but I really need some better eyepieces. Some warmer weather wouldn’t go amiss either!