Astrophotos Taken Through A NexStar 5SE
Cosmology 101 Items',
This collection of lunar and planetary images were taken with my NexStar 5SE and a
NexImage web cam conversion. Most of the images were obtained from movie
captures (avi files) whose frames were combined with a Yorick program I
wrote. The Yorick program reads in frames from a web cam movie, gives me the
ability to select the area of interest, then crops all frames to this region.
It then lines up the images and averages them.
If you can still find a Celestron NexImage, I can recommend it, but it has
been replaced with the even better Orion
StarShoot Solar System Color Imaging Camera IV.
These moon pics and planet pics give some illustration of what can be
accomplished with the Celestron SCT telescope design. With their
short tube and built in tracking motors and computers, setting up for solar
system photography is relatively easy. The moon images are not representative
of the best the telescope can do, but are pretty close to that. My
first efforts gave less than I hoped for on Jupiter, though the Mars images
are pretty close to what I expected, given that during the 2016 Mars
Opposition, the planet was only 18 arc-seconds in apparent size.
These images were obtained while using the telescope in its Altazimuth mode.
Photography in this mode is possible if exposures are kept to a few 10s of
seconds, depending upon the azimuth and elevation of the target. Targets with
very high elevations require exposures even as few a 5 seconds to keep image
rotation to acceptable limits. I usually go for exposures of about 20 to 30
seconds to get enough frames for my Yorick program to work with, and at typical
planet elevations for my location, this works well.
I find that with the digital web cam, the moon is an easy target.
Even if the web cam is considerably out of focus initially, when the moon sweeps
through the camera field of view it is obvious. I can then adjust the focus to
get the best image to show on my laptop, which runs the web cam program and
presents the real-time display. I happen to use lPuppy Linux and a program it contains to control
my Celestron NexImage camera. However, the camera came with a CD that had
a program and drivers to work with Windows.
For the Jupiter pics, Mars pics, and Saturn pics, I find that it is best to
first focus the camera on something easily located before trying to get the
planets into view. Getting planets to show up on the camera CCD is a challenge,
given that with the magnification necessary to get good planetary photos, the
field of view is very small.
I use the moon to set rough focus if it is up, otherwise a streetlamp or
something similar at least a block or two away. It this way, when I sweep
across a planet, it will at least be noticeable on the computer display,
letting me complete fine focus and take my photographs. If I don't pre-focus on
anything, I found I can sweep past a planet and not even see that it has
passed through the field of view.
Best results are obtained by taking
movies through the web cam,
rather than taking individual pictures. This allows image
stacking of dozens of frames, which gives far superior results. You can
learn more about stacking images at my Celestron NexImage review page.
Click On Any Of The Following Images For A Larger View
| ||The Equipment: Celestron NexStar 5SE
telescope with NexImage camera and Edmund Barlow. |
| ||Moon, Albategnius
region. NexStar 5SE with Celestron NexImage camera and 2x Barlow. Stack of
about 80 frames. One of my favorite regions to view. Albategnius has an
interesting floor, and though Ptolemaeus appears to have a very smooth
floor, when shadows are right as in this photo, some variation in the
floor of Ptolemaeus is visible. Also visible is the interesting floor of
Glyden crater, below Albategnius. |
||Moon Image, Hyginus, NexStar 5SE With Celestron
NexImage Web Cam, 2x Barlow, stack of about 80 frames. The long rill that
intersects Hyginus crater is easily visible as is the rough and
darker terrain below
||Moon Image, Walther Crater
, NexStar 5SE with Celestron NexImage, 2x Barlow, stack of about0t 80
frames. The heavily cratered floor of Walther crateris evident
in this view.
| ||Moon Image, Alpine Valley , NexStar
5SE With Celestron NexImage Web Cam, using 2x Barlow, stack of about 80 frames.
This is another one of my favorite lunar regions, standing in rugged
contrast to the apparent smooth terrain of Mare Imbrium. In the expanded
image (click on image), an interesting shadow is apparently being cast
across the valley from a tall peak on the upper side of the valley. |
||Moon Image, Heraclitus Region,
NexStar 5SE With Celestron NexImage Web Cam, using 2x Barlow, stack
of about 75 frames. The Heraclitus crater region shows very jumbled
terrain, the result of multiple impacts over time.
||Moon Image, Lunar Apennines, NexStar 5SE With
Celestron NexImage Web Cam and 2x Barlow, stack of about 85 frames. These
rugged mountains, partially ringing Mare Imbrium, are always a treat, no
matter how big or small your telescope.
||Moon Image, Copernicus, NexStar 5SE with Celestron
NexImage Web Cam, 2x Barlow. This image was from a batch taken on 6/16/2016. I
was having operator error problems with the web cam settings, so the image
is a bit washed out. As well, the sun/moon relationship wasn't optimal for
the best contrast.
||Moon Image, Tycho, NexStar 5SE with
Celestron NexImage, 2x Barlow, stack of about 100 frames. The extremely
ruggered terrain is shown in this Tycho crater image. The large and
small mountain peaks in the crater's center are also visible.
||Moon Image, Plato, NexStar 5SE with
Celestron NexImage, 2x Barlow, stack of about 100 frames. This image was also
taking on 6/16/2016, and operator error limited the resolution a bit. A
popular area with the dominate Plato crater, the Y-shaped Montes Tereniffe
mountains, and the Straight Range.
||Moon Image, Gassendi, NexStar 5SE with
Celestron NexImage, 2x Barlow, stack of about 60 frames. Not great seeing
on this occasion, but still
a moderate rendition of this fascinating crater.
||Moon Image, Bay of Rainbows, NexStar 5SE with
Celestron NexImage, 2x Barlow, stack of about 100 frames. This favorite in
telescopes of any size shows the half ring remnant of a likely once gigantic
||Mars, May 2016,
NexStar 5SE With Celestron NexImage Web Cam, 2.5x Barlow, stack of about
100 frames. Notice the smudges near center, which are the rough terrain
surrounding Ellisium Mons
||Mars, June 2016
,NexStar 5SE With Celestron NexImage, 3x Barlow, stack of about 80
frames. The great dark area near the bottom is Acidalia Planitia.
Margaritifer Terra is a major part of the dark area to upper left.
||Jupiter, May 2016,
With Celestron NexImage Web Cam, 2x Barlow, stack of 80 Images. A bit less
than I hoped for, but the GRS is easily visible, as is some detail in the NEB
and the SEB. |
||Jupiter, June 2016,
With Celestron NexImage Web Cam, 3x Barlow, stack of 80 Images. In this
image, the GRS isn't positioned to be visible, but some details in the
NEB and SEB are visible, as is the obvious darkening of the planet's
Having successfully used my Meade ETX 90 to photograph the moon and planets, I was anxious to see
how well I could do with the NexStar 5SE. I expected to do a bit better, but
I also knew that the ETX 90 does a surprisingly good job with this type
As noted, the lunar and planetary images on this page were taken with the
NexStar 5SE in Altazimuth mode. The total movie length exposures were kept to
30 seconds or less, giving me about 300 frames to select from for creating the
stacked images. Contrast and sharpening adjustments were applied to the
resulting stacked images.